Monday, July 30, 2007

Foster family

We are so lucky to have ongoing contact with our son's foster family in Korea, via e-mail. When I met his foster mother in Korea I was hoping I would be able to convey to her our hopes of remaining in contact with her. At one of our meetings we were left alone in a room at the agency, and she promptly whipped out the photo album she prepared for us of our son's pictures, flipped to a certain picture and showed me where their e-mail address was printed on the back of the picture. I was so elated and thankful for this little interaction (and, side note: ticked that families - both foster and adoptive - are officially discouraged from keeping in contact without the 'help' of the agency).

When we write to them or send pictures, they reply quickly with gushing comments about how much they enjoy hearing about the little guy we all love; how handsome and sweet and smart he is. They have remembered both the birthdays he has had since he left Korea and have sent him a card on each occasion. From them, I have learned more about my son's personality when he was an infant. I've learned his nicknames - he had two, one that his foster mother preferred, and another that his foster father felt was more acceptable. :) Just little things like that.

This relationship is so important to me, and I desperately want to preserve it for my son's sake. It's another one of those things I day dream about: Taking him to Korea in a few years or so (age 6 or 8, perhaps), and having him run to his sweet foster mom and give her a big hug!

And then there are other times when I wonder if there is a downside to all of this. I mean, this contact with his foster family is filling a certain portion of the hole in my heart for the contact I don't have with his Omma. I don't think of his foster family as his 'real parents', but I do recognize them as wonderfully caring people who absolutely love him, and who knew him before his little life became quite so complicated. Back then he was a sweet Korean boy living in Korea, with a Korean name and a family that looked like him. They spoke to him in his native tongue and supplemented his formula bottles with barley tea and slept next to him on the floor at night and took him to see the sights of Korea as he snuggled in his foster mom's podaegi. In general, I would say he was cared for in a manner similar to many other Korean babies. He was just a normal Korean baby boy. I became frantic during 2006 when I didn't hear from them after one of the e-mails I sent; I was terrified that they had just decided not to respond any more. It turned out that the e-mail simply didn't go through properly, but before I figured that out, I was beside myself with saddness and fear that it was 'over' with them. They are ALL we have as far as links to his life in Korea and his infancy.

Sometimes I worry, though. He absolutely adores looking at their pictures and talking about them. I wonder how he will feel when he really truly understands that this beautiful family won't ever be *the* answer to his questions. I mean to take nothing away from them when I say that, as lovely as they are, they aren't his real parents (just as we aren't). I am concerned when I hear of adoptive parents who label all the parents in this manner:

"Mom"/"real mom" = adoptive mom
"Omma" = foster mom
"Tummy mommy" or "birth mom" = real mom/biological mom

I don't want my son to be devastated when he realizes that his beloved foster mom is not his Omma. Right now he enjoys hearing about his life in Korea. I know he wants to talk about it when he says, "Mama! Tell me a story!" (When I first started talking to him about his life, I would always say, "I'm gonna tell you a little story about YOU!" He would always giggle as he waited for me to start, and then listened very intently). I'm am careful to refer to his foster mother as "Mrs. ____", your foster mom who loves you and took care of you when you were a baby". And I add straight-out, "she is not your Omma. You were in your Omma's tummy and when you were born Omma loved you very much."

((Ugh, so convoluted. But he listens intently and I have no doubt he will understand sooner rather than later, because he is just that smart. It just breaks my heart to tell him this matter-of-fact story that, in reality, makes no sense)).

Anyway, I guess I say all this just to say that I hope I can help him understand all of this some day, and I hope that knowing his foster family, possibly (hopefully!) visiting them and having contact with them, might somehow enhance his life as an adoptee rather than make it even more confusing. And I do want to reserve a very special place for his real Omoni - - but that's so hard to do in this situation.....

(I feel a post about my insanity over the lack of openness coming on.....)

