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:
Dear Birth Mother,
If there is one thing I would like for you to know, it is that life for me has turned out to be pretty good. Because of your decision to give me up for adoption, I was blessed to have been raised by a loving family in the United States who not only was able to provide the best for me, but who also gave me the love and quality parenting all children deserve.
If the decision for you to give me up for adoption was difficult, please know that things couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. I don’t mean to say that growing up adopted was easy, however I have come to realize that growing up at all has its challenges, and I am grateful to have survived it with only minor scars. If, on the other hand, the decision to give me up was a no-brainer, then know that it was a win-win situation. We both walked away from this one, at the very minimum, with what we wanted.
So how have I turned out? Not bad. I’m healthy – something, I have learned, one shouldn’t take for granted, no matter what age. I’ve been well educated, well traveled and well challenged — an experience everyone, I feel, must have in order to learn how to be humble and grateful.
I work in what many consider to be the most powerful city in the world – Washington, D.C. I’m a fundraiser, using my research and writing skills to raise millions of dollars for an organization that provides public policy recommendations to Congress. I’m not a super star at my job — it’s hard to stand out when you’re surrounded by so much intelligence and talent — but I do well enough. I work hard. I learn a lot. And I offer much to the collective effort of my organization.
I’m blessed to have friends from all over the world — a product of my travels and time working overseas. And while women my age have been married for years now, I remain single — a by-product of my years traversing the globe, rarely staying in one place for very long due to the many opportunities that have come my way — opportunities I have jumped at with no regrets. Despite all this, I do have a good man in my life who might become my husband one day. So I’m okay with how things have turned out for me. They certainly could be worse.
You may or may not be saddened to know that I am not, in any way, Korean. That became very evident to me when I lived in Korea from 2002-2007. I am, in every sense of the word, American. Many Koreans couldn’t accept that about me when I lived there, but the experience has only increased my knowledge of myself, and that, I have learned, is a stage many people try to reach but never do — self acceptance. Self knowledge. Self contentment.
So please know that your decision to give me up for adoption on September 11, 1977 was the right one. I have had so many opportunities I know I would not have had in Korea, muchless in a family situation that was not ideal for raising a child. And while I may have inherited your temper, your near-sightedness, your freckles and your weakness for savory foods, I also have inherited a very rational mind, a hunger for learning, a talent for writing and a sense of adventure that might be tame compared to others, but is certainly not suppressed.
If you ever have moments when you worry about me, please don’t. I have my challenges like we all do, but over all, I’m doing just fine. You truly could not have wished for a better life for me, and for all you have done for me in those few moments we had together, thank you.