Thursday, June 27, 2013

"The Grief and Loss," My Birthmother Part 2

By contributor Joy Leiberthal Rho

As an adult I was mystified for a long time when I would hear parents share that their child has been mourning his/her birthmother. I understood the concept and clinically, I appreciated it, but for myself, deep down inside, I was still numb to the concept of mourning and loss.

I always say I am in reunion with my birthmother because it has been a process, an evolution of getting to reknow this woman who gave birth to me, who searched for me. I wonder now whether I will ever really know her, but she has become a presence in the deepest recesses of my heart and that part aches whenever I bring her into my consciousness.

It was not always that way. But I recall with vivid hues the moment I realized she knew my soul in a most profound and intimate way. I was sitting in a hotel room in Korea on a tour with adoptive families when my birthmother came to visit me on my one free day. The tour guide, K, was kind enough to stay and translate for me. Even though I can speak Korean, in my birthmother’s presence, I seem to be incapable of communicating. I feel so fortunate to have known Kate as she honored both of us with her unique skill in a way that helped me find my birthmother for the first time in my heart.

K became more than just a translator of language, but a teacher of life for a Korean woman in the 1970s. She also suffered from divorce and was able to intimately know the pain my birthmother had suffered in losing me. Prior to our meeting, K explained to me that when parents got divorced, the children went to the father’s family and the mother had no rights to see her children. She spoke candidly about how it was a struggle for her to stay connected to her children and the challenges she continues to overcome in getting to know them as adults who now choose to be in her life. She shared with me the pain and anguish of not being a part of her children’s history. With all of that on my mind, I met my birthmother again, a woman under very similar circumstances.

At the time, I was engaged to be married. My birthmother and I were going over my fiance’s family photos as she was asking about my wedding plans. Since I was marrying a Korean man, my birthmother seemed to be wisely concerned about my relationship with my new in-laws and my blind navigation into a culture landmine. I responded in my usual light way trying to joke about my concern for their acceptance and continued by laughing about my lifelong floundering desire to do things right. It was intended as a lame self-depricating joke. My birthmother leaned over on her corner of the bed and said very quietly, “you have always been that way.” It was a simple phrase, a reminder of a characteristic, something I am sure all mothers remind their children about. To hear it from this woman who remembers me as an infant and a three year old child, it felt like she took her hand into my heart and cradled it. At that moment, my heart really hurt and tears welled. I have never heard those words outloud…a confident knowing, loving phrase of recognition of my soul. It was a comfort I have never felt before and it was at this moment that I realized why so many adoptees search. To be known by the person who gave you life.

I walked away from that meeting for the first time understanding how painful this reunion experience must have been for my birthmother. She has held onto my little soul for all these years and has been searching for it. I wondered what she must think when she sees it inhabited by this grown up girl? And in an instant, I was so sad and I had to admit that I had an immeasurable feeling of loss I really never felt before. In her plain acknowledgment of my inner thoughts, my inner angst and all the wonder I held quiet in my head began to heal …she perceived them and owned them. In a moment, she confirmed that my way of being was something natural, I was born like this.

Thinking about all of this again still makes me sigh with an aching heart. Ahhh, this is what mourning feels like. I wanted for that moment to crawl into her arms and just be held by her. I wanted to breathe at the same time as she did. I never wanted that before.

I have finally begun to mourn the loss of my birthmother. And as I have learned to sit in that uncomfortable achiness, it lessens each time and I am able to more quickly transition to the moments we now share. And while I try to call regularly, I feel like I am playing catch up to be the daughter I was not able to be for her. She pervades my thoughts at random times, and it is with a mix of sadness, wistfulness and joy that I know she is still here.

Lest you think that the rose colored glasses have yet to come off, here is the reality of the situation. Korean language in tact and still I will never have a mother-daughter relationship with my birthmother. The standard I have dreamt of for all these years will pale with anything I have now. She is still not a completely real person to me. She has captured my attention and has helped ME become a real person, one who is born just like everyone else. Despite all the questions she has answered, there will always be more where they came from. Not having a shared history leaves me still wondering – her favorite color, song, book, prayer. I wonder what makes her laugh, who is her best friend, what’s her politics, what’s her passion and what did she wish she’d become when she grew up. I wonder too what kind of mother she is to her son and could have been for me. I realize too that in the mere wondering of these things, there is forever a gap of culture that makes many of these questions unanswerable. She is Korean, I am just a little bit. What I have learned is that she is a kind person, a person of devout Catholic faith, hardworking, complains hardly at all and speaks frankly and honestly. She is tenacious and keeps things close to her vest. She plays things over and over in her head and wonders them aloud. She has never asked for anything. She has clearly stated that she has no intention of asking me for anything. She has no desire to meet my American parents nor learn about my childhood, never asked to see a single photo of when I was young. While it makes her extremely sad to have missed those years, she seems to enjoy me as I am now. There seem to be no strings with this relationship. I feel for both of us that meeting each other has just made our lives sweeter.