Monday, July 23, 2007

A grudge regarding a real problem

I continue to feel so angry about the lack of access to information that occurs in international adoptive situations. I've never been one who enjoys secrecy or waiting for a secret to be revealed or surprises of any kind. Just tell me what's up, and I'll figure out where to go from there. The fact that someone in Korea knows information that ties my son to a certain (named, known) woman in Korea (his mother) is killing me. Don't misunderstand - I'm not begging for sympathy for myself...I guess I just have a huge axe to grind on my son's behalf regarding this secrecy as far as his own parentage and the circumstances surrounding his birth.

I've tried to write this post many times before and have stopped myself because it's too easy for me to sit here stewing and daydreaming about my private accusations against those who (apparently) don't feel that the children leaving Korea for a 'better life' deserve to know the intracacies of their own existances. I have so many questions about why things are this way.

Someone has a case file on my son's mother. Someone sat down with her, face to face, and talked with her on a minimum of one or two occasions - at least according to the dearth of info we do have, that must be true. Someone knows what she looks like, what her feelings were regarding her pregnancy (above and beyond the fact that she was "all alone with no one to confide in"*). Someone knows if she held her son in her arms. Someone knows if she said a prayer for him or kissed him or said anything to him. Someone knows if perhaps she never laid eyes on him and simply got up and walked out of the hospital after he was born. Someone knows her hopes and dreams for him and her 'real' reasons for following through with the adoption. Someone knows if she specifically wanted him to be adopted to the US, and if so, why. Whatever the answers are to these things unknown to me and my son, someone knows and holds the information captive in a file that will collect dust until the years have passed. Or perhaps the information was taken in but never transcribed to a file, and instead common phraseology was inserted in place of a real, individualized case history and added to the file as a bare-bones description of my son's mother and her emotions (again, see * above).

Some adoptive parent reading this might say, "Oh, that's so sad. They must not know anything about their son's mother. Thank goodness *we* have [x,y,z] information about our child's mother." I am not going to share what few details we have been given, but I've been in the adoption community long enough to know that we have at least what most other adoptive parents of Korean children have. And it's not enough. There is so, so much more to my son's life story and more to his mother's pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption experience than the few facts we have.

Maybe I'm being unreasonable. But what I think is unreasonable is this (seemingly) accepted custom of writing bland paragraphs of stetchy 'confidential background information' and passing them off as everything you are entitled to know about your (adopted) child....moreover, believing (I assume) that THIS is all the child has a right or a need to know.

I just feel so lost and yeah....angry about this. It's one of those situations where there are so many factors that come into play (real or invented by the system), that it's hard to sort out the 'mother's privacy' vs. child's-rights-to-information dilemma. Never in a million years would I want my son's mother to have an even worse existance simply by me having information about her and (yes) the ability to investigate her whereabouts (attempt to make contact) if I were that bold. It's so sad, because the truth is that I'm about as likely to do something to endanger my son's mother's privacy as she is to fly around the world and take her son back to Korea with her. It wouldn't happen. But someone, somewhere thinks the risk is so great that there must be no POSSIBILITY of my son having his hands on that information until 17++ years have passed. And because even the rules themselves and their rationales are shrouded in secrecy, I am left to assume that it is beneficial to someone, somewhere, for this 'custom' (of keeping everything top-secret unless both parties practically demand some shred of openness) to remain vital and in full force. Call me completely paranoid.

I know that my son's mother can check her file for our letters, pictures and mementos if she chooses (and is able!), but what about my (our) son? He gets nothing, NOTHING, unless his mother is in a position to take the brave step of contacting us (via go-betweens on both ends, of course). I was never encouraged to push for an open international adoption by the people I (unfortunately) paid to advise me on my end, and I'm betting my son's mother was never encouraged to share her life story or even dream of any contact with her son, by the people who were being paid to advise her. Everyone is left out in the cold. If only Adoption for Dummies had a game plan for achieving an open international adoption we could turn this whole trend upside down.


