I’ve been thinking about the man I was pretty sure was my birth father recently. So I Googled him a few days ago. And found his obituary, from LAST WEEK.

It pretty much hit me like a freight train that that door is now permanently closed. I was going to write one more letter to see if I could make contact with him. But that’s over.

In a nutshell, for those of you who don’t know my story, I met my birthmother exactly 30 years ago next week. I was in college. She told me on that day that she was still in contact with my birthfather. She said she’d told him I’d found her, and that he was happy about this and wanted to meet me. She gave me some non-identifying details about him and said eventually we’d meet.

That was thirty years ago. It never happened, in spite of my waiting (sometimes patiently, sometimes not), cajoling, pleading, crying, letter writing. It never happened, and she never told me his name. Through some of my own investigating I finally found a person who matched up with the non-ID information she’d given me so long ago. I wrote to him but did not hear back. I was about to try again when I Googled his death notice last week.

This is the letter I wrote to her. I haven’t mailed it yet, but I’m sharing it with all of you.

Dear Birth Mother,

Is this him? (link to obit) Of course I do not expect you to answer me. You never have. But if it IS him, then congratulations. You successfully managed to prevent us from ever meeting or knowing each other for over 30 years, until his death. That is quite an accomplishment in tenacity.

And if it isn’t him, then congratulations anyway. Because you won. YOU WON. You have finally worn me down. I’m finished. I do not have the emotional energy or resources to start searching again from scratch. I’ve come to the end of it.

I’m at the end of wishing and hoping that our relationship can work, too. I’ve pretty much let go of that.

I did notice that this man died of pancreatic cancer. So did my mother in law. Do you think that my children deserve to know if two of their biological grandparents died from the same kind of cancer? Do you think that they, and I deserve to know our family medical history?

I didn’t think so.

Adoption is so often described as a “win-win!” situation but when I look around all I see here is loss. You and I have lost decades of what could have been a good friendship. We have so much in common. You have lost out on knowing two extraordinary granddaughters who would have loved to know you. I had to prevent my older daughter on several occasions from writing to you. She really wanted to, at various points in her childhood. But I could not bear the thought of her experiencing even a fraction of the pain I’ve known during this relationship.

Maybe you don’t realize how much it hurt to have you cheerily describe the “small family reunion” that took place a dozen miles from where I live. The family reunion which I was not invited to. The family reunion at which many of the family members have no inkling of my existence.

All I can say at this point is, I hope it has been worth it for you. I hope your privacy has been worth all the loss we have all experienced – my birthfather who expressed the desire to know me thirty years ago, my children and all of their relatives, me, and most of all you. I wish you peace in your hard-fought and hard won privacy.

Sincerely,

Me


I came in a little late tonight
. Apparently it starts with a 38 yr old adoptee who has felt abandoned her whole life. It’s a sucky feeling, I agree. Anyway, she had some letter saying that her birthmother abandoned her and didn’t want to deal with her. They find the birthmother. She says, 1. She wrote a letter to her child, stating she was relinquishing her out of necessity and wish she could keep her; and 2. She married the Man of her Dreams a few months later, and tried for 3 years to “get her daughter back.” To no avail, of course. She (the birthmother) was absolutely devastated to know that her daughter never got the letter, and even more shattered to know what the report had said about her.

Can a lifetime of hurt and bitterness be turned around 180 degrees like that?

Well. In one way, maybe not. But in other ways, maybe.

I think it can go the other way. One can hope that one was missed, wanted, loved, thought about. And it can go the other way in an instant as well.

I’m just so angry at the lies and the lack of miscommunications. The lack of honesty and openness in this process. The letter that this woman wrote, and never got to her daughter.

————-

I’m such a mush. I will never get tired of Tim Green crying. He’s just so… out there.

Story 2: Woman searching for birthmother ends up finding her bio sister, also given up for adoption.

OMG do not say ‘Primal Wound.’ Please. Ack.

The sibling reunions always make me a little sad.  Va pues. (<– Central American phrase that translates loosely into “oh well” but it’s more than that)

Hike up to the family tree, folks!

Tim Green has a surprise. While they’re bawling at their reunion, he’s got the news that he’s found the birthmother. She wants to meet both of them.

I wouldn’t have known about the new reality-TV show “Find My Family” if a friend hadn’t emailed me with an urgent “THIS MUST BE STOPPED!” message.  It raised my eyebrow. I clicked on the link. I was like, “Errr… really?”

For one thing, I happen to LIKE a couple of reality shows. Top Chef and Biggest Loser are my favorites.

For the second thing, I do not feel equipped to condemn anything that I haven’t actually seen with my own eyeballs. So I decided to withhold judgment until watching it.

I emailed another (adopted) friend and invited her to smoke some adoptee crack with me.  Adoptee crack is something that you KNOW is probably Wrong on some level, but that you are inherently and uncontrollably drawn to. In this case, people finding their birth families.  I’m a sucker. I can’t help it.

I arrived at my friends M & M’s house at the appointed hour last night. For the record, M1 is an adoptee AND an adoptive parent. M2 is an adoptive parent and a stalwart ally of adoptees.

Folks over at Rainbow Kids seem to have their panties all in a twist because, according to them (presumably BEFORE having watched the show!) “producers completely discount any worth of the adoptive families who have loved and raised these children. Instead the show emphasizes the loss of a child’s Real family’ as the one-and-only central issue of all adopted children’s lives.” Ummm, projection much?? (also: “THESE CHILDREN?” The woman in question was in her 30s! WHEN will we stop being referred to as CHILDREN?!!?!?” Ughhhh.)

