Very early the next morning we were scheduled to go home. I entered the meeting room to find the foster mother sobbing over the baby. I backed out quickly to give her some privacy. The social worker gave me a diaper bag and explained the directions on the formula canister and Tylenol bag, which were in Korean. Although escorting our baby ourselves, we had to sign the same forms volunteer escorts do. After the whole homestudy process, it was a bit strange to be signing papers affirming that I “had babysitting experience” and promised to deliver the baby safely to myself.
Then the social worker said something I didn’t catch. Pay? There was some sudden unannounced fee? Play? We should let the baby down to play before boarding the plane? Finally I realized she was saying that we would pray before departure. We stood in a circle—the foster mother, my husband and I, and the social worker, while the agency’s 90-year-old founder prayed in Korean. I later read that his prayer usually included words like these: “Dear God, we are sorry we couldn’t take care of this baby that You gave. Thank You for leading this baby to a good home. Please bless this family and this baby so that s/he will grow into someone we can be proud of.” At some point in the prayer he took the baby from the foster mother’s arms and put her in mine. As we turned to go, the foster mother snatched her from my arms again, apparently feeling that I didn’t have her warmly enough covered for the few steps out the door to the “Lovemobile”. But then she turned to the social worker to translate, “she says you will be good mother”. This meant a lot to me. We had brought an infant car seat, which no one there seemed familiar with and which they seemed to think was rather cruel and unusual punishment. The baby, who had been calm through the transfer, cried when put into the seat. I felt awful driving away from the people who had loved her for almost a year.
Meg was calm by the time we arrived at the airport. We got a few odd glances from Koreans—I wasn’t sure if they disapproved of the carseat carrier or of international adoption in general. The baby played happily on a blanket while waiting for the plane. Two Korean women were escorting babies to their waiting parents in the U.S. When we changed planes in Tokyo, I followed them to a little room which had changing tables and chairs. Meg again played calmly at our feet in the airport.
Meg was calm at takeoff but it didn’t last. Playing with us was a fine novelty, apparently, but when it came time to eat and sleep she wanted her umma (“mommy” in Korean—her foster mother). As I walked her down the aisle, a grandmotherly-looking Korean woman asked to take her. I thought perhaps she might know a certain lullaby or touch that would be comforting to the baby and agreed. She actually did get the baby almost asleep, but then I became afraid that it would be worse for her to keep going to sleep in different arms than she would wake up in. I took her back, she cried, the woman shouted at me. Back at our seat she continued to sob hysterically for about three hours. Asian women kept coming up, some gesturing that they offered to take her and some literally trying to tug her out of my arms. My husband finally talked to someone who could translate for the others that the adoption had happened just that morning and that she needed to stay with us rather than be passed around to more people. Although the hours she cried seemed endless, I had steeled myself for the possibility that she would cry the whole flight. Fortunately, the flight home was several hours shorter than the flight westward had been, due to the jet stream winds now working in our favor. As we deplaned, an immigration official asked if Meg was immigrating today. We responded affirmatively and she ushered us to a booth for the disabled and “special circumstances”. We received her green card right away. Then we had to retrieve our bags and take them through customs. Our agency had recommended that older babies not be subjected to a large arrival party, so my father met us and drove us home. The baby played with a couple of toys then slept next to me on my bed. My mother and sister brought my 3 year old son home and he helped me give his sister a bottle. We were home, as family.