“I Like Adoption.”

One of the latest viral videos is titled “I Like Adoption” (not your typical viral video). I first saw this yesterday at 5:57 am and was unable to go back to sleep. Not because of the warm, cuddly, “faith in human restored” feelings that seem to be sweeping everyone off their feet, but by anger. In fact, I was far angrier than I’ve been in a long time and actually longed to hit something. Instead, I shoved down my feelings and tried to forget about it. However, the anger remained. This anger clouded the my day and successfully made me grumpy for a good part of the day. (I suspect that this isn’t the typical reaction to the video.)

When I awoke this morning, I noticed that many of my friends were sharing the video and commenting on how “beautiful” and “loving” it was. One of my really good friends shared it with the caption of “a-freaking-mazing.”

I threw up in my mouth a little.
My anger returned with a vengeance.

To be fair, the video is actually really beautiful. It’s a story of a family who has adopted kids from all over the world, many of which have abnormalities (like no arms or legs). Obviously, what they do is laudable. You can practically feel the love that the family shares. I have mad respect for them and wish that more people were as loving and passionate as they are.

So what is it that makes my heart race and muscles tense in anger? The father’s narration, particularly these two lines:

“When you’re adopted your parents looked down on the whole world and picked you. You think that they don’t really know the gravity of them being rescued or saved…”

Although these (bold) statements may be true for their family, they’re not true for the majority of adopted children. In fact, these generalizations are complete and utter bullshit. (Actually, it’s how to be an asshole parent.) It’s this kind of speech that perpetuates the misinformed and ignorant ways that many speak about adoption. (Oh hey, thanks Christian propaganda.)

Biological children are never presented with a narrative where they should be thankful for being born, however adopted kids are constantly told this– constantly told that we should be “thankful” for being adopted. Not only can this alienate adoptees, but it can also make them feel like “less” of a child, family member and person, and more like a commodity– a mere object purchased for the pleasure of others. It’s like we’re in debt to our adopted parents, a debt that can never be repaid, consequently leading to feelings of guilt, shame and inadequateness.

Part of me wants to point fingers and blame someone for the pervasiveness of this kind of speech, but then I’m reminded that the majority of people will never understand this because they’ll never know what it’s like.

They’ll never have to wonder what it’s like to have an original birth certificate, one that’s forever sealed from them. Nor will they ever know what it feels like to have a whole history completely hidden and forbidden from them. They’ll never have to wonder who their parents are or if they have siblings. Nor will they ever have the heartbreaking experience of walking down the street and wondering “are any of these people related to me?”  They’ll never have to wonder if anyone else knows about their existence.

This ignorance is completely understandable because most people will never think about these types of things since it’s so unnatural to them (that’s a good exercise in empathy), however it is not acceptable to continue to allow individuals (like the father in the video) to perpetuate the way individuals talk about adoption. It discounts the experience of many adoptees and affirms their deep seeded feelings of unworthiness.

The adoption community needs to come together to allow people to see the complexity involved in even the most idealistic adoptions.

Because of You: A response to Bethany Christian Services

Bethany Christian Services released a series of three videos for what they refer to as “birthmothers day.” Contrary to the opinions of many others, I’m not upset that they decided to label it birthmothers day as opposed to mothers day because it helps distinguish and spread awareness that yes, adoptees have (at least) two mothers. Many people, if they are not adopted themselves, tend to forget that an adoptees’ adoptive mother is not his/her biological mother. This is not a fault of their own, nor is it careless. If anything, its a sign that the adoptee has assimilated quite successfully into whichever context they were placed.

All of that said, what does upset me are the nature of the videos that were released and encouraged by the organization to be sent to individuals’ birth mothers. Aside from the lack of authenticity, the videos are further propaganda (yes, propaganda) to be used by the organization, at the expense of birth mothers and their children.

The beginnings of Holt International are rooted in this same propaganda, propaganda where the real message is ‘your child can only have a good life away from you.’ The founders of Holt have often been accused as baby stealerssnatchers and other similar names, as many of the early adoptions were haphazardly explained to birth mothers. Many birth mothers were under the impression that they would still be able to communicate with their child throughout the years and when they realized that this was incorrect, they were overcome with grief.

The acquisition of children was usually done by talking about Christianity, asking if they (birth mothers) had ever considered sending their child to America, and then proceeding to show pictures of their country’s (in this case, South Korea’s) children, happy and smiling in America. Can you imagine what impact this must have on an already vulnerable, single woman?

I can.
It manipulates their view of themselves and their ability to raise their child.
It provides even more guilt for something that a woman already feels embarrassed about, covertly saying ‘you were selfish, now be selfless.’
It demeans her by saying ‘you’re not adequate to provide for your child.’

With these messages being sent, is it really any wonder why adoption agencies were, and are, so “successful?”

Unfortunately, this model of adoption has had a lasting impact. Agencies all over the world are using the same ‘look at this happy child!’ form of propaganda. (Some may argue that this is transparency, but transparency gives both sides of the story, not one.) Bethany’s most recent “birthmothers day” videos are just further proof.

