Tuesday, August 11, 2009


A fellow Korean adoptee who has also met her biological family asked me recently, Do you feel any different…?

Although the question may seem a simple one and the answer obvious, it is actually an incredibly profound inquiry.

* * *

In short, I feel worlds different.

I am never going to be the same.

I traveled to Korea as a person I thought I knew. I have returned as someone new and unfamiliar. It is as though I am unknown now even to myself. I must make my own acquaintance.

I feel as though I have undergone this irrevocable and life-altering transformation. Yet no one else can tell. No one else can perceive it.

I found an unknown life and secret identity that have belonged to me yet eluded me all these years. Now as they try to find their place within me, I simultaneously fear and welcome their emergence.

* * *

I feel as though I am of two worlds.

How do I reconcile the differences? How do I merge the two?

In some ways, neither place feels like home. In other ways, both feel like home.

* * *

Perhaps it is as though one had been born blind, until one day you awoke and could see.

It is both beautiful and horrifying. You are overwhelmed. You almost do not know what to do with yourself. You have grown accustomed to perceiving, experiencing and interacting with the world in a certain way. And then suddenly, everything has changed.

* * *

Ultimately, I do not know how to put it into words. I feel as though my world has undergone seismic shifts and drastic transformation, but I do not know how to express it.

I stare at the photos of each biological parent; I cannot even begin to comprehend what has happened—what is happening.

These are the people who conceived me and gave me life—these people whom I have not seen until now, these people whom I have never known until now. They changed my life in profound and irreversible ways, and yet I have not known them or seen them until now.

* * *

I feel lost still.

I do not know what to do with myself.

I feel peace now that I do not have to wonder about the identities of my birth parents. I feel fortunate and relieved to finally know, to have some answers.

And yet I still feel unsettled and restless.

It is not that I expected this to cure anything or to suddenly make all things well.

I didn’t know what to expect quite honestly. I’m simply trying to figure it out along the way.

It is still amazing to me. It is still a dream come true. And yet, it is not a fairy tale. It is not a happily ever after.

It is a happy ending to a seven-year search in the sense that I am happy to find my biological mother and father.

But it is far from being the end. And with just as much happiness that has been stirred has come just as much emotional turmoil.

* * *

My Omma wrote a letter to me recently expressing still so much grief and longing.

She had to watch me leave, not knowing when she might see me again. She wrote that she felt as though she was losing me all over again.

She said she went to the doctor, because she thought she was having heart problems. The doctor said she was fine.

But I understand as much as I am able.

Her heart is still broken. And it is not the kind of broken that any doctor can treat. It is the kind of broken that never finds sufficient remedy or cure.

It is the kind of broken that may mend but will never fully heal.

Yet somehow, I would rather feel that I am broken than harden my heart and never know pain.

To quote a Juliana Hatfield song, A heart that hurts is a heart that works.

I know it’s cliché and a bit melodramatic, but I can at least take comfort, now, in knowing that my melodramatic proclivities as well as my affinity for the sentimental originate not from some random abyss but rather have their origin in the people I now know as Omma and Appa.


Jeff and Madeline said...

Of course I am not inside my daughter's mind, but I see in her actions/reactions/questions some of what you are telling. She looks at her parents pictures each day, asks the same questions over and over, and seems to be in such a different place than when we left.
I know some things are better for her, she has expressed that. Some things are not and the hurt is deep--namely why we cannot just call them or email (their choice). She is facing that loss again and it saddens me. She "understands" at a mental level, I think, the whys, but it does not take away the hurt and not understanding how on the one hand they expressed love and on the other will not continue to provide it. It is so difficult, I cannot imagine what is going on inside of her.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I know you are two individuals, but seeing a bit of your inner thoughts does help me to get a sense of hers.

Mila said...

Wendy, I'm so glad you are so aware and sensitive to what she may be experiencing...And although we are two individuals, I am refreshed that sharing my experiences is providing helpful insight in whatever way it can...

kyungmee said...

