Posted by: CatherineD | September 30, 2009

Seoul 2009 – Day 3

We started our Wednesday a little later than previous days. Our bodies seem to be adjusting to Korea time – just in time for us to go back home!

After a yummy breakfast at the hotel, we took the subway to Cheonggyecheon Stream in downtown Seoul. It’s a beautiful bit of nature in the middle of a crowded city. I had a slight headache before we got there, but after walking along the stream and breathing the fresh air, the headache was gone. Seoul is a bit of a hectic, polluted, sometimes stinky city – and this stream was the perfect escape from all of the traffic and noise. It seemed like a popular place for business people to visit on their lunch breaks.


Just above the stream, we witnessed a small parade of people, marching through the city streets, carrying flags and dressed in what looked like traditional warrior costumes. Just as soon as they appeared, they were gone. I happily wondered aloud, “WHAT was that?”

Brian’s answer: “Just some random coolness.”

Random Coolness

Random Coolness

We had a little more time to kill before our next meeting with Daniel, so we chose a direction and just started walking. We happened upon a long strip of grass and fountains that reminded me of the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C. I have no idea what it was called, but it was sandwiched between some art museums and the U.S. Embassy. In one area was an art installation with lots of brightly-colored statues of Haechi, a mythical creature and the symbol of Seoul.




We had a wonderful morning and were looking forward to some playtime with Daniel. When we got to Eastern, we met Daniel, the social worker and D’s foster mom in a playroom filled with toys. They left us alone to play as a family for the first time.

This was when we were hit with a little dose of reality. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures, because we were too busy trying to keep D from crying. The moment his foster mom left the room, he began to scream, kick, arch his back and cry for what seemed like an eternity. We tried to engage him with toys, walk around the room, cradle him, put him down with the toys… every time he started to quiet down, we would make one wrong move and the wailing began again. He was so upset that his face was red and splotchy and he even threw up on me. He seemed to do better with Brian (we were told he prefers his foster dad) and is somewhat intrigued by his facial hair, but even then – his crying only softened to a lesser volume.

Foster mom came in occasionally to give me a bottle and pacifier, comfort little D and hand him back to me saying, “Omma (mother).” Nothing seemed to help. Every time she left the room, it all started again, and he would stare and reach for the door. It was hot in that little room, B was sweating bullets and I was trying to keep a calm, peaceful demeanor; soothing, empathizing and patting this poor little boy.

Eventually, after who knows how long, the SW and foster mom came back into the room and he happily went to the arms of the only “omma” he’s ever known. What an amazing, strong woman. This must be heart-breaking for her, but she kept a smile on her face and continued to point to me and say “Omma.” She tried to reassure us, saying that he was just very tired and that tomorrow will be better.

While it’s comforting to know that he has developed a strong bond with foster mom (this is a good sign that he is able to develop bonds and will be able to eventually bond well with us), it tears me up thinking about the incredible loss to come for him and his foster family. He has NO idea. The SW suggested that he may be picking up on his foster mom’s sadness that has been building for weeks. I have no doubt that this is true.

As soon as the door at Eastern closed behind us, I broke down. Hard. I sobbed all the way back to the hotel. Brian held my hand, rubbed my back and tried to soothe me, just as I tried to soothe Daniel.

I wanted to crawl up in a ball on the hotel bed and continue to cry, but Brian encouraged me to get up and do something – I would feel better. We hopped on the subway again and went to Hyundai Department Store. At Eastern, we had seen notes written on a whiteboard by other adoptive parents that Hyundai Dept Store was a MUST SEE.  Hmm. Maybe we missed the ‘must see’ part, because all we saw was a super over-priced shopping mall, with designer clothing and home accessories. We picked up a really cute shirt for Daniel and looked at the price tag. In our heads (okay, just Brian’s head), we figured out that it was about $300 U.S. dollars. Really? For a toddler’s t-shirt? Not THAT cute!

