Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your child may grow up to be a lot like me (and that's not such an awful thing)

As of this month, I will begin contributing on a monthly basis to the adoption resource website, "Grown in My Heart."

GIMH describes itself as "a place where all adoptive parents, adoptees, and first moms know they feel safe to air their opinions, regardless of differences. It is a group of women joined, somehow, by adoption."

(Now, I know some of you may cringe or wince at the name of the website. Understandable. However, the website truly does offer a diverse set of voices, some with which I can relate and others, well, let's just say, that challenge me--and that's a good thing, because the adoption community truly consists of a wide range of various perspectives and experiences. Besides, I need to be challenged so that I don't become stagnant and complacent, and so that I sincerely can deal with any flaws or shortcomings in my own thinking. I truly appreciate the eclectic range of voices and writers represented at GIMH. I also see this as an opportunity to interact with people that I might not necessarily have the opportunity to engage with otherwise.)

My first "article," Your child my grow up to be a lot like me (and that's not such an awful thing) just posted today. Here's a teaser excerpt:

You shouldn’t fear that your children could one day grow up to be a little or a lot like one of us. Rather, your focus should be to be there no matter what your children may feel, no matter what conclusions they may reach. The goal is not to groom a certain outcome in your adopted child, but rather to provide the environment and relationship that will enable and empower your children to become the adults that they will inevitably be. The point is not to control the situation and outcome but to provide the freedom for your children to find their own way.

I hope you'll stop by GIMH and give it a read, and who knows you may end up finding the site itself a helpful and insightful resource of diverse voices. Or you may end up finding yourself completely annoyed and irritated. And if that's the case, the great thing about the internet is that you don't have to go anywhere you don't want to...(*smilewink*).

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I love my spicy hunan girl": Please, adoption-related gear like this is NOT cute

Just FYI, peddling and wearing adoption-related gear like that featured above is neither cute nor noble. It honestly makes me sick to my stomach, short of literally hurling. Not to mention how it makes me feel patronized, demeaned, and objectified (not as though Asian women don't already deal overtime with being objectified...).

I could easily write entire blog posts addressing why and how each one of the above pieces represents multiple layers of harmful, detrimental, misguided thinking (to put it lightly and overly-restrained).

Linda at Real Daughter, who is so much better at being candid and unrestrained (qualities I greatly appreciate!) in her recent post, Name Game Part 2, enlightened me to the fact that merchandise like this even exists...I honestly had no idea, and now I kind of wish I still had no idea, because it's just so utterly disturbing.

But I think the existence of such apparel does reiterate the presumptuous and often ridiculous attitudes adoptees have to deal with on a daily basis--all the misinterpretation and patronizing, to say the least, along with all the euphemism and praise to the neglect and ignorance of the inherent complexities and harsh realities faced by adoptees, the constant dismissal of the loss, grief, and trauma...

Please, if you own any apparel like this, trash it, burn it, shred it--whatever you need to do to get rid of it, so that you never wear it again.

Like I said, it's not cute. Seriously. And it's definitely not noble.

I know maybe you meant well, and you thought you were being loving and cute, but seriously, it doesn't make me feel anything good.

As an adoptee, I am not something to brag about on your t-shirt or bumper. I am an adult human being, not a cause or a charity to promote and peddle or for which you are to award yourself a pat on the back.

Look, I'm not against true, real causes.

And I'm not against raising awareness.

But c'mon, folks, there are certainly more respectful, considerate, productive, and intelligent ways of doing it.

* * *

The following apparel was also equally disturbing...

The Different Names for "Mother": Who is my "real" mom?

I've started contributing to a new blog project,
initiated by girl4708 who also blogs at Hello Korea!.

In her own words, the purpose of this blog is:

We want it to be a one stop shop for those who have questions about race and international adoption. We're all a little battle scarred from discussion boards, so this effort is closed to comments from the public, but will provide (hopefully) a range of thoughts from a diverse set of transracial adoptees.