*Yes, this is a direct quote from our paperwork. I share this portion *only* because I know I have heard of and seen this exact phrase elsewhere (i.e. from other Korean children's 'confidential background information'). It's a tear-jerking phrase. One that I once thought actually meant something about my son's mother; something personal. The more I read the paperwork and think about this topic, I see that many of us (and our children) are given precious few personal, individual facts ("the birthmother" worked here, met "the birthfather" there, was "alone with no one to confide in". THE END) couched amongst emotion-inducing phrases that all add up to a bunch of.....very little information.

It is my dire hope that the mothers in Korea are someday going to be told (during the pre-relinquishment counseling) that their children will miss them and wonder about them just as they will miss and wonder about their children. That having a bit of contact with their child during his/her growing up years (or providing some personal information to their children during the relinquishment proceedings either via letter or case notes being opened, or ???) is likely not going to ruin their lives. It breaks my heart to think that at least some women are probably scared away from even inquiring about openness just by their social worker's implications, and the system itself.

If a book such as I Wish for You a Beautiful Life could be published from within the system, it is completely possible for items such as those letters or even a simple picture or any tiny bit of real, personal information to be passed on to (and passed between) mothers and the children they relinquish.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Yesterday one of my co-workers came up to me with this sad story:

So...there's this girl my parents know who is pregnant with twin boys, and she's giving them up for adoption.

(me: raised eyebrows)

Yep. She had her rights terminated on her first child, and she knows she's gonna get these ones taken away, too.

(me: Why? Has she been abusive or.....? Does she want to try to make a plan to keep them?)

I don't know. All I know is that they have already told her that there is *no way* she is leaving the hospital with those babies, so she wants to find adoptive parents because she doesn't want them to go into foster care.

I could hardly think what to say first, but I think (hope) I made it clear that 1) I personally am not in the market for anyone's twins. I'm not sure why she told *me* this awful story almost with an air of if-you're-looking-to-adopt-again-I-know-where-you-can-get-a-baby. Strange since I have told anyone who will listen how much my thoughts on adoption have changed so much since we adopted our son. Blech. 2) This young mom doesn't seem to have the benefit of knowing all of her rights and what she can do to help herself if she has any thought of keeping her baby boys. I mentioned a couple of resources for her to look into.


If I had the courage, patience, time, and compassion, I would love to be a foster parent. I think I would be a half-way decent one, especially for cases where the goal was family reunification. Actually, the more I started thinking about myself in that role, I realized that what I would really like would to be able to mentor young women who don't have anyone to show them that they CAN be good help them prioritize and make plans for their futures and help them learn how to manage a family and all that entails....

I'm not super-mom, by any means. But I do have a heart for young women who seem to have no other 'fate' than to follow in the footsteps, as mothers, of the moms who didn't take good care of THEM. And that is just so sad. Sometimes all people need is a little empowerment, a hefty dose of encouragement, and someone to believe in them.

And God knows, I have a heart for families to stay together whenever possible. Having rights terminated not because one was abusive but just because someone didn't quite 'have her act together' sounds to me like not a 'hopeless' situation as far as her ever mothering any child. It sounds, rather, like a young mom who would be able to raise her children if she had someone to show her she could do it.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Meant to Be

I've never said my son was 'meant to be' part of our family. I have a hard time even considering it in my most private thoughts. Saying that he was meant to be with us sounds an awful lot like saying he was meant to lose his parents, his roots, his culture, his language, his Korean citizenship. No matter how I could try to slice it (rationalize), I just don't, can't, and won't believe it.

The meant-to-be conversation about adoption occupies a lot of my quiet thoughts, nonetheless, because acknowledging that my son wasn't meant to lose everything and wasn't necessarily meant to be my son, means that, since he has indeed been relinquished and adopted, he is currently (and is henceforth going to be) living a life he wasn't meant to live.

Doesn't it?

