‘We’re the lucky ones'
Parents of adopted children get ‘rescued right back.’
In the movie “Pretty Woman,” the beautiful hooker with a heart, played by Julia Roberts, tells the rich business tycoon embodied by Richard Gere about her childhood fantasy of being locked in a tower only to be rescued by a prince on a white horse, charging the tower with his sword drawn.
In the film’s final scene, Gere, armed with an umbrella, rides in on a white limo, climbs up a fire escape to reach her and says, “So what happened after he climbed the tower and rescued her?”
Roberts responds: “She rescues him right back.”
So, you ask, what does that have to do with adoption? Somehow her last line gets stuck in my head when I talk to families about their adopted children, as I did at the Korean Church of the Lehigh Valley’s Adoption Sunday.
Every year the church in Whitehall Township invites families from around the region who have adopted children from South Korea to a special service, followed by other activities and a luncheon of traditional Korean dishes. The event is the church’s way of exposing the adopted kids to their native culture. But it’s also about showing appreciation to the families who have given the Korean children loving homes. And – as all good events should be – it’s an excuse to eat great food.
Maybe “rescued” is the wrong word here, but it’s clear that the adoptive parents feel these kids give them a new lease on life. Holly Beiler of Macungie told me that before adopting her younger son, Isaiah, 6, from Korea, “I felt like a part of our family was missing.”
When Beiler, her husband John, and their older son Jonah got the e-mail from the adoption agency with the first photo of Isaiah, the connection was immediate and intense. “I felt like that was my son,” she said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
The same instant bond was there for Carolyn Cino of Macungie, who, with her husband Joe, adopted their daughter, Angela, as an infant. Friends from her work and her husband’s had adopted children from Korea and “we’d heard wonderful things about how the Koreans take care of babies in foster homes,” Cino said. She felt, “somehow there was somebody out there waiting for me.”
In the past when I’ve written about foreign adoptions, invariably someone asks me why the families didn’t adopt domestically. Some of the parents told me on Sunday that when they adopted their children, there was a long period of limbo for domestic adoptions in Pennsylvania, during which the birth parents could change their minds and decide to keep their babies. That time to withdraw consent after the birth is now 30 days but it can still be agonizing for adoptive parents who fear becoming attached to a baby, only to have a biological parent take the baby back.
Of course there are plenty of older children and those with special needs available for adoption in this country and that can be a great option. But only the adopting parents can say what they can handle. It’s really nobody else’s business.
Adoption can be expensive and I’ve known families that wanted to, but were afraid they couldn’t afford it. The federal government offers a tax credit of up to $13,170 to cover adoption expenses, including travel. While that doesn’t always cover the whole cost, it certainly helps.
Adoptions from both China and South Korea are slowing somewhat, with both countries encouraging their own citizens to adopt.
After attending Sunday’s program, I called my friend Elliot Grossman, formerly of Fountain Hill, who now lives with his wife Lynda and daughter Dani in Cincinnati. The Grossmans adopted Dani from China in 2009 and Elliot dismissed my theory that Dani “rescued them right back” – saying he and his wife had full lives before Dani.
But, he said, the little 3-year-old enriches their lives beyond measure. “Every day is better because of Dani,” he said. “I smile a lot more and I laugh a lot more because she’s so adorable. She’s happy and she’s busy and people love watching her. We’re told that she’s lucky…we’re the lucky ones.”
I still say in this – as in so many of the best relationships in our lives – we save each other.