Adoptive mom Angela Crisanto shares a tribute to her son’s “second mother” — his foster mother — in gratitude for all the love she gave him while in her care in Korea.
For so many months, we had wondered about the family who was taking care of our son.
Before we adopted our older son, he had lived in an orphanage in Vietnam. We were so relieved that in Korea, there were more foster homes to take care of the children — including for our soon-to-be younger son, Kai.
We spent hours fantasizing about this mystery family who was raising our child. We prayed they were meeting all of his needs and giving him all the love and security we wished we could give to him. We met his foster mother for the first time on May 6, 2017, when she handed me our son in the meeting room at the Holt office in Seoul.
That moment was full of so many emotions.
Our son, Kai, looked so well taken care of and was clearly bonded with his foster mother. She had the kindest eyes and began telling us all about him, through the use of an interpreter. We had our other three children with us on this trip and she knew all of their names. All of the other children meeting their parents were sitting on blankets, calmly playing, but Kai was all over the place!
He was so full of energy!
She laughed with us about this as we all watched him play. She taught our other kids how to say “brother” and “sister” in Korean and when she asked Kai to point to his brother and sister, he knew who they were. She explained that she had been showing Kai the pictures we sent and telling him about us — his family.
Kai’s foster mother told us she has been fostering children for many years and that she only takes one child at a time so that she is able to give them her full attention. Her two biological children are adults now and she enjoys having a baby to care for.
As our final visit at the office ended, Holt staff informed us that Kai’s foster mother would like to take all of us to lunch — and they were even willing to send their interpreter with us. We were so excited! This meant extra time with our son before we had to fly home and wait for the second trip to Korea to finalize his adoption. We were soaking up every single minute!
During lunch, she asked us questions about our jobs and our lifestyle. I could tell she wanted to make sure he was going to a good home. She was warning me that he likes to run into the street, in front of cars, and that he is very fast when he runs.
I understood what she was doing. She was being a mother. She was preparing to give this child, whom she had raised for 16 months, to someone she did not know and she wanted to make sure he was going to be safe.
She cared about him so deeply. I could see it in all of their interactions, like the way she looked at him when she fed him his bottle and the way he clung to her when he fell down and hit his head. We got to learn so much about each other during this lunch. Afterwards, she let us play outside with our son and take pictures before saying goodbye to him.
Leaving Korea after the first trip was one of the most difficult moments in this whole process for me. I had met my son. I had held him. He had played with our children. He was ours. And we were leaving him. The only thing that made this process bearable was knowing he was with someone who was taking wonderful care of him. He was happy. He was safe. I felt that I could leave my son in the arms of this woman who I had just met and know that she would lay down her very life for him to protect him. She told me, promised me, that he would be okay and that we would meet again soon.
It felt like forever, but eventually we returned to Korea to bring our son home! We were able to meet him and his foster mother at the Holt childcare center the morning prior to our scheduled pick-up day. We were beyond excited, but I quickly noticed this was a very difficult day for her. At one point, she walked out into the hallway and did not return for quite some time. I went to see if she needed anything and found her on the floor, curled up in a ball, crying.
I could not speak a language she would understand. I could not reassure her in words that I would spend every day of my life making sure this child who she had loved for so long was happy and safe. I knelt down and wrapped my arms around her. We sat there and cried together. I think she understood. No words were needed.
The following day, she walked the halls with him, singing, crying and talking to him. I can only imagine what she was saying. I assume she was telling him how much she loved him, that she would never forget him, that he was going to grow up into an amazing human being. He eventually fell asleep in her arms and she lovingly handed him over to me for the final time.
The enormity of this exchange was not lost on me. I felt her heart breaking as she reached in the van to kiss him just one more time, and then just once more after that and then had to be physically pulled off the door so we could drive away. I watched her in the mirror, falling into the arms of a friend. I knew that this moment, one of the happiest moments of my life, was one of her most painful.
The sacrifice made by foster mothers is indescribable. To care for a child as your own and then hand them to someone else to finish the job you started is an amazing gift and not something everyone could do. I am eternally grateful to her and her entire family.
Prior to our trip, I wrote a letter that I had written for her and had translated into Korean. I gave her two copies, one in English and the other in Korean. It was a long letter that included our story and in which I tried to convey my feelings toward her. Here is a small portion of that letter:
There will always be 3 important women in my son’s life. There is the woman who gave birth to him and who made the very difficult decision to place him for adoption. I believe she cared so much for him that she sacrificed her own happiness to give him a good life. I will not let her down. I will always love him unconditionally. I will take care of him and support his dreams. I will give him strength when he is feeling weak. I will hold him when he cries. I will laugh with him when he is happy. I will give him the life she wants him to have.
The second woman in his life was you. You have been the only mother he has really known and because he is so young, he does not understand that this is going to change. Losing you is going to be very hard for him. He is going to miss you.
It hurts my heart to think about the loss that both you and Kai will feel as we bring him home. I want you to know that I will always remind him of you. I will show him your pictures and I will tell him how much you loved him. I will always be thankful that God put you in his life.
It is now my turn to be the 3rd mother in his life. His forever mother. I will never leave him alone. I will never turn my back on him. I will do my best to ensure that all of his dreams come true. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart for loving him for me when I was not able to be there to show him my love. There are no words to express how much I appreciate you. You are a gift from heaven. We will carry you in our hearts forever.
Angela Crisanto | Adoptive Mom