Sunday, January 29, 2017

Are we mainstream?

“What do you think about This Is Us?”

“Have you seen the movie, Lion?”

As an activist for adoptee rights, this is a question I often hear. 

Honestly, I watch in silence because the pain is too much to share. Instead, I sit and sob, as the narratives wash over me. It feels cathartic. I feel validated. Adoptees are moving into the mainstream.

My life is not Randall’s or Saroo’s. But theirs uplifts me and gives me hope. Our narrative lines curve and intersect. It’s a dance … a dance of possibilities.

I have boycotted the Oscars for a while, but I may need to make an exception this year. So many movies with actors of color and an adoptee narrative. 

It. Feels. Fucking. Good.

Share with me how you feel about these mainstream stories of transracial adoptees. Use #ImTransracial on Twitter. I look forward to hearing your thoughts too.

Feminist columnist, Rosita Gonz├ílez 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 birth family, but also because of the loss of her adoptive parents. After the death of her adoptive father, she discovered that he had fathered a Korean son two years before her birth; she is searching for him. Rosita recently returned from 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.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Reunion in Reverse

For some time now I have felt like I have accomplished something major that I am greatful that I did. Yet fact remains I was only 15 years when I decided to search for my birth family - up until that point all I knew was my birth parents names and personal details and the number of children they already had. I successfully got in touch with them and we begun to exchange letters and emails for approximately 3 years or so. For reasons I will not disclose we did not stay in touch for the next five years. When I finally decided to contact them again it felt like we had reached the point of no return.


I was sincere in my wish to actually met them this was the time to mention it and so I did. I met my entire birth family the very next summer and it was without a doubt the best experience of my life. After the first trip and reunion I decided to return and stay for an extended visit with my family. Only after this second trip did I realize I should try my very best to try to learn my birth family's native tongue. In hindsight it is only now, that I fully comprehend and realize how different our two cultures are. A part of me even want to say I went about this in a reversed order, birth family search first followed by first trip and reunion. Only later intense courses in the Korean language and attempting to accept our cultural differences by learning as much as I can of my birth culture.

Had I not successfully located and reunited with my birth family it is very likely that I might never have wanted to travel to Korea, study Korean or learn more about the culture. For me my awakening was my birth family that I always knew about despite never having met them.


After nine months safely inside my mother's womb, I never got a chance to fall asleep inside her arms. I never got to know her scent to hear her heartbeat, or witness her mimic. For nine months I became familiar and used to my mother's voice, movements and sounds. She never got a chance to get a first look on her newborn child. Only later would I met my mother as a young woman but then the damage was already done and not even meeting her could undo the damage that was done to me. Of course the first meeting did end all the worrying, my mother could finally rest, knowing I was alive, even sharing the same space and air that very first time.

My mother has been a good wife and woman to my father I am sure. She gave my father seven daughters, seven female bonds of which she was able to enjoy six of those. Finally achieving that needed son and male heir her honor was restored and she had no reason to feel shame or guilt for having given her husband a son.

Had I been able to stay with my birth family a lot of things would not be the same, my life would most certainly look very different. It is a difference for a new mother to bond with a newborn in comparison to bonding with a young woman. It is very likely I would have had a chance to experience her motherly care and become a daughter to her just like my older sisters.


My oldest sister  became a married woman 20 years ago and she has given my birth parents and all us siblings our first niece and nephew. She does not appear to live with her husband any longer I suspect they are divorced. My mother still worries for my oldest sister and her children a lot as she should.

My second sister supported her family (my family) for many years before she finally married and settled down overseas. Just as my mother worried for my second sister and the separation from her and the grandchildren from her; my second oldest sister.

My third sister supported my still unmarried sisters and our parents for many years. She recently married just a few years ago. My mother worried a lot for my third sister's health and her children, eventually after marriage my third sister moved to be closer to her husband's family.

My fourth sister supported my remaining younger siblings, she even dropped out of school to help to raise and care for them. She was the third sister to marry not long after my second sister. As any good woman and wife she soon had two children; a daughter and a son. Perhaps my mother does not have to worry as much for my fourth sister. (That being said, I do of course believe our mother worries for her but in a ordinary way; the way a grandmother should worry for her child and grandchildren.)