As of now, there are five total adult adoptees contributing to this blog, and hopefully, with time, that number will grow. I think this blog is a fantastic and beneficial idea, and I hope that adoptive parents, prospective adoptive parents, and the like will refer to it as a resource.

Now a caveat to some of you--part of the point of Transracialeyes is to provide diverse and varied perspectives of adult adoptees, specifically. We are an eclectic crew and even as adoptees we have different backgrounds and different viewpoints. We may not all necessarily agree with one another or share the same ideas, but that's part of the point!
Sometimes, some of what you read may make you,
at the least,
uneasy, or at the most, outright offended, while other times you may share an understanding of a particular perspective, or even
wholeheartedly agree.

I just want to encourage others to visit this blog over time, as hopefully it will grow to include more adult adoptees. It may annoy some of you that the comments are closed (except to the identified contributors), but as the above description clarifies, it's primarily a blog to function as a safe place for adoptees to have opportunity to honestly express their experiences and viewpoints without fear of backlash and condemnation--ultimately, with the hope that others will open their hearts and minds to consider each of these voices.

With all that said, I recently posted a question and a subsequent response (click on the below question to view it):

What are your thoughts regarding the different types of nomenclature applied to original/biological mothers, including terms such as “birth mother,” “first mother,” “real mother,” “natural mother,” and so forth?

And although you can't leave your comments there, you can come back here and leave your feedback, if you like. I am interested in hearing what others of you have to say in response to this question, particularly because over the years, although I have my own practices regarding the issue, I have not been strongly opinionated on this matter. But I know some of you are--and I want to know your thoughts and feelings regarding this question.

* * *

Here are just a few other samples of questions posted and answered (really, though, there are so many insightful and informative questions and answers posted to this blog, these are just a few...I still have yet to get around to giving my two cents to the other questions on the blog, but I'll let you know when I do...)

(If you are an adult adoptee who would like to be involved in this project, just visit the blog, and you'll see where you can contact the administrator.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A reader asks, "Does adoption itself cause trauma?"

[Just a note, even if you don't read this entire post, please at least read what's in bold & color & please read the feedback provided by various readers in the comments section. The insights offered are incredibly valuable in answering the posed question, "Does adoption itself cause trauma?"]


I am uber extra emotional these days. Duh--I suppose, being pregnant and in the last 10 weeks of the process give me an acceptable excuse.

I constantly feel both on the verge of joyful laughter and ceaseless tears.

So, as I try to answer a question posed to me by a prospective adoptive parent, bear with me. I think my filter is currently clogged and clouded with hormones. (Or well, I suppose I could be using that simply as an excuse to be obnoxious and scattered.)

A reader recently posted the following inquiry in the comments section of a previous post I wrote ("The sole trauma is the loss that occurs BEFORE adoption, but the practice of adoption itself causes no pain?"):

I am a new reader to your blog and am enjoying your posts. Thanks for sharing. I want to comment on this post because it's something I've been wondering about for a little while now. My husband and I are Korean-Americans (non-adoptees) who are in the process of adopting from Korea. I feel you have answered the post well from a TRA perspective (which is perfectly valid since that is your experience), but I still am trying to grasp what is the trauma in just adoption itself (without transracial or transcultural issues, etc.) assuming the child is placed in a loving, healthy home, the process was not corrupt (e.g. "black market" babies), and the relinquishment was intentional and permanent. I would appreciate if you shared your thoughts on this...

I am aware and am learning so much about the loss / primal wound and believe and acknowledge its reality. It is a profound trauma and I am not in denial of it. My question was based on your title of the post: "The sole trauma is the loss that occurs BEFORE adoption, but the practice of adoption itself causes no pain?" So, apart from the initial loss / relinquishment and assuming the conditions I listed previously occur in the adoption, is there still more trauma in adoption itself? I understand the child continues to suffer throughout his/her life because of the relinquishment and unanswered questions, but is the adoption in itself cause for more pain/trauma? In other words, let's say the same child was never adopted, remaining in foster care or orphanages (which, of course, has its own issues and complications), is he/she avoiding any trauma that would have occurred if he/she were adopted instead (given the conditions I listed previously)? If you feel that it's still answered in the other posts and resources listed, then I'll refer to that. Sorry if I sound like I'm being difficult. We are really trying to learn and do things right and in the best interest of our future child. We want to be prepared / understanding to ALL possible trauma that our child may be facing. Thanks!

