Sunday, January 10, 2010
Matthew's Birth Story
Matthew's story is longer than average. Matthew has essentially had TWO births--one physiological and one adoptive. In fact, there are many births tucked inside Matthew's birth story. Beautiful. Here is the story from my perspective.
Matthew's was a healthy pregnancy. Unexpected, but healthy. His birth father refused to accept the baby as his biological offspring, and his birth mother did not have enough money to support the two children she already had, and also could not support Matthew. She was living in an emergency home for pregnant women that is run by a Baptist group, and during her pregnancy she became a Christian. With the help of the emergency home, and much prayer, she decided to relinquish Matthew for adoption. She was much relieved to find Friends For All Children, an organization in Thailand that cares for and finds homes for a great number of relinquished children. Matthew was born at 8:16 a.m., vaginally, at a hospital. His birth mother reported that his birth was normal and healthy. She took him to the emergency home for the first ten days of his life, and then left him with Friends For All Children, in the care of two women, named Melissa (isn't that funny?) and Lisa, both mennonite missionaries from America on long term volunteer assignment in Thailand.
Melissa was Matthew's main nanny for four months, and then she returned home to America, and Lisa took over his care until he was 16 months old. We call this most beloved foster mother Momma Lisa. Momma Lisa gave Matthew what all babies profoundly need in the first year of their lives: responsive, trustworthy, loving care, and good nutrition. She carried him when he needed touch. She got up in the night to comfort and feed him until he began sleeping through the night at seven months. She fed him formula and introduced solids at six months. She bathed him, dressed him, kept him safe, and got him medical care when he was sick. She loved him fiercely.
When Matthew was seven months old, he was matched with our family. Matthew's birth mother had requested that Matthew be placed with a family of the same religious beliefs as herself, and we were the only family on the list at that time who were also Christians. Baptist, no less. :)
We recieved a phone call informing us of Matthew's proposal for our family ONE DAY after we mailed our application for adoption to Thailand. Normal waiting periods from application to proposal were six to twelve months at that point, so we were very surprised to have news so quickly! It was that request of Matthew's mom that accelerated the process. Because of this, Matthew was one of the youngest children ever to be adopted through our agency from Thailand.
We sent pictures and gifts and emails to Momma Lisa, getting to know her and asking her to share our picture with Matthew, so we could seem a tiny bit more familiar than strangers when we showed up on his door proclaiming to be his family! We sent him his own laminated photo album of our family, a DVD of us, a CD of lullabies for which we had a copy and asked Momma Lisa to play while Matthew fell asleep. We continued to use this CD when we brought Matthew home, and it helped him to have familiar music to fall asleep listening to. We still use this CD of lullabies to help Riley fall asleep--we got a ton of mileage out of that CD! Lisa emailed us back, giving us details about Matthew's personality and their daily activities, and included pictures.
We waited for the Thai government to award us an appointment with the Department of Social Welfare, another seven to nine month wait. It was very tough to know who Matthew was, and see pictures, and hear stories, but not be able to go scoop him up and begin the business of becoming a family of four. The waiting seemed interminable! We hoped and prayed that we would get the call before Christmas. In mid November, I gave up on this hope and resigned myself to waiting until sometime in the New Year. But lo and behold, just after we had resigned ourselves to Christmas apart from Matthew, we got a call! I was at a friend's place, sleeping between night shifts, when Brent called me and said, "How would you like to spend Christmas in Thailand?!" Hooray!!! We were so excited!!! I didn't sleep AT ALL that night, though the night shift I worked was so quiet, I could have slept eight hours if I was able to! We booked flights, packed our things, and seven days later boarded a plane that would take us across the Pacific ocean to meet our little boy. I felt SOOOO impatient for the flight to be over, and for the miles to pass beneath us, and for time to pass! Ayden was excited to meet "Baby Mafew" and Brent was impatient and excited, like me.
Matthew was born in a domestic airport. We walked through the arrival gate with our luggage and some gifts and great excitement and some fear, and there he was sitting in Momma Lisa's arms, with his chubby legs dangling over the edge of the railing separating the arriving passengers from the waiting area. Behind him stood a circle of our close friends, cheering and laughing and crying and taking pictures. THAT was cool, to have good friends supporting and surrounding us as we met our littlest son. Matthew took us in, but in that distant interest type of way. I was glad he didn't seem overwhelmed by all our affection. Ayden gave him a toy phone that he had chosen for Matthew at the toy store before we left Canada, and Matthew liked the noises and lights in the phone. I cried. And tried not to appear overwhelming! I reached out and took his foot in my hand and said, "Hello little man!!"