We did have a very nice dinner at the dept store. It was a sushi bar of sorts. The chefs were standing in the middle on a raised, stage-like platform. They were encircled by two rows of slowly rotating shelves filled with small plates of sushi and other appetizer-type foods. The plates were color-coated and there was a sign showing images of the plates and their corresponding prices. As the plates moved past us, we would take the ones that we wanted. A couple next to us (Japanese, I think) had something in a bowl that looked and smelled delicious. We asked them if they spoke English – they did – then we asked what they were eating. I don’t remember the name of it, but since no one working there spoke English, they offered to order one for us. It was sooooooo good! It was like a combination of the Korean dish bibimbap and Japanese chirashi sushi. Rice, cabbage, different kinds of sashimi, eggs, sesame oil… then we squirted on some hot chili sauce and mixed it to taste. Yum Yum Yum.

Hyundai Department Store

Hyundai Department Store

On the way back to the hotel, we got caught in rush hour. It was probably around 7 p.m. Business people making their way home or to happy hour, and students heading out for a night of shopping and socializing. At the Hyundai Dept Store station, we had to literally squish body-to-body into a very full subway car. So full that the door wouldn’t close at first because Brian was still sticking out. I have struggled off and on with social anxiety and claustrophobia… luckily, although I was still rattled from our visit with Daniel, I was in a pretty strong frame of mind. I just looked at Brian, took deep breaths, and after about three more stops the train started to empty out and I had an acceptable amount of personal space around me again. Phew!

We tried to walk around parts of the Hongik Univ neighborhood that we had not seen yet, but it had been a very emotionally exhausting day, so we weren’t really in the mood for more browsing.

I crashed as soon as we got back to the room. BIG day ahead of us.

It’s 7 a.m. Thursday morning now, and I’m all caught up with the blog, with the exception of the ‘toilet story.’ That will have to wait for another day. I’m tired.

At 11 a.m. today we will meet with the President of Eastern and other adoptive parents for a luncheon. I am hoping we can get a quick tour of Eastern as well. At 4:30, we’ll go back to Eastern to pick up Daniel, then they will take us to the airport. After getting some sleep, I’m in a much better frame of mind today. Whatever happens, we can handle it. Welcome to parenthood, right?

Next post will probably be from Phoenix. Goodbye, Seoul. It has been an adventure, for sure. Kamsamnida.


  1. First, the “random coolness” looks like a changing of the guard. Was there a palace nearby? (We saw a few of those as well in the middle of the city… crazy huh?!)

    And second, I have to much I could say, but I will keep it brief. (You have more important things to do today than read my pontifications!) I have found that for every “rough” moment or “hard” moment… I have been rewarded 100-fold with the “wonderful, joyous” moments. Our journey has had it’s share of bumps, and we still struggle here, but man, when you get that “clouds-parting-sun-shining-down-while-the-angels-are-singing” moment… it makes every “rough, hard” time worth it. And those happy moments do come. Quicker than you expect.

    EEEEEKKKKKK – You’re a family of THREE today!!!

  2. Wow, it’s been really fun to read your daily Seoul journals, Catherine. You had me tearing up though with your description of Daniel’s soon-to-be good-bye to his foster mom. Honestly, this is what I am already dreading so much (and I don’t even have a referral yet!). I’m glad you are feeling strong again – you have to be because now you are the MOM. Wow. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I am sending lots of good vibes your way for a comfortable flight back to Phoenix. Soon your family of three will be HOME!

  3. Love the random coolness – at that bridge we saw a protest – lots of police – we didn’t realize what was really happening until we checked the web.
    Tomorrow’s a new day – soon Daniel will be all smiles and giggles when he looks at you too. Have a great day – and a safe trip home.

  4. That is just amazing that his foster mom was willing to leave the room with him so upset–I wish Briar’s foster mom had done that for us! She would not leave the room if Briar was the least bit upset, LOL!! You are completely right that the strong bond they have will be the absolute best in the end! Oh, the memories come flooding back–I had the same break down you did after seeing how upset my baby was and how hard it was going to be for her and her foster mom.

    Hopefully this will mean he attaches as quickly and strongly to you as Briar has to us! It is so very hard and such a whirlwind, but you will make it and when everything has settled down you’ll be so in love and you won’t remember what it was even like to be so overwhelmed!!

