20 Mar Journey to Gideon – Part 3 (The Day We Met Our Son!)
Moment of truth: This post right here is 90% of the reason this blog is two weeks late in coming. Tuesday, March 6th was the most perfect day of our lives. It truly felt like God arranged every single detail and then gave us the utmost presence of heart and mind so we could truly see all of the tiny miracles He gave us.
I hesitate to use the word “perfect,” because you have to understand that we would have loved Gideon just as much if our first visit with him felt like a disaster (and truly, it’s just as normal and okay if kiddos in this situation scream and freak out and won’t have anything to do with their adoptive parents, really it’s okay). But after all the pain and tears and question marks these past 14 months have held, meeting our son for the first time was a gift we couldn’t have imagined in a hundred years.
I walked away from meeting Gideon with two thoughts:
Today was perfect.
And there is always hope in Jesus.
Because of that, we want to share with you all the tiny details, just so you can see how amazing God is. This story is all His. The glory is all His. And I don’t say that lightly or because I want you to think we’re saints or something (ohhhh if you only knew how many times I’ve screamed at God throughout this journey!). I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart, because only God changed our hearts for this little boy. He was older than we had planned, he came earlier than we had planned, he had more question marks than we had planned. And when they told us his diagnoses for the first time, I literally laid on the couch for hours, completely unable to move and completely sure I would never be able to go on with a head that said we were crazy and a heart that said he was still ours, no matter what.
But we not only moved forward, we moved forward with JOY. With PEACE. With complete and utter confidence that Gideon J***** Troyer was our son, no matter what that looked like. I had wanted a safe life, a predictable life. But God knew better, and I stand on the other side of meeting our amazing, incredible, brilliant little boy with the most contagious joy we’ve ever beheld, and I am completely humbled that we could have missed all of this. We could have walked away. Four times. We could have listened to the fear. Every single day. But God asked for our YES, and He has blessed that YES a million times over.
So this, dear friends, is the story of us meeting Gideon.
We woke up after a solid 8 hours of sleep (I guess that’s what walking 15 miles and lots of prayer can do) to the biggest and most exciting day of our life! No joke, I literally jumped up in bed, shouted “It’s Giddy day! It’s Giddy day!,” and then almost ran to the shower. I spent way too much time getting ready, but even still, we were ready an hour early to leave four hours early for our visit that was 45 minutes away. As Brian would say, “Hashtag Life with Callie.”
We headed out for the subway station looking conspicuously like pack mules. We had a huge gift bag for foster family, two gift bags for our social worker, Gideon’s backpack full of toys, my bag full of lists of questions and the cross stitch I had made for foster mom, and Brian’s backpack full of the Wifi egg and battery pack (because phones dying that day were not an option). You should know that subways in Korea can get real crowded, real fast, and not only were we a little lost figuring out the subway for the first time, but now we took up the space of about 6 people.
But alas, we made it the 45-minutes and two subway lines to Gangnam, and I think we only argued once. Okay, maybe twice.
We found SWS so we knew where we were going (thanks for answering my frantic “we’re lost, we’re never going to meet Gideon” text super late your time, Kelli!), and then we found a coffee shop (Café Luster) directly across the street. You know, so we didn’t get lost again. We spent nine outrageous dollars on coffee, and then I spent the morning alternating between crying and Facetiming family with Brian. Lest you think I was the only emotional one, though, even Brian was extra sentimental, taking lots of photos and documenting everything with me!
We Facetimed just about the entire immediate family until we made it to lunch. We walked down the street – still looking like pack mules – and found a really good lunch place with bulgogi beef soup! It was amazing, and I only half-spilled it on my dress clothes, so that was exciting. Again, I half cried and half ate until it was finally, blessedly time to walk back up to the agency.
We waited until 10 minutes before 1:00 to head inside. I was almost shaking I was so nervous, and I tried to catch my breath in the teeny tiny elevator. We found the Adoption Department and were then ushered into a room to wait for our social worker. She finally entered, and we gave her our gifts while I think I just repeated annyeonghaseyo over and over again. I mean, we had to impress her with our mad Korean skills, right? (Jokes.)