I found your site through Third Mom. I am also a korean american adoptee. I was adopted around 7 years old. It is definately two worlds. For me, my past and my motherland, has been a place I would visit alone growing up within my 'adopted' family. Although, my family here and I have come a long way, it is not easy on thier behalf want to share that 'world' with me. I hope that those who adopt will not only adopt the child into their world but to adopt the child's world into their hearts and lives. So the whole family can be more complete and appreciate how special they are to one another. And although, it may not take away all the pain or sense of loss, the adopted child may know they are loved andfeel more secure. I guess, you can say I am speaking from my own wishes and experience. Hope you can vist my newly created blog where I share my experiences and story at http://homeiswithin.blogspot.com
from, KyungMee

Mila said...

Thanks Kyungmee, for sharing your thoughts and insight :) I added your blog to my blog list. I'm always happy to connect with other Korean adoptees and bloggers.

Jeff and Madeline said...

Thank you Melissa and thank you KyungMee
for the link.
It is a world I can never fully penetrate, but I hope that by fully supporting her it can make it a little easier.

Mila said...

Wendy, I am just so refreshed by your humility and willingness to accept that you can only understand her experience to a certain degree.

It pains me deeply when I encounter adoptive parents who, although well-intentioned, think they fully grasp it completely and that they know the adoptee's experience better than anyone else...I think that kind of perspective can be detrimental to the adoptee's overall well-being and can lead to dangerous presumptions and misunderstandings.

I've encountered adoptive parents who have a wall of pride and presume to know everything they need to know simply because they're adoptive parents. Rather than seeking insight & feedback from adult adoptees, these parents turn to only to each other, which of course, is beneficial, but short-sighted and limited in understanding.

It's refreshing to encounter someone who is not presumptuous and who acknowledges natural limitations...So, again, thank you for your support & lack of presumption...

Jeff and Madeline said...

You know, what I never expected was the lack of support I received from some friends and family members. I do have some friends that are so happy for M and they do understand that it is not cut and dry--there will be new and continually changing emotions and some she may not reconcile for years or ever. However, as a community of AP's the support has been lacking for me as a parent and most definitely for her as an adoptee. I don't know if they are afraid of it or if they just cannot understand that there are mixed emotions involved. I just don't know. Even among the few people who have found birth families it seems as though for some it is "over now"; of course there are some who maintain contact and understand the dynamics of their children's relationships will shift and change.

To be honest, the most understanding has come from women like you who are dealing with finding their story/beginnings as adults. I am so thankful for the few friends I have that understand that there is not one conclusion to this journey and that I do not fully understand the impact on M, I just really never expected how short that list would get.

There are always subdivisions within groups, as I knew before searching for her first family, but they are more pronounced now and I see the divisions growing stronger. I find that sad. I hope for the children as they age that they free themselves of the cliches that are created within the AP China community and come to support one another in their personal journey's and work as a group to make sure information is available for those who want it (I am working toward that now).

As for M, her dad and I are always here to listen and support, but we know we will never fully understand and that we do not "own" or possess her or her beginnings. I wish all parents could allow for the space for their children to love beyond their adoptive family and know all they can about life before they came to them.

Thank you for your words, I know we did the right thing for M in going to China and re-visiting her foster family, orphanage, finder, city, etc, and of course meeting her birth family. The day to day emotional changes have been difficult, but understandable. It is so great to not feel like we are going through it alone or that she is--I have told her about you and she really like that you met your first family too. She asked to see your picture. She did make an interesting comment, "Mom, I am so glad I didn't have to wait until I am a grown-up to see my birth mother." She then said, "I am glad that lady is like me and got to see her family."
She needs someone to share with to, even if it is on a level of just knowing. Thank you!

Mila said...

"Mom, I am so glad I didn't have to wait until I am a grown-up to see my birth mother."

Oh, wow, Wendy. That's so profound, so intriguing that your daughter said that. Definitely thought-provoking and worth taking note.

Unfortunately, I am not surprised by the lack of support you have encountered...that is in part why I have been so pleasantly surprised & refreshed by your correspondence.

There are not many adoptive parents whom I have encountered personally that have the openness and perspective that you do. But I appreciate your willingness to, in a way, blaze the trail & think outside the box. Keep pressing on. :) In my small opinion, you're daughter will benefit in the long-run from your willingness to do what you're doing...

Also, sometimes I wonder whether blogging is worth it--it takes so much time & is emotionally demanding, but then I get little nuggets like what you shared about your daughter and it makes it all worth it.