As a any good mother would do, our mother decided she would have to move to the same city , that my two unmarried sisters lived in. My fifth and sixth sister are very similar to Mary and Kitty Bennet, they share the same worry that Mrs Bennet had for her children and the necessity of marriage.


Eventually my fifth and sixth daughter , being the youngest my mother wanted to live closer to them, and she and father relocated a few years ago. I wonder if they married out of love or if they married someone they met through match-making, (which is a rather common thing to do in Korea, since they don't date strangers without being introduced by someone they already know. )

Just before my fifth sister married and became a mother, my still unmarried sister married just the other year she is currently expecting her first child and our older sister is already a mother of two.

Friday, January 6, 2017


This week is a triggering week for me.  It's tough.  I was in foster care originally and the paperwork was dealt with December 31st.  My adoptive parents were skiing and it was a holiday weekend, so they didn't get the call they had been chosen until January 2nd.  They have five days to prepare for me and somehow with the help of all their friends and family, they were able to get ready for a baby in five days.

I've always known this part of my story, but I've never appreciated it as much as I do this year.  Saturday is my Adoption Day, and Sunday will be my own baby shower for my little one.  My experience has been so different from my mother's in almost every way.  We've been planning and figuring things out for months.  I was able to register, to tell my hostess my preferences (I'm really not into shower games personally and she agreed to keep them out), and to anticipate knowing what was going on.  My mom didn't have any of that.  She didn't even know she was getting a baby.  They had five days to get everything they needed, pick a name, and prepare to be parents.  The eight months I've had so far seems like it's been too quick, so I can't even imagine 5 days.

This year I miss my mom the most at this time of year.  I've never enjoyed celebrating my Adoption Day because let's be real, I lost a lot that day.  I've been more neutral about it the past few years because I've chosen to view that day as the day I gained my family.  I mean, I lost everything pretty much the day I was born.  The paperwork was signed a different day that I didn't know about until a few years ago so that was never a "big thing" for me.  And then we bacame a family in January.  I was over 2 months old at that point.

I've recently been watching the home video from that day.  My parents lived in a two family at the time and their friend lived upstairs.  He videotaped the entire day (with commentary) and I have to say it's amazing to have now.  As hard as it can be to watch at times, I'm so glad that I have it.  My parents were so thrilled and amazed to have me as their daughter.  It makes a girl feel loved!  And my entire family comes to the house to welcome me.  Other than a few insentive comments (cough cough looking at YOU grandma!), for the most part people are really respectful and it's nice to see how happy they are to welcome me to the family.  And it's funny to watch my dad almost drop me at one point.  And so many of the people in that video are gone at this point.  It's a nice memory to have even if I don't remember it first hand.

So I'm stocking up on tissues and will most likely hunker down for Saturday so that by Sunday I'm close enough to happy again.  And someday I'll share that video with my daughter, who hopefully will have a much different video of her first day home (is it sad that I already have the camcorder charged and ready to go?).  But some things will be the same, the love and welcoming she will recieve as she joins our family.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I was warned

I was warned.  So many people told me how lucky I was because I did reunion young.  At 22, I was younger than most when I found my natural mother and entered into reunion.  My biological sisters were at my wedding.  I've met many members of my natural family before I even hit 30 and I didn't have to wait until I was in my 40's or 50's.  And I have the benefit of having a lot of adoptee sisters, my fellow Lost Daughters, to help me through some of the stings of adoption that I had in my future, mainly children.

I heard so much good advice over the last seven years or so.  I heard about how it would hit me in strange ways.  That the delivery room would be a challenging place for me.  How I'd lose it at small things.

I never thought this would all hit before I even made it to the hospital.  I nearly broke down twice during childbirth class.  I had to fight back tears on the maternity floor tour.  It all seemed like too much, so I hired someone to be there for just me and provide emotional support.  I'm so lucky to be able to do that.

Giving birth without my mom is hard.  I miss her everyday and she would have been so thrilled to be a grandmother.  We would have had to work through some things I'm sure, but she would have been my solid support no matter what.  So not having her is rough.