She told us we would take a cab to the foster home, which was about 50 minutes outside of Seoul (turns out it was actually 35, but who’s counting), in Gyeonggi. Gyeonggi is actually the province where Gideon was born, so it was extra special to see!
You must know, everywhere indoors in Seoul is 85 degrees in the winter. I’m not joking. Restaurants, the agency, our hotel room, even the taxi was 85 degrees. And y’all, the taxi drivers navigate the super crowded, congested roads like they’re the next big NASCAR driver, and it often feels like they are using the gas and brakes simultaneously. Brian got so car sick he had to try to sleep, and I threw up on the way back. So on the way to the foster home, we ripped off every optional layer of clothing and sat with our arms against the cold glass, just trying to keep it together. I digress.
After what felt like an eternity, we arrived very suddenly to Gideon’s foster family’s home. His foster family lives in a high rise, almost at the very top. We exited the cab, and once again I started shaking and tearing up again. Brian and I just kept glancing over and giving each other freak-out faces as our social worker buzzed us in and led us to the elevator. Those 13 floors felt like a hundred. We looked up and down, at each other, and then quickly away. I nervously fiddled with the cross stitch for foster mom in my arms, and our social worker saw it and “aww’d,” and I laughed way too hard.
There are only two flats per floor in Giddy’s family’s building, so his foster Omma already had the door open for us. Our social worker rounded the corner first, and we followed, both wanting to rush in and wait outside all at once. Foster mom excitedly bowed to us and eagerly said “Annyeonghaseyo!” And we did the same. Gideon’s foster mom is easily one of the sweetest people we’ve ever met! She’s amazing.
We continued inside, and Brian went on ahead. I scrambled to get my socks on, because in the 85 degree taxi, they had been the first to go. And then all of a sudden, I looked up from my socks – foster mom was excitedly shouting “Omma! Appa!” over and over – and Gideon was literally standing there in the doorway, watching me. He has this specific stare when he’s curious but also a little shy, and he just watched me.
I truly can’t explain that moment. If I think back to it, I can feel all of the same emotions all over again, but I still can’t explain it. It was like the most surreal moment of my life, but also one of the most present moments I’ve ever been in. It was like he wasn’t real, couldn’t be real, but also the realest thing I had ever beheld. I felt the tears threatening to spill over, but I also didn’t feel like crying at all. It was one the strangest feelings, but one of the best moments, of my entire life.
He turned quickly to walk back in his room — directly across the hall from the front door — where his foster mom, our social worker, and Brian already stood. He held the fire truck we sent with his very first care package. Foster mom started talking excitedly about his room and his toys. I knelt down, and Gideon turned to me, made eye contact with me for the first time, and gave me the slightest hint of a smile. Brian accidentally captured that moment in slow motion on his phone, and ironically, that’s what it felt like. Although it kind of felt like life both slowed way down and sped way up all at the same time. I’m telling you, those first moments are indescribable. Everything in me screamed to reach out and touch Gideon, but I didn’t dare. Because if this was only a dream, if I discovered he wasn’t real, I knew I would be completely devastated.
We followed foster mom into the living room, and I still struggled to accept what my eyes were seeing as real. The living room was set up just perfectly, just like the videos I had watched for hours on end, just like the daydreams that consumed my thoughts for the past months. The colored mats on the floor, the TV on the wall, the toy box in the corner. Everything was just like I had imagined, except now, finally, we were in the picture too. We were actually here, in Korea, with our little boy.
Foster mom started pulling tray after tray of fresh fruit and tea cakes from the fridge, and I started pulling the first toy from Gideon’s dinosaur backpack. That’s when he really came over to us. That’s when he reached his little arm into the bag and started pulling things out himself. That’s when I reached out and touched him for the first time. And that’s when I finally let myself believe this was actually real.
That moment was magical.
He pulled item after item out of his little dinosaur bag until he found exactly what he was looking for — stacking cups! He grabbed them immediately, turned around, and started unstacking them on the floor. Foster mom started laughing and talking excitedly, and she told us they were his absolute favorite!
