dealing with adoption’s legacy


It’s another insomniac night/morning, but even though it’s 5:40 a.m. I just had to share this wonderful comment as its own post.

First off, let me apologize for commenting on this with something very off topic from your post. I found this blog some months back and have been reading regularly since then.

I am the half korean child of a KAD. My mother was adopted in 1958 at two years old to a white family in the midwest. Her experience, from what I have been told and/or understand was largely positive. I can’t be sure as this is something that my mother and her adopted korean sister are both reluctant to talk about, unless it is to express their gratitude for “being saved from a terrible life”.

As I get older, I find myself wanting to connect to the korean side of me more and more. My looks are a mix of korean, white and native american and it is very obvious that I am of some asian extraction, so I am constantly questioned by others as to my ethnicity. There has always been a wanting on my part, wanting to know the culture, the food, the people. This wanting has always been discouraged by my mother. Not out of self loathing, I think, more from knowing that I would not be fully accepted by culturally korean people.

So many times I have wanted to ask her about what she remembers, or how she feels about being adopted. My questions are alway shut down rather quickly, with her insisting that she was saved from a fate worse than death and that she never thinks about korea or her birth mother at all.

How can that be true? How can it be true if I wonder about her birth mother all the time?

I guess I’m wondering A: If her stance is indeed an honest and truthful one. If perhaps, as my mother has implied I’m just “too sensitive” about the adoption issue and her past and that it is normal and possible to be very content with your adoption and never wonder about your birth culture or family. Or do you think, in your experience talking with adoptees, that she is in denial about her feelings?

I wish I knew a way of getting her to open up to me about her feelings on korea and adoption, but she really seems to have a stone wall up.

I know that it is really none of my business and that I shouldn’t pry, but I was very taken aback when recently I mentioned that I was thinking of adoption myself. She was extremely adamant that I did not adopt but would not elaborate on why she felt so strongly that I shouldn’t.

If anyone reading this has any advice for me, I would greatly appreciate it. Even if it is to tell me to mind my own business and that my mother’s adoption is none of my stinking business.

I guess I am just confused on how I should feel (which is, non-surprisingly, also how I feel about my race). What is or is not okay.

Hope this makes sense and sorry for hijacking your post.

thank you so much for sharing with us all. Your blog has provided many insights that I had never thought about before and I think it has helped me to better understand my mother.

Why is this comment so wonderful?

Because it’s the reason I’m here.  It’s the reason this blog exists.  It’s the reason my daughter convinced me not to shut it down and go private last year.  It also validates me (and so many other adoptees) and the experiences I’ve had.

There are so many stories rising to the surface right now about adoption, and with it a huge political divide.  We read about happy adoptees who work for adoption agencies and adoptees that adopt and adoptees that go on motherland tours and visit orphanages.  We read unhappy or angry sentiments from adoptees that question adoption industry practices, adoptive parent motives, and social justice.  And lately we read about happy adoptees who also question the efficacy of adoption in terms of social justice. But what we don’t read about much is what isn’t said.

I guess I’m wondering A: If her stance is indeed an honest and truthful one. If perhaps, as my mother has implied I’m just “too sensitive” about the adoption issue and her past and that it is normal and possible to be very content with your adoption and never wonder about your birth culture or family.

I can’t speak on behalf of others and can only speak for my own experiences, though I’ll wager they were/are similar to most adoptees.  I never (rarely ever – only when someone else irritatingly brought it up) thought about adoption, my birth culture or my birth family.  I think adoptees can be content with their adoption, but I also don’t think it is normal to put that out of your mind so completely, especially when you are getting pesky reminders from society that you are different on a regular basis.  (And believe me, if your mom grew up in the midwest, that was her life)  So I put it out of my mind;  suppressed it to the point it only manifested itself in a tiny, tiny thread of hostility of unknown origins.

So that’s actually pretty incredible for us to contribute to our own erasure and to consider that normal.  But you have to remember that our normal lives are never really normal.  Growing up, we are put in the position where we must support and defend our presence.  We must constantly explain ourselves.  The only family we have either blotted out our past in the assimilation process or traumatized us by focusing on our “special”ness.