* * *

First of all, I would love to hear feedback and insight from other adult adoptees and the like regarding the above inquiry. My opinion is certainly only one of many, and I hope that others will comment and offer their perspective.

* * *

[Setting aside the issues that come with transracial adoption, which I have previously discussed in the initial post on which the reader commented as well as in other posts...]

Generally-speaking, being adopted provides more stability than growing up in an institution or foster care (of course, why children end up in institutions in the first place is a whole other issue that I and other adoptees have addressed in previous posts).

But adoption, in and of itself, still brings its own set of consequences.

What I would like to express is that ultimately,

the losses and trauma of relinquishment and subsequent adoption should not be viewed or treated as separate entities (rather they constitute a process as a whole), because for many adoptees, the losses and trauma of relinquishment and subsequent adoption are interconnected—they are inextricable from one another.

Even though my biological mother relinquished me, part of the reason she considered doing so was because adoption was made available to her as a viable option versus her extended family or kin caring for me or the government stepping up to provide social services to help support her. (For insight specifically on what unwed Korean mothers face even today, read this excerpt from the book, Dreaming a World: Korean Birth Mothers Tell Their Stories or this interview (pages 9-10) with Dr. Richard Boas, founder of KUMSN (Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network).

I think a lot of adoptive parents make this separation in their minds--that the initial decision a mother makes to relinquish her child has no connection to the subsequent adoption. Many AP’s and the like tend to compartmentalize these and deal with them as separate events.

But you have to keep in mind, no matter how YOU may view these situations as separate and apart from one another, many adoptees experience them as inherently linked.

The very existence of adoption practically and literally influences a woman’s decision, at times, to relinquish her child. Hence, for many adoptees, adoption is a part of what causes the trauma and loss.

I know that to many adoptive parents this is not only an offensive idea, but also an unfair and inaccurate assessment in their minds. Many AP’s become incensed, irritated, annoyed, etc. when this connection is drawn. I’m not saying you or anyone else has to necessarily agree with it, but I am saying that for many adoptees this is TRUTH.

There is always that lingering thought in the back of our minds…what if adoption by strangers had not been a viable option? Would my original mother have made the same choices if adoption had not been so readily and easily available? What role did social workers play in her decision? Was she coerced, pressured, made to feel like adoption was a better solution than trying to care for me herself? Was she made to feel incompetent, unworthy, and incapable so that adoption seemed the best thing for her child?

I think parents need to be willing to acknowledge that this is what is feels like, this is how many adoptees conceptualize their adoptions. Whether you agree or disagree is not the point—this is how it feels and is experienced by many adoptees.

My own Omma, after having 35+ years to deal with and be tormented by the consequences of her decision has shared with me that she would have made a different choice if she had been given the opportunity. (I realize that this is my and my Omma's experience and that not all situations or first mothers respond in this way, but nonetheless, my Omma's response is just as valid.)

There are two specific statements that she has made that stand out to me:

One, is that she says that had the services available today been available to her back then, she would have chosen to keep and raise me.

But the second, I believe the factor that was the more influential and telling, is the role her older sister played in the situation. Her older sister knew about the adoption services available in Korea. Her older sister is actually the one who physically took me to the agency/orphanage.

But the most telling is what my Omma herself stated: “She was like a god to me. I had to obey her.” My Omma clearly felt great pressure to relinquish me at the behest of her older sister. And her older sister applied such pressure, in part because of her knowledge of the adoption services available.

Of course, I realize that it was a storm of complex elements from social and cultural stigmas to economic and political issues that influenced my Omma's decision. But to deny the significant role and influence of the prevalence of adoption services on families in duress at that time (much to the neglect of family support services) would be dishonest and narrow-minded.