Here is the transcript from the adoptees’ video:

Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family.
I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou.
Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence.
Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all.
Because of you I feel protected and I’m home.
Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future.
Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you.

Can you figure out what being said says, what really is being said here?

Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family. Something that I would’ve never had with you. I certainly wouldn’t have lived?
I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou. Thanks for making your choice. I’m so thankful that I can call them my parents, and not you.
Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence. (Um…wait, this isn’t a good thing…)
Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all. Again, thanks! You never could have been a great mom.
Because of you I feel protected and I’m home. Something else you couldn’t provide.
Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future. Or, you at least listened to what the agency fed you.
Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you. I never would have been a strong person if I grew up with you. 

No one would ever want to send such messages to someone, yet these are exactly what the birth mothers are being told. (I’m really interested in the parts that weren’t included in the video. By the emotion of some of the individuals, you know there was more to it. Do you think Bethany will ever release the outtakes?)

This time next week I’ll be on my way to Korea. One part of the trip is a visit to an unwed mothers home, where we adoptees will be paraded in front of unwed mothers as living propaganda. I really hope there are others there who realize the impact our words can have on these vulnerable women.

We need to be advocating for birth mothers to keep their children, not give them away.
We need a gentle way to say no one can replace you.
We need to show them how much their children will love and need them.

If I were to create my own video it would say the following:

I wish you would have kept me.
Regardless of how difficult things could have been, at least we would have been together.
Because of you, I’ll always be searching for home, a place filled with love and belonging.
Because of you I have never experienced more pain, pain that I’ll never be able to move beyond.
A lot of people say that you gave me life, but you may also be the reason it ends.
I want you so much.

Disappointment & Vulnerability

At a very young age, I learned not to get too excited about things because disappointment will find its way to creep in, acting as an unwelcome leveling device that balances joy and sadness, thereby keeping them at similar levels.

Brene Brown has spoken a lot about vulnerability and our culture’s tendency to numb, claiming that when we numb ourselves to pain, we also numb ourselves to joy and happiness. Simply put, we lose our ability to be vulnerable, and that inability is costly. It’s costly to our relationships, as well as our view of ourselves and our ability to love and accept ourselves, as we are.

If someone were to take a poll and ask “who here is vulnerable,” I’d be one of the first ones to glance away out of embarrassment, keeping my hand tightly glued to my side, because I’m not a vulnerable person.

There.
I admitted it.

Throughout my life, I’ve been disappointed enough times to know not to get too excited about things. If someone were to tell me I won a free trip, my response would be a pretty emotionless “cool” because in the back of my mind, I would be thinking “it’s not going to happen.” That way, when things don’t happen and disappointment rears it ugly head, I’m distanced enough from the event/situation that I can accept it without being (too) upset.

It’s a coping strategy and it works pretty well.

However, it fails (miserably) when the situation is something that I feel is foolproof, like 100 percent likely, to happen. In these situations, I let myself get really excited…and of course, when these fail, for whatever reason, I take it pretty hard.

This is the case for the past five out of six days.
(Not to mention the past few months.)

I’ve gotten really excited.
And then let down.
Disappointed.
Bummed.

The fifth incident happened earlier this evening, and, combined with the rest of the week, has left me really down.

It’s moments like these where I’m reminded at how bad it is to feel this alone and unloved, and it feels really bad.

Why didn’t my parents want me enough to keep me? Or at least acknowledge my existence? If only abortions would have been legal in 1986, then maybe I would have had a chance. How ironic.

One of the hardest parts about living in a different country is that you no longer have anything to look forward to about Friday nights– you can’t meet up with your best friends and do the fun things that you have grown to anticipate.

I’ve found that this is even harder when you live in the same country and no longer anticipate those fun times.

The Resurrection Stone

Out of all of the holidays, Easter is my favorite. (Yes, favorite, which means it trumps Christmas.)

Although I’m not a Christian, Easter has always been a special holiday that I enjoy. It serves as both a metaphorical and literal reminder of rebirth and brighter days. It’s a holiday that not everyone celebrates, and those that do celebrate often celebrate it for a variety of reasons.

It’s a holiday that I can secretly and silently be really happy and excited for, without expectations.

This Easter, I spent the day riding my bike, walking, and watching a good five hours worth of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and 2.

In Part 2, there is a scene that has always resonated strongly within me. It’s after Harry has seen snippets of Snape’s life, where it’s revealed that all this time, Snape has been protecting Harry out of love for his mom. Snape has one last message to deliver to Harry, one that Dumbledore was waiting to reveal until the time was right: Harry must die…it’s humanity’s only chance.

Realizing this, Harry walks to the Forbidden Forest, alone and ready to die. As he whispers “I’m ready to die” and gently presses his lips against the snitch, the snitch opens up and the Resurrection Stone floats out. Once the stone is in his hand, his loves ones appear and the following scene unfolds:

Harry’s closest loved ones appear and his eyes focus on his mom, who is holding her hand out for him to take.

He walks to her, attempts to take her hand, but then realizes that his mother lives within him…he can’t physically touch her.

Instead, he can only feel and see her through his memories; whatever he can recount from pictures and descriptions from others.