Wondering is a dangerous thing to do.  Wondering can hurt your adoptive parent’s feelings.  Wondering might turn to longing:  longings that are futile and impossible to satisfy.  Wondering can undermine all the adjustments you are forced to make in order to fit in.  Wondering is that sewn together sack of potatoes.  It’s that little thread you pick on the chain stitch seam of your life that with one tug unravels everything.    And who wants to unravel, your contents on the floor, strewn all about?

There’s also reason, which we use like a hammer to pound down any popping nails.  I was less than 3 years old.  3 year-olds don’t know anything.  How could they?  I have no memories.  If it was significant, there would be memories.  If it mattered, there would be memories.  If my mother mattered, I would remember her.  If my identity was nature, then I would not have adjusted so well, so it must be all nurture.  Oh my god, am I really going to become my adoptive parents?  I hold out hope I am a little bit nature – but wait, why would I want to be something that gave me up?  The best I can hope for is to be my well-meaning but flawed adoptive parents.  That’s a sobering thought.  But there’s also no choice.  I have no choices.  Blah blah blah.  Hammer hammer hammer.  Adoption turns us into pragmatic people.

The suppression of talking about adoption was a conscious act, because it brought about internal conflict. The suppression of interest in my birth culture was also a conscious act, because it contributed to my orientalization, and I was keenly aware of being valued by everyone around me for being exotic, and I wanted to mitigate and control that; not add to it. The suppression of wondering about my biological family was not conscious.  It was more like when your mind goes blank and you struggle, but there’s nothing you can do but change the subject.

…that it is normal and possible to be very content with your adoption and never wonder about your birth culture or family.

We must also remember that transnational transracial adoption is a huge factor here.  Say you have good relations with your adoptive parents, there is still a lot about adoption not worth recognizing.  There’s still a big bad world out there that isn’t as accepting as your adoptive parents.  Almost all of us adult transracial adoptees have told our tales of being taunted, bullied, teased, ostracized, eroticized and stalked.  And people consistently discount it.  Kids are just mean.  People are just ignorant.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Etc., etc.  But bullshit on those attitudes. It’s fucking traumatic.  Race may not technically exist, but we have felt the sting of racism.  A lot of times just the word adoption brings up a PTSD response in me.  A biofeedback machine, hooked up with sensors to my muscles, would show a huge spike in tension at the mention of that word.  Attach it to any adoptee and you will get the same result but at various levels.  Our transracial experience in America has not been smooth.  And we were the guinea pigs…

Some adoptees have said that they never thought about adoption until they had children, and that the act of birth made them think about abandonment for the first time.  I don’t think this had any conscious effect on me at all.  I do know I didn’t want to be a parent at the time, and that I threw myself into the job despite being depressed about it.  And I turned out to be a great mom.  And it was interesting to see how my children grew to be part me, part their father, and part environment.  So that made me wonder a bit, as they grew.  But it was extremely annoying whenever my children asked me about my history.  I dismissed it with little explanation as well, in all the same ways as your mother.  I now consider myself the queen of denial…

Or do you think, in your experience talking with adoptees, that she is in denial about her feelings?

It is the very nature of denial that, upon confrontation, it will not be acknowledged.  And it is also the nature of denial to feel one is being honest and truthful and to fully believe in your own honesty.  I’m not sure I really like calling it denial, since that kind of connotes a conscious and willful act of refusal.  I think it’s deeper than that.  It’s instinctual, because it’s based on self preservation.

I wish I knew a way of getting her to open up to me about her feelings on korea and adoption, but she really seems to have a stone wall up.

Again, a lot of this is not intentional, right?  You’re talking about something erected for survival:  it is a whole mode of being that is a part of the adoptee’s coping mechanism.  It is no small thing to ask people to stop using what has served and protected them.  It’s dangerous and life threatening.  The adoptee has to want to open up.  The adoptee has to come to a point where these coping mechanisms no longer seem viable.  For me, that had to be initiated by a major crisis.

