After hearing from the policeman that he was unable to find my birth family I had lunch with a KAD friend to talk out what had happened. I needed to talk to someone who understood birth family search because he’d been through it too. In the hour that we spoke to I ping-ponged through a series of emotions: resignation, hope, anger, frustration, hope, rage, acceptance. Birth family search doesn’t often fit in a neat package, and for me I was all over the place.
In talking to him I realized a few things.
#1 – My birth mother could have a family that she is protecting that she is afraid of losing, that she is mama-bearish protective of. That could be the main reason she doesn’t want to be found. Thinking of her like that makes me sympathize with her because once you have family, especially when you create your family, they are everything and you would do everything and anything to protect them.
#2 – She was 19 when I was born, which makes her 57 years old, still quite young. Assuming that she re-married and had kids she could already be a grandmother. (So my kids, her grandchildren, would not be a big deal to her.) Let’s say she got re-married when she was 25. Maybe she had kids in her late 20s or early 30s, that makes her kids in their 30s. They could have kids right now. And she could be protecting them. As a mother myself I would not want to be responsible for splitting up that family; for her losing her family. I wouldn’t want her to be alone.
#3- If I wait another 5-10 years to search for her again she will be 62-67 years old. My friend pointed out that birth parents tend to want to find their surrendered children as they age; in their 60s in particular. Maybe she will change her mind as she gets older and people around her start to die or fall away from her. Once she heads into her 60s she may become the matriarch of the family. Korean society is interesting because on one hand women don’t have a lot of power or opportunity, but on the other hand once they become ajoomas or hylmoni they start to rule the roost. And the society is primarily based on face and others’ opinions, but once they head into old age they stop caring what anyone thinks of them and they just do whatever they want. This could work in my favor, who knows.
#4 – On that note I wonder, isn’t she curious about me? My friend and I talked about how carrying a baby for 9/10 months inside of you makes you quite attached. Uh yeah, fostering a dog for a week makes you become attached, and this is a child! At the very least, wouldn’t she want to know who I’d become, what I was like? My friend pointed out though that repression can be a final way of dealing with trauma; once you close the door on something it’s hard to open it.
#5 – My friend, who has reunited with his birth family, felt very strongly that he was owed something from his birth mother, at the very least a face-to-face meeting. There was a short period of time when she said she did not want to meet him and his reaction was to bombard her, wear her down and wear down everyone around her so that she would publicly forced to acknowledge him. For a short period he encouraged me to do the same thing. I don’t feel that way; I don’t feel she owes me anything. But talking about this makes me think about my reason for wanting to meet her. I’m not sure exactly what that is. I tend to think that adoptees who say they were always missing something in their life and want to find their birth family to fill in that missing piece are setting themselves up for disaster. I think once you meet your birth family your world will be rocked and no matter how positive the relationship is it won’t fill holes, it actually might lead to more holes. So I think you need to be whole before you meet them. But then I’m not sure why I need to find my family. I just know that I do.
I also don’t want to force her to meet me. I don’t know what her reasons are for not wanting to meet me, but I think if it’s taken this long there has to be something severely holding her back.
#6 – It’s fruitless to guess as to why my birth parents don’t want to meet me, but letting my imagination run wild, what if they are famous? What if one of them is a politician or runs a business or has a visible position in a church where revealing an illegitimate child would crumble the facade they’ve worked so hard to create. I’m not sure how that makes me feel, but it’s a possibility.
#7 – I really think my birth father does not know I exist. If someone went up to him and told him he has a daughter in her 30s he’d probably say “Not me–wrong person.” If he never saw my birth mother pregnant how would he know? Why would he think about someone he had sex with almost 40 years ago? And if that is the case then I will probably never find him.
#8 – There are other things I can do to try and find them. I can create a facebook page that Korean people I know can share and spread. I can create a website advertising my search. But I don’t feel like doing either of those things right now. For the time being I think I just need to let this lie. (Or is it lay?)
#9 – I also really want to write a letter that will be stored in my adoption file in case she changes her mind. By now, if the police officer is right and she knows I am looking for her, she knows how to contact me. She knows she can go to my adoption agency or the police station. If she does have a change of heart I want there to be something there that might make her warm to me. The letter for her currently in my file was written about five years ago and I have no idea what it says.
#10 – Targeting energy. My friend pointed out that right now I have a lot of energy building up from this experience and out of a lot of traumatic experiences people make art; they create. He’s right. I am inspired to do something creative now. I have a project in mind I’m excited to work on. If I take a break from birth family search that is what I will direct my energy towards.
#11 -I hate Korea right now. (Love, hate relationship.) At the end of our conversation the policeman said “You can come to Korea and go to your birth city.” I thought: “Why the hell would I want to do that?” I hate Korea right now. My first two visits happened one after the other in 2000 and 2001. Like a lot of adoptees I couldn’t stay away after my first visit. But my second visit was so traumatic it took my nine years before I returned, and at the time I thought I’d never go back. When I did return in 2009 and then in 2010 I told my friends there I’d see them in another nine years. (I went back again in 2012.) Well now I feel so angry with Korea it could very well be another nine years until I go back.