Baths, Yogurt, Outdoors
There were only three things we were told about our son when he was placed in our arms forever.
Bath time is his favorite time of day
He will eat his weight in blueberry yogurt every morning
When he’s upset, going outside will always calm him down
That’s it. That was all we had to go on.
As his foster mother tearfully shared her last goodbyes with Desi before the elevator door severed their worlds forever, I stood there holding a scared and bewildered toddler, bouncing him to calm his nerves as I rehearsed the mantra in my head:
Bath, yogurt, outside. Bath, yogurt, outside.
An hour later we emerged from the back of a taxi, exhausted already by the weight of responsibility that comes with becoming a new parent, and wrecked by the devastation and grief we found in our son’s eyes.
In our hotel room, Desi toddled around, temporarily distracted by the toys we had laid out before we left that morning. Matt struggled to scan the Korean instructions on the fermented soy formula with the Google Translate app while I tried to make sense of the seemingly endless number of clips on a child carrier I’d never worn before.
Leading up to custody, I had hoped for practical advice and insights from his foster mom. Bath time, yogurt, and a love for outdoors didn’t seem to scratch the surface of transitioning an 18-month old into a new life with new parents in a totally new environment and language. It was too simplistic, I thought.
Looking back now, I see those three insights were our greatest lifelines that first week together in Korea. The first steps of attachment to our son stemmed from our awareness of Desi’s favorite things--especially his love for outdoors.
As we worked to get to know each other that first week, we were warned by our agency to keep Desi’s world small. His life had just been rocked in a way we hadn’t yet fully realized, so the walls of the hotel would be comforting and provide a sense of control.
But that wasn’t what his foster mother had shared with us, so we took a step of faith. When Desi became inconsolable and no distraction was sufficient, we strapped him into the carrier and took to the streets of Seoul in search of quiet gardens and palace courtyards. In total, I’m sure we walked 5-8 miles each day, bonding through a shared love of nature, outdoors, and exploration.
Desi’s love for baths, yogurt, and especially the outdoors has not diminished these last two years. That carrier has tied us together through many amazing adventures we couldn’t have dreamed of in those hard first days.
With each hike or walk we take with this not so little three-year old now, I can see that the carrier that first brought us together is on borrowed time. One day soon it will be packed away with the clothes we first brought our son home in--its weight limit only ounces away from being met.
Walking quietly down the trail of Bobcat Ridge this weekend with my son strapped to my chest fast asleep, my mind went back to the tear-stricken face of his foster mother as she shared those last three pieces of advice with me nearly two years ago now.
Her insight and love for Desi were the building blocks for his relationship to his new forever family. Her own love for the outdoors created a bridge between Desi’s first family and his last. And every trail we face brings back that sweet, familiar connection to the woman who loved my son first.