And I never thought of personal relations as major issues to have crises over.   My coping mechanisms allowed me to shape-shift to some degree, to be whoever anyone wanted me to be.  It wasn’t until people abandoned me, one right after another, due in no small part to that stone wall you speak of, that I went into crisis and almost checked out.

In therapy I was always asked about what I was feeling at this moment or that.  And again, I would always draw a blank.  We have had to kill so many negative feelings being exported, you just can’t imagine.  Since we can’t really kill the feelings we do the next best thing, and take away their name and throw them into the same drawer.  And we try to lock them up and throw away the key, but the draw is full to bursting.  Your mom can’t talk about her feelings because she probably can’t identify them.  She can probably only generically know that they don’t feel good.  I don’t know how many years on a couch with the talking cure this would take.  I’m not sure it’s even possible.

The best therapy is the company of those that love and care about you and will work with your disabilities.  That’s how I feel.  After nervous breakdown I feel I spent my whole life disabled with PTSD.

So I don’t have any practical answers for you here.  I do think sharing is a much better approach than inquiry.  Your interest and your exploration she may suffer through, because if it’s an issue to you then maybe she’ll sit passively by and observe, in an effort to support you.  A lot of information filters through in passive listening.  A lot more is noted than is dismissed.  But it shouldn’t be confrontational.  You might find/ institute a movie night and slip in some movies with adoption-related themes, which can generate some discussion.  Or you might introduce her to some Koreans friends.  Or you might start enjoying some Korean cultural things and introduce them to her, through your infectious enthusiasm.

Her experience, from what I have been told and/or understand was largely positive. I can’t be sure as this is something that my mother and her adopted korean sister are both reluctant to talk about, unless it is to express their gratitude for “being saved from a terrible life”.

Well, it’s obvious from your use of quotation marks that you recognize what a cliche this is:  what a scripted response.  You might ask how they know it would have been terrible. She does come from that gray period after the war and before reconstruction.  But I am still a firm believer that helping a starving country does not mean helping oneself to its children.

Do you know how completely I blocked out knowledge of Korea?  Until two years ago, I didn’t even know when the Korean war ended.  Until last year, I didn’t know who Confucius really was, except that his name came before proverbs you might find in a fortune cookie.  Really, I didn’t know ANYTHING about where I came from.  I’d only seen photos of the place from the turn of the century.  As a child I’d envisioned people living like pigs under their thatched roofs in unsanitary conditions.   That image goes hand in hand with the orphan image of ourselves.  The dogma that we had been “saved from a terrible life” and that we were “chosen” becomes our default answer.  Again, because we have no other choice but to support this life we find ourselves having to live.  We were programmed to say these things to justify our adoptive parents actions.  It ends the adoption inquiry.  It shuts people up.  So we can be annoyed without harassment.

I know that it is really none of my business and that I shouldn’t pry, but I was very taken aback when recently I mentioned that I was thinking of adoption myself. She was extremely adamant that I did not adopt but would not elaborate on why she felt so strongly that I shouldn’t.

It’s probably no surprise that I totally agree with your mom on this.  Adoption has been a very very very complex thing for us adoptees and it is my opinion that those of us who do not drink kool-aid would never in a billion years want to put any child through what we’ve gone through.  And just because your mom (and many many other adult KADs) can say she had good relations with her adoptive family does not mean she drinks kool-aid.  I’m sure she recognizes many traumas or would not be opposed.  Like I said, we tend to be pragmatic.  And stoic.  And try to make lemonaid out of lemons, because we have been given so many, what else can we do?  Just fail and be miserable?   But is that any kind of life to lead?  No.  It’s not ideal.  We don’t want other children to have to lead a life like that.  To be taken from a known and thrown into an unknown with total strangers.  To have no choice.  To have our identities erased.  To be forced to adapt.  Adoption is a crappy solution.

I am the half korean child of a KAD…

…As I get older, I find myself wanting to connect to the korean side of me more and more. My looks are a mix of korean, white and native american and it is very obvious that I am of some asian extraction, so I am constantly questioned by others as to my ethnicity. There has always been a wanting on my part, wanting to know the culture, the food, the people.

