After 4 years, Ocean City woman brings adopted son home from India

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Rebecca Morlock and her adopted son Kyle bond at Positively 4th Street Café in Ocean City. Rebecca Morlock and her adopted son Kyle bond at Positively 4th Street Café in Ocean City.

OCEAN CITY – In one of the poorest places on earth, Rebecca Morlock found the greatest treasure: Her son, Kyle.

One month after Morlock, known as Becky, moved to India in December 2007, after two previous trips where she had volunteered in an understaffed orphanage, she was asked to make a life-or-death decision. Not for herself, but for a newborn boy whose biological mother, due to societal and cultural pressures, was unable to keep him.

“I got a phone call from someone who knew the situation,” Morlock said, referring to the unwed mother and the great shame that would fall upon her and her family if she were to raise the child herself. “It was a nurse from the hospital, and she asked, ‘Will you come and take a baby?’”

In the foothills of the Himalayas, where the average annual household income is between $1,000 and $3,000 and crushing poverty is a fact of life, Morlock – a former Ocean City resident who is looking to move back to town – accepted the challenge of being a single mother in a Third World country.

“I had peace about it,” she said of her decision. “The nurse said to me, ‘You’re the one who chooses life or death for this child.’ His birth mother loved and cared for him so much she gave him to me. So, of course I chose life.”

Over the course of a two-hour conversation on a rainy Thursday morning last month, while Kyle converted a 64-count Crayola box into a makeshift garage for the small metal cars with which he played, Morlock recounted her four-and-a-half-year ordeal to adopt the boy.

Something more

Morlock, 33, grew up in Millersburg, Pa., and vacationed in Ocean City as a child. After graduating from Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., with a degree in youth ministry, she moved to Ocean City in 2001. Here, she worked a variety of odd jobs – waiting tables at the Varsity Inn, making specialty drinks at Ocean City Coffee Company – to support herself while volunteering as youth group leader at New Covenant Community Church in Somers Point and with Christian Surfers in Ocean City.

In 2004, she traveled to India for the first time, working one-on-one with orphan children between the ages of 2 and 18 who, she said, “had lots of feelings of rejection.” The parents of these abandoned children were addicts, or abusive, or simply too poor to care for their offspring, she said.

In 2005, Morlock returned to India, and in 2007, she moved there with the support of her church.

“It really affected my heart,” she said of the two volunteer stints that led her to move permanently to India. “I wanted to invest in those kids. I wanted to be there and spend time with the children and be a blessing to the children however I could.”

One month after making the move to a country where Morlock, a southpaw, suffered what she called “culture shock” over such practices as not being able to use her dominant hand at the table because the left hand in India is considered unclean, she found herself with a much weightier responsibility: The total care of a helpless human being.

Suddenly, a parent

Kyle was born on Jan. 13, 2008, in a hospital that Morlock described as “disgusting,” recalling it lacked basic amenities such as sheets and food for the patients, many of whom were laboring on blood-soaked wooden floors. When Morlock met Kyle’s biological mother, she was horrified to find the woman and her sister were trying to dribble unpasteurized cow’s milk from a spoon into the newborn’s mouth.

Still bleeding, a rag tied around her waist and her sister assisting her, the mother and her infant were discharged from the hospital.

“We walked out together,” Morlock said. “She handed me the baby outside the hospital and drove away. She didn’t look back.”

It had been 48 hours since Kyle’s birth, 24 hours since Morlock had said “yes” to raising him as her own. She was 29 and, overnight, a mother.

Holding the rag-wrapped bundle in her arms, she was overcome with emotion.

“I’m sobbing,” she said. “It hit me all at once. I just became a mother. I was burdened for her, feeling everything she was feeling, the shame and then the release from shame.”

Once she pulled herself together, Morlock turned her attention to her son.

“I realized that he was very light,” she said. “He’s wrapped up in these rags because it’s cold in the Himalayas in the winter. I remembered the nurse had told me he weighed one kilogram. I wasn’t so good with metric conversion then, but I remembered I had bought a block of butter at the market that weighed 1 kilogram.”

Kyle weighed 3.5 pounds at birth, his size testimony to his biological mother’s need to conceal her pregnancy. His lungs were fully developed, a sign he was full term at birth, and he has since hit developmental milestones at the appropriate age, Morlock said.

The battle begins

The realization she was caring for an infant in a place with unreliable electricity, no washing machine or disposable diapers was immediate.

“It was really hard to raise an infant in a Third World country,” Morlock said. “There were lots of challenges being a single woman with a small baby in a Third World country. When I would take him to get his shots, I would buy my own needles from the pharmacy because in India, it’s common to re-use needles. The nurses there would look at me like I was crazy for bringing my own needles with me.”

With the support of her family, friends and church, all of whom shipped much-needed baby supplies to India and gave her advice during shockingly expensive phone calls home, Morlock turned first to the task of establishing guardianship over Kyle, and then to the more arduous task of adopting Kyle.

It took her eight months to find an Indian lawyer who would help her.

“This is just not done in India,” she said she was told repeatedly.

All adoptions in India are handled by India’s central government adoption agency. But Morlock’s case was different because Kyle had been given directly to her by his biological mother and not surrendered to an agency for placement.

“When I discovered it was going to take months and not weeks (to adopt the child), I packed up our things and moved to Delhi,” Morlock said.

Her lawyers allowed her and Kyle to live in an apartment in their office building while she waged her campaign to bring Kyle home to the United States. Court sessions often took up four days a week for months on end. When Kyle was 18 months old, she established legal guardianship over him.

When Kyle was 3, he had to challenge the Indian passport agency, which Morlock called “corrupt,” for an Indian passport. Finally, on Oct. 19, 2011, three months before Kyle turned 4, Morlock – accompanied by her Indian lawyers and Kyle in India – finalized the adoption via video conferencing with her family, her American lawyers and a Pennsylvania judge in the States.

“It’s the most horrible Catch 22,” Morlock said. “After establishing guardianship in India, you have to take the child to the U.S. to finalize the adoption. But the U.S. says, finalize the adoption, then we’ll let you come home.”

The solution was to do both at the same time via video conferencing.

Coming home

Once the adoption was finalized, Morlock still needed to obtain a visa for Kyle, which had been denied repeatedly throughout the two years since she had gained guardianship. She eventually filed for a humanitarian parole visa for Kyle. This, too, didn’t come easy. Morlock battled the U.S. Embassy to complete the process that would allow her to bring Kyle home.

“Finally, in March (2012), they gave us a visa for Kyle,” she said. “We said goodbye to everyone we loved and got on the plane.”

Four years and four months of exhaustive work ended when Morlock finally introduced her son to her family in central Pennsylvania. The adoption, she said, made history.

“It’s overwhelming to be gone 4.5 years,” Morlock said.

Once she’s processed everything that has happened to her, she said she plans to move to Ocean City and raise Kyle in the town she so desperately wanted to live in when she was growing up.

“I always wanted to live here,” Morlock said. “I begged my parents to move here.”

Her purpose in sharing Kyle’s story is simple, she said.

“My heart’s desire is to encourage people that even in the most dire circumstances, hope can still be found.”

Rebecca Morlock and Kyle at 2 days old, after his first bath, on Jan. 15, 2008. She calls Jan. 15 “Gotcha Day” in honor of the day she “got” her son and celebrates it every year by doing something special. Rebecca Morlock and Kyle at 2 days old, after his first bath, on Jan. 15, 2008. She calls Jan. 15 “Gotcha Day” in honor of the day she “got” her son and celebrates it every year by doing something special.

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