We got back to our hotel and found Brooke in a daze. No one could believe this was actually happening. But she had been in contact with an immigration attorney the week prior to the official NOID and she knew that she now had to go home and start her fight. This meant leaving her baby in foster care. Brooke is a single parent and is a co-owner in a business that needed her there to help run it. Financially neither she nor her company could afford for her to stay there indefinitely.
The night Brooke and Mindy adopted their baby's we had a celebratory dinner at a restaurant in Phu Tho province. The night of my G&R we ordered room service. Brooke and I were sharing a 2 bedroom apartment in the Somerset Grand Hotel so I was fully aware of what was going on. Emma was upset with her new surroundings but seemed to take comfort in my arms. I slept with her draped across my body most of the night. Whenever I put her down she would begin to panic.
On Tuesday, the day after my G&R and Brooke's NOID, Brooke was making plans to go home. It was decided that she would leave the next day. Our facilitator and her family would foster the baby in Brooke's absence. Brooke sent her baby with our facilitator that very afternoon. She could no longer bear to be with her. The pain was too deep, too intense. She had to make the break before her heart broke even more, if that was even possible. My heart ached for my friend yet there was nothing I could do and in fact I worried I caused her even more pain. Being in the same apartment was incredibly difficult. I had Emma and I knew that seeing Emma had to remind Brooke of her baby. But Brooke spent most of her time in her bedroom, on the computer and on the phone trying to figure out what to do next.
Emma cried a good part of Tuesday off and on and had massive spitting up and gas. I realized that I was giving her the formula the orphanage had given her full strength and could have kicked myself. The orphanages are notorious for diluting the formula and I had caused Emma's digestive tract great distress. I cut the formula to half strength and the next morning she seemed better.
But the next morning Brooke was packing and getting ready to go. I knew she needed to go and clear this mess up but I hated to see her leave. We had been together for almost 5 weeks now and had been through so much, both good and bad. I had no idea what the future held for Emma and I and I couldn't imagine going through it alone. But I never voiced my fears. Brooke needed me to be strong for her and I tried to keep Emma away from her as much as possible.
Late that afternoon our facilitator came to take her to the airport. We hugged goodbye and I couldn't believe that she was leaving. Without her baby. How could this happen? But soon she was gone and we were alone, Jenna, Emma and I. And I never felt so alone in my life.
I had found out that my first interview was the next week on Monday October 29 , a week after G&R so all I could do was wait. My facilitator was busy trying to find out what was going on and was trying to gather paperwork for the travel group behind me so we were alone most of the time. Luckily, the Somerset Grand, where we were staying, had many retail areas on the first floor. There was small grocery store, a cafe, a coffee shop and overly priced retail shops. It also had an outdoor pool, an outdoor playground and an indoor playground. The indoor playground was actually on our floor just a couple of doors away. Jenna liked to go there and it was a change of scenery for us. We even met a family that was being investigated and later received a NOID.
It was an interesting experience being there and meeting other families. A lot of adoptive families stayed there and often if a family found out you were being investigated they would avoid you like the plague, as though your investigation could contaminate them. For some, I think it just frightened them. Others found out and acted as though we wore a scarlet "K" as though you had just kidnapped a baby off the street. This, of course, all occurred while Brooke was there. Once Brooke left, I told very little about who I was, where Emma was from or how long we had been there. I admit that I had become quite paranoid. I was hearing all kinds of rumors and I had no idea what to believe or not believe.
Ultimately we escaped it all by venturing out as little as possible. Other than trips to the grocery store every couple of days, a once in a while trip to the coffee shop and occasional playroom trips, we pretty much holed up in our apartment. There were a few days we never left at all. We usually ordered room service at least once during the day and I cooked the other meals-- we were fortunate enough to have a stocked kitchen that also housed a washer/dryer. Jenna soon learned the lineup on Cartoon Network Asia during the day and I found some new favorite TV shows on StarWorld, an Asian network that showed western, mostly American, television shows. The television, my computer and the children were my entertainment.
Brooke left on Wednesday and my first interview was on the next Monday and I was worried. All weekend I went over every question they could possibly ask and practiced how I would answer for fear that if I hesitated or gave them reason to doubt me they would issue Emma a NOID. When I got Emma's translated paperwork I was terrified. Brooke's baby was left at a medical clinic and found by a nurse. My sweet little Emma was left by a drainage ditch and found at 4:30 in the morning by a security guard. While I did not doubt the story of Emma's abandonment, I worried that the Embassy would find it implausible. Which sounded more credible? A baby left in a clinic or by a drainage ditch? I thought we were doomed.
But I had other worries that weekend. On Saturday October 27 Emma began to run a fever and have a runny nose and a cough. When I received Emma, I noticed she has small holes on her hand, arm and ankle. They looked like needle marks. When I inquired what they might be, after some checking my facilitator told me that Emma had been hospitalized the week before and they were from that. WHAT???? I had no answers as to WHY she had been hospitalized but she did have a small cough when I got her. Now she was sick and running a fever and I wasted no time taking her to the western clinic.
The doctor told me that she had a virus but was very concerned over her weight. She was 3 1/2 months and weighed 9 pounds. She told me to feed her every 3 hours and get her formula to full strength as quickly as possible.
Monday arrived and my interview was in the afternoon. Up until about 2 hours beofre the interview I was working myself up into quite a state of anxiety but finally I prayed one more time and let it all go. I knew I had done all that I could do and it was completely up to God. The last hour I was amazingly calm and at peace.