There has always been an avoiding on my part.  A not wanting to know the culture, food, or people.  (I wrote about this recently, though I can’t remember where, so I guess I’ll just replicate it and apologies if you’ve read it before)

In a culture where Asians are exotic and eroticized yet the “model minority” is also marginalized as being defective and weak, to be a KAD in a white community presents a new paradigm.  I call it being white +.  I got more superficial attention than my peers because I was exotic, but I didn’t suffer as much racial stigma as the insular Asian communities do because of my white parents and white ways.  I avoided all contact with Asians because a) they didn’t exist where I lived b) they were so foreign they scared me and c) being associated with them would be embarrassing and lower my hard-fought social status.  Not to mention that later in life, when I did meet Asians, they were hugely judgmental and made me feel inadequate.  My looks were an asset and a curse.  And what little benefits I could glean from them were dependent upon me not being knowledgeable about the culture of my birth.  I had to make the most of my isolation.  I had to tend my uniqueness.

This wanting has always been discouraged by my mother. Not out of self loathing, I think, more from knowing that I would not be fully accepted by culturally korean people.

Really?  Does she know any Korean people?  I was kind of the same way with my daughter, but not for that reason.  I think it was more because I felt if it was no longer my culture, then how could it possibly become hers? (my mixed race daughter – my son hasn’t chimed in on the discussion yet)  It would lack authenticity, which I would be incapable of giving her.  It felt like a road to frustration and destruction, and I didn’t want her to end up feeling as empty as I did.  More so because I didn’t try.

She didn’t listen to me.  But also her brush with Asian cultures has not been artificial, as she rubs elbows with a pan-Asian crew in her line of work.  And so she learns from other Asians who are Asian Americans, and thus acceptance is not or is less of an issue with them.

But it’s still a huge issue for her – this legacy of having no cultural heritage yet bearing the burden of it by merit of ones skin and eyes.  She has to deal with all of the exotification and racial issues I did as well.  And though she’s not isolated from Asians like I was, she still has no community that shares her unique subset of challenges.  So it’s a lonely place to be for her.  She’s been looking for someone like yourself to have a dialogue with, so if you don’t mind I’d like to send her your email address.

How can that be true? How can it be true if I wonder about her birth mother all the time?

In re-reading your comment, it seems to me like you already know all the answers to your questions.  But I am really thrilled to give you some of my insight, and view it as a wonderful opportunity:  the descriptions of the adoptee experience we read are so blunt and dumb sometimes.  It’s much more complicated and nuanced than that.   Adoption has constipated my personal growth to such an incredible degree for such a long time…I’m not sure I can do any better than what I’ve done here today, but it feels good to shed some light on what it’s like and how this effects not only us but future generations.

So thanks for coming here and reading and bringing this blog back to its intended purpose.

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24 thoughts on “dealing with adoption’s legacy

  1. I know this sounds horrible, but I have honestly never thought that my questions about my mom’s past were annoying to her. Upon reflection, this definitely annoys her. She does her best to hide it, but it does.

    Please feel free to pass along my email address to your daughter. I don’t know what it is exactly, a difference in personality, or my own inhibitions but I have never really discussed these issues with my halfie cousins. We all grew up in the midwest And yes, were constantly reminded of our “uniqueness”. (at least those of us who looked the more asian than white). I can’t imagine what my mom and aunts had to go through (or yourself). I know from personal experience that being overly sensitive to race can be just as bad as being slurred and to always have to be facing both is awful.

    Your interest and your exploration she may suffer through, because if it’s an issue to you then maybe she’ll sit passively by and observe, in an effort to support you.

    hahahaha-this is my mom. I have a friend who is student teaching in korea for the next three months and I was thinking about going to visit her. i tried to talk my mom into going but she really did NOT want to go.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my post so in depth. So much of what you have written reminds me of my mother. I am sure that she does not have your exact feelings about her adoption the things you have said regarding pragmatism, not being able to identify her feelings, self preservation, ummm…basically almost everything all resonates deeply.

    My mother and I are very close and there are times when it, to be hackneyed and cliche, hurts my heart to think about my mom not having a mom like I did. I can never understand that part of her, no matter how much I may want to.

