Gotcha Day

April 27, 2022 – a day we will remember forever. The day we became a family! After 2.5 years of hurdles and delays and a pandemic and a cross country move – we officially welcomed our brave, loving, resilient, sweet boy into our family.

Tommy, you are loved, wanted, chosen, and the biggest blessing in our life!

grant, hilari, and tommy in front of a palace

We have had our eye on this day – custody day – since we started the adoption process in January 2020. I remember sitting at the bar at Fat Ox (our fave Friday night cocktail spot in Scottsdale) talking in circles about when to begin the adoption process. One Friday night, we simply decided right then and there that it was now or never. We knew there would never be a “perfect” time to grow our family and dove headfirst into the process. (Who knew all of the changes that life would throw at us just a couple months later? No perfect time!)

That night, we talked about what it would be like to be in a hotel room in a foreign country with our baby – and here we are – in a foreign country with our baby safely snuggled in our arms. Today was an absolute blur. I knew it would be, but never imagined just how quickly the day would fly by. 

We barely slept – I think I woke up every hour – and are feeling ALL of the feels. We both worked out before getting ready for the day. All I could think about was our little guy and his foster family – the morning of lasts for all of them. It breaks my heart just thinking about it (a post for another day) because they truly loved him like their own. We are grateful to still be in touch and hope to visit soon!

Our scheduled custody time was 10:30am at the adoption agency in Seoul. We were ready way too early, so grabbed coffee, walked around the neighborhood, and picked up a bouquet of flowers to give to the foster family. Flowers don’t adequately express our gratitude or appreciation, but we didn’t want them to leave empty handed.

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

Around 9:45am we hopped in a taxi with our passports, flowers, and backpack, and were on our way! We had no idea what to expect – I wasn’t sure how long we’d be there, what the process would be like, or really anything about the day. I had heard experiences from families who had previously gone through this adoption process, but nothing can truly prepare you to walk into a building without a child and walk out with one!

Once we got to the agency, we headed up to the third floor and Tommy’s smiling face was the first thing we saw. He was wearing the cutest dinosaur windbreaker and had the biggest grin on his face. We exchanged hugs and handshakes with his foster family and were quickly ushered into a small side room with our social worker and foster mom. Here, we reviewed all of Tommy’s likes/dislikes, schedule, etc. and signed all of the paperwork that made Tommy legally ours. Our foster family so kindly sent us home with four giant bags of Tommy’s favorite foods, toys, clothes, and more, so we went through it all together and were able to ask questions and understand what everything was. After all of the paperwork was complete, we met with the director of the agency and another family with the same custody time. The director said a short prayer, kissed both babies, and we were out the door. Everything happened so quickly – we were in and out of the agency in less than an hour.

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

Our social worker got us a taxi, packed everything into the back, and sent us on our way. While we waited for the taxi, we were able to have a few more moments with Tommy’s foster family – lots of hugs and tears for all of us. Let’s just say emotions were very high all around. The tears didn’t last long though, because as soon as we got into the taxi, Tommy stuck his head out the window and started waving at everyone we passed (car seats aren’t common in Korea, so he just sat in our laps in the backseat)! He has truly been a ray of sunshine since day one and continues to be the biggest light everywhere he goes. 

We arrived at our hotel and the doorman helped us to our room with all of our stuff. When we got to our room, we let Tommy just kind of roam around – he immediately grabbed every remote, electronic, and his favorite – the room phone. He loves anything with buttons! He also especially loved the curtains and we spent hours playing “boo” behind them those first two days in the room. 

tommy sitting on a chair
family photo

It was about time for lunch, so we had our first family meal together! He had strawberries, rice porridge, and some banana cookies. We played a little bit more and settled in for a nap. I think he was completely overwhelmed with everything because he slept for almost 3 hours!

In the afternoon, we had family photos scheduled about 20 minutes away. Tommy was still sleeping, so Grant and I alternated getting ready. I had a cute outfit picked out for Tommy to wear, but knew changing him was not going to happen – so in our photos he is wearing pajamas! He slept all the way to the palace and was still sleeping even when we met our photographer. We spent about an hour with the photographer – while actually making it to photos was a little bit more rushed than we would have liked (and we were 30 minutes late!) – I’m so happy we have photos in Seoul documenting the day we became a family. We will cherish these photos forever.

collage of 3 images from our seoul adventures

To top off this wild, life changing day, we couldn’t get a taxi to take us back to our hotel! It was rush hour and without a Korean credit card, we could only request the base-fare taxis (that were apparently nowhere to be found). We tried for over an hour to get one without ANY luck. Tommy was such a champ – he was in the baby carrier and just soaked up all of the people and fresh air. He didn’t make a peep and was so go with the flow – I can’t imagine what he must have been thinking. Because we couldn’t get a taxi, we ventured to the subway. We got to the ticket machine and didn’t have enough Korean won to buy a ticket (!!!) and machines only take cash!! We were 300 krw short (about 30 cents) – so we were basically stranded with a new baby 3 miles away from our hotel. So, we walked back to the hotel. Why not? Our very spontaneous 75 minute walk ended up being one of my most favorite memories from the day. We had time to chat, walk through some of our favorite neighborhoods, and Tommy’s very smiley personality continued to come out – everyone who passed us smiled immediately after one look at him 🙂 

We made it back to the hotel around 7:30pm, ordered room service, and attempted a shower. Well, we should have read the foster family’s notes more carefully, because apparently he takes a bath WITH a shower head/sprayer attachment – not an actual shower. He was totally freaked out and hated every minute of it! I felt so bad for him – so we ended that real quick and put on pajamas and played with cars. Once dinner arrived, he tried a few bites of burger, fries, ketchup (loved it!!), and a taste of pizza, plus his favorite rice/seaweed/soy sauce combo.

After that, we snuggled and got ready for bed. He loved looking out the huge windows in our room and we stayed there for a while, just swaying back and forth. I have goosebumps reflecting on that moment – I wish I knew what he was thinking. I imagine he was so scared, overwhelmed, and confused. We’ve had plenty of time to fall in love with him, but for him, this is all so new. We continue to be immensely proud of how well he has handled all of the changes he’s experienced in such a short life.

hilari and tommy in front of a window

I rocked him to sleep in my arms and we stayed like that until he woke up the next morning. What an unforgettable day.

Tommy, words will never express how much we love you. Thank you for letting us love you – you are the greatest gift we will ever receive. 

All adoption posts here.