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Monday, August 16, 2010

September 8, 2008

Day 10
HanOi, VietNam

If you've been following this journey, you know that there was no love lost between Papa and I and the US government at this point.  But we were in VeitNam and had legal custody of Tess and Jude.  The US government had already granted permission for us to bring T&J home to the United States even before we came to VietNam.  This I600 approval process, the process by which the US govt gives permission to US families to adopt foreign children and grant visas for these foreign born children, has become the only check our government has to ensure that the children its citizens adopt are truly orphans.  One might imagine that the US government has heavily exercised it's role as as watch dog to ensure that child trafficking or baby buying is something that its citizens don't part take in, even unknowingly.  Of course, all this is good.  Very good and necessary.  I don't think you could find an adoptive parent out there who would want to adopt a child who was forcibly or coercively taken from his birth parents.  However, in my humble opinion, our government officials, especially those in residing in VietNam who presided over this process, have taken their role to extremes, (don't get me started there on the specifics that I specifically know of.  It's heartbreaking.) and hundreds of thousands of orphans have paid the cost, additional time in orphanages and now since the Vietnamese adoption program is closed to US citizens, possibly the lack of a family forever.  Tess and Jude waited 3 extra months while the US government tried desperately and in vain to prove some pretty fierce allegations.  And now Tess and Papa and I get to deal with what those extra 3 months have done to her soul... forever.   
teeter... crumble... crash...
falling off the soap box.
The last step to get Tess and Jude's US visas was really nothing more than a formality.  A visit to the US Embassy, a quick interview, and a large sticker affixed to the babe's passports.  And by granting us I600 approval just a week earlier, they had already said that would be granting T&J visas.  
So why was I an emotional wreck?
First, my mama bear was in full swing.  My children in my arms.  Don't mess with me, and especially don't mess with my children.  I had waited months not knowing if these would be my children and now they were.  The hair on the back or my neck was raised.
Second, as I discussed before, the affects of Tess's institutionalization was not only obvious, but consuming me at this point.  I was worried.  I was worried about her future and what it could look like for a person like her, one who had no desire for any connection with people.  Surely my fear and guilt fueled my emotional turmoil.  
Thirdly, all these emotions were bubbling over, and not in a good way.  I was just raring to tell anyone who had any real authority, just what I thought of this process.  Anyone.  I remember thinking, Go ahead random person at the US Embassy, ask me just what I think about how my children are faring after waiting so long in vain!  Go ahead, ask me!  I dare you!
Lastly, after all the months of uncertainty, I had a fear that my government would either change it's mind about letting T&J come to the US, or I might say something that would cause them to question their original I600 approval.   Ya, it was all probably a very irrational fear.  Probably. 

Papa and I made a game plan.  At our visit to the embassy, I would say nothing other than what I needed to.  He would answer all the questions.  It was a good plan although probably not necessary.
 Lunch on the sidewalk
  Scooter guard?

Our guide picked us up at our hotel.  We traveled by taxi to the US Embassy.  It was a very unassuming building except for the incredible amount of security required to enter it.  Up one flight of stairs, and we sat with about 2 other families from different agencies waiting for our turn to be called to the little glass window.  It was quiet except for the babies that made cooing noises and the mamas and papas that babbled away at the children they were trying to get to know.  
Our name was called it was time to pay for T&J's visas.  Then something very American happened.  Papa's credit card wouldn't go through.   Half way across the world and it was like we standing at the cashier's at Macy's.  Papa ran back to the hotel to get cash.  45 min later, he came back and they tried the Visa card again for giggles.  It went through.  
We waited again.  The babes started to fuss.  
Our names were finally called to the little glass window.  You know, this US Embassy official was nothing like I had imagined in all my nightmares.  All those months waiting I know I had something evil pictured.  She was very nice and pretty too.  She asked us our names and our children's names.  She asked if we were aware of Jude's foot deformities.  She looked at Tess and examined the medical documents.  We tried to keep them quiet as they fussed.  She asked if we realized that Tess was quite small and possibly malnourished.  She asked how we planned to care for these special needs.  I mumbled something like lots of love and mashed potatoes.  I think she failed to sense the humor in it.  And she put the stickers in their passports.  
And it was done.  Months and months of anxiety and waiting for that. 

We celebrated by going back to the hotel, taking a nap, and later going swimming in the hotel pool.
These were our son and our daughter and now both governments agreed with this.  At last. 

Both babes were scared to death of baths still.  As we approached the pool, Jude started to cry.  Jude, was understandably fearful of the water as he had never seen a bath or pool before.  He clung to Papa with every fiber of his being.  This clinging onto his new Papa, was very very good.  Attachment continued.  But curiosity finally go the better of him, and he couldn't resist splashing.
As mentioned before, Tess was completely obsessed with textures, and she leaned her tummy on the edge of the pool deck to get closer to the water.  She loved the sensation of the water in her hands and splashed, gingerly at first, then with all her force.  It splashed in her eyes, and she didn't seem to mind.   If it was up to Tess, she could have stayed and splashed in the water for hours on end.  But Jude was shivering, and we headed back to our room.

In my journal, I have this written.  Tess comes to life a little more to life each day. Today we heard her first giggles, and she is now able to sit all on her own. When we first got her, she would bare no weight on her legs at all. Now she will “stand” on our laps or the couch while we support her. Maybe small accomplishments, but for her this is huge. For us this is huge. To see how far this sweet baby girl has come in just 8 short days is again God’s blessings.

After receiving Tess and Jude's visas, we were able to travel home.  We still weren't exactly sure when yet, but were working on the details.  We are all clear to come home after only 8 days in Viet Nam!   We could have easily stayed in VietNam another couple months and soak up and learn all that it had to offer, to teach Jujube and Tess all we could about their homeland. VietNam was  an easy country to travel in and a delight to all the senses.  The Vietnamese people were gracious and  beautiful, and we simply fell in love with it.  But on the other hand, I was craving normalcy and needed to  establish a scheduling  that Tess and Jude both needed.   And I was very homesick for my children back home.  Patch's birthday was just a couple days prior and Boo's birthday was tomorrow.     We had already committed to returning as quickly as possible.  And I had already committed to coming back. 

To be continued...


  1. These are some great pictures. You communicated your mama worry, frustration, and concerns so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes for you and Tess. They are both so precious.

  2. Your sweet recollections give me a huge amount of permission, that after 18 months I can still go back and begin to decifer the 100's of pictures we took and attempt to articulate the myriad of emotions and experiences we had while in country. As much for me as for any 'readers' who might be interested - as I think it is for you too.
    Thank you for sharing your stories.


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