    Really? Does she know any Korean people? I was kind of the same way with my daughter, but not for that reason. I think it was more because I felt if it was no longer my culture, then how could it possibly become hers? (my mixed race daughter – my son hasn’t chimed in on the discussion yet) It would lack authenticity, which I would be incapable of giving her.

    I made a poor choice in words because this is more how she feels about it. We’ve have had many discussions about not feeling like “real” asians. She did not know any other koreans growing up other than her adopted sisters.

    There was only one other korean girl in my school that I wasn’t related to. She was an adoptee and you would think that we might gravitate to one another, being the only asians in a 98% white school…but we never really talked. I think I now know why she didn’t want to be friends with me.

    I moved out west a few years ago and had my first experience with “real” koreans. That is actually how I got so interested in the culture. I made a work friend who is second gen KA. She thought it was criminal that I’d never eaten korean food other than kimchi (I’ve always loved kimchi, even as a kid) and that was the beginning.

    A couple of years ago my parents moved to the northwest and I followed them out around a year ago. It has been a real trip for her to be around so many asians. Well, I use the “many” lightly, there aren’t that many, but more than she’s used to.

    I don’t think she feels very comfortable around koreans. I think that due to her age (from what I understand she was amongst the first of the adoptees. She may have been adopted in 1956, not 1958. She doesn’t talk about it much, so…) a lot of people don’t expect her to be adopted so its doubly awkward.

    It’s awkward for me, too. Ugh, I am never more self conscious and embarrassed than when I’m at the korean grocery. Anyway, that’s for another time and place.

    Thank you again for providing me with insight without me having to annoy my poor mom again. She may never be able to talk with me about it but if that’s what she needs to do to stay in a good place, then so be it. I can’t let my own selfishness override her emotional health. She’s had enough done to her.

  2. oh god, it’s me again. I also wanted to mention that my mom was told that she was amerasian and the timeline in which she was adopted would fit that. (Although for my mom and her sisters, it’s hard to see the “amer” part) She was born during a chaotic period, legitimately. I am so glad that I never confronted her like this because she was born during a period that allows her to have a pleasant mythology surrounding her adoption. What kind of asshole would I be to try and poke at that when she clearly doesn’t want me to?

  3. girl4708, This post is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank you for writing it.

    I think the concept of “identity” needs review.

  4. I’ve been following your blog for a while because I’m researching the idea of developing a website for adoptees/adopters/etc as an all-encompassing site about the pros/cons and challenges to adopting and more importantly, being adopted.

    I’m an adoptee who grew up in Oregon – another very anglo-centric region. What drew me to respond is Rae’s comments and your response. It’s a beautiful dialogue that is happening here. It should be done more, with more people and more often!

    Anyway, I could write a book here, but I just wanted to make contact first. Please email anytime. :D

    Best wishes,

    Tara

  5. I know this sounds horrible, but I have honestly never thought that my questions about my mom’s past were annoying to her. Upon reflection, this definitely annoys her. She does her best to hide it, but it does.

    A little annoyance won’t kill anyone. It’s part of parenting a partially Asian child, and all children are interested in their parent’s history. It’s unavoidable and must be dealt with. But it’s also good to respect what she is willing to share and how far she is able to handle going.

    My mother and I are very close and there are times when it, to be hackneyed and cliche, hurts my heart to think about my mom not having a mom like I did. I can never understand that part of her, no matter how much I may want to.

    Awww…I know my children feel this way too. She did a fine job, btw, and produced a loving, caring, thoughtful adult. I sent your address to my daughter. She’s swamped with studies right now, so she might not respond immediately, but I know she’ll be thrilled to have a dialogue with you.

    There was only one other korean girl in my school that I wasn’t related to. She was an adoptee and you would think that we might gravitate to one another, being the only asians in a 98% white school…but we never really talked. I think I now know why she didn’t want to be friends with me.

    Yes, that sounds like my high school. There was only one other Asian girl there, a half Chinese girl who was not adopted. And I avoided her like the plague.

    moved out west a few years ago and had my first experience with “real” koreans. That is actually how I got so interested in the culture. I made a work friend who is second gen KA. She thought it was criminal that I’d never eaten korean food other than kimchi (I’ve always loved kimchi, even as a kid) and that was the beginning.

