Open Letter to My Birth Mother

As part of my magazine column, I interviewed last week the subject of my next article, an international adoptee who is a half Vietnamese, half American and who was part of Operation Babylift, the high profile humanitarian effort led by the United States days before the Fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War. Without going into too much detail so as to save the good stuff for the magazine, I learned that this adoptee was reunited with his birth mother when, 18 years later, his adoption agency moved from a closed adoption policy to an open adoption one. This change allowed the agency to release to adoptees any type of communication their biological families tried to give them after the adoption became official. For my interview subject, this came in the form of a letter his birth mother wrote to him shortly after she gave him up for adoption.

The whole idea got me thinking not so much about what my birth mother might have been thinking when she gave me up for adoption but more so what I would say to her in the situation of an open adoption policy now that I am a thriving, happy adult. I guess what I would say to her would be something like this: Continue reading “Open Letter to My Birth Mother”

Asian American and Adopted

The following is reprinted on this blog with permission by AsiaTrend Magazine. It originally appeared in AsiaTrend Magazine’s May 2015 issue.

Adopted America: Asian American and Adopted

Ever since I can remember, I have known I was adopted. I suppose it would have been irresponsible of my parents to keep it a secret from me because it would have become quickly obvious – me, a Korean child being raised in an Irish-Catholic family.

For my brother Ben who was not adopted, the reality of our blended family never occurred to him until one day on the school bus some kid told him he and I couldn’t be siblings because we looked different.

“I thought the kid had lost his mind,” my brother has since told me. “I’m not exactly sure if that had any specific impact on me, but that was the point when I first recall the notion.”

I don’t know much about the first six months of my life, or if I have other siblings in Korea or any who have also been adopted internationally, but what I do know I can’t completely trust to be accurate. Continue reading “Asian American and Adopted”

How We Talk (and Don’t Talk) about Our Adoptions

A friend of mine, like me, was adopted from Korea into an American family as a young child. Unlike me, however, he was not an infant; he was an older child when he was separated from his biological family. Contrary to the experience of many adoptees from Korea, he has memories of his birth family, a full and accurate story of why he was given up for adoption, and photos of his biological family members. He also has an incredibly sad story about his adoption, which he shared with me in confidence. Continue reading “How We Talk (and Don’t Talk) about Our Adoptions”

Thoughts on Mother’s Day as an Adoptee

Ever since I started this journey of further exploring the concept of adoption, I’ve noticed two things happening to me: firstly, many of the opinions have I had about adoption before have only become more solidified the more I read about it, the more I read other adoptees’ experiences and the more I begin to learn about my own adoption story. Secondly, with that all being said, I’ve also been exposed to so many new perspectives that I have never considered before. Previously, I had my perspective as an adoptee and the unique perspective of my adoptive parents. And that was it. Perhaps this was due to how small my world has been until now when it came to the issue of adoption. I kept this world small by choice for a number of reasons that I am sure will eventually be exposed as this journey continues. But now that I have slowly expanded my boundaries on the topic, I’ve learned that there is the perspective of the birth parent(s), of siblings of those who have been adopted, of strangers who see blended families and react appropriately or inappropriately and of society as a whole. All these points of view have given me much to consider.

And so here I am on the eve of Mother’s Day thinking about someone I have never thought of before on this holiday. My birth mother. To me, it doesn’t make sense that I should be thinking about her. For one thing, she lives in a country that does not traditionally celebrate Mother’s Day. For another, I don’t know this woman and most of all, I don’t actually consider her to be my mother. She is my birth mother, yes, but I have a mother, and it’s not her. My mother is of German descent. She lives in Minnesota and makes casseroles, hooks rugs, bakes pies and communicates in English. She votes Democrat and watches Netflix when she isn’t playing with her grandchildren who are, like herself, Caucasian, and the children of my brother who was not adopted. Despite this odd mash-up of random characteristics — characteristics that to an outsider don’t seem to have much to do with me —  she still is, in every sense of the word, my mother.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this all goes back to this world of mine that is slowly expanding…reading about birth mothers’ reactions to this holiday, reading about other adoptees’ thoughts on Mother’s Day and exposing myself to views that show me how the word “mother” can be so complicated for those whose lives are affected by adoption.

Nothing, I am learning, is always so neatly clear-cut for everyone. There are perspectives we don’t always hear, but when we do hear them, they open up to us a whole new world.

From the Perspective of an Adoptive Parent

Picture 3
Childhood photo with me and my brother Ben.

Even to this day, our mom likes to tell the story of people’s reactions to seeing her as a young mother with me and my brother when we were babies and young kids. (Because I was adopted and my brother was not, we are essentially so close in age that we qualify as Irish Twins. There is one week in September when we are even the same age!) Apparently strangers would come up to her, showering my brother and me with attention, which scared us because they’d be right up there in our faces, sometimes even touching us. All the while they would be saying to our mother, “Oh, did you adopt?” To which she would always reply, “Yes, but for the life of me I can’t remember which one.” And with that, she’d take off with us, leaving the well-intentioned but over-bearing strangers behind trying to sort out what exactly they just heard.

It’s a cute story, but it did get me thinking…adoptees are used to hearing it all, sometimes personal questions from well-intentioned people and sometimes ignorant reactions from those who just don’t get it. But it never occurred to me until hearing this story again as an adult that adoptive parents have probably heard it all too.

Living in a blended family can certainly draw all sorts of attention, both good and bad. And it’s not just the adoptee who is affected. It’s an experience the entire family goes through at one point or another.