No language can express the power and beauty and
heroism and majesty of a mother's love.
The war was far from Saigon when I agreed to escort
six babies from Vietnam to their adoptive homes in the
U.S. Still, the decision to leave my husband and two
little girls had not been easy. When the war escalated,
I had begged God for a sign that I could back out of my
commitment, but he only filled me with a courage and
confidence I could explain to no one. Somehow I knew
this was all a part of his plan. By the time I landed in
Saigon, bombs were falling outside the city limits,
Vietnam was falling to the communists, and President
Ford had okayed Operation Babylift.
Scores of the estimated 50,000 Amerasian babies and
toddlers were herded into our headquarters of Friends of
Children of Vietnam in preparation for the airlift. On
my third day there, over breakfast of bread and bottled
Coke, Cherie, the director, said, "LeAnn, youíve
probably figured this out . . ." I hadnít.
"You and Mark applied for adoption of a son through
us, and we told you to expect him in two years." She
spoke above the din of dozens of bawling babies.
"Obviously, everything has changed. Youíll be assigned
one of the babies gathered hereóor," she paused to touch
my hand, "or you can go into the nursery and choose a
I was stunned, speechless. I felt myself flush with
excitementóthen with fear.
"Really?" I finally croaked. Surely, I had heard her
wrong. Cherieís tired eyes danced. "Really."
"So I can just go in there and pick out a son?"
Cherie nodded again.
Dazed, I turned to my friend and traveling companion,
Carol. "Come with me." She jumped up immediately, and we
approached the door to the nursery together.
I paused and took a deep breath. "This is like a
fantasy. A dream come true."
I opened the door, and we entered a room filled with
babies. Babies on blankets and mats. Babies in boxes and
baskets and bassinets and cribs.
"Carol, how will I ever choose? There are 110 babies
One baby in a white T-shirt and diaper looked at me
with bright eyes. I sat cross-legged on the floor with
him on my lap. He seemed to be about nine months old and
responded to my words with cute facial expressions and
animation. He giggled and clapped his hands.
"We should name you Personality," I said. Then I
noticed he was wearing a name bracelet on his ankle. He
had already been assigned to a family in Denver. Well, I
thought, feeling disappointment rising in my throat,
that family is mighty lucky.
Another child caught my eye as he pulled himself to
his feet beside a wooden crib. We watched with amusement
as he tugged the toes of the baby sleeping inside. Then
he dropped to his hands and knees and began crawling to
me. I met him halfway across the room and picked him up.
He wore only a diaper, and his soft, round tummy bulged
over its rim. He looked at me and smiled brightly,
revealing chubby cheeks and deep dimples. As I hugged
him, he nestled his head into my shoulder.
"Maybe youíll be our son," I whispered. He pulled
back, staring into my eyes, still smiling. For the next
hour, I carried him around the room, looking at each
infant, touching them, talking to them. All the while,
the baby in my arms babbled, smiled and continued to
cuddle. I couldnít bring myself to put him down as we
went upstairs where the floor was carpeted with even
more babies. The hallway was like a megaphone, blasting
the sounds of chattering workers and crying babies.
"Let me hold him," Carol coaxed, "while you look at
The couch against the wall held a half-dozen fussy
infants side by side. I picked up each of them. Most
seemed stiff and unresponsive. How sad that cuddling
could be unfamiliar to them. I weaved my way to the
blanket of babies at the end of the room and sat
caressing each of them. As I cradled one in my arms, I
could feel the bones of his spine press against my skin.
Anotherís eyes looked glazed and motionless. Sorrow
I felt the little boy Carol was carrying for me pat
my arm. As I turned to look, he reached out his chubby
arms for me. Taking him from her, I snuggled him close,
and he snuggled back. Someone had loved him very much.
Downstairs, we meandered from mat to crib, looking at
all the infants again. I wished I could adopt them all.
But I knew there were long waiting lists at the Denver
headquarters of hundreds of families who had completed
the tedious, time-consuming application process. Each of
these precious orphans would have immediate homes
carefully selected for them.
"How do I choose?" I asked myself as much as Carol.
The baby boy in my arms answered by patting my face. I
had never missed my husband more. "I wish Mark was
I turned my full attention to the child I held,
waving my hands in front of his face to check his eyes.
He blinked and flashed his dimples.
I snapped my fingers by his ears in a foolish attempt
to test his hearing. He turned his head, giggled and
grabbed at my hands.
Then I sat on the floor, slowly rocking him back and
forth in my arms. I whispered a prayer for the decision
I was about to make, a decision that would affect many
lives forever. The baby nestled into the hollow of my
neck, reassuring me that the choice I was about to make
was the right one. I could feel his shallow breath and
tender skin as he embraced me.
I recalled all the data we had collected for
adoption; all the letters of references from friends,
bankers, employers; all the interviews with the social
It had all been worth it for this moment.
We rocked in silence and cuddled. Then, with immense
joy, I walked back through the nursery door to the
office. "Meet our son, Mitchell Thieman!" I announced,
hardly believing my own words. Everyone gathered around
and embraced us. I looked at Mitchellís puzzled face and
held him closer. Cherie brought a nametag, and I eagerly
scrawled on it, "Reserve for Mark Thieman," and placed
it on his ankle.
Joyful tears streamed down my cheeks. For a moment,
all my fears were gone. I no longer wondered why I had
been driven to make this journey. "This is why God sent
me to Vietnam," I whispered.
I had been sent to choose a son.
Or had he chosen me?