    Second generation Korean Americans also have elements of not feeling like “real” Asians. They are very open and generous to adoptees. They live their lives as intermediaries and are very fluid and skilled at that. Thank God someone Korean is open to adoptees!

    A couple of years ago my parents moved to the northwest and I followed them out around a year ago. It has been a real trip for her to be around so many asians. Well, I use the “many” lightly, there aren’t that many, but more than she’s used to.

    Really? Then we are neighbors! (at least, when I get back)

    I don’t think she feels very comfortable around koreans. I think that due to her age (from what I understand she was amongst the first of the adoptees. She may have been adopted in 1956, not 1958. She doesn’t talk about it much, so…) a lot of people don’t expect her to be adopted so its doubly awkward.

    Right. This curse never goes away. It’s so different from voluntarily being an outsider, these awkward moments, a whole lifetime of these awkward moments. Even five decades later and living in an increasingly multi-cultural society, our lives are always awkward due to the natural tendency of people to categorize. And their expectations are not unreasonable! WE are the ones out of place, not their expectations. And WE are the ones that must deal with it.

    Discomfort with Koreans is one of the reasons why I’m here in Korea. It’s Korean people phobia therapy. Seriously. Fortunately for your mom she also had Korean sisters to see on a daily basis growing up. But even then, to see only Caucasians all the time (present sister company excluded) and then recognize how radically foreign a Korean face is amongst them is quite destabilizing. At the moment of this destabilization you are thinking Us (white people) and Them (the Korean person) and then you are troubled by something and then it is the memory that, omg, I am one of Them. I look foreign. I don’t belong. It’s not a good feeling. And who wants to have not good feelings?

    Even in Korea, I have moments like this and I have to shake myself and remember that I look like Them even though I’m not one of them.

    Thank you again for providing me with insight without me having to annoy my poor mom again. She may never be able to talk with me about it but if that’s what she needs to do to stay in a good place, then so be it. I can’t let my own selfishness override her emotional health. She’s had enough done to her.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. Talking about this thing that happened to us is good for us, as long as it’s not harassing or jarring. I think it is possible to talk about adoption without being obnoxious and pushing too hard. The word “Probe” comes to mind. Just don’t probe. One should just be extremely sensitive is all.

    And it’s always okay to talk about you and your own experiences to her, which validates her (just like you coming here and asking validates me) and shows her you need her and provides her the opportunity to lend support and exploring her own experiences will be a by-product of that process. While admirable that you are so sensitive to her, you also shouldn’t suppress your own needs. So do talk and share! Just be aware and sensitive to her boundaries.

  6. oh god, it’s me again. I also wanted to mention that my mom was told that she was amerasian and the timeline in which she was adopted would fit that. (Although for my mom and her sisters, it’s hard to see the “amer” part) She was born during a chaotic period, legitimately. I am so glad that I never confronted her like this because she was born during a period that allows her to have a pleasant mythology surrounding her adoption. What kind of asshole would I be to try and poke at that when she clearly doesn’t want me to?

    Yes, Amerasians have had even more pressure to be grateful all their lives. I don’t envy them that. It also makes any pesky disturbing dissatisfaction seem like a sin. All adoptees, even domestic adoptees, have to suffer with this dichotomy of grateful/ingrate. So what would you want to be labeled? And given the harsh realities of our day to day lives, the fallacy of what we must be grateful for becomes a burden of guilt. We are privately, guiltily ungrateful and publicly grateful.

    You are right about allowing her that pleasant mythology.

    I wish other vocal Amerasians wouldn’t impose their gratitude on the rest of us though. Their being saved from a “fate worse than death” is arguable. And their salvation was used to justify saving all the generations of Korean “orphans” thereafter. I tend to rephrase that is being taken from one difficult fate to another difficult fate.

    Sorry about digressing…

    Anyway, you’re not an asshole.