Sending smiles to you and your daughter :)

Mia_h_n said...

I know you didn't rely on the reunion to erase the past and fix everything, and i know things are difficult and confusing tough right now. Still I got to say that to me there's a clear difference in your writing and your words pre- and post-reunion. I think there's a lack of aching and the depth of sadness is as deep as before.

Even with all the new obstacles I sense the change with you in a positive way - so I do see it.

Wendy - I appreciate your willingness to share in this open forum for all of us to "use".
I too find your sensitivity towards your daughter's situation and your willingness to admit that you're not in her shoes refreshing.
I myself am lucky to have parents with similar mindsets, but they too, unfortunately, stand out for it.
But thank you for sharing. It's good food for thought to hear an AP's side of things.

Mila said...

Thanks for what you shared, Mia. That's encouraging :) And i do have to say that you're right...I don't feel the same depth of aching and emptiness that I did before...things have changed drastically :) in a good way...

kyungmee said...

Meissa, thank you for linking your site to my blog. I appreciate the connection I am able to have with other adoptees no matter how different we may be or how different we were raised...every time I read this post, I feel connected, as if I am reading my own thoughts and experiences.
Wendy, hang in there! I think it is really wonderful that you care so much and so brave to reach out and post your comments. I think when you have fear and doubts, it is hard to see things in new perspective. To then know how to make it better, to do the right thing becomes 'blurred' and many end up not acting at all. Don't just support her, but open your world to understand hers..let it be a shared experience..and she will appreciate it if not now..later. ( Just like you are doing). :)

Mei-Ling said...

"She wrote that she felt as though she was losing me all over again."

My mother hasn't said those words - but again, she has also said she wishes for me to come back and visit again in the future.

We had a discussion about my return to Canada, and at one point she said:

"You return to Canada, Canada Mom will be happy. Taiwan Mom will cry."

Mia_n_h: "I think there's a lack of aching and the depth of sadness is as deep as before."

I am not sure if you have been through reunion - there's no link in your name - but I'm wondering if you are referring to the physical ache that comes with the property of being able to see and not "understand" one's Biological parents...?

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post and your previous posts chronicling your reunion. As an AP- I have learned a tremendous amount from TRA blogs like yours and Mei-Ling's. The most poignant lesson- If my children are blessed to be in reunion with their first families in China-the search is the beginning of the journey and reunion is the middle. A fairy tale ending is just that- a fairy tale.
Wendy- Your responses from friends, family & APs is so sad and wrong.

Jeff and Madeline said...

Thank you everyone for your kind words and for allowing my voice here. I thank all of your for your stories and insight. It is so comforting to not be alone and to be able to witness adults dealing in words with what my daughter is experiencing.
Thank you!

Mia_h_n said...

Mei-Ling - well, first of all it was supposed to be "is NOT as deep as before". I'm not sure if there's an edit option when you post a comment? I could use one though! :)
Perhaps the clarification helps with the understanding?

I did however not specifically refer to physical ache. It's more that I've had such a profound connection with Melissa - or at least her writings. I hear that it's still hard and difficult but I don't cry as much when I read the post-Korea posts. It doesn't pull at my heart strings in the same way which I see as a change. Did that make sense? English isn't my first language :)

Personally I'm still undecided on the whole search and reunion thing, but because I feel so connected to Melissa her openness about her journey helps me sort out alot of my own feelings about my own history. I know it wouldn't be the same but it still helps.

But I am very much aware of the fact that the language barrier will be a huge problem should I find any relatives. Which to me is also something to take into consideration...

윤선 said...

Wow... thankyou so much for sharing this. I am also a Korean adoptee, and I haven't even been back to Korea, let alone met my birth family! I'm unsure as to whether or not I want to meet my birth family, or even find them, but I am grateful to people like you for sharing these thoughts and feelings. I can only imagine what it must be like. You're very brave...

Mila said...

Yoon Seon...thanks for stopping by & taking the time to make a comment. (I visited your blog & left a comment on one of your posts). I am equally grateful for other adoptees who blog & share their experiences...it has only been in the past several months that I have begun to tap the network of adoptee bloggers out there. It's very encouraging!