‘He cried by the door. He was hoping we’d take him back. Our anxiety levels were through the roof.’’: Mom shares international adoption journey, ‘We can’t imagine life without them’

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“How did our journey begin? I think we have all heard the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, that result lead us to adoption — that and my endometriosis and PCOS. After three unsuccessful surgeries, we both decided it was crazy to continue this path of medical procedures in the hopes of being able to conceive. In the end, all we wanted was to grow our family. So, we made the decision to adopt, instead of pursuing additional fertility treatments.

Our daughter, Hayden, is my biological daughter. My husband, Justin, adopted her at age 5. So, we had some experience with adoption and the loss which accompanies. When I was talking to my husband about adopting more children, he said, ‘Savannah, there is no way I could love Hayden more if I was her biological father.’ I knew he was right, and sharing the same blood doesn’t make you love someone. Adoption has been a great blessing to our family. With that being said, the adoption process was an emotional roller coaster.

Once we made the decision, we truly had no idea what to expect. After deliberating on what was right for our family, we decided to apply to the Korean adoption program. All the information was new to us, and we didn’t know anyone else who had adopted internationally. So, being millennials, we took to the internet and scoured its depths until we found blogs, Facebook groups, and books to help settle our nerves. Through posting on adoption blogs, we were asked to join a group of families currently in the process to adopt from Korea.

By absolute chance, we happened into a wealth of knowledge and friendly families, some of which were in the process for a second or third time and were full of great information. These people created a support system we never expected. They were there to celebrate any advancement with court and allowed us to vent when we felt like the waiting would never end. If you ask my husband, he will say to stay away from the social media groups. I would often have extreme highs and lows when others in our same group advanced in the process and we wouldn’t hear anything for months.

It was hard and left me frustrated, asking, ‘Why aren’t we on a plane to see our son?’ I remember during the waiting, looking through social media at other moms playing or hugging on their babies was a trigger for me. I’m not an overly emotional person, but not being able to hold my babies, and only seeing them grow via the picture updates, was painful. The second time around, adopting my youngest, was much easier. We knew what to expect, and the timelines for travel had been cut in half.

Getting the call from our agency that our court case had been assigned was like a rocket went off. All the preparations during the last two years were being put into action. We had a travel nightmare getting to Seoul the first time. Our first flight was cancelled, causing us to miss the next two. We ended up jumping on three different domestic flights to eventually end up catching a flight from NYC to Seoul. Our stress and anxiety levels were through the roof. We had not left room for error; between the 13-hour flight there, and them being 14 hours ahead, we would have missed our court date if we hadn’t caught that flight. All of the built‐up anxiety we had went out the window the moment we saw our son MinKee in-person for the first time.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family
Courtesy of the Fisher Family

The way my husband likes to explain it is, ‘It’s like meeting a movie star you’ve seen pictures and videos of, obsessed about, and dreamed about meeting.’ He was holding his foster mom’s hand, jumping and hanging on her. We were shuffled to a private room so we would play with him, and hopefully, get to know him better. It took no time at all to realize we had nothing to be worried about. He was giving us hugs and kisses, blowing bubbles, cracking jokes, playing games, and making us all beam with joy in just seconds. His joy was infectious, and we immediately knew how very special he is and what a great blessing he would be to our family.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family

When the day of custody came, we were sent to the back of the adoption agency, where they had vans waiting to take us and one other family back to our hotels. MinKee waved and gave kisses to his foster mom, as the adults said goodbye with eyes full of tears. He even attempted to comfort the other little boy, who was in hysterics after his foster family handed him over to the other family in the van. We honestly could not believe his bravery and kindness.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family

As a stark contrast, our youngest son, Ari, could not have been more opposite. The first meeting was spent with his foster parents trying to get him to just look at us or hand us a toy. He squealed when his foster dad tried to get him to move closer to us. He was particularly terrified of my husband, who happens to be a very big guy. We knew custody would be incredibly hard for Ari, and very different from our first experience with MinKee. There is usually 6‐8 weeks between your court date and custody. We spent that time trying to ready ourselves for how we could best support and parent Ari through the trauma looming ahead.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family
Courtesy of the Fisher Family

When we got the call for custody, we were so excited, but also heartbroken knowing how very upset our little man was going to be. As expected, he was terrified! He cried until he fell asleep on the floor near the hotel door. He refused to let me or Justin comfort him, or take off his jacket or shoes. The only time he was not crying, is when we left the hotel and went walking around. We knew he was just hoping we would take him back to his foster parents.