In my mind it is hard to separate the connection between the decision my Omma made and the availability of adoption as an option. It is hard for me to honestly say that the availability of adoption did not at least in part influence my Omma's decision to relinquish me. Also, in addition to her older sister's pressure, who knows what kind of guidance or counsel the social workers gave to my Omma.

Now, of course, I realize, that it is complicated. Believe me, I know. Trust me, by the very nature of the life I must live, I never forget that it is complicated. Korean culture in particular is steeped in old Confucian philosophy even still today (despite that it claims to be a primarily Christian nation).

Obviously, the reader who asked the above questions is a Korean-American, so she has a different point of reference and experience than do I as an outsider. But in my experience as a Korean adoptee, Korean culture creates a very unique dynamic with adoption, and one that is hard to reconcile. Even though Korea has one of the top ranking economies, it still sends so many of its children overseas. This is clearly not only an economic issue but also a sociocultural issue. I believe that with Korean adoptions specifically, the availability of international adoption is detrimental and highly influential due to the sociocultural stigmas and pressures that still persist today.

Now the relevant reader being Korean-American changes the dynamic some, of course, and hopefully she and her husband are fluent enough in the Korean language and culture to be capable of not only exposing but preparing their child for a more complete experience of Korean culture--the good, the bad, and the ugly. But, it will be interesting to see how their child grows up to conceptualize his or her adoption one day.

Adoption certainly seems a better fate than an orphanage or foster care, but it is hard to separate the influence that the availability of adoption has on the decisions that these mothers and families make to relinquish their children, particularly when dealing with international adoptions, and specifically Korean adoptions.

For many adoptees, adoption equates to being taken from one’s original family and biological origins no matter how you may conceptualize it in your own mind. As an adoptive parent, you may view yourself as the one who is intervening and rescuing the child from life in an institution or a life of foster care. But you must be willing to accept that to some, adoption is equivalent to being taken from one’s family and origins.

You may be able to separate the two, and conceptualize that the relinquishment happened apart from and before the adoption, but for many the two are not separate, bifurcated incidents—they are the same thing.

I know many AP’s do not see it this way and that many find this an accusatory misrepresentation of the role of adoption. And I can understand that. Fair enough. Everyone is entitled to draw their own conclusions. But you’ve got to understand that no matter what you decide, there are those adoptess who will always feel this way—will always feel that adoption robbed them of their families, their lives, their identities, EVERYTHING.

To assign wrong to this experience, to condemn it, to label it as angry, bitter, and ungrateful is neither helpful nor just.

If that’s the way particular adoptees’ experiences play out for them—if their experiences teach them that adoption stole away from them their families and lives, then those experiences are just as valid as the adoptees whose experiences lead them to believe that adoption saved their lives.

In the case of adoptee experiences, we must resist assigning right or wrong, but rather learn to accept the validity of each adoptee’s experience and journey. It is what it is.

Hence, for some adoptees, adoption IS the trauma. It is what caused them to lose their families and their lives. It is what heavily or even perhaps primarily influenced their mothers' decisions to relinquish them. It is the very existence of adoption that led to the situations that they currently face. It is the cause of their grief and sorrow.

You may not feel this way or see it this way, but at least be willing to try to understand why and how it could feel this way and be this way for other adoptees. It is their reality and if you truly want to love the adoptees you know or the ones you call your sons and daughters, please be willing to acknowledge this.

It may not be your truth or experience, but that does not somehow invalidate that it is someone else’s truth and experience.

Also, keep in mind that just because you think you know the situation does not necessarily mean you know the truth about the situation.

Particularly in Korean adoptions, the level of openness and honesty in record keeping may have improved somewhat in more recent years, but there is still much room for reform and improvement. It seems that every adoptee that has searched discovers some giant gaping hole or oversight in his or her adoption file. It certainly was the case in my situation. There is often so much background and history omitted whether purposely or inadvertently.

Even if full disclosure seems to be the case, you can’t assume that you therefore know everything about the situation.

This applies simply because, again, it can create a false sense of resolution or comfort for the AP that adoption and the preceding relinquishment are separate entities and one did not influence the other.