I know I have gained more than she has. I think that the reason I am ok with the way things stand right now is because it reflects very much the way I am. I realize the qualities I have most recognized of my birthmother are the qualities I most recognize about myself. Now the quest is to figure out what part of me is her and how being adopted has influenced my sense of self.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The End Result

I keep thinking about the adoptees I've met that have no contact with their adoptive parents. No calls, no visits. How does this happen?

Rewind:  let’s pretend we are a young couple who get devastating news we can’t have a baby.  Our friends suggest adoption.
We see on a TV commercial there are orphans to save so we are determined to adopt one of those poor abandoned babies. Our first contact is the social worker in our state and the adoption agency we choose from the phone book.  Next we enroll to become certified foster parents and do a home study. We watch JUNO and get excited a teenager might choose us.  We soon find out there aren’t babies available in American and a private adoption could cost up to $100K plus attorney fees. We see another TV commercial and consider open adoption but friends warn us we’d have contact with the baby’s mother and we can only imagine how awkward or risky that could be - what if the mother changes her mind and takes her baby back.
In our foster training classes for 12 weeks, we decide an older child is not going to work for us. Some of them come from broken homes and drug addicts. We want a newborn so they will bond with us.

So we decide on international adoption after watching another TV commercial. We know it’s expensive so we start a blog to raise money and friends at church hold a few pancake breakfasts. We think we’ll adopt from Russia or China so we meet with a new adoption agency, recommended by our other adoption agency. We blog our journey.
At this point, we have no clue what it’s like for the baby adoptee. We can only imagine how grateful they will be to come to America and have us for parents. We’ll give them everything they need and love them unconditionally.

OK, that’s it. This is the extent of their education, only what they are told by a few friends, the social worker and TV commercials. (It's like they live in a fairy cloud based on their hopes.)

The couple gets defensive when someone posts a comment on their fundraising blog that they should really investigate and learn more about adoptees, what they are really like, how they feel. Someone else suggests they need to know more about adoptee disorders like severe narcissistic injury or reactive attachment disorder. They are not interested in hearing the bad stuff. They are good people and won’t be discouraged by some angry adoptee or mother who claims she was coerced into giving up her baby. They aren’t fully aware there are baby brokers in some countries who steal babies to be sold into adoption.

Fast forward:  They are very surprised their child cannot bond as they were expecting and disappointed their child is not happy to be adopted or grateful. They find out eventually adoptees usually need some form of therapy. Their social worker is not required to check on the baby or the couple. Their lawyer gets paid and he’s gone on to the next couple. They never imagined adoptees would want to search for their families and could end contact with them once they are reunited.

End result: insufficient education or ignorance? (Encouraged by the billion dollar adoption industry.)
Trace A. DeMeyer is the author of One Small Sacrifice: A Memoir and blogs at American Indian Adoptees: She took foster care training in Oregon in the 1990s and did not adopt a baby.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

There are so many reasons why a mother should give up her child for adoption

Yes, this post has a disturbing title.

Unfortunately, there are many people who agree with the title of this post. (And so many of them are folks who call themselves Christians.) I have heard people, adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents not excluded, with my own ears discuss the many reasons why they think certain women should give up their children for adoption. (I've also heard accounts from other adoptees and birth mothers who have encountered similar discussions.)

In the minds of many, any one of the following qualities apparently makes a woman unfit to keep and raise her own child: being uneducated, poor, young, irresponsible, immature, unmarried, and the like.

It stands to reason, then, that apparently, in order to be viewed as fit to parent, a woman must be educated, wealthy, older, responsible, mature, married, and the like. (By these standards, I guess I'm not fit to be a parent either, then.)

What's at the root of this viewpoint?

Snobbery. [Haha.]

Or classism. Or materialism. Or arrogance. 

But seriously.

