Diary of an Intercountry Adoptive Mom #1


Mary Ella
Focus on Adoption magazine

In the first of a series, we present the diary of Mary Ella, who is in Korea with her husband Wayne, only days away from meeting their long-awaited daughter, Leelee. The couple are missing their son Willem (at home in Canada) and desperate to meet their little girl. At least the agonizing wait means that they can become acquainted with their daughter’s fascinating homeland.

Day 1, Saturday, June 26, 2004
Seoul, South Korea

We arrived safely and are more excited than ever to see Leelee, but no word yet. The guesthouse at the Social Welfare Society (SWS) is quite nice. When we walked in and saw the crib, we lost it. It’s hard to believe that soon we will have a baby to occupy it. The hospital, where we assume Leelee was born, is next door.

Though we are really looking forward to enjoying the next couple of days with each other, we can hardly stand the wait. It’s that same excitement and anticipation that we felt before giving birth to Willem. I have imagined a hundred different fantasy situations in which we run into Leelee on the street, or the foster family just shows up to see us. In traditional terms, I would say that my water has broken and delivery is imminent!

This truly is a most awesome adventure. Please ask Willem if he got the kiss we blew to him, and if he saw us in his dreams.

Day #2, June 27

We spent the morning getting settled and wrapped the gifts we brought for various people. In Korea, it’s very rude to give a gift that is not nicely presented. Then we decided to go sightseeing.

The subway system is incredible. The vastness alone is amazing, and I’d challenge anyone to find a morsel of trash anywhere. The number of people underground is staggering.

We had read in our Lonely Planet guide that all relationships in Korea require placement in some sort of hierarchy so that people know how to behave and speak. So, it was no surprise that as we stood in line for our subway tickets an old man jumped in front of us. It was, however, shocking when a boy who looked about 11 years old followed suit. We laughed, realizing that with our fair skin and eyes, we must rank pretty low.

We had an enjoyable day taking in as much as we could of our daughter’s homeland.

In the evening, we ate at a little pizzeria. The restaurant was small and there were not many people inside. We were grateful for the English words on the menu because, as we had found in most places, no one spoke English and we couldn’t communicate in Korean. Then, as we got settled, a little boy came running to our table and very clearly said, “Hi, nice to meet you.” It was so darn cute and he reminded me of Willem in his enthusiasm, excitement, and bravery. We exchanged giggles and waves. Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to go see if he wanted to practice more English with me. I told him about Willem and that we live in Canada. He told me his name and age. It was adorable and made me miss having Willem there to experience all this.

The sights and experiences of the day were awesome, but there was still a nagging ache to see my baby. One would think that it might get easier as we became more immersed in the culture and sights of her country, but it actually just got worse. We kept seeing these beautiful children and their happy little faces. It was a huge distraction. At one point, Wayne asked me to stop staring. We can also hear the cries of the babies in the nursery from our room, and when we approach the building. It’s that frantic infant cry. This is the place that my baby spent the first two weeks of her life. I am sure the women downstairs are very loving and kind, but I want to cry when I think of her down there without me, and me so far away without her. It’s a strange feeling of sadness and joy all at once.

I must say though that I am grateful for this opportunity to get to know her country a little bit. It is vastly rich. I hope she won’t resent me taking her from it.

Read more of the Diary of an Intercountry Adoptive Mom series.

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