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Over for now

April 9, 2011

Quite unexpectedly, my search has come to an end. Having survived my trek to the Korean grocery store, I got home to find an email from Dillon that they had an update on my search. I emailed back straight away and the director of the search program called me within minutes. Here is what the Korean agency told them:

According to the intake worker’s report in the file, the birth parents had two daughters aged 5 and 3 at that time. They were poor. In addition, the birth father wanted a son. The birth father was 33 years old and the birth mother was 29 years old at the time of intake. They lived in Incheon.

The birth mother is 160 cm in height and tended to be plump. She is cheerful in personality. The birth mother’s age is listed as 20 on the referral paper. It is a mistake in typing it. The birth mother’s age is 29.

We do not have identifying information about the birth parent besides the name and their age. We see the possibility of locating them is very slim.

The birth hospital was located in Incheon and it has torn down.

There is no identifying information about the foster mother.

I felt fine on the phone. I took it in stride. I think I was in shock or something. “Uh huh. OK. What was her height, again? Stupid metric system.” I think this may have seemed really weird to the director, who asked me, “Are you OK?” several times. She was really nice, and that must be a very hard job. She even apologized that there wasn’t more information, and for the poor odds of finding anything else. I felt like she was apologizing for the whole system being so completely effed up.

A day later, I’m in a daze. I’m functioning, but I am distracted. I know I’m still processing everything. I feel the pain of true grief. An intense, visceral sadness that makes my heart so heavy I can barely stand it. I’ve lost something important. A glimmer of hope that is now only shadow and emptiness. It comes and goes and comes like a sucker-punch.

I am trying to decide what to believe. How could the information on my paperwork be so different from what they’re telling me now, and why does this foreign agency get to decide what I am allowed to know about my own past? There is a world of difference between 20 and single and 29 and married. I have a whole family out there. It’s not just a young mother who couldn’t raise me, or wasn’t allowed to. I have sisters! Am I allowed to be angry now? Can I be furious, instead of sympathetic and grateful? One fucking chromosome.

I wanted to see someone who might look like me. Now, I think it’s kind of creepy that there are at least two full-blood siblings that probably look more like me than my birthmother. I wonder if those girls know about me. I wonder if my birthparents tried again for a boy. I wonder how many other girls they gave up. I wonder when they found out I was going to be a girl instead of the boy they wanted. How many months did they have to make an adoption plan?

To add insult to injury, I can’t visit my birthplace, because they tore it down. What happened to all those records? Did they just throw them away? Nor can I see my foster mother. I wept for her more than my birthmother. I actually have a picture of her. She’s the one that took care of me all those months until the Korean government gave me a passport. It’s she that I would want to let know that I’m all right.

I wept for my infant self, rejected for being the wrong gender. I wept for my newborn broken heart, let down by the people who were supposed to love and protect me most. I wept for the family I will never meet. I wept for their poverty. I wept for the system of shame. I wept because it felt good. I wept because I didn’t know what else to do. I wept because I was angry. I wept until I couldn’t stop.

Part of me didn’t think they would find anything at all. Part of me thought they would find a little, then a little more. I just didn’t think it would be over and done so fast. I thought I could be facing my past when I went to Korea, literally face-to-face with a family member. Now, it seems the trip is just a lovely excuse to see a foreign country, even if it is significantly the one of my birth. The trip is somehow less laden with expectation and anxiety. In some ways, it’s a relief that I don’t have to make the decision to meet anyone. But, like every other aspect of adoption, the decision has been made for me, which really pisses me off. The initial paperwork that asked, “Are you ready to not be in control?” now seems laughable. Isn’t life just one thing after another that you can’t control?

They know their names. I can ask them that. They may not tell me, though. I guess it doesn’t really matter now. The name I was given isn’t theirs anyway, and that’s the one I’m attached to. I could place ads in newsletters and on TV, but I think I’m done for now. I’m tired. So, so, very tired.

I’ve read that after searching, adoptees often find themselves even more dedicated to the families that adopted them, and I’m already finding that to be true. I have a growing awareness of my parents’ struggle to have children, and appreciation for their decision to adopt. I am angry for their younger selves, the childless couple that waited on a useless list for two years, and was flat-out denied a black baby because they weren’t the right color. I am in awe of their perseverance to complete their family. I crumple in the face of my mother’s open heart when she tells me that it wasn’t my fault, and patiently tells me their story, my story, our story, of how we became a family. I am no longer conflicted about my adoption. I am still negotiating my racial and ethnic identity, but I am grateful that I am here now, wanted and loved by the parents that chose me, and the people I have chosen to be my family.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. sarah permalink
    April 10, 2011 9:26 am

    Oh, love. I’m sitting here a weepy mess. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m so glad to be a part of your family. Love you. Xo.

  2. April 10, 2011 9:31 am

    I’m very sorry, Betsy. It is indeed like losing them a second time. But let me add something that I’ve noticed over the past few posts. When Darien spoke at his brother’s memorial service, his acting teacher/theater advisor came up to him afterwards and said that he saw him standing in a new place of power. Right now in your blog I see you standing with a new firmness as well. Frankly, I am dazzled by your writing on this subject. I don’t know if this is a consolation, but it’s very clear to me that you have embarked on a profound identity quest and that you are discovering who you are in ways that go beyond birth mothers and foster mothers and even adoptive parents and step parents. You are becoming you in a deep way.

  3. April 10, 2011 9:32 am

    I’m sorry, not step parents but parents-in-law.

  4. April 10, 2011 3:50 pm

    Oh, you lovely, lovely broken hearted woman. Oh, that I had some magical healing sweetness to pour into all those broken places. All I have are more tears.

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