It's a very American way of thinking. America is the land where money and affluence trump all else. Ultimately, this viewpoint demonstrates an incredible arrogance and assesses those who are not affluent and wealthy as irresponsible leeches who don't deserve to care for their children. Ultimately, it's an adoption culture that says love really isn't what matters--money is what matters.

You can balk or scowl, but if the love factor is equal between the birth family and the prospective adoptive family, yet the birth family is poor and the PAP family is wealthy, what are most Americans going to say?

They're going to say, "The child should go to the adoptive family." Because DNA ain't got nothing on money. And basically, a family with money and affluence is viewed as the "more perfect family" than a family with DNA and love.

Of course, ultimately, relinquishment and adoption are more complicated than just money. Of course, there are also social factors involved. But money and affluence are certainly primary influences. That so many people still deny and resist the fact that money and affluence play a role in adoption today is willful ignorance and just plain frustrating.

It's also infuriating and despairing when I hear people talk about women like my birth mother--who are in fact fellow human beings who feel things just as deeply as you do--in such hurtful, demeaning, dehumanizing, self-serving ways.

Who are you to determine or decide whether a woman deserves to keep and raise her own child? Who do you think you are to walk around proclaiming that you know who is worthy of parenting her child? Who made you arbiter of the world's children? Who designated you discerner of whether a mother's love for her child is good enough?

Look, every day I feel unworthy of my children. Never do I feel like I deserve to be a parent or that I'm somehow more qualified than the next to be a parent. But I love my children more than I will ever be able to express or demonstrate. I'm doing the best that I know how, but I also know that I'm failing in miserable ways. I'm as imperfect as a human can come. Do I deserve to have my children taken away and given over to someone else because we're not the richest people or the smartest people or the most affluent or the most educated or the ones who can provide the most opportunity for worldy success?

Heck. No.

And now that I am experiencing the power of a biological connection with my children, now that I am witnessing DNA in action as a new mother, I believe all the more that a child deserves to stay with his or her biological family. Biology and DNA do make a difference. And it's irreplaceable, irretrievable, without substitute.

I am not saying that family can only come from DNA. (I have friends who feel like family, who I basically consider family. And my husband and I obviously are not genetically connected, but I definitely consider him my other half.) But I am saying that the way the current adoption culture dismisses the biological connection and minimizes its role is negligent and wrong.

I have been astounded by the power of biology as my husband and I experience parenthood with our young children. I have to say honestly, that there is a huge difference that I feel (but that's a whole other post...)

In my mind, there are so many reasons to support why a mother should be able to keep her child--DNA and love not excluded.

If she wants to keep her child, then she needs to be given the chance and support to do so.

If you disagree, well, I hope for your children's sakes and your sake that you never have to face such a situation as mothers like my own have had to face...if ever you did, I think maybe, just maybe, you would learn to change your mind...


*Just a note: I want to make it clear that I am not condemning or judging women who do choose to relinquish their children for adoption. Such a decision is obviously a very personal decision, and I am in no way presuming to say that I know what should be done in each individual case. I am simply addressing the current adoption culture that propagates a particular image of unwed pregnant women and also often uses manipulative language and practices that favor the adoptive parents and make unwed mothers feel unworthy of parenting their children.

To read more posts written by Mila at Lost Daughters, click here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"My Hand That Looked Exactly Like Hers," My Birthmother: Part One

By contributor Joy Leiberthal Rho

1994 – nearly at the end of my one year volunteering at Orphans’ Home of Korea, Uijongbu, what was my home for an indeterminate amount of time in 1975-1976.

The days preceding my meeting with my birthmother remain crystal clear in my mind. I got a call on a Monday from my Unnee (one of my big sisters from the orphanage, who works for the Directress of the orphanage.) She received a call she felt was very important. Immediately she shared that my birthmother has come forward and wants to meet me. I was stunned. All my life, I believed that my birthmother had died and at the hands of my birthfather. That was the story I told my parents and it was the story I held onto as my truth. I have come to realize that my little six year old head could not deal with the loss of my mother and believed what many adults told me as to the reason I was no longer with her.

Growing up, I never wanted to search for my birthfather, my birthmother I thought was never an option. I was one of those adoptees who was perfectly content in the not knowing and had no reason to go on any fishing expedition. My search instead was for me, my identity as a Korean adoptee and I sought to reclaim my heritage, not my lineage.