    Blessings to you all as you welcome your little boy into your arms forever!!


  5. My husband and I have been enjoying your Seoul posts. I love the “rawr” pic!. We’re sorry your 2nd meeting didn’t go so well. However, it is good to hear that he has such a strong connection to his foster parents. It doesn’t help things now, but that will make it easier in the months to come.
    One day Daniel will love to hear the story of when you brought him home. And yes, whatever happens you CAN handle it. Wishing you safe travels home as a family of 3.

  6. Love your photos and commentary – random coolness, rawr, and all! So sorry to hear about the sadness during your playtime visit – poor Daniel, poor Daniel’s mom and dad (that’s you!!), and poor Daniel’s FM. Such an emotional time. Safe travels on your way home.

  7. Welcome to parenthood indeed. It’s hard, but worth it. Totally worth it.

    (I cringed when I read your bit about the rush hour subway…we had the same experience and I certainly had similar feelings to yours).

    Best of luck on bringing your family home.

  8. Oh, Catherine. Thank you for sharing all this with us…the good & the not-so-good. It is all real…and it is all what it is. I’m proud of you for being so strong during that hard visit. Even if you lost it when you left, that doesn’t even matter. You have to feel it and let it out. You parented while you were in there and that’s what you’ll keep doing. You are the Omma…and you’re going to do just great. The whole thing is so full of emotions it is just amazing and overwhelming. Your posts will be great to look at later and to share with Daniel. (I hate to even admit how many times I’ve scrolled back through my Seoul posts to look at the pictures.)

    I love the photos…you are the cutest little RAWR I’ve ever seen. 🙂 Isn’t that stream so relaxing. We loved sitting down there. It felt so fresh & clean. I know what you mean about Seoul being kind of “stinky” in spots. I had an occasional headache & felt nauseated for the first couple of days…until my head & my stomach got “used to” the pollution. How sad is that?!

    Wishing you lots of patience, love, and calm moments tomorrow (today there) on your trip home. Lots of hugs, baby carrier time, and rocking…and you’ll be HOME…a family of THREE…finally! Congrats…gotcha day is here! Goosebumps!

  9. Oh Catherine. My heart breaks for all of you. Isn’t it unbelievably sad what our babies go through at such a young age?! I love that you’re being so reflective at this emotional time, and I hope it only makes the entire experience all the richer. I think we as APs are lucky when we can empathize with our babies – it makes the tough times as a mama easier to bear when we keep in mind the tough road they’ve traveled to reach our arms. In any regard, congratulations. I hope everything goes smoothly from here on out!

  10. Desberg Family,
    We are so moved by reading about your experience. Words cannot express how happy we are for the three of you. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. We laughed & cried…. We are excited to meet Daniel & introduce him to Poppy! I can only imagine how emotional this has been, please know that you have us for support. Don’t forget we’re just down the street! We will be going to North Carolina this weekend, but call me when you get a chance…I can’t wait to talk to you!

  11. You won’t see this until you are home, but hope everything went ok on the airplane. Having a big break down is normal for both you and little Daniel, at least from everyone I’ve heard about and talked to! Just keep calm and try to keep smiling. Have a great first few days settling into the routine of mommyhood while everyone adjusts.

  12. You know it. These post said it. It’s totally normally and really good that he and his foster family are all grieving. It’s so hard as the actual mom and dad to watch everyone go through this when all you want to be is happy. That’s the hardest part of adoption. Adoption is born from grief and sadness. It shouldn’t be this way! Your son, Daniel, should have grown in your tummy and never known grief at this time in his life. I know you will be strong but it’s ok to feel the sadness and disappointment too. Day by day everyone will feel less sad. And, one day soon you will actually treasure the deep loss each of you has experienced as it will make the bond of your little family deeper and stronger than most!

    I can’t figure out the time difference, but my guess is that you are on the plane. That’s got to be miserable with a toddler, not to mention one that’s been through everything your Daniel is experiencing. Praying for safety and sanity and PEACE!

    It will be so much better very soon.

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