I feel as though I am embarking on an incredible journey. Today I will meet the boy who may become my son. I am now in the Singapore airport about to board a flight to Saigon. I will meet with Don Phan who will take me to meet Truong Van Phuong, the baby boy born just 10 weeks ago, who I have made intentions to adopt
. Up until today I have been full of anxieties about my ability to father a child, about the life he will have with me, and about how my life will change. Today, however, I feel fine, still scared but ready for the challenge. Somehow, I have some inner-peace about my day ahead. Something not easy to explain has come over me and has allowed the worries to take a back seat. I don't really know how to take care of a baby, but somehow, I am confident that my instincts will engage and I will do OK. Parenting
may be conventional for most people, but not for a single guy to do by himself. Can I offer a good life to a child? I believe I can - it will not be easy, but I feel the rewards will be mutual for both of us. Someday, I will look back on this time and wonder why all the uncertainty? Hopefully, I will look back on this as a decision that was natural.
My journey to fatherhood has not taken too long. Although I have been contemplating it for years, hoping and envying other Dads, I have only recently taken the giant steps to become a Dad. In March, just three months ago, I started the paperwork. That was when I started my home study*. On April 12, my home study was complete and on May 6, I received approval from the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) to bring a foreign-born child in to the U.S. But, before the paperwork began, I started the thought process in a serious manner in November 1997. That is when I attended a single parent adoption seminar sponsored by ARESP (Adoption Resource Exchange for Single Parents). The article I saw that announced the seminar was written by the founder of ARESP. His article was about his journey of being a single Dad and it empowered me. Although, I did not understand the full meaning of "special needs children," I went to the seminar to see what it was all about. At the seminar, which was held in a downtown church on a Saturday, I learned and saw. I learned that special needs did not necessarily mean handicapped, it could mean sibling groups or just children who are older. I saw other single parents
on the panel who told their stories. I met others interested in adopting. The looks on their faces were probably the same as mine - "Can I do this?" or "Do I want to do this?" I watched and I felt the envy in the room. Here were these parents of great kids and these wannabe parents. The envy was something that could not be ignored, especially for me. I was almost silent, just taking it all in. I thought about the large volume of paperwork it would take, but at the same moment, I thought about the connection between child and Daddy, which I was witnessing. I met Marc. Marc is the father of Zachary, who is about 1½. Marc got Zachary when he was only days old and when Marc was 39. Marc was an impressive speaker on the panel. He talked about the feelings and the rewards and the frustrations. He did it with a sense of humor. Zachary is black and Marc is white. He talked about that and how the racial difference has changed his life. I would later befriend Marc and Zach and they were a great help to me.
The plane is taking off now and my heart is full. I get choked up when I think about what I am about to encounter. When I think of Vietnam, I think of the war. It is my impression that it is a very poor country. I've seen several very poor countries before, so the sights will not discourage me. I feel that I will be able to soak in the culture and atmosphere in a unique way. This is not just a business stop, not another audit. This is real life and the outcome of this weekend will change mine forever. I'm excited and nervous. He will be in my care for 48 hours. Mine to try to get close to as much as possible. I will try to leave an impression on him that will last 'til August when I come back to get him, but I am not sure I can. Most of all, I am going to try to enjoy him.
Back to my journey towards fatherhood. After the single-parent adoption seminar in November, I started talking to a select group of family and friends. I say "select" because I didn't want to tell everyone. If I changed my mind, then what would I say to them later. All whom I did tell were supportive and some asked some of the hard questions. "Who will take care of the baby during the day?" "How old will you be when he enters college?" "Are you sure you want a boy? - Why not a girl?" A friend who also adopted told me that, while extremely rewarding, it is hard to raise a child and he couldn't imagine doing it alone. But he did say that one advantage is that I will make all of the decisions. The same friend told me that adopting
as a single parent is "a crazy thing to do." At first, I thought of this as a judgment, but the more I thought about it, it became a slogan for me: Yeah, it is a crazy thing to do, but not all crazy things are bad things.
