“I wish for you a beautiful life.”

Conflict.
Contradiction.

These two words seem to sum up life right now.

As each day creeps by, I find myself more anxious than the last, resulting in doing my best to block everything out. However, the events of the last two days have left me defenseless, confused, and in a continual state of ‘trying to process.’

Yesterday, rather than doing a myriad of other things that needed to be done, I found myself sitting under a tree reading I Wish For You a Beautiful Life: Letters from the Korean Birth Mothers of Ae Rae Won to Their Children.

As I quickly took in the words on the pages, this stream of consciousness occurred:

These birth moms loved their children enough to write them a letter. A lot of them even have hopes of meeting their child in the future –> That means I have a good chance of my mom/dad wanting the same thing, wanting to meet me –> Wait. –> My birth mom didn’t write me a letter. In fact, neither of my parents have even contacted the agency to learn more about me or try to initiate contact –> Hope dwindles, especially with the reminder that after my mom learned she was pregnant, she quit her job and moved from motel to motel, hiding from everyone she knew out of shame –> shame of me; how do you not take that personally? –> Regardless though, how could she not want to meet me now? –> But I get it (thanks, undergrad major) and I get the complexity. –> However, in this case, getting it is not nearly enough to make it easier.

Reading the collection of letters reiterated what I have learned in historical texts and memoirs and helped me understand Korean culture a lot better. During the time period I was born, males were highly valued over females and marriages were often arranged. As such, and given their strong ties to Confucianism, pregnancy outside of marriage was highly stigmatized (way more than in the US during the same time period), and to a large part, still is. So much so that their “family register” (a document equivalent to the US birth certificate) is examined upon entering jobs, schools, and so forth. When you don’t have a male (father) tied to your family register, you are instantly stigmatized and looked down upon. As such, a lot of the women described this in their letters as one of their reasons for relinquishing their baby– they knew how their culture treated illegitimate children and didn’t want their child being exposed to such harshness and inequality. At least in America, their child may be lucky enough to escape these erroneous judgements, albeit in place of another set of judgements.

See?
I really do understand how all of the parts of their culture are interconnected and I’m confident that I could explain the adoption phenomena that occurred in the 80s with a holistic approach. (Someday, I hope to do just that.)

But it’s still not enough to alleviate the hurt of what I’m experiencing.
And it doesn’t even begin to take into account the status of the relationship with my adoptive parents and the accompanying guilt and confusion.

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