    And as for Korean culture, I had another thought. Second generation (there’s a name for this, but I forget what it is) Korean American culture is its own animal entirely. I’d say enjoy that for what it is! There’s no real need or reason to reach across the ocean for a more authentic Korean identity. The one you experience is the most authentic.

  7. Now I understand why you want to end all adoptions. Thank you.

    I think you know this, but just to clarify, as an abused person I’m definitely not against all adoptions. I believe adoption should be a mutually voluntary proposition. I believe adoptions should be based upon relationships. I believe in local foster-to-adopt scenarios and think that in the absence of open records, guardianship is preferable, as I am against any and all obliteration of original identity.

    I am against international adoptions because they have been reduced to commerce and are based upon an imbalance of power and contribute to perpetuating social injustice. I am very skeptical of transracial adoptions given the severe lack of understanding of transracial issues in the adoptive parent community.

    I am against entitlement, ownership of people, the fetishizing and exotification of ethnic children, and the warping of charity for selfish purposes.

    I believe every child deserves to have parents who respect them enough as people to not violate their person-hood in the manner that is typified by most adoptions today.

  8. The reason I read your blog is because I have a 3 year old, Ethan, who biological belongs to my sister in law on my wife side. However, my wife and I and been raising him since birth. My SIL is an unwed mom and I try to act as a father to him. There is no race issue among all of us because we are all Korean. Your blog gives me the knowledge on how an adoptee deal with identity issues and others. This knowledge have help me in how I need to deal with Ethan and for that I thank you.

  9. Tara,

    Prior to the Collection of One installation a group of female KAD bloggers came over to my place to discuss a proposition similar(?) to your: and that is an on-line locale for a collective voice. There was no consensus on its format, platform, or maintenance duties. But I could forward you to the main proponent of it, as I believe she’s still very interested in it.

    I like this dialogue. I also like being sought out as a respected elder for my real experience. I eschew academia, soap boxes, and belligerence. I have a problem with steady diets of sarcasm and the masturbatory or narcissistic nature of many blogs. I’m trying really hard to not do that and just record and document this experience for the benefit of others.

    I think the problem for me is resources: I only have so much energy. I think that was also the issue with the other bloggers as well. Guest blogging takes energy. I suggested a reader/digest/anthology, but that means someone has to be the editor, and that’s a huge commitment to that person. But we all agreed that it was too bad we do what we do in our own separate spheres. It would be nice to find some way to connect us all.

  10. Ah, I see, David.

    I can’t speak about your situation personally, but I have read about similar situations on private adoptee support boards. I can tell you what these other adoptees say, if you want.

  11. Hello,

    I would love to get in touch with more adoptees and make this happen. It’s important and it is necessary for us as adoptees and for those who are finally starting to hear our voices. Does the reply box show you my email address? If not, let me know and I’ll send it to you.

    Thanks for what you’re doing so far. It’s your blog, so soap boxes and sarcasm are your prerogative. Besides it adds to the whole understanding of our mechanisms for dealing with the life we’re learning to survive in. :D

  12. I’ll forward your email address to them. There are some awesome writers and heavy hitters there!

    My issue was not duplicating effort – every minute of the day is filled with some work or another, it seems. I’d be more inclined to be part of a newsfeed and occasionally contribute something.

    But every day I think – gosh it would be nice to not have something adoption-related to write about – or to have a blog at all. And then a couple days later something provocative happens…So I keep wanting to quit this, but keep getting sucked back in.

  13. Come to think of it, if you have a Korean secret adoption in the United States, then your situation is pretty unique.
    However, intra family adoptions are the oldest form of adoptions and they also preserve the children’s identity – if it’s not secret.

    The adoptee boards (predominantly domestic) have some Late Discovery Adoptees, and they are (understandably so) REALLY PISSED OFF. So, given that secrets are not easy to keep and almost always eventually come to light, if your adoption is secret, you might want to explore letting your son know as soon as possible, in a sensitive way a small child would be able to comprehend.

    Adult adoptees in general are really upset when they find out, as adults, that they have difficulties obtaining passports and (in some states) even drivers licenses, and medical history. Some of the LDA’s don’t find out until they go to obtain a passport. It’s really shocking to see on your birth certificate that you aren’t who you thought you were, and that the only thing to confirm your identity has been amended and that you have no access to that. It’s really shocking to find out you are denied some basic rights available to others – rights you always assumed you had.

