Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Adoptee in Post-Reunion: A Holiday Wish List

As I mentioned in the original post, "Time for a Break," even though I'm taking an overall break from the adoption community and blogosphere, there are still some commitments I will continue to maintain, one of which is writing a monthly post for the adoption website, "Grown in My Heart."

So, here's this months GIMH post, "An Adoptee in Post-Reunion: A Holiday Wish List."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why I need "breaks": First footage of my initial Reunion in 2009

To view the multi-media piece/video, "Reuniting" by Jeanne Modderman, at Vimeo, click here.

I thank Jeanne for giving her time, energy, and heart to telling this story...

* * *

When I take a "break" from the adoption community, it's not that I'm taking a break from dealing with being an adoptee--that's nearly impossible for me, at this point.

Rather, it allows me to be able to deal with my own adoptee issues and experiences. Don't get me wrong, staying busy with processing and answering other people's questions and thoughts about their experiences does in some ways help me to process and answer many of my own questions. But it can also be a distraction.

There comes a time when I get so emotionally over stimulated that I feel about ready to implode. It's then that I realize that I need to take a step back.

Hence, one of the things that has prompted me to feel the need to take a step back and "process," in addition to dealing with pregnancy and pending motherhood, is the above multi-media piece (or you can also click on the title of this post to view the video).

A friend of mine and a fellow Korean adoptee, Jeanne Modderman, finished it about a month ago. She gathered the different video clips and photos during my initial reunion with my Korean mother in June/July of 2009. (I also reunited with my Korean father, but for privacy issues, photos and video must be kept private.)

I've watched the above piece a dozen times. I have been trying to process it over the past month. Every time I watch it, a deep reservoir of thought and emotion stirs.

So much has changed since the reunion--my life, my thoughts, my feelings--who I am. The experience is constantly evolving. Some things I thought then, I don't think anymore. And some things I didn't feel then, I feel all the time now...

I share this with the hope that it will depict reunion, at least from one perspective, in an honest way. But also understand, that this depicts only the beginning. And the beginning of reunion is certainly not the whole picture. It is so much more complex than what any video or photo or word can express or communicate.

So, although you may be tempted to think that this video tells all that needs to be told, it only tells part of the story. Please restrain yourself from assigning a label to it, whether you wish to identify it as a "happy ending" or a "happy beginning" or a "sad beginning" or a "sad ending."

It's all of that and so much more...

* * *

Friday, December 3, 2010

Time for a BREAK...

Just letting folks know that I am "unofficially" taking a break from the adoption community and especially the adoption blogosphere for now. I say "unofficially," simply because I intend to fulfill my commitment to write once a month for GIMH (Grown in My Heart) as well as to continue to contribute to Transracialeyes. And I will still do my best to answer the emails coming into my inbox.

But the pace will certainly slow--and whatever I do contribute to GIMH and Transracialeyes will most likely be minimal, not only in frequency but in content.

And as far as actively seeking to engage with the adoption blogosphere/community or otherwise, I need an interlude, if you will--so that I don't all together just walk away and quit.

I want to be, I need to be a shadow right now.

I'm tired, burned out, and overall feeling disillusioned and fragile. And quite frankly, I'm just sick of dealing with the adoption community. Well, let me be more specific, I'm sick of dealing with the dynamics that have come to characterize the interactions and relationships within the adoption community.

I'm sure pregnancy hormones play a role. But even before I had that excuse, I was feeling ready for a reprieve.

I need some time to "detox."

I need some time to step back and enjoy this time in my life...with my husband, with my family--with the anticipated arrival of our first child (only approximately 8 more weeks).

So, I'm taking in a deep breath and letting out a long and needed sigh of relief...

Happy Holidays to all of you.

See you in the New Year...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"It is odd to be on the other side now" (~Riverkids' Director, Dale Edmonds)

Please, please, please take the time to read this post, "Starting adoptions from the other side of the table."

It is written by Dale Edmonds at her personal blog. Dale is the director for the nonprofit organization Riverkids, which works to stop child trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia.

Her most recent blog post addresses the incredible complexities of the situations children and families face in Cambodia. And more specifically, recently, "Riverkids – the NGO I work for – is in the middle of arranging two adoptions."

Hence, Dale shares her experience thus far with the process and expresses, "It is odd to be on the other side now, to be making the decision on placing a child and figuring out how to do it. I thought it might be helpful to write up what my experience so far has been."

To open the post, Dale provides a bit of personal background along with a caveat:

Riverkids started to a large degree when my husband and I adopted four children from Cambodia, an international trans-racial adoption. Two of our kids had been trafficked specifically for adoption, and in the decade since, I’ve become incredibly cynical about the adoption industry, and to a lesser degree about adoptive parents. It’s not a triangle – it’s a black hole of money and desire coming from wealthier and socially more powerful adoptive parents distorting what adoption could be, a blessing in tragedy.

Caveat up front: I believe ethical adoption is a good alternative for some children in crisis, and I believe that most adoptions now are unethical. Ours certainly were. This is not an official Riverkids post, although we’re putting up our foster care policy once these adoptions are done, with detailed notes on the process as part of them. This is me reflecting on our work.

She then goes on to address six major points:
  1. Yes, we have no babies
  2. Abandoned is forever
  3. Finding a family
  4. Musical chairs with children
  5. They'll have a better life overseas...
  6. Process

As she concludes the blog post, I particularly appreciate her candor and humility in the following admission:

But it would have been so so easy to do that. To walk into a slum and rescue this tiny baby. She had a rash where she wasn’t being bathed enough – but her foster mother had a tiny hat for her that she put on carefully and the baby giggled when her foster mother blew kisses at her, and out of this really poor family struggling as best they could, the baby was loved, so loved.

Still, I have some empathy for people who charge in to rescue children. It’s seductively easy. Children cling to you and you can get such an emotional fix off rescuing them. They are far easier to help than angry independent adults. They are ‘clean slates’, and you can project your own ideas onto them. You have all this wealth and power comparatively, and everyone is so nice to you because you’re the kind lady or man who rescues children from horrible people.

While this empathy is not going to stop me from punching certain people in the face on behalf of my kids if I ever met them again, I can see how it starts. It starts when you think about how you feel, not the baby you’re supposed to be helping.

* * *

ADULT ADOPTEES in particular, she has specifically requested feedback and insight regarding the information she has collected for the two children's files. It seems like a very inclusive list to me. I wish I had had such information available to me from the beginning.

But I imagine that some of you, whether adoptees, adoptive parents or otherwise, may have some helpful insight to offer. If you do want to offer insight, please make sure to FIRST read Dale's ENTIRE blog post and please be CONSIDERATE. It's clear that she spent a lot of time thinking through the details (as well as obviously living through the details), which of course, as is inherent to adoption, are complex in nature.

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."