Within a 24 hour period, I found out that my birthmother was very much alive and she had hired a private detective to look for me for the third time. She had been searching for my whereabouts for 21 years. If my parents had hesitated for just one second when I asked them what I should do, a meeting would never have occurred. My parents were thrilled, emotional and encouraging of my meeting.

I was completely ambivalent and walked in a fog for two days. I could not wrap my head around this at all. All I knew was that I needed to do this for this woman who has been searching for her daughter and I bought the line, I might not get another chance to be in Korea.

By Wednesday of that same week, I was sitting in a room of a third floor walkup along an alley of rotten fish, looking at two women, my birthmother and her younger sister. I felt nothing and wanted so much for this not to be true. I wanted to bolt out of that room and breathe a sigh of relief. We sat down forced by the eager detective to just wait one more moment. My birthmother sat next to me and looked away saying quietly, “No, I don’t think she is her.”

And then, I was asked if I had a scar on my leg. Why, yes, I did! I have a light brown mark on my leg from a hot iron on my leg.  I always believed it to be from the orphanage. My maternal aunt burst into tears and proceeded to say that it was her fault that I got hurt and profusely apologized. She had just finished ironing her husband’s shirt and told me not to sit too close. I did anyway and because I knew I should not have done it, uttered nothing when I burned myself, thus the scar. I had never told anyone that story, except my parents. It was as if a veil lifted from my eyes. I suddenly saw these two women differently and I gave myself permission to look at the woman sitting next to me holding my hand. My hand that looked exactly like hers. I looked at her feet – we have the same size. I started to look at her face and realized we had the same ears.  She gave me a ring that fit perfectly, a ring she had been wearing all these years waiting to land on my hand some day. The realization that this woman was related to me still leaves me without words, it still stands in perfect stillness in my mind.

One week later, I met my half-brother, who looked like a male version of me. We liked each other immediately, both victims of circumstance. I have a brother now! I met extended family. I met my birth grandmother, a true honor. I looked wistfully at a photo of my birth grandfather, who upon gazing at his eyes, I vaguely remember seeing long ago. I spoke with an uncle on the phone who was too drunk from emotion and liquor to come and see me face to face. Inside, I was a mess. I was wracking my brain the entire time to remember these people, remember their stories of me and the many thoughts they shared about what happened to me. I could relate to none of it. I kept looking at my birthmother for solace, but she offered none. She was quiet too. And for a moment I saw an older version of me – where there is loudness, she is soft; when others take the spotlight, she disappears. I wondered if I got that from her. At the end of the visits, I just broke down. I was so truly sorry I didn't remember them, I felt so ashamed and embarrassed that my memory failed at this most crucial moment. I looked at these people in their earnestness to recapture their niece, granddaughter, daughter, wishing I could step into that role. I felt so utterly sad for them and disappointed in myself.

I spent the weekend with my birthmother. There were four key moments of that visit that encapsulate the essence of the weirdness of meeting my birthmother. One, we slept together as I would have had I stayed in Korea and lived with her. She smelled lovely and just like Oil of Olay. I remembered that smell and now knew why I chose to wear that lotion on my face for years. I had a very still sleep that night. Two, my birthmother walked in on me while I was taking a bath and wanted to scrub me down. I screamed for her to get out. She just wanted to see me, all of me. I was mortified. I know I hurt her feelings. Three, she made me a whole box of dried seaweed (ghim)because she heard it was my favorite and sat and watched me eat breakfast. I asked her if she wanted to know about my life in America, she said no. Silence, we didn’t have anything to say to each other? Four, she was ironing my brother’s shirt for school on the floor with her back to the door. I sat at the door frame and said that I wished there was something I could do to help her be ok with all of this. She said very quietly, the last time she saw me was when I was a three year old child, now I am a grown woman and she doesn’t know who this person is. Silence. I was so very sad for her.

During that weekend, I asked the question that burns in every adoptee’s mind. Why? Why did you give me up? I was surprised to learn I was never given up, there was no voluntary relinquishment. Just as an aside, I never heard my birthfather’s side of this story and he has since passed away. This is my birthmother’s story. My birthmother and I were victims of circumstance, law and custom. My birthmother met my birthfather when she was 24 years old. He was a few years younger but pursued my birthmother. They were married before he went off to do his military obligation and she was with child. I grew up with my birthmother and her family, which is why my memories of grandparents were of her parents. I was loved and there are memories of singing and dancing and playing from the extended family that I no longer recall. The last time I spent time in their home has been transfixed in my mind as a few frames of film in my head. I remember sobbing and waving goodbye to my grandparents while the window of a car was going up and I was driven away. I later found out that the two people in my film were actually my birthmother and grandmother. This
validation and confusion of memory still haunts me.

