Heather and McLean Alley are getting to know their adopted infant son, who was born in Japan in April. The Alleys named him Miko, a derivative of Michael, the archangel. His middle name is Kekoa, a Hawaiian name meaning strength and bravery. The Alleys were married in Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Serendipity Photography
McLean and Heather Alley spent three weeks in eastern Asia in late May, taking in such historic sites as the Asakusa Temple and Mt. Fuji, but the trip was much more than a vacation. The Winter Garden couple was there to pick up a 7-week-old, full-cheeked little boy named Miko — their new son.
The Alleys’ 7,000-mile journey to Japan began in 2012 when the Summerport/Windermere couple filed paperwork to adopt a child through Faith International. Administrators had told them it could take three years, so they were expecting to wait another 12 months for the addition to their family. But, their phone rang in mid-May, and the caller delivered some wonderful news: a baby boy had been born, and he belonged to them.
They were told later that although they were No. 11 on the waiting list, the other families before them had been called one by one but had declined the adoption for various reasons, among them, not being financially ready or holding out for a girl.
Heather and McLean were ready.
They say they couldn’t have taken this giant step without the support of their faith family at Mosaic Church in Oakland.
“They have been one of the biggest blessings,” Heather Alley told The West Orange Times last Wednesday.
A team was formed and tasks were doled out so the Alleys could leave the United States for three weeks. One person picked up the new parents’ mail, another watered their plants, still another took care of their dog.
“In less than a week, we were on a plane,” McLean Alley said.
The Alleys arrived in Tokyo on a Friday and stayed the night at the Sheraton Grande hotel near Tokyo Disneyland. The next afternoon, a knock on the door would be the introduction of a new chapter in the couple’s life. With tears forming in their eyes, they said, they opened the door — and there was Miko.
“On May 24, he was placed in our arms,” the new dad said. “It was such an overwhelming sense of beauty.”
Bringing Miko home
After meeting their son, the Alleys spent several weeks attending court appointments and doctor’s exams and making trips to the passport office and the Embassy of the United States. They also experienced “the beautiful culture” and surrounding areas with their baby, taking photos to document the family’s outings together in Miko’s homeland before he started his new life in America.
Before they left Japan, the Alleys, who are both 36, arranged a visit with Miko’s birth mother, an unmarried woman in her 20s. They asked her about her hobbies, her musical tastes, her family history.
“It’s something very important to us that he understand where he came from and that he doesn’t feel like he was abandoned,” McLean Alley said.
“We want him to know how much she loved him,” Heather Alley added.
The pair intends to stay in touch with the woman through the adoption agency, they said, sending updates and pictures of Miko.
They said their son will know all about his birth mother and about his birth country.
While they were waiting for the call that they were finally parents, the Alleys had kept themselves busy with household projects, including the preparation of the nursery. In a nod to Miko’s ancestry, they hung framed photographs of Japanese scenes on one wall. Above the crib, instead of the typical mobile, there is a tree branch with cherry blossoms fashioned out of tiny lights. In the Japanese culture, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life and is symbolized as an omen of good fortune and an emblem of love and affection.
Now that Miko is home, the new parents are getting used to the routine demanded of an infant — and loving everything about it.
McLean is the director of marketing for the West Orange Chamber of Commerce; Heather is the sales and marketing director for an inn and spa in North Carolina — a career that already has allowed her to work from home. She said she plans to continue with the position while staying home with Miko.
After joining Faith International, the Alleys made friends with two other couples who adopted through the Japanese program, and while waiting for their own little one, they spent time with these families. They also have a number of church friends who have adopted internationally themselves.
When the Alleys began the process of adopting a baby, they created a website and a Facebook page so they could share their journey with friends. They will eventually have more information to add, as they have already submitted an application to give Miko a little brother or sister, again expecting it to be about three years before they travel to Japan to adopt their second child.
The cost to adopt their son has reached tens of thousands of dollars, they said. They were planning a fundraising event for the spring when they got “the call” and had to cancel plans. On their website, they have included a way to make a monetary donation if anyone would like to do so.
To find out how to get involved in the next phase of the couple’s journey, to make a donation to the family or to learn more about international adoption, go to operationadoption.org.
Falling in love
with the culture
McLean and Heather Alley have known for a while that they wanted to adopt a child from Japan.
Both have a film background and met while working on a television show in North Carolina. In the summer of 2004, they decided to move to Hawaii, and they lived on the western shores of Oahu for a year.
“This is where our love for the Japanese culture was born,” the Alleys said on their website. “From ice cream mochi to Matsuri festivals, we fell in love not only with the islands, but with the Japanese heritage and traditions.
“Sharing our love with a Japanese child has been our dream for many years,” they added. “We believe that all of God’s children, biological or adopted, deserve to have a family.”
McLean and Heather Alley share on their website what they have learned about children who are born out of wedlock in Japan:
“Japan places a very high belief in the importance of a strong family structure. Bloodlines are exceptionally important, making the idea of adopting a child that’s not your own relatively unheard of. It is this extreme stress on lineage that makes adoption in the Japanese culture very uncommon.
“The discrimination against single mothers and their children is overwhelming.…These mothers are often subjected to shame and dishonor by their families, as well as the Japanese community, forcing them to face extreme economic and social discrimination.
“Most single mothers are turned down for housing, and many companies will choose not to hire them.…Schools can discriminate against illegitimate children and will often refuse acceptance.”
McLean Alley said last week, “It’s like a scarlet letter, a black X.”
A family’s love
“Adoption is only the beginning of our journey as a family,” the Alleys wrote online. “While some people believe that choosing to adopt is a selfless act, we don’t feel that way. Faith International is indeed providing a child in need with a loving family — but they are also helping a couple like the two of us, who yearn for a child to love.”
Bouncing a sleepy 15-week-old Miko in her arms last Wednesday evening, Heather Alley said to the Times, “You don’t even know how much you can love something.”
Added McLean, “We’ve been smitten.”