During this time of talking about my adoption plans with friends and family, I realized the decision was mine and mine alone. I would have to do a lot of "soul searching" as a friend put it to determine if I wanted to be a single parent or not. It is me that would be the Dad. It is me that would be responsible for another human being for the next 20 years. I have great confidence in my ability to be a Dad, but I still have my insecurities. If these weren't there, I guess I would be worried about myself. I knew I had a great desire and I knew I could do it logistically and financially, but still unanswered was whether I could handle it emotionally? Also, would it prevent me from having another long-term relationship? These were my greatest concerns. Many of my worries will be clearer after this weekend. Because this weekend, I will see him, hold him, change his diaper, calm him, carry him, and feed him. I will father him if only for a weekend and then hopefully for a lifetime.
In February, I bought a computer for my home. I signed on to several list-serves, which are bulletin boards for people with a common interest. The lists I joined were Adopting Parents-Vietnam, Guatemala, Cambodia and a list for single parents. There are quite a few messages on these lists. You can learn a lot about other people's experiences such as their travel to get their child, childhood illnesses, and general concerns about raising children. It seems that about half of the people on these lists were parents and the other half were parents-to-be. At the beginning of May, there was a message saying "I am trying to find a home for 1 newborn healthy infant boy. Please contact me if you would like further details." To which I responded indicating my interest in a baby boy. The sender and I exchanged by e-mail more details about the baby and a photo. Then a package arrived with three more photos taken when he was about 12 days old. I checked some references and before I knew it I was sending funds to earmark this baby as my potential son. I knew I was going to Asia in June for an audit, so I made arrangements to visit the baby for that weekend.
I have just landed in Saigon. Wow. It seems that I am not letting myself get too emotional, just taking it in stride. What will this day unfold for me? What will he be like? Will he like me? Oh my God! What am I doing?? I know that all things happen for a reason and so there must be a reason that I have come this far. If I am to be this boy's Dad, it will happen and I will do the best I can. Hopefully he will have a good life in my care. Landing, I see old cars, shacks with metal roofs, squalor, parked helicopters all over the airport. This is Vietnam; Nam as some called it. I am here at 42. I just missed coming over here at 18. Thank God Vietnam is peaceful now compared to 24 years ago. As for me, emotionally, I am certainly at a more peaceful place now than I would have been then. Here I go.
I am now on my flight out of Saigon to Hong Kong
. My friend and co-worker, Pansy will be greeting me there. This is important to me to talk my weekend over with a friend. I just read what I've written on the flight to Saigon. It is obvious that my words were filled with uncertainty and some doubt. Well, almost all of that is gone now and replaced with love for Andrew. What a beautiful boy he is. My first meeting with him was terrific. He smiled at me within minutes and at 10 weeks old, smiles are not so common. I was full of overwhelming joy when I met him - it was an experience I will never forget. I spent the weekend as Dad. I must say that I did pretty well. There's not much science to it, but there is a lot of love and common sense. Andrew stayed in my hotel room for both nights where it was not easy for me to sleep. Not because of his feedings, but because I just wanted to stare at him all the time. The people in the hotel were so friendly and helpful. The girls who cleaned the rooms were so curious about me, taking a baby home with no wife. At one point I told Andy that I was going to buy him a bicycle someday, and then I wept uncontrollably. Here was this 10-week old boy to whom I was making fatherly promises. This was a moment I had only dreamed about. When I said good-bye, I told Andy that I would stage an airlift in August. It was very hard to say good-bye, but I knew that it was so much better to have visited this weekend than not.
All in all, it was a beautiful weekend. I feel that someone above has blessed me and that if I am able to complete this adoption, I will be the lucky one. Being a Dad for two days gave me the opportunity to view the world as never before. In the end, if I only had those two days as a father, then that is what was meant to be and I am grateful for that experience. But, I hope, with all my dreams sustaining me, that my fatherhood will begin again in August and last for the rest of my life.
Credits: Kevin McGarry