When my birthfather returned he no longer wanted to be married to my birthmother and upon the divorce, I was to go to him and his family. Korean children were the custody of the father’s side of the family, no visitation, no joint custody. However, my birthfather was not a mean man, and he did make attempts to have me see my birthmother and she was able to spend time with me on two occasions. She knew that it was only a matter of time before these visits would cease simply because she knew my birthfather was not completely a man of his word. He had a new woman in his life and she was not making things easy for him. The last visit was at an open market where my birthmother bought me a pair of red shoes, too old for a little girl, but I wanted them and she complied. This is her last memory of being with me, I was three and a half years old.

After some time, my birthmother went to seek out my birthfather to beg for a visit and she found out that he no longer had me. After months of asking and following the many homes, at least three that she knew of, I was apparently in, she ended up in an orphanage in Seoul, far from Inchon, my birthplace. She went to the orphanage several times to ask for me and the staff turned her away. She went to the directress of the orphanage directly, to the school she ran in Seoul and waited for hours. It was then, she was given some news – I was sent away for adoption. She was told that I had forgotten all about her and she should just get on with her life. She never knew I was adopted to the United States and hired private investigators to look for me in Europe. She worked as a domestic to save money and hired three different detectives over 21 years. However, there was a benevolent monk affiliated with the orphanage who stayed in contact with her and wrote her updates on my life as my adoptive parents sent letters and photos. She knew that I did well in school and that I loved to dance. She knew when I graduated from high school and when I went to college. It was when she was told that I was in Korea working in the orphanage that she made her last effort to find me. This time it worked. I never met the monk who wrote these letters. Her actions were both kind and cruel but I am grateful for her doing something.

Piecing this story together has been a challenge. But I know that my young body didn’t forget my birthmother. I met orphans who are now grown and never adopted. They remembered me and I am comforted in knowing that the time I was away from my birthmother I was in pain, crying all the time. They said that I was the cry baby who was only consoled when I had someone else to care for in the orphanage. In time, though I did forget and I am still perplexed how my brain worked to forget this woman who was my entire life.

To be continued….

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I wish you would share the good things about being adopted

Recently, I got the tired, classic "I wish you would share the good experiences."

And I thought to myself, "I wish you didn't feel it necessary to tell me that you want me to alter my truth to validate your insecurities and biases."

It's not that I don't have good experiences in life. It's not that I don't think my adoptive parents and siblings are good, or that my husband and children are good, or my friends, etc., etc. It's not that I'm not grateful for finding my Korean family and getting to travel to Korea to meet them.

But everyone around me wants to romanticize the life that I live. Listen, folks, it's not romantic. It's not a fairy tale. I'm not saying other folks don't have it hard. But suffering is not a competition. And the hard thing about being adopted is that people still refuse to recognize that it is inherently problematic and traumatic. They still insist that adoption is universally and absolutely good.

Listen, it's not "good" losing not only your original mother but your entire family, people, country, culture, language--everything--and then being told your entire life to be grateful for it because some amazing couple was willing to take you in as their own. It's not good growing up the only Asian kid in a predominantly White community. It's not good getting made fun of and bullied because you're the one "yellow, slant-eyed chink" in school. It's even worse when your White, non-adopted siblings do the same thing and nickname you clever, witty things like "frog eyes" and "flat nose." And it's not good when you try to talk with your White parents about all of this, but they are completely naive and oblivious to it all.

It's not good when you look in the mirror and expect to see a White girl with blond hair and blue eyes just like your mom, but see a dark-haired, dark-eyed, yellowish girl staring back. It's jolting and confusing.

It's not good when the only boys and men that pay you any attention do so because of the stereotypes propagated about Asian females--and you know it, but you embrace the attention anyway because otherwise, no one pays you any attention. And again, you want to talk to your White parents about this but there remains a culture of silence in your family that you fear so deathly to break, because it might mean even further rejection by the only ones you've ever known as family.

It's not good when you can't have basic communication with your Korean mother or father, because you don't speak the same language, not to mention that you live on opposite sides of the world. It's not good when my children most likely won't meet their Korean grandparents until who knows when because of the geographic and practical barriers.

It's not good when your American family likes to pretend that your Korean family doesn't really exist and is not really a part of your life or who you are.

