May 31, 2006

The Sham of Closure

From Claud, Musings of the Lame:

No one warns you that that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and the
shaking hands, and beating heart..at the mention of the word adoption..will
continue to be your companion long after you lose your pregnacy weight and the kicks in your bladder are nothing but fond memories. You might get though the endless nights of silent screams and soaked with tears pillows..but that ache in the gut will be here to stay
.

Read the entire post here.

I think I have allowed myself to believe that by adopting, I've helped my children's first parents, especially their mothers who carried and bore them, move on with their lives, come to closure. But from what I'm reading, there is no closure. It's just a phrase society has invented to tidy up the details for those of us who do move on - because we have the children.

May 28, 2006

Mother, Mom

In church today a family with a young child took the pew in front of us. The little girl, perhaps close to two, was an active little one, and it didn't take her long to get herself stuck on the kneeler between her seat and the pew ahead of her.

"Mama!" she cried, and mama helped. A simple cry, a simple response. Whether mama was this child's birth mother or adoptive mother wasn't part of this equation. She could have been either.

I thought a bit about this in the context of adoption, especially the language of adoption. Language can be powerful, and decades of using the titles birth parent and adoptive parent may have actually shaped the way we think of these people, the one now viewed in terms of the single event of birth, the other perceived as impermanent and unreal.

The women to whom my children were born are their lifegivers, their ties to families that share their genes. They are links to their past, hoped-for participants in their future. Always a part of them, even when separated from them by adoption.

I am my children's supporter, here as life unfolds to teach, nurture, and guide; to take the bad with the good, the challenges with the successes. I'm connected to them by the shared events of a lifetime. But I can never say I gave birth to them, and can never replace the one who did.

We're all mothers, all moms. Bound by the experiences, good and bad, that converge on our children.

May 27, 2006

Adoptive Parents, Read These

Read these posts, which will open your eyes to the complexity of the relationships our children's first mothers have with their children, their children's adoptive parents, and themselves.

Recovering Birthmother
I Am Allowed to Change My Mind
Finding Voice

And on Kim Kim's blog this week is a post with these just these words:

Adoption is when a stranger becomes your mother and your mother becomes a stranger

Please read what these mothers have to say.

May 26, 2006

Loss Loss Loss

Being new to blogging, I haven’t figured out how to take it all in in small doses. I’ve spent every free minute the last couple of days reading. And reading. And reading.

What I’ve found out there is a world of sorrow, a world of people sick with loss, frustration, anger. I’ve read more pain in the last three days then I’ve read in the past 40 years.

So many people seeking the connections they lost as infants, toddlers, children. So many mothers yearning to find children the were encouraged to relinquish years ago.

And so much anger directed toward adoptive parents, who are no more than the symbols of a system of abuse, enablers of an inhuman response to human need. Adopters. Abductors.

These issues aren't new to me, but I'm numb from the sheer volume of pain.

May 23, 2006

Individuals

My husband and I have two great kids. They came to us as infants, our son at almost six months, and our daughter at almost four months. They're now 17 and 15.

Our son is the older of the two. He's the intellectual in the family, into theater, drama, music. He's the kind of person who takes everything seriously and to heart, whose emotions are always on his sleeve. He also has a great sense of humor.

Our daughter is the original sunshine child. She's relaxed and happy, sociable and easygoing - except when she's competing in sports, her passion. She can be a cutthroat competitor, but fortunately is a good sport and gets over losses quickly.

How different they are! I remember an incident when they were around two and four that illustrates this perfectly. On the way home from day care one day, the sun began to stream into the back window, getting into their eyes. Our daughter turned her head away to avoid the sunshine, no big deal. Our son, on the other hand, turned directly toward it, raised his hand, and cried, "Stop, sun!!"

Not only were they different from each other, but neither seemed to fit the descriptions of Korean adoptees that I read about in adoption literature. Although I got a lot of good advice from the articles and books I read and programs I attended, I found it had to be applied sparingly, in bits and pieces.