His resonse to us was in the realm of, 'Huh, there are some people here.' I was glad he wasn't overwhelmed by us, and I didn't expect any recognition of how important we would be to his very near future. Which seems obvious when you state that you just met a 16 month old for the first time, but with all the anticipation wrapped up in adoption, it is pretty hard not to overdo that first meeting, and your expectations of it. We have video and pictures, and I remember what everyone was wearing and how warm it was, and the smell of the airport, and that Torie, especially, was crying.
We climbed into the car and drove back to the home Matthew was living in, and let the kids play while we talked for a bit. Matthew was so tiny but so physically capable--I remember being nervous of him climbing on the little playground in their front yard, and sliding down the slide, but he was very comfortable with his physical capabilities. I was so glad we brought Ayden with us to Thailand, because the two of them became fast friends, and it took the pressure off Matthew as we hovered around watching him intently, because we already loved this little creature but we were irrelevant strangers to him. Ayden rapidly became relevant. We arrived on a Friday and by Sunday morning, Brent was relevant too. It was as if he looked at Brent and thought, "Now THAT'S what I've been missing all these months--a daddy!!" He initiated affection with Brent within a few days of meeting him.
That afternoon we spent a few hours together and then left to settle in at our friends Jen and Andrey's house, and allow Matthew to have a nap. He was, and still is, a very predictable sleeper, who NEEDS his sleep when he needs his sleep, and is firmly out of sorts if his sleep pattern is changed. It was hard to leave, but we were tired and so was Matthew, so it didn't make much sense to stay, and we knew we would see him again the very next morning.
That week we spent as much time together as possible, and tried to get to know each other and gain some trust. Momma Lisa was very supportive of us and demonstrated through her actions and words that these new people were trustworthy and important, which we were grateful for. At the end of the week we chose a date, December 16th, as handover day. We asked Momma Lisa to choose a place and a time that she felt was best, and she chose the morning so that he wouldn't be too tired, and Jen and Andrey's house so that she could exit without him having to see her leave him behind--she didn't want him to feel that the woman he loved as mother was abandoning him in any way. She brought with her the director of her volunteer program and his wife, and their baby Bailey. The director spoke about the program and about the families who come to adopt the children under their care, and he mentioned that it struck a particular chord in him when Christian families adopted the children. He felt deep joy when Christians adopted the children that they loved and prayed for so constantly, and released so completely into the hands of their adoptive parents. He prayed for us, and for Matthew, and for Momma Lisa. Then we all went outside and Lisa handed Matthew to Brent, and we all stood in a circle and cried, because it was incredibly painful to watch Lisa say goodbye to this little boy she loved so much, and to watch Matthew as he lived through one of the most significant moments of his life and had no idea what was going on, and how fundamentally his life would change, and how much pain and grief that would involve. It was a moment filled with both tremendous joy and deep pain, love and grief, gain and loss. Eventually Brent turned and walked into the house with Matthew in his arms, and Lisa hugged me tight. "You will make a great mom," she said to me, and then she left. We didn't see her again until two years later, when she came to Vancouver to visit both Matthew and another foster child she had cared for.
The very first thing I did as Matthew's mom was to dress him. I took off the clothes he came in, and put him in some orange pants and a blue tank top with fish on it, which had been Ayden's. I was very excited to dress him because it really is an act of intimacy to dress a child, and the clothes I put on him were tiny and well loved and OURS, and it made him seem like a true Vose to have him dressed in clothes that Ayden wore and I saved in our crawlspace in a box, waiting for this day when another little Vose would wear these orange pants and this blue top. I gave him a snack, Brent fed him a bottle, and we spent the rest of the day playing together. That evening after supper we went out to the night market in Chiang Mai. Matthew rode in the MEC backpack on my back, watching the sights with his little observant gaze and playing with Ayden. I'm sure he had never been out past his bedtime before, in a market teeming with noise and music and activity, but he handled it with wide eyed calm. It was a beautiful day.
And that is the birth story of Matthew Thanawuth Smith Vose, born September 20th, 2004, adopted December 16th/December 23rd (legally he became our child on the 23rd, though we had him living with us from the 16th), 2005. Merry Christmas, Vose family!! The best gift I ever received!