In Your Language

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What is it like to be an adult and mother who was adopted?


Hello adoptive family and professionals. Let me explain in stages to highlight that there are SHIFTS in understanding for the continually growing adopted person (and hopefully non-adopted people) such as myself. Of course I cannot speak for all adopted children, but I can give you proof that they will see the light.

As an adopted child, I was tripped up with the confusion of why my parents weren't a part of my personal healing. I had expectations of them that were unfounded and it is quite possible that they were unable to meet them even if they tried. I took the disappointments more personally. Every disappointment triggered a mental state of lack of confidence and absent self worth. In a sense, I was expecting things of external sources when I was supposed to be the source.

As an adopted adult, before marriage and becoming a mother, I was in my blaming stage. I was done being hurt on an ongoing basis and was, for the most part, blaming my adoptive parents for my misery. That blame, in some part, was misplaced. I should have reserved some space to point the finger at myself. I probably should have had brain space to be bitter toward my biological mother and family. But for some reason, I never was. It was easy to apply faulty attribution onto my adoptive parents assuming that they were "awful" to me because I wasn't really their child and "naturally" my bio mother would have been better. It's difficult to explain, but I never actively compared my adopted and bio parents because I had no recollection of my bio parents to make that comparisons. I was going off assumptions- but could you blame me?

Then when I married the first time at age 24, I came to a crossroads in my life. I knew motherhood was on the horizon and that I'd be forced to adjust my understanding of my involvement (or lack thereof) in both my adopted and bio families. When I became pregnant for the first time, I was triggered into a frenzy. I was afraid I would be a horrible mother because I had no secure relationship with my adopted mother. I didn't know what a healthy, enriching relationship was made of or looked like. One of my proudest moments (no- not really), was crying to my cat "How could I be a mother to a girl?!"

At a point of my life where I felt much loss from my adoptive and bio families, suddenly Jasmin filled the void, at least as much as she ever was supposed to. The rest of the void was meant to be filled by Almighty God. I relished getting to know my baby. I took pictures like no-one's business because I had none of my own baby stages. I was trying to make up for that loss and it pretty much worked for me. Every year I tried to envision who I was through my daughter. As if she could show me who I was when in fact I was the one who lived it- not her.

When she was about 2 years old, I was finally able to reunite with my family in Korea. I was hit with so much emotion, that I seemed emotionless for the first 10 minutes. Then the tears feel as if I was making up for lost time. I was no longer crying for my mother, I was crying because I was in her arms. The best thing I ever did for my healing journey was deciding to share my American adoption story in the raw form- no sugar coating. I told her what I silently repeated for years- that I would have chosen poverty just to live with her. Without going overboard, I knew I wasn't supposed to "make her feel better."

We spent time in ways that only make sense when you've been reunited after 24 years. She brushed my hair. She told me I used to sing as a child. She told me I had "million dollar eyes." We slept in the same bed, in Korean style (the norm). She cooked for me. She held my hand most of the time we were together. It was three days worth of editing the way I look at my life. It was a priceless gift. I was heartbroken to return to the states. But there held my only daughter... I had no other choice. I would not abandon my own child after what I experienced.

What I didn't expect to think about during the reunion was how much was missing between me and my biological mother. She didn't know what I preferred; what I enjoyed; what I wore to prom. Only my adopted mother knew those things. My adopted life contained my identity, not my country of origin. Korea holds my family but not the essence of who I am. I left having even more appreciation and empathy for my adoptive parents. I began to see the pain my parents experienced from raising me and before me. I wasn't able to recognize that while I was engrossed in part-time misery.

I guess by the natural pace of life, by the time she was 4.5 years old (when I was adopted), I stopped looking to her to assuage the mystery of my first years of life. About that time, I was also able to bring Jasmin with me back to Korea. Jasmin never met my adopted mother, but fortune gave me the opportunity to introduce her to my Korean family and to where I came from. It was healing to see my Korean mother love on Jasmin. I saw similarities between the three generations of females. It seemed to be enough for me.

Shortly after we came back to the states, I met my husband.  He already had two sons by his first wife. She was leery about me at first, but then she gave me the nod of approval. Before I realized what was happening, she bowed out of the boys' lives. I was put in the position to be their only female guardian for the time being. I never signed up to be their only "mother", I was envisioning a team effort. Ironically enough, I vowed that I'd never adopt; but that is essentially what has happened. I've adopted the boys in my heart and even when their mother steps back into their life, I will consider them to be my sons as well.

So now that I'm an "adoptive" mother by heart, I see my adoption in a different light. I can appreciate what my adoptive parents were up against with me. I can also use my experiential knowledge to help guide me to be a worthy parent to the boys. Now I look back and see how much of this metamorphosis was out of my power; that it was all meant to be. I love my family. Everything that I've gone through HAS (without a doubt) been for a purpose. And for that knowledge and confidence, I am so thankful and blessed.

So I share this with you, adoptive or prospective parents, so that you can be encouraged that today, as good or bad as it is, will not forecast the rest of your life. There are many twists and turns that will come with being parent that will spin your life into an amazing tapestry.  Don't forget to step back and to the side once in a while to see those small periods of growth. You are doing a great work through and with these children.

Video of my Reunion Story

Many blessings to you~

Here I am Again

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