But again, for the adoptee, the two may still remain inextricably tied and indubitably related.

* * *

Okay, with all that said, I would also like to note that all the above addresses adoption primarily from the adoptee's experience and perspective. Although I alluded somewhat to the experience of my first mother, my Korean mother--my Omma--I did not go into great detail about how adoption affects first mothers--the trauma, grief, and loss that they experience.

Again, I think the temptation for AP's and PAP's is to separate the two--you may view relinquishment and the subsequent adoption as individual, divergent entities. But again, this is not always the case for not only many adoptees but for many first mothers.

Rather than trying to put it in my words, particularly because I am not a first mother, I instead suggest that you read the following blog post, We Bleed Too, by a first mother at her blog, Adoption Truth. Also, you can read another blog post at Adoption Critique by another first mother, Dear Incubator.

It's important and vital to recognize and consider the way that adoption also affects first mothers, particularly because their experiences are so often neglected and dismissed, it seems, even more so than those of adoptees.

Adoption causes trauma and hurtful stereotypes not only for the adoptees involved, but also for the mothers who spend the rest of their lives wondering, hurting, aching...

* * *

Again, fellow adoptees, first mothers, and anyone else who would like to add their insight, please do not hesitate to do so.

I know what I have expressed is only my perspective and hence only scratches the surface. The more insight and feedback, the better.

I would also ask that you please be candid yet considerate in your responses--the reader who posed the above questions did so sincerely and humbly with a genuine interest and desire to try to educate and inform herself more thoroughly and honestly.

Even as she stated, she is not trying to be difficult but rather,

"We are really trying to learn and do things right and in the best interest of our future child. We want to be prepared / understanding to ALL possible trauma that our child may be facing."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does a child really need a mother's love?: Harry Harlow's Monkeys

The other night, my husband and I listened to the below episode, Unconditional Love, featured on the NPR show, This American Life.

Many of you are already familiar with psychologist Harry Harlow's experiments. In particular, his research has had practical and viable implications and applications regarding the relationship between a mother and child. Particularly intriguing is that the following episode includes live and original audio of Harry Harlow himself recounting the details of his research.

There were certain segments of the show that struck me specifically. One such segment included the description of the baby monkeys that were exposed to "abusive mothers." Despite the abuse, these baby monkeys did everything they could to try to bond and connect with, and ultimately win the affection of, that mother. To me, this demonstrates how intensely and desperately a child needs and longs for a connection to his or her mother, and the influence that this need has on a child's behavior and even willingness to endure certain treatment and circumstances.

Of course, the implications of this research regarding the circumstances that surround adoption are equally profound and thought-provoking.

It's worth taking the 10 mintues needed to listen to the initial prologue. I believe you'll find it intriguing and certainly stimulating.

Mike and I also listened to Act One: Love is a Battlefield. It's basically the account of a couple that adopted a child from Romania.

Listen at your own risk. It most likely will stir and evoke an unruly swirl of serious emotion for some of you. It did for me.

* * *

[from website]


Hard as it is to believe, during the early Twentieth Century, a whole school of mental health professionals decided that unconditional love was a terrible thing to give a child. The government printed pamphlets warning mothers against the dangers of holding their kids. The head of the American Psychological Association and even a mothers' organization endorsed the position that mothers were dangerous—until psychologist Harry Harlow set out to prove them wrong, through a series of experiments with monkeys. Host Ira Glass talks with Deborah Blum, author of Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection. (9 minutes)


Alix Spiegel tells the story of a couple, Heidi and Rick Solomon, who adopt a son who was raised in terrible circumstances in a Romanian orphanage, unable to feel attachments to anyone...and what they do about it. (27 minutes)


Dave Royko talks about the decision he and his wife faced recently about his autistic son's future, and whether he should continue to live with the family. (19 minutes)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Profundity of Pregnancy as an Adoptee, Post-Reunion

Eleven more weeks. Approximately eleven more weeks, and our firstborn child will be here--in my arms, face to face.

