Thursday, September 16, 2010

Precious, Painful Treasure: The First 5 days of My Life with Omma

[Just a note: There has been an ongoing discussion in response to a post entitled, "The choice to adopt is a luxury choice." Some significant comments have been made to which I need to respond, and furthermore, I, not surprisingly, simply have more that I'd like to share regarding this discussion. I actually have a completed entry that I will post soon. But, for now, I had to take a break from the discussion due to a letter I received from my Omma just two days ago...]

I just received one of the most intense letters from my Omma thus far. She opened up to me for the first time about her memories of her pregnancy and giving birth to me. I learned details about my beginnings, about our beginnings—that is, my Omma’s and my beginnings as mother and daughter—that I have never known.

When I traveled to Korea at the end of June last year to reunite with her for the first time in 30+ years, I had asked her what she remembered from that time. I asked her if she could share with me what it was like for her when she was pregnant with me.

What were her circumstances? What was life like for her during that time?

When she gave birth to me, was she alone or was someone with her?

Did she ever get to hold me?

She choked up with tears and answered that she could not talk about that time in her life because it was too painful. That was over a year ago.

Perhaps she has chosen to finally open up because she feels more secure, more hopeful that I will be able to better understand her and her circumstances, now that I myself am preparing to give birth.

Perhaps she hopes that my own experience of carrying a child and giving birth will help me to grasp with more compassion and humility, less judgment and condemnation, what and why things unfolded as they did.

But the truth is that I never sought her out to judge her or to condemn her. I never sought her out to accuse or to demand recompense. I sought her out because she and I have always been a part of each other. I sought her out because I wanted to have hope that it is never too late. I sought her out because I wanted to know her and to have a relationship with her, fully aware that pain and sorrow would remain, yet hoping that healing and redemption would overcome.

And now that we are here, now that I have sought her and found her, we both must be patient with one another. Although it is not too late, although we can now know one another and have a relationship with each other, the pain and sorrow that remain make the process of healing and redemption slow and fragile.

Although I begin to feel more assured that things will not again suddenly break apart, the insecurity, the fear of such happening are always there. Hence, there is a timidity and a trepidation with which we both proceed that is not easily overcome. Yet, what matters is that we continue on.

What matters is that she is now allowing herself to open up. And what sorrow and suffering she has known. My heart aches with her as I read her words over and over.

To those who have always known how their lives began, it’s easy to take for granted that they can know seemingly mundane details about their beginnings. They can forget how meaningful it is to know that their own mothers held them and nursed them in those first days. They can forget how significant it is to be able to know that they were kissed and caressed by the one who gave them birth. Such details are nothing noteworthy or unique to them, because they have always been assumed.

But to people like me, it is precious, painful treasure. To people like me, it is knowledge that is not so easily assumed but rather questioned and received with angst and hopeful tears.

To discover that I was born by Caesarean is like a golden shard lodged in my throat. To learn for the first time that my Omma and I actually spent the first five days of my life together, as she recovered, is like rubbing jagged jewels in my eyes. Discovering that she nursed me during our brief time together is like a bittersweet elixir sinking into my stomach with the weight of an anvil.

Knowing that we had any time together at all—no matter how short or brief those moments —blankets me as though I am both cold and hot.

And there are deep, secret thoughts that she uttered with her written words that I am not inclined to share.

But to those who would say that the only women who relinquish their children are those who have brought it upon themselves, I would first want to shake you with tears of sorrow and grief choking my rage, pleading with you to open your eyes and mind and heart. But I know that you would not hear me. I know that you would simply dismiss me as crazed and unenlightened. I know that my Omma’s story, my Omma’s truth would mean nothing to you, because she is only one woman, only one person. And it seems that one is never enough to convince the many.

Instead, life after life must be forfeited until the trail is a grave of losses and sorrows upon sorrows. And even then, the world may continue to pass by, muttering exceptions and rationalizations as it steps over those who have tried time and time again to rise up, but have found no one to believe in them.

It is not to say that there are not those who have been so willing to reach out and grasp onto to those who cannot make it alone. But there are still those who remain ignored and despised.

My Omma has had to endure such a life.

Of course, she is not perfect. She has not lived a blameless life. But who of us has?

If only the world had been so willing to believe in her as it had been so willing to believe in me. The world saw me as a helpless, innocent child, with no responsibility for the situation thrust upon me. But, ultimately, not one of us is innocent. And ultimately, we all long for mercy rather than judgment.

So, now, every time I feel my son moving in my womb, every time I touch my hand to my abdomen—taut and hard—to feel him pressing against it with a tiny foot or the crown of his head, I think of my Omma. I think of all her sorrow, all her grief, all the pain that she has endured year after year, day after day—a grief and sorrow that both assails and comforts me, because I know, at least I hope I know, that neither my son nor I will ever have to suffer such a fate. And this gives me both a sadness and a pleasure that by knowing the suffering that my Omma and I share, our son will be able to know a depth of wholeness that neither my Omma nor I have ever known.