The interview went better than I could hope for. We arrived at the Embassy and there were only a few families there. I was taken into a small room almost immediately where I talked to an officer behind a glass window. He asked me a couple of benign questions and said we were done. He said I would hear in a week and if I didn't then I could call and inquire about my status. I left the room amazed. How could it go that easy? I felt elated and then began to worry. What if they had already made up their mind so why bother investigating Emma's case?
Two days later we went to get Emma's visas photos taken. That morning when she woke up I noticed she was breathing heavily at times although her fever was gone and she did not seem in any distress. I was worried though because I had seen this before-- when my friend's baby had RSV she had breathed like that. I wanted to take her to the clinic.
We got the photos, which proved to be difficult because Emma couldn't even hold her head up let alone sit up. After multiple tries we got a photo.
A photo of Emma's visa photo. She looks so fat because there are about 4 hands inside her shirt holding her up!
The Western clinic was a block away from the photography studio and I told my facilitator that I wanted to take Emma to the clinic. She must have thought that I was a completely over reactive mother because Emma seemed just fine. She asked me if I wanted to wait until the next day when we already had an appointment for her visa physical but I insisted on going anyway. Emma was diagnosed with bronchiolitis and sent home (to the hotel) with an antibiotic. Little did I know what this meant.
This day happened to be Halloween. I was hoping that the hotel would have some type of festivities since it was full of Americans but it didn't. Instead poor Jenna had to settle for wearing her Halloween shirt that I had brought from home.
Jenna holding Emma on Halloween both wearing their shirts. Emma is not enjoying Halloween.
The next day we went back for the visa physical and the nurse seemed to have a hard time getting a pulse/ox reading on her. She said it was because her fingers and toes were so small but I noticed that it would be in the high 80's and they would press hard on her fingers/toes and then she would cry and it would go up to the 90's. When the doctor examined her, a very sweet French doctor, he was somewhat concerned after listening to her lungs and watching her breath. He sent us home with a nebulizer that I was to use twice a day. I was to bring her back on Monday, sooner if she got worse.
Emma showed us that she had a temper early. She did NOT like her breathing treatments.
We made it through the weekend without additional medical issues but I was facing other realities. On Monday I was hoping to know our fate. I knew that I had to have a plan in mind in case I had to leave Emma in Vietnam. I seriously considered staying with her if necessary but if nothing else, I had to go home and get my kids and bring them back. But was it fair to drag my children to Vietnam for 2 years?
You might read this and think "well if they found a problem wouldn't you want the baby to go to her birth parents?" I can assure you that I would. But the issue at hand was that in my eyes the Embassy had damaged their credibility. Even if they had a real case I wouldn't have believed them. I would have had her case investigated on my own first. And sending her back to the orphanage was NOT an option.
The travel group that was to come after me was indefinitely stalled. Worse, 2 of the babies were quite ill. One had been hospitalized but the effects of her illness had greatly affected her development. I heard that both babies were expected to die. Ella had already died there. I would live in Vietnam the rest of my life before I sent my precious baby back to that place.
When I got Emma I knew that a NOID was a very strong likelihood and I told myself not to get too attached. That was the most foolish thing to ask of myself. There was a hole in my heart that this baby filled. She was a perfect fit. She could never replace Darrell, an impossible task, but she proved that I could love again.
So on the morning of Monday, November 5 I held the Embassy business card in shaking hands for several moments before I could actually dial the number. My heart was in my throat when I told the woman who answered that I was checking on the status of our case. When I told her who I was she was aware of my case. My stomach dropped. That definitely couldn't be good.
"You've been approved." she said, "but we have so many families it might take a couple of days before you can come in for your second interview."
I literally could not believe what I was hearing so I asked her: "You're sure that I'm approved?"
I thanked her profusely and hung up in both disbelief and great excitement. We were going home!
But Emma was still sick and we had a doctor's appointment at the clinic that afternoon. The French doctor was quite concerned about her lungs. He did an xray but found no pneumonia. He wanted to try a European technique to get the mucus from her lungs. I was willing to try anything to make her better, especially when he told me that they used this type of treatment all the time in France. It involved a physical therapist and a lot of pounding and squeezing on her neck and chest. The French doctor was very worried about my reaction to this and even walked in halfway through the treatment to check on ME. I had tears in my eyes and had to look away at times but I wanted her better.
With all the free time on my hands I had goggled "bronchiolitis" multiple time and always came up with the the same thing: RSV. I was somewhat placated by the data that said it was usually a bad cold. But a small number of cases were quite serious and now a doctor was worried about her. I just wanted to get her home.
I had my second interview on Tuesday which meant we received the visa on Wednesday. We could leave Wednesday night. It was almost too good to be true. We were really going home. I went to the Embassy for the interview which was completely uneventful. But in the waiting room there was a group of families. I introduced myself and asked how their investigations were going. Not well. They were there to receive their official NOIDs. In a travel group of 5 families, 4 were receiving NOIDs. The astonishing part was that all 4 families babies were relinquished and the family that got a visa had a baby who was abandoned. I heard the same story I had heard before. The Embassy staff showed up and intimidated the birth mothers even going so far as to ask them how they could abandon their child.
I could see the officer who had conducted my second interview watching me talk the other families through the glass window. I felt a sense of panic. Could they now revoke Emma's visa because I was talking to these families? It seems to incredible to even think they could but the atmosphere was highly charged at that time. Anything seemed possible. I gave the families my condolences and Brooke's contact information.
The next day we were packed and ready to go. Our facilitator took us to the Embassy to get Emma's visa and then onto the airport. We were going home! I missed my older children so much that I was literally counting the hours until I got home.
Although I had planned on only posting 4 parts to the series I have decided to do one more about coming home and Emma's medical issues.
This was originally posted at There's Always Room for One More on August 25, 2008