My Omma and I and my Appa and I have continued to correspond via letters over the past six to seven months.

It has been almost two years since I first received the news that each of my Korean parents had emerged. Yet it still feels so surreal--so startling--so unbelievable.

It is overwhelming to try to grasp fully the depth, the meaning, the reality of the current circumstances.

There is something so profound and so indescribable about the fact that my son has already had the opportunity to connect with my Appa and Omma, before even being born, in ways that I never have. And yet indirectly, I know that what they are doing for my son, they are doing for me. Redemption at its fullest, I suppose.

My Omma has sent gifts and letters.

My Appa has mailed two giant boxes from Korea packed and bulging with clothes, socks, hats, and blankets for our son--his grandson.

This will be his first grandchild.

My Appa never had the opportunity to meet me or provide for me, and yet now, with the upcoming birth of my husband's and my son, my Appa is lavishing all that he has upon this child.

And it floods me with emotion that I cannot grasp or articulate. It is neither joy nor sorrow, but some inexplicable, incomprehensible plexus of joy and sorrow and everything in between.

I smile through my tears, and I weep through my smile.

I am simply speechless when I try to utter exactly how this experience affects me and how I try to make sense of it all.

I cannot wait to meet our son. I anticipate with eagerness the day that he will meet his American grandparents and one day his Korean grandparents. I anticipate my American parents and brothers meeting our son and being a part of his life.

And what an unfathomable moment it will be to witness my Omma embracing my son in her own arms...to see my Appa holding our son and gazing into his face--an opportunity my Appa lost with me...and yet somehow, now that we have found one another again, there is hope for absolution.

There is no doubt that this child is loved, deeply.

Although the division that remains between my families pierces me deeply, like a thorn plunged irretrievably into my side, I try to cling to the hope that endures, the hope of what may be possible.

And certainly, I want to be able to rejoice over the tiny yet profound life that will soon emerge--the one who will teach me things that I have never known.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ending Gendercide: You can help

A fellow adoptee told me about the following organization, All Girls Allowed, founded by Chai Ling.

From the organization's website, here is a summary of its mission:

The mission of All Girls Allowed is to restore life, value, and dignity to girls and mothers, and to reveal the injustice of China's One-Child Policy.

Since 1980, the implementation of China’s One-Child Policy has led to female gendercide, abandonment of daughters, human trafficking and violations of women’s reproductive rights. Through education, advocacy, strategic partnerships, and legal defense, All Girls Allowed strives to:

  • Mobilize the global community to advocate against the cruel methods used to enforce the One-Child Policy;
  • Educate families against gender-based pregnancy termination by easing the burden of having a baby girl with monthly stipends and a baby shower gift of clothes and food;
  • Provide legal defense and asylum counseling to mothers who are in danger of forced pregnancy termination or involuntary sterilization;
  • Support abandoned children, the vast majority of whom are girls, by raising funds for orphanages; and
  • Reunite trafficked women and children with their families.

All Girls Allowed is an initiative of the Jenzabar Foundation, Inc.

* * *

More specifically, through this organization, a sum of only $240 a year can save the life of a girl--from gendercide, forced abortion, abandonment, child trafficking, etc. Only $20 a month provides enough for her basic needs (as the website states, that's less than most of us pay when we eat out).

Take a moment to visit the organization's website--even if you don't end up donating, it's worth it simply to educate and inform yourself about the very real injustices and inequities affecting these mothers and their daughters in China.

If you happen to be an adoptive parent who has adopted from China or a prospective adoptive parent, no matter how difficult it may be for you to read about and expose yourself to these harsh truths and realities, keep in mind that you are not the one who is having to live them.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I'm "Better Off" as an Adoptee...?

Mei-Ling at Shadow Between Two Worlds posted a blog entry titled, "The Painful Truth of 'Better Off.'" Please take the time to read it. She deals with the very complex conflict of "what if" that is common among adoptees.

After reading Mei-Ling's post, I felt a flood of emotion teeming with resentment, fear, anger, gratitude, grief, confusion, love, sadness, longing, and the list goes on...