We played a little while, and then Gideon toddled off to his room. Foster mom was talking with our social worker, so Brian and I followed him. We got to his room, alone with him for the first time, and Brian encouraged me to pick him up. I had no idea if he would freak out, but nervously I did. And he just smiled at me! I turned to have him look at the camera, and Brian said, “He liked that, spin again.” And we did. We spun around, and he gave me the biggest smile and started laughing, and it was the most joy I have ever felt in my life. When Gideon smiles, the room lights up. That was something his foster parents said in the first report we ever read, and it’s so true. His joy is contagious, and his laugh is the best sound in the world.
I handed him to Brian, and they spun around, and he laughed even harder! He loves, loves, loves playing with Brian, and the two of them are so much alike already. I hope Gideon grows up to be just like his Daddy!
We headed back to the living room, and foster mom handed me yogurt and a spoon to feed Gideon for the first time. He knows the word “mama,” (“food” in Korean baby talk), and he would open his mouth for me when I repeated it. Mostly, though, we made a mess, and I spilled yogurt all over my pants. Twice. Better get used to it, kiddo. Your mama is so good at first impressions, haha.
Brian and Giddy played with the grapes on the table while I talked to foster mom through the social worker, asking questions about allergies, schedules, and what comforts him. We discovered he loves to be held, and I am completely on board with that! Then we all played together again, and we tried to show Gideon photos we had brought of our family. Mostly, though, Gideon liked opening the album to the first photo — of himself — and laughing so hard!
Social worker said it was nearing time to leave and we still needed photos for the judge. I picked Gideon up while she went to grab her phone, and he looked me straight in the eyes and started smiling. He pointed to my eyes and giggled, and then I said “nun!” (eyes in korean), and he really laughed! I leaned my forehead closer to him, and he leaned in even further until our foreheads touched. I never, ever wanted to let him go.
Foster mom yelled “kimchi” and he turned and laughed right at the camera! We then requested a photo with foster mom, and I thought he might reach for her. But instead, he played with my hair and then threw his arms around my neck and just held on. And again, I never, ever wanted to let him go.
We played a little more until social worker said the taxi was on its way. She encouraged us to say goodbye. We sat on the floor with him, and once again he walked over and stared me right in the eyes. He played with my hair a little, and I said “Omma!” And all of a sudden, completely unprompted, he reaches out, puts his arms around my neck, lays his head on my shoulder, and gives me a hug.
That was the moment neither Brian nor I could hold back tears. When SWS first told us about their concerns, that was our biggest fear – that our sweet boy, with his beautiful heart, might never display or express love. And even now, we still don’t know what the future looks like, or if this will ever be his “normal.” But it was like God gave me that one hug to remind me there is always HOPE. He knew what He was doing all along, in every single moment and every single tear, and there is HOPE for Gideon!
I let him go (against every fiber in my being), and he walked over to Brian and intentionally fell on his lap to be held. Then he started climbing on him to get turned around and to show Daddy his O-ball.
By this point, the taxi had arrived, so we started gathering up our things and basically repeated “thank you” to foster mom over and over again. She handed us his hanbok (a beautiful traditional outfit from his first birthday party) and a photo album of Gideon through the first two years of his life. And I teared up, knowing that she was sharing him with me. She was sharing his life with us, and as we get closer to becoming a family of three, we know they are also getting closer to becoming a family without Gideon.
Gideon started screaming as we got our shoes back on (probably mostly because he was 20 minutes past his nap, but we were still flattered), so foster mom didn’t follow us down. We turned to leave, and I started crying again (yes, again). And the only thing I was able to tell Brian was that Gideon is absolutely PERFECT. Like over and over, just that he’s perfect.
We drove away, and I clutched the photo album foster mom had given me for dear life, trying to hang on to this day, these moments, the feeling of everything being right in the world. All of the fears about his medical needs, about North Korea, about the cost of our adoption, about how in the world we would learn how to be parents, all of those things melted away. It was just me and Brian and Gideon, and today would always be perfect, no matter what happened. And Gideon would always be our son, no matter what the future looked like. And his foster family would always be our family, and his foster mom would always share the honor of being his other Omma, and all of our lives would forever be better because he is (or was, for his foster parents) in it.
We headed back “home” to Jongno and met Krista and Jon for dinner again. We ate authentic Korean BBQ, walked around Insadong a bit, and then headed back to our AirBNB, overjoyed we were just about 12 hours away from meeting our little buddy again.