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An improbable Vietnam-US love story gets real

By Vuong Linh   December 5, 2018 | 06:36 am PT
Five years ago, if 3.9-feet tall Xuan was told she’d get married and have kids someday, she would’ve said yeah right.

And she would have been very wrong.

So wrong that a big foreigner who met her in person for the very first time would call out "my wife" when he saw her.

In a small house in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, the U.S, Pham Thi Khanh Xuan sits by Freddie Scott, her husband, watching television and keeping an eye on their two boys who are playing.

Theirs is a most improbable love story.

"My husband is very funny, he can’t speak Vietnamese well, but when I tell him what to say, he imitates immediately," says Xuan, giggling. The simple happiness she’s enjoying now was an impossible dream, when she looks back just four years.

Xuan had a C-section when she was in the 32nd week, eight weeks shorter than a typical full pregnancy. Photo courtesy of Pham Thi Khanh Xuan.

Xuan had a C-section when she was in the 32nd week of her pregnancy, but the prematurely born twins have pulled through. Photo courtesy of Pham Thi Khanh Xuan.

Xuan, a native of the southern province of Dong Nai, was stunted and underweight when she was a young child, and could only walk with difficulty.

When she graduated from university, she was only as tall as an elementary school student. Born to a poor family, she lost her mother when she was just eight. The difficulties they faced pushed Xuan to do well in school and work hard at various jobs in Saigon so she could stand on her own feet in a big city and support her father in his old age.

At the end of 2013, she was working part-time as an advertisement poster for a 50-year-old American businessman selling carpets and old cars.

At that time, her father had a stroke, so she had to quit her full-time job and go back to her hometown. She continued to work online while tending to her father. Posting ads for the American involved a lot of online communication with him. At first, the conversations revolved around work, then it moved on to exchanging personal confidences.

"When he confessed his love to me, I was so surprised and thought 'this guy must be teasing me or this means something bad' because I had heard of many cheating love affairs that happened online," Xuan said.

After this happened, every time he talked about love, she would remain silent and respond only when the topic moved to other things. Over time, as he talked about his work, his past, his broken family and his child who died not long after birth, she realized he was serious and compassionate. She gradually opened up to him. He even introduced her to his friends, colleagues, and family members. And sent flowers and gifts from America.

The most memorable day for the two was probably May 11, 2014, when he flew from the U.S. to Vietnam to meet her.

"As soon as we met at the Tan Son Nhat airport, he hugged me and called out "my wife". My family and I were stunned by this shout out in public, wondering how he did not feel embarrassed, especially when he was with someone like me. I just stayed silent in his arms and was close to tears of happiness," the 37-year-old woman told VnExpress.

During his visit to Vietnam, he took good care of her when she had to be hospitalized. They got married in 2015 and she went to live with her husband in the U.S.

After seven months, they were joyous on finding out that she was pregnant. However, the joy turned to worry, given her small stature, when the doctor announced that she was carrying twins. The heavy weight of the fetus on her body plus unbearable pain led to a C-section at week 32. Ethan and Victor were cared for in the section for premature infants.

Xuan said when her children were smaller, she could hold them for a while but now she mostly could not lift the two. Photo courtesy of Pham Thi Khanh Xuan.

Xuan says that when her children were smaller, she could hold them for a while, but carrying them is beyond her now. Photo courtesy of Pham Thi Khanh Xuan.

Shortly after they were born, the boys experienced several health problems and were in the hospital for four months. And later, nurses tended to them at home until they were three years old.

Besides getting up every night to feed them in the first year, Xuan did not feel raising the twins was a laborious task, because every day, after he returned from work, her husband would clean up the house, do the dishes and take care of the boys.

"Ethan and Victor love their father, maybe because only he can carry them, I can no longer do it. Every night he tucks them to bed," Xuan said.

Often, after tucking the boys to sleep, Scott would make time to bake some pastry for Xuan for the next day since she does not know how to make Western food.

Each weekend, Freddie would take Xuan out for a picnic or shopping. Photo courtesy of Pham Thi Khanh Xuan.

Each weekend, Freddie Scott takes Xuan and the babies for a picnic or shopping expedition. Photo courtesy of Pham Thi Khanh Xuan.

Ethan and Victor are still absorbing food through catheters because of their illness and still learning to chew and swallow. They are also slightly stunted as they do not eat as much as kids their age. The boys are routinely monitored to see if their delayed development is caused by the preterm birth or genetic predisposition from Xuan so that an early intervention can be made.

Xuan and her husband do not worry too much about this. Other than the problems they have now, the boys are relatively healthy and very agile. They talk all day long and quickly react to everyone. Their adorable looks and friendliness get them many fans.

"I don’t see anything to worry about. Even if the kids turn out to be like their mother, they would still have a future like other human beings. In America, even children with brain disorders can get a job when they are old enough," Xuan said.

She told VnExpress that since she moved to the U.S, she has not felt self-conscious about her looks, because people treat her like a normal person and are willing to help when needed.

Her husband finds her a "very beautiful" person with a big heart; someone who is always sympathetic and giving. He admires her ability to "cultivate’ the family, be it planning their finances, buying a house, or ensuring savings.

Asked what he loves most about his wife, he puts his arm around his wife and grins: "Everything."

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