It's not good when you feel like your children are going to grow up feeling the same division and tension and conflict because you haven't quite figured out how to bring it all together.

And I could go on and on...

And yet still, you want to think that it is "good" to live life as an adoptee. Do you really believe it is a good thing that we must live a lifetime of being divided, stuck neither here nor there, in a daunting psychological, social, cultural limbo?

Again, I ain't saying that my suffering is unique. I'm just saying that in the current adoption culture it is most often denied, dismissed, discounted, ignored, because the current adoption culture continues to characterize adoption as the good deed of all good deeds that cannot and should not be questioned.

Or, in other words, other than the initial loss (which, of course, only occurs at that moment of relinquishment and is henceforth compensated for by being adopted into a loving family) is ultimately a good experience.

So, Mila, why don't you talk about the good stuff?

Honestly, for me, I don't often "share the good experiences," because--to burst that bubble--I don't have a whole lot of good experiences associated with being adopted. The reservoir of experiences that I deal with as a result of my adoption includes rejection, abandonment (emotionally and physically), racism, alienation, isolation, division, confusion, loss, relentless sorrow, grief, deep emotional pain, and so forth. The fact that I have a "good," albeit ignorant, American family and am in reunion with my Korean family does not magically erase all of that nor does it somehow provide "compensation" for the hardship that being adopted has exacted upon me or other adult adoptees.

What bothers me so much about the assumption that adoption is why I have anything good in my life and hence I should just shut my trap and be grateful is that it leaves no room for the complexity of my life as an adoptee nor does it consider the possibility of alternative scenarios. 


The good in my life--my husband, my children, my family, my friends--were not necessarily given to me by adoption or as a result of adoption. This is the good in life that comes to people apart from adoption--it's part of the human experience. These are the social structures on which humanity is built--we are social beings. Non-adopted people have spouses, children, family, friends, too, right? We can just as easily say that they have this good in their lives because they were not adopted.

Furthermore, there are folks--both adopted and not adopted and otherwise, of course--who sadly do not have this kind of good in their lives. But it is not necessarily as a result of them being adopted or not being adopted. I think you get my point--I'm basically trying to explain why it makes no sense to tell me that I should be grateful because adoption gave me all the good in my life. The adoptee experience is too varied and complex to be treated as indubitably good.  

I realize, however, that there are situations in which adoption does place a parent-less or family-less child within a family, and that there are situations in which adoption is absolutely necessary. I realize that there are circumstances in which a child would otherwise grow up outside of a permanent family if he or she had not been adopted. But too often people discount perspectives and experiences like mine and other adoptees with similar viewpoints as anomalous, ungrateful, and even embittered. And additionally, people often do not consider that perhaps certain children would not have been in need of adoption if the current system did not use a combination of social pressures, emotional manipulation, religious mandate, etc. to promote adoption at the expense of family preservation.

Yet my point ultimately is that the truth is more complicated than the oversimplified binary outcomes that so many people often associate with adoptees--you could have been adopted into a wholesome loving family that would provide you with material comforts and opportunities or you could have languished in an orphanage and ended up on the streets as a prostitute, hence adoption saved you and gave you the good life of which you would have otherwise been deprived.

This simply is not the whole reality. If only it were that simple. That binary. That easy to separate. But the truth is that adoption is not necessarily what saved me. And it is not the giver of all the good in my life.

And if this truth bothers you or makes you feel like something is wrong with me and my perspective, or makes you want to shut out my voice and similar voices--I sincerely call you to ask yourself why you feel that way about my experience, because my experience doesn't have anything to do with you personally.

Perhaps it bothers you, because there is a truth to it that resonates with you somewhere within--but it's a truth that just might sting or jab you in the chest in a way that takes your breath away. (I know it does that to me everyday of my life.)

Well, then, I might just say, that is a good thing. Am I contradicting myself? Not at all.

What I'm saying is not that the pain itself is a good thing, but that perhaps facing the hard side of the truth is.


To read more posts written by Mila at Lost Daughters, click here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Post: Discovering my own Dysfunction

By guest blogger: Holly 

“Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth.” - Ludwig Borne

When the fog clears, you find yourself with a very large pile of rubble. The type of rubble that takes years to sift through in order to pick out the valuables left behind. It isn't for the faint of heart.