She was processing what I've been trying to avoid for the past year and a half--what I haven't wanted to think about ever since I got the call that my Korean parents had been found after a long seven-year roller coaster of a search: "In my adoption, I am better off. It is so, so painful to admit that." (Mei-Ling)

And yet, the above statement requires a slew of disclaimers and explanations, because, for me, it's simply, well, not that simple.

As a reader, Reena, stated in response to Mei-Ling's post: “Material wealth and a loving home will not replace all that a child loses when they are adopted…Adoptees, I think, are put in the very awkward (not sure that is right word) life position of having one life through adoption and being left with an enormous ‘what if’ about how their life might have been. In situations where adoptees grew up in a loving home they love their parents and family—they wouldn’t want to lose that—but they also want the life with their first family…”

And in my own response to Mei-Ling's post I wrote: Woah, Mei-Ling. This is intense. This post makes me all tense & emotional–in a necessary way, I suppose. I often wrestle with the same exact turmoil. I grew up with an incredibly privileged life as a result of being adopted. Reading your post is forcing me to process what I have been trying to avoid since reuniting, the same truth you address–that materially & socially I am so much better off than I would have been had I grown up in Korea…I wrestle so much with trying to synthesize the realities of both worlds, both lives, and the “what if”…and what makes it even harder, as you addressed, is that both my Korean parents went on to marry someone else & have more children whom they fed & raised & provided for…and there are even further emotional & social discrepancies atop the material discrepancies that I must also consider….

As Mei-Ling wrote:

"I like to think I might have been happy growing up there. I like to think I might have been. (Even though everyone constantly tells me otherwise, but hell, my kept siblings grew up healthy and happy, so who is ultimately to say?) Still, I am reminded that I cannot compare the blessings of something I don’t know, something I have never lived. Yet, reunion has forced me to confront and live in the shadow of those ghosts. That is why reunion is so unsettling...a reminder of the paradoxical nature of reunion. Why love wasn’t enough. Why love wassupposed to be enough. Why I am not supposed to question anything. Why I felt I shouldn’tquestion anything. Because it’s supposed to be enough and adoption is supposed to fix everything – but what happens when it doesn’t feel that way?"

To state that I'm "better off" as a result of being adopted is a blanket statement that makes me squeamish and uneasy. On the surface, it's true. According to certain standards and chosen measurements, it's true.

And yet, such a statement still makes my heart curl and my eyes pool. Such a statement is shallow and dismissive, ultimately. It places value on one life over another. It elevates one set of parents over another. It creates a hierarchy that should not exist in the first place. It demeans one for the praise of another. It diminishes from one while adding to another. It adulates one at the detriment of another. And it does so (although perhaps not solely) primarily based on material wealth and provision. It's the way of the world: more money = better life.

(But deep down, something in us knows that more money does not equal a better life--the deceitfulness of wealth. How many of us have known families with all the wealth and material comforts in the world and yet are void of love? And vice versa--how many of us have known families that live meek lives materially and yet are rich with love? Well, I've at least seen it, and if you haven't, maybe you need to get out more.)

As Reena further stated in her response, "Their [adoptees'] life growing up in our family is different, not necessarily better, than it would have been growing up in their first family."

This assessment at which Reena arrives is to me a more truthful, accurate perspective.

People so often make the wrong assumption that because I provide constructive criticism and analysis of the practice of international adoption--or in the interpretation of some, because I'm an "angry adoptee"--that it must be because I had "bad" or "unloving" parents, and/or because I'm miserable and hate my life.

Just to clear the air, then, neither is true. I have very loving parents whom I love deeply. And I love my life. I have an incredibly fulfilling, wondrous life. I love my husband and my family. My husband and I are twelve weeks away from giving birth to our first child. My life is full, my life is rich with all that really matters--love and family and friends.

Some would then think to themselves, "Well, then, how in the world do you come off criticizing adoption? The gall! The audacity! Look at all adoption has given to you?! That you would have the arrogance, the nerve to bite the hand that feeds you...You ungrateful little..."