The scene ends with Harry saying “stay close to me,” and his mom responding with “always.”

Watching Harry and his mother interact, and observing Harry’s longing to be with his mother, I suddenly internalized everything and got an intense longing for my mother.

“To be held for the first time by a parent. To be safe. To be home. To be able to break, to melt, to be human.”Journey of the Adopted Self

All I could (and can) think is I want my mommy!, in the same way a four-year old would cry after falling down. It starts as a quiet plea, but suddenly grows to desperation, loud enough to fill a room with its intensity.

This desperate plea, occurring concurrently with the reminder that my mom doesn’t want anything to do with me, is a lot to bear.

The Significance of Now

The motivations for what I’m now not-so-creatively referring to as “The Search” stem from a few reasons, most of which you can probably list off in about thirty seconds.

I want to learn about my culture and heritage. I want to learn about the people– their history, traditions and ideology. I want to familiarize myself with the language through which their interactions are mediated. I want to taste the richness of their foods and experience the beautiful country that I would have known as home– carefully taking in the smells, the feel of the air on my face, and the sounds that make up the melody of life. I want to know what day-to-day life would have been like there.

As you can imagine, the aforementioned reasons are only secondary to the primary reasons, one of which is locating my biological parents and asking them those ‘big questions’ that have been tormenting me for quite some time. Being able to ask those questions, regardless of if they choose to remain anonymous and regardless of if I ever get to meet them face-to-face, would feel so liberating, like the ring would finally be able to be cast into the fire.

However, the mere prospect of meeting them face-to-face is by far the largest drive for “The Search,” because it’s essential for what I’m really searching for. I’m searching for a feeling…actually, I’m searching for a set of feelings.

I’ve gone most of my life with the notion that finding my biological parents was an impossible, never-going-to-happen task. When I toyed with the idea, I quickly fell back on the strong belief that it was something that would have to wait until much later in life, for a variety of reasons. Mostly however, I just repressed the fact that I even had biological parents enough that I never thought about it. (Yes, it’s possible.) The realization that I could repress that much is pretty disheartening, as it leads to the realization (and understanding) that my birth parents could have easily done the same thing. As such, I’ve always put off the idea of searching for them and learning about my culture and heritage until the “right time.”

Well, now is that “right time.”
…or at least it feels like it is.

In the past couple of months I’ve disappointed enough people to last a lifetime and failed in a really big way. I refer to this experience as my “life fail,” as it has taken the notion I held of my self and relentlessly shook it up. Trying to answer the torturous questions ‘what happened?’and ‘why?’ have left me questioning everything (worldview, self, intentions, etc.), confused, and a bit paralyzed due to the fear of what moving forward could mean. It was through the arduous process of deconstructing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that I kept stumbling upon events from the past, events that have the capability to rip me apart at vulnerable moments. I know what they’re capable of because they were the main contributors to my all-time lowest point, which occurred many years ago. After putting band-aids on those wounds and truly believing that I had dealt with things, I moved forward, continuing to block out any unwanted memory that would sneak in. Whereas my pre-life-fail self could effectively manage the moments where everything came flooding back, post-life-fail self can’t seem to even get a grip on them; all attempts have been futile.

So logically, in an effort to nudge myself along, numb the pain, move-on, and get over things, I find myself amidst rushed decisions regarding how to get and stay busy. A couple of days ago I realized that those were my intentions. It was pretty hard to swallow because on the one hand, I knew I was wanting to jump into something to make it easier to numb/block/repress, yet on the other hand, not jumping into something meant staying a prisoner to my thoughts (which might be worse than jumping, as the mere act of waking up serves as a reminder of everything).

After a lot of thinking (and consequently, a lot of headaches), I have decided to slow down, (attempt to) deal with things, and hope that everything turns out okay in the end. During this waiting period, I hope to confront the things from my past which keep tightening their grip.

That is why this search is so significant to me at this time. Finding my biological parents is both urgent and crucial for what I’m able to resolve and how I move forward. As mentioned earlier, I want to have those ‘big questions’ answered, but more importantly, I want to find a feeling. The former will resolve the original abandonment (which remember has been kept at bay for years), and the latter will resolve the issues from the past, however indirect.

I want to be able to feel and experience that innate love and acceptance that a mother has for her child; love that doesn’t have to be earned and that you feel will always be there; love that gives you a reason to live and never leaves you questioning whether you belong here. I want to feel right, okay, and whole…like maybe I have a sense of place after all. Words can’t describe how desperately I’m longing to feel these things.

A year or so ago I was searching for videos related to adoption on YouTube and I stumbled upon this video.

It completely tore me apart (and still does to this day), not only because it raises a lot of questions, but because I find myself at conflict with the main line of the song: “…when you gave me up you gave everything to me.” It’s not that I’m ungrateful because I realize how lucky I am, but the reality is is that I would give up everything, in an instant, to be able to feel the sentiments depicted in the video.

I can’t help but think that there’s something in my biological parents that feel the same way.

I know that this vision is highly idealistic and that I’m only setting myself up for disappointment, but it gives me something that I need right now.

It gives me hope.