I am an adoptee born in the “baby scoop” era; 1963. My birthmother; was one of the Florence Crittenton girls who disappeared from her small home town shortly after discovering her pregnancy. Adopted at 3 weeks of age by a 35 year old childless couple, I grew up an only child who always knew I was adopted. I was raised by a woman who likely would not have passed a home study today. I never bonded with her, and never heard “I love you.” growing up. While I was always clothed, fed, and had all my basic needs met – life was very shame based. “My story” was a lie, and any questions I asked resulted in my being shamed into silence. There was verbal, emotional and physical abuse. I left home at 17 years old, and I never returned.

When I turned 18, I immediately visited the Family Service Agency, which had handled my adoption. I was given the obligatory non-identifying info, and began a search that lasted 5 years. I met my biological mother and her family, to include 2 half siblings when I was 22 years old. The reunion was happy, yet overwhelming for me. I had two young children and a dysfunctional marriage at the time.

Fast forward to 2005; so much life happened in that time. (Another marriage, two more children, another divorce, and rejection from my biological father – a whole other story!) I had recently come out of my “adoption fog”, as well as the “reunion honeymoon” phase. My current husband and I had started the process to adopt a child from China. The wait was a long one, over 3 years to be exact. I spent those years studying attachment theory and disorders. What I learned was not what I expected. I was the one with the disorder.

Anxious/ambivalent to be exact. Yes, I’d been through some therapy, but never did the therapists think my adoption issues were important. I tried to address them, only to be silenced. Again. Fortunately there was Nancy Verrier (a godsend!) and her books, “The Primal Wound”, and even more importantly, “Coming Home to Self”. The later opened my eyes to many of my repeated behaviors, and I began to see the accountability that lay with me. Only I could change my reactions, and not be doomed to be a product of my past.

Recently I began to follow a blog: The most helpful thing I've ever heard was when Karen asked something like, “In your reactions are you coming from the rational thinking adult, or the wounded inner child?” My moment of Ah – Ha! I began to see the pattern.

I’m acutely aware of my now 5 year old daughter’s issues. I notice things about her that other’s wouldn't see. I can’t fix that hole she’ll carry. I can’t take away “adoptedness” from her. I know that love doesn't fix everything. My heart hurts for her. Whatever her journey, I’ll be available and non-judgmental. And I hope I can be gentle on myself, accepting that no parent is perfect.

So where do I go now with this? I read. I study. I journal. And I ask myself that question; Is this my hurt child, or is it the adult I am now? Not as easy as it sounds, especially when you've been doing things the same way for so many years. But with practice, I’m confident I can begin to catch myself. And maybe, just maybe….I’ll start looking for a therapist who has experience in adult attachment issues.
About me: Holly is an adult adoptee and former blogger called “The Creepy Adoptee”.  She was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, and after 9 years in Washington State, is returning to the Arizona heat. She’s been in reunion for over 25 years. She is the mother of five children, two step-children, a grandmother, occasional photographer and a lover of books.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

On Being a Lost Daughter on Father's Day

Image courtesy of nuttakit at
Today I am thinking of my Lost Daughter sisters, and all of the different ways that we experience fatherhood. For some of us, this day is mostly about the adoptive father; for others, the biological father; for others still, a different father figure, or no one at all. Some of us are in contact with the adoptive father; some of us have lost touch or have lost that father to death. Some of the biological fathers have also passed on. Some of us have met our birth fathers, and in doing so discovered parts of ourselves. Others of us do not even know the name of the man who in different circumstances might have been "Dad." Some of us know just enough to have decided that the man is someone we do not want to meet. For some the paternal line is represented by relationships with other relatives, not the man himself. Some of us are searching. Some of us have found. Some have active relationships. Some reached out and were denied. Others have walked away, ending contact.

But amid all this diversity is the the one thing we have in common. For all of us, fatherhood includes an element of absence. Each of us is defined in part by the man who wasn't there.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lost Mothers and Fathers

Got past Mother's Day going to get past Father's Day too.  Being adopted you never really in totality get past the loss and pain.  Especially when you are rejected by two families.

I spoke with my adoptive mother today regarding contact from a relative concerning a passing in our family.  We've never done well with communication or understanding one another since I am usually the odd woman/person out in the family.  Never accepted for who I am, nor will I ever be.  I am the polar opposite of my adoptive family.  That I came to terms with long, long ago.  The rejection, not so easy.

But today our phone conversation was much different.  I didn't hear the critical, nagging, judgmental woman my adoptive mother is, I heard instead someone I didn't know.  Or more accurately, someone who didn't know me.  Sure, neither of us are young anymore I am nearly 54 she is 84.  However, hearing the words "You are Karen?  I don't remember.....we haven't seen you in a long time."