    In the case of Korean nationals in Korea there is nothing to state that the birth certificate was amended so the child never knows. In the U.S., all our birth certificates indicate that they are not the original. In the case of International adoptees, we are faced with the ludicrous “fact” that our parents are another race and originate from this country, while were born in another country. In the case of international adoptees whose parents are the same race, that eliminates that ludicrous scenario but the title of the birth certificate will not say, “Certificate of live birth” on it like everyone else’s.

    That being said, also on the boards are a lot of moms who lost their children to adoption. The relinquishing moms and the searching and reunited adoptees are strong allies. They recognize how lack of real options and temporary situations were turned into a permanent and devastating conclusion.

    Basically the newer line of thinking with these members of the adoption community and those who support Open Adoptions is that adoptees can have two families – those that bore them and those that raised them, and that both the children and their parents shouldn’t be denied knowledge of each other just because of the adoptive parents fears and insecurities. Time separates, unfortunately, so nothing can be as it would have been without relinquishment. Likewise, one will always love those that nurture us. But at least the adoptee who has an open adoption can travel the road of life not questioning who they are and where they came from. And having the opportunity to make peace with the one who abandoned you is no small matter, either.

    For me, honesty is always the best policy. And adoption is usually such a big fat lie. And having to live the lies of others is really so unjust I can’t even wrap my head around how unjust that is.

    So I’m sorry I didn’t have more to share and instead gave you my opinion based on assumptions. And, I don’t really need to hear all the details. But, I trust you will take it with my good intention in mind. As a general overview, this is how most of the adoptees I’ve talked to also feel. Hope I’ve been of some help!

  14. The case of Ethan is different. When Ethan came into our lives, I made it point that he will not be adopted to anyone and in no way he will be sent to some stranger but rather we will serve as caretakers. Since the sperm donor wants no part of him, I being the oldest in the family volunteer to look after him as my own. We made a policy of openness before I knew anything about adoption issues. Ethan calls my wife aunt and me father and his mother mom in Korean of course. I did not and still do not believe in secret adoption and I also do not believe a piece of paper holds any merit. Even though my SIL is a lousy mom, we try to get her involve more in Ethan’s life. You know what, just because one can have babies does mean everyone is cut out to be good parents. Recently we made the decision to give Ethan back to his mom and we serve as helpers on the sideline. I hope that we made the right decision. Your blog have confirm that I may have made the right decision but of course only time will tell. Once again, thank you, your blog have help me a lot in many different ways so please do not ever close it.

  15. Loud applause and standing ovation to you, David, in all ways, for respecting Ethan’s identity and intelligence.

    And also I would argue that parenting does NOT come naturally, which is even more reason why the opportunity to learn should not be cut off. Hopefully his mom can adjust – and if not, at least Ethan has you and his aunt, which I still consider family preservation because you are open about it. It won’t be easy for Ethan, but it is much much worse to never have known an attempt or ones own identity.

  16. I don’t know how I ever missed this post…but now as a new mom, I can relate to it even more than I probably would have already, if that makes sense.

    Your words are a comfort to me. I in particular relate so much to the following:

    ‎”I think it was more because I felt if it was no longer my culture, then how could it possibly become hers? (my mixed race daughter – my son hasn’t chimed in on the discussion yet) It would lack authenticity, which I would be incapable of giving her. It felt like a road to frustration and destruction, and I didn’t want her to end up feeling as empty as I did. More so because I didn’t try.”

    AND

    “We have had to kill so many negative feelings being exported, you just can’t imagine. Since we can’t really kill the feelings we do the next best thing, and take away their name and throw them into the same drawer. And we try to lock them up and throw away the key, but the draw is full to bursting. Your mom [an adult adoptee] can’t talk about her feelings, because she probably can’t identify them. She can probably only generically know that they don’t feel good…”

    A perfect metaphor. So poignantly captures how I have dealt with my emotions about my adoption for so long…

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