What does that mean for him? For my relationship with him (and by that I mean what are my responsibilities specific to this concept)? These are the questions I struggle with. I care relatively little about whether or not APs say 'gotcha day' or whether or not they circumcize their children, or whether or not they feed their babies peanuts at age 1 or age 3. When it comes to adoptive parenting, I'd much rather learn about these concepts that are bound to be all-consuming - - for my son, 'who am I?' and for me as his adoptive mother, 'how can I best support you?'

As a child, my thoughts would sometimes wander in daydreams such as what would it be like if they told me I was adopted? Maybe my real parents are gorgeous/handsome rich folks who spend their days traveling the world (going to every exciting destination, of course) with their children. Maybe I'm meant to be living in a mansion. Maybe I would have 20 Cabbage Patch Kids and plenty of Jordache jeans and charm necklaces, like my friend Nikki. Maybe I would live near the ocean instead of in the boring old midwest. My little fantasies were interesting to ponder, but in the end I had the security of knowing that I was pretty much right where I belonged ~ or at least that there was no real possibility that I ever had a chance of being anywhere else. It was pretty obvious that I was meant to be in the family I was being raised in. And that reality was comforting.

I feel like there is just no way that I can provide that security of knowing you are where you belong, for my son. When he so much as looks in the mirror, his own reflection will tell him that he is not where nature apparently intended him to be. I struggle with it. While many of my fellow adoptive parents are somehow able to claim they forget which of their children is adopted, I still, after almost two and a half years, hold my son in my arms and when I look into his eyes I am only filled with questions. Who are you? Who are you/were you meant to be? What can I do to show my love, my support, my commitment, even though it's possible that we are not meant to call each other 'son' and 'mama'? How can I help you feel that sense of security that *I* had as a child, that sense of belonging where one is - when, in my mind, you are a sweet baby boy who is meant to be growing up in Korea with your Omma?

And what shall I tell him in the future? "You were meant to be a part of our family" isn't working for me right now as any kind of concession for everything that has been taken from him.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Confession of an adoptive dad

I'm so lost right now. There isn't a good way to ease into this topic, so I'll just get started...and by the way, this is the short version - since I've already spent hours trying to compose this post tonight with just the right words to accurately convey the sentiment, only to have it eaten by the cyber monster.

Last spring and summer we realized we needed to make some decisions about our family size. It turns out that we both felt that we would love to have another child. A second adoption was considered, but we have so many reservations about it now. We chose to have another biological child. As a few of you know, that endeavor ended abruptly when our baby died in utero nearly half-way through my pregnancy.

Fast-forward a bit - I've been periodically asking my husband if he thinks we should try to have another baby. He always seems thoughtful, but in the end just replies, "I don't know....". I have assumed that perhaps he is still at a point of grieving that he can't really give it full consideration, or that he is afraid of another loss - that is, the loss of another baby. Well, the topic came up again tonight, and all of a sudden, out came the truth. I'm surprised - at his sudden candor, afraid - that his fear could be legitimate, and completely taken aback (shocked) - at the finality...the conviction he voiced:

I'm afraid it would be a boy. If the baby were a boy, he would look like me. I mean, regardless of how much he actually resembles me, I would have one son who doesn't look like me and one son who does look like me. People would comment on that in a round-about way and they would probably assume that I loved him more and that he was more of a 'real' son to me than [our son's name]. I just couldn't stand to hear, 'Oh, he looks so much like you!' I just love [son's name] so much and I feel like I am developing such a strong relationship with him and if I then had a son who looked like me, it would ruin everything. I never want [son's name] to think that I want any other son or that I have some need to have a biological son. So, that's it....that's why I don't know if I want you to
have another baby....I never want any other son. [son's name] is my son.

(Okay, please don't judge!) If nothing else, I would be thankful that he didn't waste any more time thinking that he couldn't share these feelings - regardless if they had any merit. But the truth is, this validates the secret thoughts I had the whole time I was pregnant...what will we do if it's a boy?

It would ruin everything?

I never want another son?