Julia said...


I am so glad for the comfort and knowledge, and so sorry for the pain. I find this a very moving post.

I find this utterly heartbreaking:

"Instead, life after life must be forfeited until the trail is a grave of losses and sorrows upon sorrows. And even then, the world may continue to pass by, muttering exceptions and rationalizations as it steps over those who have tried time and time again to rise up, but have found no one to believe in them."

Heartbreaking because it feels true, but so unnecessary, and yet so hard to figure out how to counter. (how do you make people listen?)

Yoli said...

Melissa and I glad you two are getting closer, that hearts are opening towards each other. Bittersweet post but also very hopeful for yourself and your unborn baby and your Omma.

Reena said...


I am happy for you that you are getting some answers-- as Julia wrote, this is a very moving post.

Sandy said...

How incredibly beautiful and painful all at the same time to receive that letter especially at this time in your own journey.

I would give anything to have been in time to meet my mother and perhaps receive a letter about our time together.

What a priceless treasure you have received even though it causes you immense pain as your words eloquently speak.

Thank you for sharing.

Jessica said...

My heart is breaking, yet what fantastic knowledge you have and deserve to have as a human being. I try every day to help educate myself and those around me about the truths of adoption, the truths about choices the players in adoption have (or lack there of). Beautifully written Melissa. I hope the remainder of your pregnancy goes well.

Susie said...


This is such a beautiful, emotional post. I am so happy for you, so happy for your mom that she was able to share with you the wonderful, yet horribly few, days you had together. What a wonderful gift that letter is ~ for both of you.

As a first mom, it is comforting to read the understanding words you wrote about our journeys. As a first mom, it is so heartwarming to know that you and your son "will be able to know a depth of wholeness" that you and your first mom never knew.

Again, great post ~

Von said...

So precious, go well. x

Michelle said...

I wonder if it would all right for me to add you to my blogroll...
And I feel I must compliment you on your good writing, you manage to express many things exactly how I'd like to tell them myself...

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

This is heartbreaking and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing such painful and profound feelings.

Melissa said...

@ Michelle, sure thing--link away!

Thanks, friends, for your words and taking the time to read...

Such a complex journey marked with both heartbreak and hope, tragedy and redemption...

It's realities & times like this that makes me wish for parallel universes...

Claire said...

Such a powerful post. Thank you for sharing. I'm not sure what to say, except that having gone through pregnancy and labor so recently, I can't imagine the pain your Omma has lived with. This post has certainly made me think.

Anonymous said...

The thought that it is painful for you to know your Ommas experience scares me a little.

It also makes me wonder how my son will feel in the future about his time with me before his life with his adoptive family.

I love that you honor not only your Omma but women like me who have gone through similar things, even though we are worlds apart.

Melissa said...

@Anon - Don't let it scare you...The reason it's painful is simply that my heart hurts with her heart for the pain she has endured all these years. It doesn't scare me. Rather, it helps me to feel closer to her & to understand her, to feel compassion & connection to her. All these years have been painful for both my Omma and me, and in a way I think it helps us both to know that we love one another that we have suffered without the other...

Michelle said...

Dear Melissa,

Thanks for sharing this very touching post. I have just found your blog and have been appreciating hearing your thoughts. I am a first mother and I can relate to the depth of loss experienced by your Omma and you.

The statement that resonated most with me was the same Julia highlighted. For me it has several meaningful interpretations. Because adoption loss is so misunderstood by those outside the triad, it can be very isolating. I know my own parents and siblings do not understand why I cannot just get over it already. How does one "get over" the loss of one's firstborn daughter? That is not possible. It helps to hear the voices of others who understand. I thank you for making your voice heard.

I wish you and all your family members well.

Melissa said...

Michelle, thanks for taking the time to stop by and for sharing your insight. After just over a year of corresponding with my Omma, and seeing her struggle and grieve, my heart is with you...

That anyone would ever expect us to "get over" the profound losses we have endured is simply naive. That's why I try to blog about my experiences--so that those willing to read may begin to understand that these matters are not easily dismissed...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just found your blog after watching your story on Youtube. You write very well; I hope you become a published author. All your posts I read so far seem to have an underlying melancholy and bitterness :/ Obviously 100% you would never be able to make up time or bonding with your Korean family, and I guess that is a painful fact. On the other hand, staying in Korea would have meant living a life being stigmatized for your origins and this would have made your parents' life difficult too. And the irony is, growing up in Korean culture, most likely you would have been taught that children born out of wedlock are undesirables. Western society has its negatives, but they are pretty much the only culture that has somewhat of an acceptance of nonbio children. Ok I am not sure what is the point of my post; I hope you can find solace in your life story someday.

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