Monday, July 30, 2007

Foster family

We are so lucky to have ongoing contact with our son's foster family in Korea, via e-mail. When I met his foster mother in Korea I was hoping I would be able to convey to her our hopes of remaining in contact with her. At one of our meetings we were left alone in a room at the agency, and she promptly whipped out the photo album she prepared for us of our son's pictures, flipped to a certain picture and showed me where their e-mail address was printed on the back of the picture. I was so elated and thankful for this little interaction (and, side note: ticked that families - both foster and adoptive - are officially discouraged from keeping in contact without the 'help' of the agency).

When we write to them or send pictures, they reply quickly with gushing comments about how much they enjoy hearing about the little guy we all love; how handsome and sweet and smart he is. They have remembered both the birthdays he has had since he left Korea and have sent him a card on each occasion. From them, I have learned more about my son's personality when he was an infant. I've learned his nicknames - he had two, one that his foster mother preferred, and another that his foster father felt was more acceptable. :) Just little things like that.

This relationship is so important to me, and I desperately want to preserve it for my son's sake. It's another one of those things I day dream about: Taking him to Korea in a few years or so (age 6 or 8, perhaps), and having him run to his sweet foster mom and give her a big hug!

And then there are other times when I wonder if there is a downside to all of this. I mean, this contact with his foster family is filling a certain portion of the hole in my heart for the contact I don't have with his Omma. I don't think of his foster family as his 'real parents', but I do recognize them as wonderfully caring people who absolutely love him, and who knew him before his little life became quite so complicated. Back then he was a sweet Korean boy living in Korea, with a Korean name and a family that looked like him. They spoke to him in his native tongue and supplemented his formula bottles with barley tea and slept next to him on the floor at night and took him to see the sights of Korea as he snuggled in his foster mom's podaegi. In general, I would say he was cared for in a manner similar to many other Korean babies. He was just a normal Korean baby boy. I became frantic during 2006 when I didn't hear from them after one of the e-mails I sent; I was terrified that they had just decided not to respond any more. It turned out that the e-mail simply didn't go through properly, but before I figured that out, I was beside myself with saddness and fear that it was 'over' with them. They are ALL we have as far as links to his life in Korea and his infancy.

Sometimes I worry, though. He absolutely adores looking at their pictures and talking about them. I wonder how he will feel when he really truly understands that this beautiful family won't ever be *the* answer to his questions. I mean to take nothing away from them when I say that, as lovely as they are, they aren't his real parents (just as we aren't). I am concerned when I hear of adoptive parents who label all the parents in this manner:

"Mom"/"real mom" = adoptive mom
"Omma" = foster mom
"Tummy mommy" or "birth mom" = real mom/biological mom

I don't want my son to be devastated when he realizes that his beloved foster mom is not his Omma. Right now he enjoys hearing about his life in Korea. I know he wants to talk about it when he says, "Mama! Tell me a story!" (When I first started talking to him about his life, I would always say, "I'm gonna tell you a little story about YOU!" He would always giggle as he waited for me to start, and then listened very intently). I'm am careful to refer to his foster mother as "Mrs. ____", your foster mom who loves you and took care of you when you were a baby". And I add straight-out, "she is not your Omma. You were in your Omma's tummy and when you were born Omma loved you very much."

((Ugh, so convoluted. But he listens intently and I have no doubt he will understand sooner rather than later, because he is just that smart. It just breaks my heart to tell him this matter-of-fact story that, in reality, makes no sense)).

Anyway, I guess I say all this just to say that I hope I can help him understand all of this some day, and I hope that knowing his foster family, possibly (hopefully!) visiting them and having contact with them, might somehow enhance his life as an adoptee rather than make it even more confusing. And I do want to reserve a very special place for his real Omoni - - but that's so hard to do in this situation.....

(I feel a post about my insanity over the lack of openness coming on.....)


At 7:13 AM , Blogger Dawn said...

This is a great thoughtful post. thank you. (I hadn't though about the added challenges/rewards of openness with the foster family.)

At 7:56 PM , Blogger Third Mom said...

P's foster mom was very attached to him, and we learned years after we adopted him that she had wanted to adopt him, too. But her children were grown and her husband couldn't be persuaded, so P came to us. He was the one who, at 5, listed all him moms, and clearly know that the mother who gave birth to him was first mom, Mrs. Cho was second mom, and I then became third mom. No confusion for him at all.

I met both of the kids' foster moms on my trips to Korea in 1992 and 1994, and the kids met them again in 2001 when we traveled there with KHT (Korea Homeland Tours). It was amazing to watch P and Mrs. Cho interact - she clearly had loved him tremendously, and there was a connection between them that transcended time and space. It was incredibly touching.

I think your relationship with your son's foster family is a treasure :)

At 5:13 AM , Blogger Kahlan said...

We do not call Pookie's foster mom "Omma". We refer to her as Mrs. xxx (last name). His Omma will always be his first mom. Great post.

At 5:13 AM , Blogger Third Mom said...

Hi, circling back to see if you guys are still posting.

We, too, call our children's foster moms by their names (Mrs. Cho and Mrs. Kim), not Omma. But P sees his relationship with her is a parenting relationship, which is why he considers her one of his moms.

Miss you guys, hopefully we'll see you posting again one day!


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