The Graf Family
Our adoption story is a little unconventional. Our third child, Maxwell, was born in South Korea, but we knew he was meant to be ours, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
After six years of marriage, John and I had our first child, Laura Elizabeth, in 1994. She was perfect, and we were elated. About eight months later we were blessed with another pregnancy. Thirty two weeks into this pregnancy I had an ultrasound and learned, after additional testing, that our unborn child had achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. This changed our lives, more than we could know. And it was a change that was immensely positive.
Our son Will was born in October 1995. While he faced many health problems early on, he grew to be a vivacious baby and toddler. We were blessed to have a fantastic network of friends from around the country with connections to little people through Little People of America, and we were also able to research what to expect to dwarfism as Will grew up.
There came a time, when Will was about a year and a half that we felt like Dwarf Experts. I mentioned to John that having another child with dwarfism would be easy, and almost a waste of knowledge not to. However, we knew that because achondroplasia is a spontaneous gene mutation, the likelihood of us giving birth to another dwarf was miniscule. We also both knew that while we tried to give Will a supportive home life, we would never know what it is like to walk in his shoes.
One day in March, 1997, I received the quarterly newsletter of Little People of America Today. While flipping through the pages, an angelic face jumped off the page – Young Bum Kim, who had the same form of dwarfism as Will. I knew this adorable South Korean baby was our son. I immediately called John at work, who urged me to call the phone number right away. Thus began our odyssey to bring Young Bum Kim home to us.
We immediately scheduled a home visit, telling the social worker that this was a rush job, our baby boy was waiting on the other side of the world for us! This was a first for him, but he was on board. We all raced through and submitted the paperwork in record time.
Little did we know that hours before, Young Bum Kim was taken out of his foster home and placed in an orphanage for “unadoptable” children. After a lot of work, our agency convinced South Korean adoption authorities to allow us to adopt Young Bum Kim, even though he had “timed out” of his adoption period. This was good news, but all we could do was wait for us to get the word that he was coming. And wait we did.
In June 1997 we received a devastating letter from South Korea. They had a yearly quota for the number of adoptions, and that quota had been met. We would have to wait until 1998. We did, however, receive photos and a video of Young Bum. I watched that video over and over, just waiting for him to smile. It absolutely broke our hearts. And being Dwarf Experts, we could see that Young Bum needed surgery ASAP on his cervical spine (a surgery that Will had had several months prior). They still would not release him early, but he was the second child to leave South Korea, and came home to Pittsburgh on January 22, 1998, just one week shy of his second birthday.
We re-christened Young Bum as Maxwell Young B. Graf. He and Will became fast friends and brothers, and have supported each other, as well as their older sister Laura and younger brother Charlie. Max has thrived in the United States, and is currently a rising junior at Washington & Jefferson College. While Will and Max have gone separate ways since high school, they are always brothers, and each knows what it’s like to walk in the other’s shoes.