We finally had a small break through on the third day, when it began to snow outside. Ari showed us a few smiles, and even a laugh, when Justin threw a snowball at me. Little by little every day after, he made small advances toward allowing us to comfort and love on him. He even decided to favor my husband, who’s glances were enough to send him into tears just a few days prior.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family
Courtesy of the Fisher Family

By the time we got home to the other kids, he was acting much more relaxed. He shocked us with his verbal skills when he learned everyone’s name, including the furry members, in just a few hours of getting home.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family

Our boy’s couldn’t be better suited as brothers and best friends. MinKee is our comedian who has never met a stranger. He is sensitive and often asks very deep questions about life. He’s an adventurous, adrenaline junkie with incredible motor skills, but often doesn’t think through what he’s about to do. Ari is our very intelligent, serious child, who gets easily embarrassed and hates all eyes on him. He is a safety police, and is always cautiously examining the consequences. Together, MinKee has helped pull Ari out of his shell and forced him to try things we might not have been able to get him to do. He has taught him to be more outgoing and embrace the outdoors. Ari helps keep MinKee from doing dangerous things, without thinking or asking permission. Ari is also his biggest cheerleader. He loves watching and learning from him, which keeps MinKee thriving to try new things to impress his younger brother.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family

It is crazy how fast life can change. I would have never thought we would go from one child to three children within 19 months of each other. It stretched me emotionally and mentally in ways I had never felt before. I had always worked outside of the home, but upon bringing Ari, our baby, home, I stopped working at the office and started taking less clients. I struggled for months to find a new normal — something that made me feel accomplished and appreciated, the way I had in the working world.

I started reading parenting books like crazy and focusing all my mental energy on how I could better myself for my children. I didn’t realize before, how much individual parenting each child needs. They are all very different in how they receive love and respond to correction techniques. It took months of trial and error to figure out what works best, and it’s an ever‐evolving approach on how to love and parent them as individuals. I am still a work in progress and am far from my ‘no yelling’ goal, but all of the work I am putting into my ‘job’ has given me the sense of accomplishment I was lacking. The best part is how much happier my family is because of these efforts. We haven’t eliminated the sibling quarrels, but they do usually have a positive ending now.

One thing I didn’t fully understand until we adopted, is sometimes love isn’t enough. Adoption is born from loss, which sucks. Our children have suffered a loss that is hard to comprehend and will stay with them forever. The way each one expresses that loss has varied greatly. It doesn’t matter how great of a parent you are and how hard you love your children; it won’t heal that wound. The only thing you can do is love them through the pain of that loss and support them.

Courtesy of the Fisher Family

My advice to any parent, is to error on the side of going easy on your kiddos and yourself. If I could turn the clock back, I would tell myself to let things go and work on bonding with positive reassurance and hands-on playtime. As moms, we are our own worst critics. Comparison can be the thief of joy, so try to remind yourself of that the next time you see your favorite IG or YouTube family. Who knows how long it took to dress those kids for the perfect pic. When we see this day after day, week after week, it becomes harder to remember all these moms are only showing you what they want you to see. None of us are perfect or even close. Just do the best you can in every moment. Surround yourself with other moms who will encourage you and pump you up. As humans, we all need positive reinforcement — especially our children.

We hope this journey relates to others who have chosen this path or have had the thought of someday… If you are thinking about adopting, our advice is stop thinking. Seriously!!! There is nothing easy about adoption, but I think parenting in general is hard. Our children are the greatest blessing and bring an immeasurable amount of joy to our lives. Hayden is now 11, MinKee is 5, and Ari is 3. We could never imagine life without them.”

Courtesy of the Fisher Family
Courtesy of the Fisher Family

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by the Fisher Family of St. Augustine, FL. You can follow their journey on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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