Remember the innocence of childhood? I suspect you asked your mother, as my own children do, about that day you entered the world. It’s magical to think of that first breath, the wonder of a brand-spanking new brain just starting to spark.
If you are a firstborn, I suspect your parents recorded the dates of your first smile, your first tooth, that first crawl across the floor and then the monumental wobbly first step. All those things make you a living person who will grow up and later share these special moments with your own children.
I ask that you now understand me. Those moments which I preciously hold for my children are the same moments I want to hold for myself. Holding and staring at the few photographs I have of myself as a baby have sustained me for 48 years, but now, I know there are other notes taken by those who knew me during these times. Surrogates of a mother hold those memories of my life before I was someone’s “firstborn.”
One of my childhood memories that my adoptive mother shared with me was her sadness in seeing me walking in my first birthday photograph, a photograph sent to her by my foster mother via Holt Korea. She wanted that moment to hold for me and pass down to me. The loss of that milestone brought her great sadness and brings me sorrow to this day.
Imagine if someone, a stranger, held these precious memories … photographs, records of that first year, the developmental landmarks.
Saturdays are my days in Seoul to relax with fellow adoptees or spend much needed time with my little family of four. But this Saturday, I spent it with not only adoptees who were silent, but with non-adoptees who drove the conversation.
The one-sided conversation was sterile, matter of fact and rehearsed. The same words were repeated … “KAS is not allowed,” “no systematic guidelines,” “the law does not allow” …
Such surgical words applied to my life experience. Asking for my adoption file, all portions of my file is my plea to be that child of wonder looking for the information that makes me feel part of the human race.
KAS, Korean Adoption Services, is the governmental agency that acts as a liaison between the adoption agencies and the adoptees in post adoption services; adoptees are asked to submit requests for information through KAS. The KAS social worker handling my case fielded questions, but it seemed she lacked the understanding of why adoptees feel passionate about holding those files.
It is no fault of hers or yours that she and you were not adopted. How can you know what adoptees want or need?
And yet, our lives are now revealed as more nuanced than the agency script of a “better life.”
There is also a “hands-tied,” sympathetic conversation with my adoption agency … an illusion to a law I do not know, nor can I find. A law many years old that dictates how much of my life on the pages of my file may be shared with me. No one but me, my children and my sister are left to request the letters and photograph of my parents … my adoptive parents.
The domestic adoptee movement is catching momentum. More and more states are granting access to original birth certificates (#OBC). Domestic adoptees are a large group of American-born citizens, organized and able to bring the change. I hope that someday, when their wave comes crashing to the shores of justice, our transnational one will not be far behind. For now, transnational, international adoptees are scattered by the challenges of various injustices; many of us are just hanging on.
My plea to you is to be an ally. Understand that the things you cherish about your first years are the exact things we seek for ourselves and our children.
In humble sincerity,
Feminist columnist, Rosita González is a transracial, Korean-American adoptee. She is married to a Brit and is a mother to two multiracial children. Rosita was adopted in 1968 at the age of one through Holt International. Her road has been speckled with Puerto Rican and Appalachian relatives and her multiracial sister, the natural child of her adoptive parents. While quite content with her role as a “Tennerican,” her curiosity has grown recently as her children explore their own ethnic identities. She considers herself a lost daughter, not only because of the loss of her first family, but also because of the loss of her adoptive parents. After her adoptive father’s death, she discovered that he had fathered a Korean son two years before her birth; she is searching for him. Rosita recently returned to the United States after a five-month stint in Seoul, South Korea with her family and their three cats. Follow her adventures as an adoptee on her blog, mothermade.