Adoptive parents walk a fine line between over- and under-acknowledging the presence of adoption in our children's lives. We're afraid to miss important cues to adoption-related issues, but at the same don't want to attribute every problem our children experience to adoption.

Adoption is one of many facets of our children's identities. They're individuals, and it's their individuality that we should nurture most of all.

May 20, 2006

Guilt

I spoke at an adoption-related program awhile ago, and the subject of guilt and shame came up. The specific question asked was "Have you experienced guilt or shame about adoption, and if so what caused it?"

Over the years I have found my thoughts about adoption becoming ever darker. In the beginning of our adoption experience, I could see only positives - positive solution to a birth mother's dilemma, positive opportunities for our children, positive joy for us.

But over time I have come to know that Korean birth mothers - married and unmarried - receive virtually no support from their families, friends, and government at the time they most need it. Families that fall into poverty may orchestrate an adoption, sometimes going to the extent of pretending their child died in childbirth, because they have no alternative when their financial means do not allow another mouth to feed. Unmarried single parents remain outside the norm of Korean society, so young women with children but no husbands find few opportunities, and receive little support from the community.

It is ultimately my fault that I did not understand these facts at the time my husband and I adopted. The entitlement with which Americans, particularly white Americans, approach the adoption of children from other countries closes our eyes at the time at which they should be wide open. Those of us who come to adoption from infertility are often so emotionally drained from that experience that our eyes see only the child, and never even flicker across the faces of the birth mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings left behind when our children come to us.

My first encounter with my children's birth parents came at the airport when we met our son, our first child. He was so unlike my husband and me - among the very first questions that came to our lips were questions about his birth family. And the realization that a woman was undoubtedly grieving on the other side of the globe wasn't far behind.

That realization has grown over the years into the constant presence of my children's birth parents, particularly the mothers who bore them and wept as they were taken away to new families. Although they may have made the only decision available to them, the injustice of it cannot be denied.

I don't want to feel guilty for having adopted, but I do. This feeling of guilt does not displace my joy at being a parent, at having a family. Rather, it reminds me that along with the joy of being a parent, I have an obligation to advocate for social systems in Korea that make it unnecessary for families to part with their children for want of financial aid or social acceptance.

Read more about the evolving Korean perspective on intercountry adoption in The Korea Herald and The Korea Times:
Lawmaker pushes ban on overseas adoption, May 10, 2006
Domestic adoption policy desperately needed, May 11, 2006
Adoption Day: Measures Needed to Promote Adoption, May 11, 2006
Koreans Should Adopt Babies, May 14, 2006

May 16, 2006

Pendulum

I'm on a pendulum that's swinging from side to side, taking me with it.

On one side of the pendulum is a family. Husband, wife, children. The family lives comfortably; although not rich, they have enough. The children are active, do well in school, have friends and activities. They speak a language different from their homeland's, don't look like their parents, and share no ethnic heritage or genetic ties with them. But the family is happy, its members content to be related as they are.

On the other side of the pendulum is another family. I'm not sure who this family's members are, if there is a husband, wife, other children. I don't know how they live, whether or not they have have necessities and luxuries, or if they struggle. I do know that the family's members look much like one another and that they live in the country of their family's history. I also know this: That someone is missing from this family, a son or daughter who was parted from one or all of them. I also know that someone in this family wonders if they made the right decision all those years ago.

The pendulum swings back and forth. When it swings toward the first family - mine - I feel the deep happiness that comes with being a parent and living a typical family life. But when the pendulum swings toward the other, I feel conflict and pain. Without this family's loss, my family wouldn't exist.

Now, years later, a birth mother, birth father or birth family lives with a loss I cannot begin to comprehend. I can't change the past that led to their loss, but I can affect the future. And I can tell them this:
  • I acknowledge your pain
  • I recognize that you were pushed to your decision by circumstances beyond your control
  • I am sad that I have the parenting experience that is rightfully yours
  • I love our children with all my heart
  • I hope you meet and know them one day
Would my husband and I have still adopted had we known then what we know now? I honestly don't know. But to cast that decision in today's light would be a betrayal of the commitment I made to my children then to love them for all time.

And so the pendulum continues to swing.