By contributor Joy Leiberthal Rho
The next generation
When I was pregnant the first time, I remembered another adoptee remarking “good, this means I can get pregnant too.” It seemed interesting to me that she said this, but after explaining that infertility was the reason her parents adopted her, I can see why this was of concern. While I was not panicked when conceiving was not happening quickly, I was not happy it didn’t happen sooner. I wanted to have a baby, I wanted something genetically connected to me. I didn’t realize that I wanted that until it did not happen right away. I didn’t feel right saying I wanted it for fear that others would judge me, the ungrateful adoptee. I felt like a hypocrite. I work in adoption, was at the time helping others become adoptive parents and still I wanted someone genetically mine? Yes, yes I did.
When my first son was born, every passing milestone, every passing month was haunted by one thought. Would I be able to give him up? How would he handle the transition to a new mother? Would he mourn me? I insisted on nursing him. I needed to do it for myself more than for him. I needed him to need me unequivocally, and only me. But while I was busy wanting him near me, a strange thing happened. He did love me unconditionally, he did need me completely. It took me a long time to assure myself that he was mine, all mine forever. I can say that now without guilt because I don’t have that same earnestness with him or with my second child. I look at it now as a bit foolhearty. I can’t believe I questioned myself. I wonder if other adoptee women feel the same way when their child was born.
As I watched my children bloom the first few years, I found myself at quiet moments thinking about what I might have been like as each year passes by. When my first child was four, the age when I lost my birthmother forever, it was really intreguing. He knew his name, how to spell it. He knew his parents’ names and where he lived. What bothers me though is I know I knew this too, and yet I forgot. My birthmother told me I did. I am so sorry I forgot, it just happened. In a matter of moments, she was eliminated from my memory. I can’t imagine how I would feel now if my son did that too.
My first child has already met my birthmother. His first birthday, Tol, was marked with a trip to Korea to meet her. It was pretty much love at first sight for both of them. My son, who would let no one feed him but his parents ,allowed himself to be fed by her and carried around on her back. She told me time and time again, he looked just like me. That was amazing since everyone said he is an exact replica of his father. She was the only one who could say with true authority that he was mine and I loved that. My birthmother has seen photos of my second son and again confirmed for me in words what I may have looked like as a baby. I never tire of hearing that. He looks just like me.
In thinking about my children and how this whole adoption journey will impact them, I realize that they will know my birthmother their whole life. That’s an odd feeling knowing that I can’t say the same thing. She will always be a presence in their lives while she was not in mine. Strange. She is their wei halmoni (grandma on mother’s side), a real person they have eaten with, spent time with. They talk to her on the phone and look at her picture. She is a real person for them too.