I never thought about adoption as much as I did during the week of the Gathering and thereafter. I have always viewed it in a positive light like most people would. Oh, it’s such a great thing, save the orphans, blah blah blah. Usually when given thought, one generates consistent beliefs with their initial moderate attitude. Subsequently, attitudes become even stronger (SGAC shoutout!). Well this process was proven false in my case. While in Korea my attitude actually began to depolarize. It is kind of neutral right now.
I was absolutely nervous on the flight from Bangkok to Busan. I was going to a foreign yet familiar country all by myself. I had to embarrassingly request an English version of the documents for customs. The flight attendant was a little puzzled because I look Korean but don’t speak Korean. The incident was foreshadowing my many future experiences because I got confused looks from Koreans throughout most of my stay. Anyway I randomly met other adoptees in Busan the very first day. It was extremely comforting. My friends had nothing but happy stories to share.
Through the many conversations and sessions at the Gathering, I realized that my outrageous positivity is abnormal. Some people have endless feelings of pain and loss that can never be returned. It is kind of sad to be taken away from where you belong to ‘be saved’. We had no control over what went on when we were young. At Holt there was a center for the placed babies to be taken care of. It was fun to play with them and a bit sad at the same time. The social worker pointed “that one is going to the US, that one is going to Norway, that one is going to Denmark…” It was so surreal. Those babies don’t know what will come in the next few years. Their lives are just getting started. They will face identity issues and they will face discrimination. We all did and we all still face them. The world isn’t perfect though. Our situation is similar to that of a minority in any society but we are even a minority in our own families. The people with whom we should feel the most comfortable we still are kind of outsiders. It is also a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of thing. I got crap for being so white and looking Asian both from white people and Asian people. Why should I be a cultural Korean when I was not brought up in such an environment? Fortunately I am interested in my heritage and am doing what I can do enrich myself with Korean culture. It took a while for me to ‘come out of the adoptee closet’ but I’m finally out and enthusiastic about it.
So. What do I think about international adoption? I’ll quote Dr. L. – “it depends”. I obviously don’t agree with the lucrative aspect of international adoption. There are some social workers with absolutely no credentials who kidnap babies or send orphans to foreign countries without permission. Additionally there is a nasty stigma of being an unwed mother and no support for them. If there was more support for them they can keep their children. Furthermore, adoptees have a high risk of facing issues of identity, abandonment, trust, and discrimination. Is that worse than suffering from forever shame for being a bastard child in Korea? What about malnourishment, abuse, and neglect? These are some possibilities that adoptees might have encountered if they stayed with their birth families.
But really. Every case is different. Every birth mother has some reason to give up her child. I have not yet met mine but I know that she did it for the right reasons. During my file review at Holt, I found out that my mother was 33 and my father was 38. They were married but not to each other. My mom had three minor daughters and her husband was out of the home looking for work due to poverty. They had an affair one time. I am not sure how to describe how I felt when I read that brief paragraph. For the first time in my life I realized that my parents are real people with feelings and thoughts. It’s strange but I always felt like they never really existed. I pictured her being lonely while her husband was away and finding temporary comfort with another man for just one night. I imagine her in distress when she learned she was pregnant. I imagine her wanting with all of her heart to keep me but she made the logical decision to let me live a better life than she could provide. It was the right decision. I was born into that situation it would be hell. I would probably not know my father anyway. My mom would probably get a divorce and be shunned from society forever for cheating, being divorced, and being a single mother. Single mothers have little support in Korea so I would have grown up in poverty. Although it’s obviously not my fault for being born, I would probably be the scapegoat of my family’s dissolution forever.
Now on a positive note, my parents persevered through obstacles to get me. After several emotionally draining hardships my parents decided to adopt. They went through heaps of paperwork, countless interviews and invasive home studies. I look back at the pictures of them when I first arrived and they looked happier than ever. I feel very loved by them. They have a biological daughter and they treated us equally. There has not been a moment where I did not feel like I was not their child.
However lately I do feel like there is something empty. I went with a friend to meet his birth mother for the first time for social support. The agency came prepared with all of the tissues in the world because I used a dozen tissues. It’s a good thing though. They thought about each other for over 20 years and they finally could hold hands and know that each of them existed. It was amazing that he was able to look in somebody in the face and see himself for the first time. His list of questions that he nervously jotted down in a notebook were answered. Everyone’s reunion story is different and any path could be taken. There are those ideally happy stories but there are also absolute nightmare stories!
I made the decision that yes I will finally search for my birth parents. I was on and off about the decision but as my b. mom is getting older, I know I will regret it if I never even tried.
As you can see I’m just jotting down my thoughts. This entry is so disorganized and sloppy. It’s just reflecting how my thoughts are at the moment. I keep contradicting myself and going back and forth on this complicated issue. That’s just what it is. International adoption is just too complex to formulate one opinion.