Well, that's pretty much how I feel about it, too, come to think of it. Don't ask me why this wasn't on the radar last spring/summer - before I was pregnant.

So now what.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

heavy heart

My son's foster family has been occupying my thoughts, as we have been in contact with them again this week. I may have a post brewing about the connections between these families and the children they foster, and adoptive parents' perceptions of foster relationships - but this week, in particular, doesn't seem like the right timing for me to attempt that topic.

Instead, I want to join my thoughts and prayers with those of you who have spoken out on injustice and tragedy this week, though I don't have anything profound to add to the discussions.

Margie has compiled a list of posts that address the injustice that has come to light regarding the custody of Evelyn Bennett. I continue to hope and pray that the deceitful, unethical practices that created this situation will be recognized by the courts (or by the people who have custody of baby Evelyn), and that she will be returned to her family without further delay.

Jae Ran has a sobering post regarding the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. I have no words, just a heavy heart, for all affected by this horrendous tragedy - including Korean/Korean American community.

Monday, April 09, 2007


These days I wouldn't recommend an AP-centered adoption discussion forum to those curious about adopting. However, for anyone who is interested in adoption ethics, I think perusing them on a regular basis is a good idea, for an almost-complete education in 'What's Wrong With Adoption'. I've been stewing about several comments on one such forum since last week. These really aren't anything's just that they pop up right when I think progress is being made as far as wider discussions about adoption.

There is a post from last week that I would love to copy and paste here, but it's lengthy - so I'll just quote a few portions of it that I have continued to stew about since I first read it. It's so sad (beside the point that this in-your-face-toned 'bomb' was dropped into a decent discussion about whether we know as much as we think we do about adoption. From one who, apparently, knows everything she needs to know...)

We chose international adoption for several reasons. One reason that played a big part in our choice was the view that birthmothers should have the "right" to an open adoption. While many adoptive parents feel comfortable with this, we did not.

No offense to my cyber-friends/acquaintences who may have initially chosen international adoption because of real or perceived/feared issues with the US domestic adoption system, but when I hear of folks choosing international adoption as a way around dealing with 'birth'parent issues, it hurts. I guess because when I think of 'birth'parents....well, I don't actually...I think of my son's mother! When people 'in the process' prance into a discussion and declare their willfull choosing of international adoption for its benefit of 'no birthparents', they are in effect stating that they have a certain disregard for the mother and father of the child they may adopt, and for the child, as well. I guess, even though I can only hope to meet my son's Korean mother some day, I still view him as an extention of her; in my mind they are connected in a meaningful, important way. People love to make this a simple issue of 'some people are comfortable with this, and some are not.' What a tired old cliche has become in the world of waiting-to-adopt (and post-adoption)! Accepting, fully accepting, the fact that an adopted child has biological/natural/first parents should not be optional. It can't be brushed aside as something that some people can 'handle' and others can't.

I'll just throw this next quote in because it shows a little more of the author's perspective/intentions:

People that constantly have to announce they feel a loss for their child that they gave up should not make those who feel a gain for the child they are raising feel guilty. We are the parents. We understand the love you had to have in order to do what you did.


As I stated earlier we are about to become parents. The only thing different is that we are using adoption as our means to becoming parents. It is not what will define our child or us.

"Using." Interesting choice of words.

Yes, she will know she is adopted. Yes, we will celebrate her country, entertain her questions, take trips and fill her life with those of her heritage.

So vague and non-commital, yet sadly it is still seen as the recipe for success. I would love to be able to 'celebrate', 'entertain', take trips, and 'fill [my son's] life' with every good thing. That still won't make the brokenness of adoption 'whole' again.

I would like to point out that as a future parent (through the means of adoption) there is a vast amount of education expected by our agency. We even have had financial checks, psychological status checks, background history, police checks, home inspections, and both required reading and parenting classes to continue in the process. We have had every aspect of our marriage and social relationships questioned and recorded. Our education on this event is not lacking as you kindly inplied.