Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day
When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to
Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its favor.
I thank you that
You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire and to love.
I thank you, Mother.– Mother, a Cradle to Hold Me, Maya Angelou
I love you.”
How do you know?
Do you think she always loved you?
Would she change her mind?
Do you trust what Eastern says?
Did you ever feel like your parents weren’t, you know, your real parents?
Would your parents be scared that you would, like, choose your birth family over them?
Are you hurt that this happened?
What would life would have been like if you stayed in Korea?
I don’t know.
Yes… I think so.
Sometimes, in ways that I probably can’t explain.
No, I don’t think so, but they’d support me even if I did. I also wouldn’t do that.
Definitely it hurts, but I don’t think there’s any mal-intent.
That’s not even a fair question, honestly. I have no idea.
These are some questions I commonly get in conversations regarding my birth family and adoption.
Family has always been an interesting thing to me. I love my family, no doubt. But I have friends and chosen-family that I’m closer to than family tree relatives. I have family members that I am not really fond of, I have family members that I’m not close to in the slightest. My best friend Anders is the best brother I have ever had. I have many mothers, aunts, big sisters, and grandmas.
There’s truly a “it takes a village” theme in my life. “I love my family and my family loves me very much” covers a wide, wide swath of people. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for the overflowing love and support I receive from many sources. And, I’m a disco ball to this love and support. I absorb love from those sources and blast it out in a million different directions.
The greatest source of that love is my mother.
I miss my mother everyday, if not, then almost everyday. She’s been my rock. She’s made mistakes but has never faltered for me.
When I prepared to leave for Korea, she told me I’d have to send her an emoji or something everyday so she’d know I was doing okay.
My mother, who loves me, says “I honor and respect your journey.”
I didn’t question my mother’s love for me as a child. I knew she was my mother.
I questioned my birth mother’s love for me and I also knew she was my mother.
A powerful dynamic has grown in the relationships I have with my adoptive and biological mother.
I wonder about what she would have told me as a child. I wonder how she and my birth father would have talked about strategies to raise me, or who gets the final say in things. Would there be a “go ask your 엄마//go ask your 아빠” kind of thing that happens when I asked if I could climb on the roof or something? Do I look like them? What do they sound like?
There’s this alternative reality that’s always been a shadow for me. I saw it when kids made fun of me for being different. I saw it when all the leaders in my community were white and middle aged. I see it when I hear stories about fellow adoptees having their birthdates changed by adoption agencies. I see here it when I welcome my class of kindergartners in the morning. I see it when I go out for hangover lunches with my coworkers.
There’s this elusive truth-thing that I just can’t really wrap my head around.
It’s this nagging feeling. The voice that tells me “It’s not good enough and you’re not good enough.” It’s the deep insecurity that I’m only an inconvenience and that I mess up whatever I’m a part of anyway, so why even try? It’s the 50 foot stick that sneaks its way between me and my loved ones that I can’t figure out how to get rid of. It’s the doubt that’s always creeping when someone really cares.
And it’s the journey that I’m on.
The imposter’s reality. The yellow-tinted matrix. The elusive truth-thing reflection. I’m just peering into it. Observing and taking notes. Trying to navigate my way through it without losing myself in the process (maybe that’s the point?).
In January, I re-opened my search for my birth family here in Korea. The process was pretty unimpressive. I talked with a social worker on a couch in the hallway outside the worker’s office at Eastern Child Welfare. She asked me to fill some paper work out and we reviewed a file that was 60% Christmas Cards my mom sent to Korea every year and 40% things that I had already been given from the Children’s Home Society in Minnesota.
I met my Foster Mother, which was a really restorative experience. But, of course, I had high hopes for a family search.
After about a month, on February 21st, I heard back that they had found my birth mother.
It’s hard not to have expectations going into a process like this.
I’ve met adoptees whose birthgrandparents told the parents that their baby died, and then gave them to social services. One story about a birthfather who was Korean CIA, and it would have been easier to just give the baby up to “avoid risks.” Plenty of peers have told me that their birth parents plain didn’t want anything to do with them.
I got an email forwarded to me from my social worker back in MN. It went like this:
Dear Ms. Susan Walker,
We hope this email finds you well.
We’re writing about Moon, Bo Suk (95C-0614, aka Karl Johnson).
He visited the agency and reviewed a file January 10, 2020 and asked to search for birth parents.
The below is his email address.
We asked to NCRC (National Center for the Rights of the Child) to find recent address of birth parents.
After we got a reply to NCRC, we sent the birth mother a certified mail and got contact.
According to the birth mother, she got married another man (not the birth father) and no one knows about him.
Her father had stomach cancer and was addicted to alcohol, and she is in the early stage of stomach cancer.
She was too afraid that her family would know about it and was so anxious.
She cried and asked not to contact any more.
It is hard to find the birth mother.
According to NCRC, the birth father is found nowhere as his information is not enough.
It is hard to find the birth father.
short breathing. heavy breathing.
some static-y questions. a lot of questions.
a really big “f*ck!” and then, “what happens now?”
What happens now?
Of course I’m sad. Of course I’m disappointed. And my first reminder to myself is to “be kind to yourself.” and to remember how loved and supported I am by my close family. I think, in regards to my relationship with my birthmother, in the past I’d very much believe that I was not worth knowing. I’d let the “You’re shit and nothing else”-tape continue playing uninterrupted.
My adoption has always built a lot of my identity. It’s in my foundation and much of the pillars that build who I am today. But I’ve come to learn that I constantly need to reconcile the relationship that I have with my birthmom. It’s something that I’ll always have, I’ll always grieve, and always need to heal and re-heal.
The loudest blurt I have is that I want to support her and her father. Of course I do. I’ve had many relatives go through battles with cancer, other diseases, and life-changing medical procedure. If anything, my journey with grief, loss, and healing has put me in a good position to support my family.
I’ve written a letter to leave with Eastern. They’ll tell my birthmother she can pick it up if she chooses. Part of me says “why bother? She doesn’t want to be contacted.” Part of me says “Hey you never know, it’s okay to hope.” And part of me says “at the very least, it’s good for you and your own conscience.” And I really question that and the true purpose of a response letter. She has as much stake in this relationship that I do and of course has healing to do, like me.
At the end of the day, though, this is another step on my way. It’s shining some light on the shadows. It’s looking into the separate reality a little bit deeper. Of course it’s not the end-all-be-all. And it’s not a definitive statement or some ultimatum for me on my narrative with my adoption.
much love. shine on.