Fearing the flights would be grounded for days, we were in deep despair waiting out the violent typhoon in Taipei. Our airport hotel was nasty, with the putrid stench of bleach and florescent lights over the bed. We were squashed like fugitives in a confining, musty room - my husband and I and both our mothers - all praying to be out of there soon. The tempest was terrifying - howling and bending the trees in half and the hammering downpour bounced like popcorn off the flooded ground. Each hour or two, we’d wake and check the time. It was the longest night in history. Finally, at 5 am, there was good news. The airport was open and at last we were going to fly to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Despite the torrential storm, we arrived safely and sped to the Somerset Hotel in hopes of making our noon departure to the BaVi Orphanage Social Center #4. I scrambled through the luggage - where IS everything?? - grabbing baby clothes, the diaper bag (thank God I pre-packed it), and dumping the nanny gifts, director gift, doctor gift, soy formula, and donation clothes all into another bag. I attempted to throw together an outfit for myself that wasn't too bare, too shear or too short and had some resemblance of… "Oh yes, we are wholesome people.” We all managed to scurry to the lobby in twenty-three minutes flat. The other families were anxiously chatting, doing their best to remain calm, but the excitement was palpable. We loaded into a small bus, destined to take us on the most important blind date of our lives. We would soon meet our new baby.
Driving through the muddy deluge, I worried that we wouldn't make it through, but, mercifully, the monsoon stopped as suddenly as it had begun. And one sunshining hour later, we were overjoyed to see the yellow building with the red roof of BaVi Orphanage #4, glistening like Oz in the distance. Hearts racing, we couldn’t get through the gates and off that bus fast enough. The blank stares of chipped faded animal statues welcomed us as we unloaded into the thick and steamy air. I immediately started snapping pictures.
Led past a row of tiny laundry on a line, we came to the first of four cinder block, white plastered buildings. Our busload became a frenzied mob. My family scattered in haste. I searched the 4th room. There’s Mason! I recognize the little boy assigned to another family. They were still waiting for approval. Snap- snap- I HAD to snap pictures for the waiting families. It’s in the code. That’s how I fell in love with my baby after all - through pictures sent by the kind families who came before me. But where is he? Where is Nam? “Nam? Is Nam here?” No, not here.
Suddenly, I could hear my mother squealing… ”Maria! Maria! Nam is here!" I ran back to room one - AND THERE HE WAS! - “Nam?!” And He turned to look at me! My son! Wide-eyed, calm, and snuggled in a nurse’s lap. Blair and I approached him slowly and with my voice quivering, I said "Hi Bubba! We made it! WE’RE HERE! It’s sooo nice to meet you!" I tried desperately not to terrify him with tearful blubbering. He was so stoic. Small. Alert. So beautiful. Amidst the chaos and hooplah, he just looked at me, sweetly and then… after all that torturous waiting… he was in my arms. Oh my… he felt so good. It was surreal. He was finally ours. Jet-black hair, a pouty little mouth and saucer-sized brown eyes looking at me. He seemed incredibly easy. No fussing, no squirming… just peaceful and thoughtful. Blair was going at it - snap-snap-snapping. Oh God, our dream has come true! Then, I handed him to his daddy and with his big hands, Blair held Nam like he was tiny piece of china. The baby studied his new father’s face intensely. Silently. What an image. The grandmas were weeping in unison. It was awesome!
Other babies were screaming, but our boy still wasn't making a peep. In fact, at this point he was making a fishface, sucking in his cheeks. Is he as nervous as we are? The nurses were all trying to make him smile by squeezing his cheeks, calling "Namay! Namay!” One of them, a tall, finely featured beauty, was silently crying. She must really love this baby. He has been here for eleven months, since birth, when he was abandoned at the hospital.
Like a pack of wolves, the nurses scrutinized the new clothes I had brought, settling on the 9 month-sized, red plaid, shorts, onsey with the matching hat. Removing his old stained clothes revealed my baby’s naked legs and butt, which were peppered with cherry red marks. They were everywhere. Chicken pox had made its way through the orphanage. My poor little guy was ravaged - keloid scars like pencil erasers. He didn't seem phased by them, though. He didn't seem phased by anything: not the diaper rash on his thighs; the heat rash on his neck; the phlegmy rattle in his chest; or the chaos that was swarming him. He was cool as a cucumber, sucking in those cheeks. But then, when I picked him up, it all changed. He smiled at me! A huge, toothless, beaming smile. And I knew. I knew right there and then, that I was madly, deeply and uncontrollably in love. That I would love him forever, until the day I died - and nothing, nothing would ever come between us except for… the Grandmas! Into my mother's arms he was swooped… laughing and giggling, deep belly giggles. Magic to behold. Then, I really lost it. For years, I had wanted to give my mom a grandchild… so many were lost - and here she was, elated and finally claiming her title. My mother in-law was grinning from ear to ear too and in her gentle arms, Nam looked so comfy… almost proud. The nurses were crying, Blair was crying, we were all, blissfully weeping. Except Nam.
And there we were… a busload of couples, now transformed into a busload of families… Our lives forever changed by this moment. Wow. "How much water per scoop? Cereal when? Isn't there a book?” The cacophony of crying faded to a quite peace. As he sucked his bottle, we looked down at our new boy, and he looked up at us… and it was the most beautiful, magical feeling - a fairy story - a wonderful new beginning to a beautiful new life.