And then comes the fun adoption stuff.  My natural mother never looked at me after I was born.  She asked them to take me away right away.  She never held me.  I was in a nursery for a few days before I was sent off to foster care.  The only love I got as a newborn was from people I'll never know, mostly nurses and a foster mother I've never met.

Being told "Skin to skin is amazing and you have to do it for your baby" and "Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby" and "You need to bond with your baby every day" has been challenging for someone who never had any of those things as a baby.  When they mentioned that my baby would be taken to a nursery for some tests shortly after birth I wanted to scream.  I don't want my baby to be like me at all.  I don't want her with strangers, I want her with ME and my husband at all times, never questioning our love for her or that we'll be there for her.

So we had a talk.  I'm giving up my husband while we're in the hospital.  Our daughter will be his #1 priority no matter what.  Where she goes, he goes.  He'll stand there and watch them do the hard tests that can be "a lot" for new parents while I'm recovering.  He'll stay with her to make sure that she's never alone with strangers who don't love her the way that a parent does.

My baby will have everything that I can give to her, especially a loving and nurturing first few days of her life.  She won't have "First Christmas" ornaments with the wrong year because she was in foster care.  Actually, she'll have one "First Christmas" ornament with the wrong year because my grandmother gave me one this year while she's in the womb.  But that's OK ;)  And most importantly, she'll know that she's been loved from day one.  And that's the important thing.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 - The Year I Get My Original Birth Certificate

Today is no ordinary New Year's Day for me. I was adopted in New Jersey. This year, I get to see my original name on my original birth certificate, which until now was illegal for me to possess. 

For the non-adopted, access to my original birth certificate may seem incidental. I am in reunion, I have all the information about my parents, my history, my story. But, I don't need the birth certificate to find my family; I need it to find myself. The birth certificate feels like a treasure map to my original self. The original self that was covered up, locked away and altered to be something more palatable to society. 

But now I will be able to own my name, my origin, my self. 

Truth be told, caring about my birth certificate is a relatively new thing for me. It wasn't until being part of the adoption blogging community that I learned to question the amended birth certificate. I hadn't thought about how it's the only legal document that is a purposeful lie, that the facts of a person's birth are fictionalized. I hadn't thought about how every other person, other than the adopted, has the right to their birth certificate and the information it contains. I hadn't thought about how changing the facts about my birth tells me that who I am is shameful, and tells me lying to protect others is more important than my truth. I started to see it as a social justice issue, one of equal rights. 

My birthmother told me she named me Petra. Power is my birthmother's last name, but she was told she should put a false last name for me and so put in "Petersen," as my last name, so I'm not sure which name is actually on there. 

But while I was told that my name was Petra, I've never seen the official birth certificate. I tried once, just to see what would happen, explaining that I was in reunion and that no one in my family objects to me having access to my birth certificate. I was still denied it. It wasn't a surprise, but the absurdity of the denial stuck with me. 

My name has always been a central part of my reunion story. I was given the name Cathleen by my adoptive parents. What they didn't know is that my birthmother's name is Kathleen. When I met my birthmother I found out my original name - Petra, the feminine of Peter. What she didn't know was that my adoptive father's name was Peter. Their naming of me bound me in a loop of connection between birth and adoption. My names have represented the two parts of who I am: Cathleen, the adoptee who has lived the life I was put into; but also Petra, the first grandchild of the Power and Wozniak families who was sent away and shrouded in secrecy. 

Soon, I will know my original name, and have proof of the existence of my original self. 

(If you want to read more about the adoptee's right to original birth certificates, my fellow adoptees have done amazing writing on the subject: fellow Lost Daughter, Amanda, did a brilliant job laying out the whole amended birth certificate debate in a post on her blog, The Declassified Adoptee. There is a great post written just a couple weeks ago in Dissident Voice by Doris Michol Sippel, and I'm always learning about the adoptee's right to their birth certificate from fellow Lost Daughter and Adoptee Survival Guide editor, Lynn Grubb - her post in her blog No Apologies for Being Me is just one example. There are a ton more, of course, but that's enough to get you started!)