Well, last time in person was 5 years ago.  But also, there are no visits from her, phone calls, or attempts to establish a relationship nor will there ever be.  I didn't turn out to be the child they wanted.  They had a biological one thankfully who is.  You can blame age, dementia, or Alzheimers but the fact is in our adoptive family circumstance it's always been about people who are nothing alike jammed together by the adoption machine and an attempted "family" equation that failed.

My own biological mother rejected me 15 years ago.  I am a secret child and my siblings don't know about my existence.  Contact and info was rejected by my biological father as well.   I belong in neither family.

I don't want anyone to die or me to die being bitter, angry, or resentful.  What I do what is RECOGNITION.  I also know, none of that may ever happen.

How do adoptees accept the continual rejection of adoptive and biological parents?  I am nearly 54 and still working on it.  I hate to admit it but I am lost, and always will be.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Should I be grateful that I didn't grow up with my birth family?

What if I had been able to grow up with my birth family?

Almost 40 years after being adopted from Korea to America and 4 years post-reunion, I am finally allowing myself to not only ponder and answer this question, but to grieve and cry over what I am finding as I face the answers honestly and truthfully.

This question has always felt like one that I was not allowed to ask. Or if I did ask it, then I had to answer it with an unwavering, "You should be grateful you didn't grow up with your birth family, because your life would have been so much worse. You're better off now that you were adopted to America!"

Furthermore, this question has always felt like one that was pointless and counterproductive to ask...because how can you ever really know the answer? There are an infinite number of possible scenarios--both good and bad. To ask "what if?" felt emotionally dangerous, uncertain, and potentially damaging to my well-being. It most certainly felt like a Pandora's box, and I did not dare open it.

I think ultimately I was not ready to face the complexity of such a question...until now.

The truth is that, for me, to not face this question was causing me heartache and strife. It lingered in my mind like an unwelcome solicitor loitering outside my door that refused to go away. I thought it would demand something of me that I did not want to give, and if I opened the door, it would never leave but only continue to harass me until I lost all hope.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Secret Wish

Gateway to Kumgang Park (Busan)
Everyone I am back, and I will be discussing a rather sensitive and emotional topic this time, namely death. But not in the way you may expect ... no as a reunited adoptee; I am aware of the fact that my views on death and dying might not be what you would expect neither should you consider it as an insult towards my adoptive parents. I am very close with my dad I guess I am what you should call a daddy's girl or I used to be at least when I was younger. Of course I love my mum dearly, she raised me and cared for me. Yet the love I received from complete strangers did not help erase the trauma or my conflicting feelings towards my roots and my new life.

I wonder if my soul will be able to finally find peace in the land of the morning calm, the country that once rejected me that I yet hold very dear to my heart....

Thursday, June 6, 2013

“I Felt Like I’d Been Kidnapped”

153 - Wet City Night
Trevor gingerpig2000
My adopted daughter and I sat beside each other in the car, talking in quiet voices as I drove us through the dark on the way to register her for a soccer program. On this occasion, our conversation turned to being adopted. This is not something we talk about often, but it is something that connects us.

Our stories differ. I was adopted as an infant, without so much as even having been held in the arms of my original mother. My daughter spent her early years with her first mother before coming into state care at age five, when the family came into crisis as a result of a domestic violence incident against her mother, addiction in the family, and other factors. And yet there are things we understand about each other, adoptee to adoptee.

On this night we talked about her time in foster care … how her foster parents and others hadn’t seemed to understand what things were like for her, why she behaved as she did, and how confusing and disorienting that period of her life had been.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Video of my reunion: What I feel now--4 years post-reunion

[If you have trouble viewing the above video, you can click here to watch the video, Reuniting, by Jeanne Modderman]

It's the month of June.

It's my reuniversary--that is, four years ago this month, I "reunited" with my Korean family.

I have watched this video more times than I can count. And yet, I can only watch it every so often.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Questions People Ask a Christian-Out-of-the-Fog-Adoptee

Since I've come out of the fog been blogging about adoption, I've fielded so many questions from the people in my life. I've tried hard to understand their point of view and not take what they say personally when we are on different pages.

Many individuals including some of  those close to me, have questions or concerns because prior to the last two years they have never heard me talk about the things I talk about now. It's called coming out of the adoption closet.