Look, I can be grateful that I have healthcare and health insurance, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have major flaws in need of reform. I can be grateful for the healthcare available to me and yet still criticize the current shortcomings, not because I'm a spoiled little jerk, but because I am an idealist that believes there is always room for improvement, for change--all for the betterment of my fellow human, not for the tearing down.

Listen, I'm the first to admit that there are times that I find even myself feeling as though I was better off growing up with my American family, not only for material and social reasons, but also for emotional reasons. I find myself feeling grateful that I didn't grow up in Korea. I find myself feeling relieved that I grew up with all the material comforts a girl could ever want and then some. I find myself clinging to the life I had with my American family as though it was so much better than the life I would have known with my Korean family, not only materially but socially and emotionally. Even my own mind and heart experience difficulty and conflict in attempting to embrace the true complexity of my situation. Even my own mind and heart feel tempted to reject the acknowledgment that life with my American versus my Korean family is not a case of better or worse, but rather of different and different.

But the truth is that ultimately, as Reena, stated, we cannot, if we are to be honest, come to a conclusion of "better," but rather we must accept "different." And the truth is also that although I love my life and have parents whom I love and admire, that is only one side of a very complex and multi-faceted experience.

The truth is that I most likely would have simply traded one type of emotional and social turmoil for another. Certainly, being an adoptee has not been perfect nor has it been easy (in every way--socially, psychologically, materially), rather it is a life wrought with difficulty and pain. Had I grown up in Korea with my Korean family, I obviously would not have experienced the emotional repercussions of adoption. But, I would have experienced a different, albeit not necessarily better or worse, kind of turmoil and difficulty in life.

It may be easier or more simplistic psychologically to assign concrete, dichotomous labels of "better" or "worse" to being adopted versus not being adopted, and yet, any such labeling is based on speculation, and speculation is just that. Also, such "black and white" labeling is rarely accurate when dealing with the human condition. Furthermore, I believe that acknowledging that the circumstances and outcomes would have been "different" is much more accurate and honest, because it takes into account the complexities of the realities of the situation as a whole, while it is also a more equal and fair assessment that does not diminish from the value of one while overemphasizing the value of another and vice versa.

As Mei-Ling addresses, in situations that require special medical treatment, it is easy to dismiss the emotional and social consequences as negligible in the name of physical survival. But again, to do so is to also neglect the human lives involved as a whole (not separate, broken pieces that have nothing to do with one another) and to place value on one over the value of another (one parent, one life, one outcome, and so forth is not deemed better than another purely based on social and economic status).

Sure, I or Mei-Ling and countless other adoptees could have died or languished away in orphanages had we not been adopted by our Western families, but why then do so many automatically conclude therefore that it is adoption alone that was the only option that could have saved our lives, and that hence we must come to the conclusion that we are lucky and better off for having been adopted?

Is there not another option--that people in the community, whether locally or globally, could have provided the resources and support, both socially and materially, that would have enabled our families to provide for our most basic needs and beyond so that adoption was not the only option available to "save" our lives? Is that not what exists in the States today? Now of course, adoption still takes place in the States, so understand that I am not implying that adoption should or will never happen. That would imply a perfect world...and I'm not that naive. (And I'm also not implying that I would have rather grown up without my American family. Please, don't shove me in a corner and jam words down my throat...)

But I am saying that there are very real, feasible alternatives and options that are grossly neglected because people won't take the time to consider solutions and ideas beyond their little tunnel. I am saying that I do believe that it is not naive to expect that we can get closer to "perfect." I do believe that it is not too much to ask that we push to strive toward a greater ideal. And although we may never attain it fully, this would not be failure. Failure would be to never try, to never believe that we can improve the current practices and circumstances.

Failure would be to shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, that's just the way it is." No social change, large or small, ever came about through such apathy and resignation...

And the very children we say we want to help will never truly be helped if we allow the complacency of the status quo to dull us into a mindless stupor of thinking this is as good as it gets...

To do so would be the true death of not only them and us, but of humanity itself...