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CARLS BLOG

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Meeting our son’s foster parents a year later

 

 

By Lisa and Jan

 

We have always considered Carl's foster family as our son's Korean family. He was just a few days old, when the foster parents got him. For seven months, they took care of him.

In February 2005, when we traveled to Seoul to pick up Carl, the meetings with the foster family were fantastic. We immediately felt that we were on the same page. In our discussions, we focused on Carl but also talked about our daily lives and families.

They gave us a photo album illustrating Carl's life with them. The pictures will eventually allow us to tell him a little bit about his first months in Seoul.

Through these meetings, we got a step closer to these great people, who had loved and nursed this little boy. Soon he was to disappear from their lives and live on the other side of the Earth.

The day we got Carl handed over, we all came earlier than scheduled at Holt's Children Services. While waiting for the Holt employee to join us, we communicated with the foster family by gesticulating and smiling.

Besides the numerous pictures we took that day, the foster parents later sent a photo of Carl on his foster mother's arm in the hall at Holt before she handed him over to us. Today, that picture is framed and stands on a shelve in his room. Carl, who turns two this summer, vigorously points at the photograph when we ask him: "where is foster mom?" He knows who she is because we told him, not because he remembers her.

 

We have stayed in touch with the foster family through mail every six months or so. When we visited them this year, they told us that the first thing the foster sister does when she goes on the Internet is to check Carl's photo Web site (we created it to allow the foster family see Carl grow up). That was heartbreaking to hear.

So when we planned a holiday in Tokyo in March, our travel plans – unquestionably – had to include a stopover in Seoul.

Before taking off for the Far East, we told Carl several times that we soon would visit his foster mother - the woman from the photo on the shelf.

Our heads were buzzing with questions: would he be able to remember her? How would he/we react? Can we contain the existence of this woman? The reunion would be a foretaste that one day we might have to adopt an attitude to _ and contain _ the existence of a biological mother if she and Carl somehow find each other.

 

The nearly three-hour long meeting with the foster family was fantastic.

Initially, we should say that Carl recognized the woman from the picture right away. "There," he said as he pointed at her, like he does when he spots something he knows.

However, something else happened. Normally Carl doesn't like that strangers lift him up on their lap, nor does he like being hugged right away. But the foster mother did it when he met at Holt. Carl let it happened while keeping an eye on his parents who nodded back.

When we later drove to their place, he felt asleep in his foster mother's arms in the car.

At their home, Carl alternatively sat with them and us while we all had a snack and a chat. The foster sister, who had rushed home from school to see Carl, gently took him up and hugged him without any protests from Carl.

The sight of him in their arms didn't bother us. On the contrary, it was comforting. And Carl looked like he enjoyed it.

Undoubtedly, we believe Carl remembered/recognized something beyond the foster mother being the woman from the photo.

Maybe it was her smell or her voice. Or the way she handled him. He quickly relaxed and allowed her to cuddle him. However, he constantly had an eye on us to see where we were.

We both believe that "something" happened with Carl after the Seoul trip.

We do not know how much and what exactly a 20-month old boy can remember. Some would say that children of that age can use their senses to recall people and places. Others will say the opposite: they cannot remember anything.

However, we believe something happened with him. He has acquired, we believe, a greater autonomy and has become a more well-balanced little person.

One explanation could be that Carl, unconsciously, was allowed to experience the loss of his foster mother shortly after the rupture from her. He then reached the conclusion: “Now I can pick my parents. Mom and dad have acknowledged my loss and they have not stolen something from me that meant the most to me after I was born. On top of that, they have brought me back to the starting point well aware that I might prefer them.”

Maybe the reason for the change in Carl's behavior is linked to the fact that he was together with his parents for two straight weeks.

Or maybe it was all the impressions and experiences during the trip to South Korea and Japan, the long flights, etc.

We don't know for sure.

The trip means that we feel more serene about the foster family. It was good to experience that we easily contain the foster mother and all the maternal feelings she also has toward Carl.

The visit also gave us the opportunity to relive the meeting with them, the atmosphere at Holt and the stay in Seoul. It cleared our minds and allow us to move on mentally. Our trip last year was a trip to uncertainty and left a somehow foggy memory.  

Although we do not know them as you know your next of kin, the foster family has now become our family in Korea. Whom we would like to visit again and again.