I was prepared to dismiss the show, but I was also very curious to see how this was all going to be portrayed.  M1 remarked, in this vein, “I have to watch every single lesbian movie ever made, and even though some of them are really poor quality, it is still important to me to see.. a representation of myself.” AMEN. I feel the same way about adoption in media and literature. Gotta check it out.

OK. So to start out, the two hosts of the show are both adoptees themselves. I give them huge props for that. Because HOW many times are these things produced or created by other people, who just think it is a dramatic and/or romantic idea? Tim Green, the male host was clearly moved by what he was seeing. At one point, the female host, Lisa Joyner, said to the adoptee woman, “I know how you feel.” This annoyed M1 who said, “That’s bull! How presumptuous”!

I sat with that for a minute. I said, “But how many times have *I* said something, and YOU say, “I know how you feel,” and that makes me feel good because it makes me feel seen and understood?” She said, yeah, but we’re FRIENDS. Who knows, maybe LJ and the AW have bonded and become fast friends through this process. I don’t know. So that didn’t bug me the way it bugged her.

OK, back to the show! (I can tell this is gonna be a loooooong post!) The first episode features a couple who faced a pregnancy back in high school (she was 16 I think). Then they ended up marrying each other, having 3 other kids and staying together for 22 years. I’d say this is pretty rare.  The birthmother has gone to a ton of agencies and investigators, and everyone has come up blank.

ABC to the rescue!! They put their team of 20 sleuths on the project, and within short order they have come up with the amended birth certificate of the daughter. They go find her. She is 8 miles “down the road.” Of course she is in shock.  She says she wants to meet them. Then male host tells the parents that she’s been found, and he shares a picture (while wiping away a tear) of her and her son. They’re grandparents, wowee!

Lots of exclamations of “O my GOD!” Which is, of course, quite understandable. Tears. Of course.

Then comes the absolutely cheesiest thing I have EVER SEEN. They have to bring both parties to reunite at The Family Tree – which is an actual TREE up on a HILL, with a path leading up to it! It is a long path.  So (we remarked) does this exclude people with disabilities or poor cardiovascular health?

And the funniest thing. These people all live 8 miles apart in WISCONSIN. So now they’re all going to have to fly across the country (presumably to California: this hill looks very much like the place that the Biggest Losers work out on) to reunite under The Family Tree? Ha ha ha ha. O-kayyyyyyyy, people.

We spent about 15 minutes mocking and laughing the Tree.

They have their tearful reunion, with more “O my GOD!” and hugging and carrying on. Thoughtfully, the producers have provided a nice wide bench, suitable for six family members to sit abreast and catch  their breath while on One Tree Hill.

They’ve brought her a scrapbook with letters and pictures. Which is the part where my adoptee heart drops out of my chest. The dad reads his letter out loud. In my opinion, it is loving, humble, apologetic and open. He makes a BIG DEAL out of saying, maybe he doesn’t have the right to know ANYthing about this daughter because he gave up all rights. He gives BIG PROPS to her adoptive parents for loving and raising her (see that, Rainbow Kids people?????).  He says he does not want to hurt her A-parents, he’s not looking to replace them, only to connect if it is what she wants. It is the picture of restraint.

I whimper and clutch at my heart a bit while hearing this part. I say, “What I wouldn’t give for a letter like that.” M1 says, “Hmm, when I hear that letter, I think, I’ve gotten letters like that and it makes me feel like I have to be grateful when I’m still really pissed off.” She has a point there.

Meanwhile M2 is getting misty eyed and unable to pull herself away, in spite of a big writing project that is calling her name. See, this stuff IS crack!

After the big meeting on the hill, everyone reconvenes for a picnic in Wisconsin, including the adoptee’s ADOPTIVE PARENTS. (ahem) They seem gracious and open, for the two seconds they are on screen. The birthparents thank them.  Although everyone seems pretty much blown out of the water, they also seem to be behaving quite well.  Adoptee’s son seems not quite clear who All These New People are, but he seems to be having a good time. End of show. Fade to sunset.

OKAY! Soooooo…my two cents (or my two hundred cents, right?) is that this show is not an evil Product of Satan. I do not think it is (at all) “anti-adoption.”

As I was watching the show I kept asking (out loud) the question, “Is this exploitive? Is it bad? WHO is being exploited here?”

I decided to look up the definition of that explosive word.

Exploitive: unfairly or cynically using another person or group for profit or advantage

Well, profit and advantage, definitely. They want their ratings. But is it UNFAIR? Is it CYNICAL? Hm. I don’t know about that.

I’ll tell you what’s UNFAIR. It’s UNFAIR that a show like this is even feasible in the FIRST place, because if ADULTS had access to their OWN birth records, it’s unlikely that these decade-long dramas would be playing out like this.  It wouldn’t hold the enormous charge and people wouldn’t have to be paying agents and investigators for fruitless searches.

I asked my fellow watchers, “Is this show hurting anyone? Helping anyone? What’s the point?”

We devil’s advocated it back and forth. On ONE hand, it sucks that these people have their private stuff paraded around. It was like they had to sell their souls to the devil in order to get the information they so desperately wanted and needed. (aside: Would I?????? Answer: It Depends.) On the OTHER hand, it might serve to inform the public that no matter how “all-good” adoption seems to be for many parties involved, no matter how much an adoptive family is full of love and care, it is still perfectly NORMAL for adoptees and birth relatives to wonder about each other.  Everyone has unanswered questions that follow them around for their lives. (OK, not EVERYone, but MANY people.)

This show is produced by the same folks who do the Home Makeover show, where people who live in horrible homes are given the chance to have their house remodeled in massive splendor.  Are THEY being exploited?  It seems to be pretty wide accepted that THAT show is a fairy-tale generosity feel good thing.  Hey, maybe it would be great if some megarich TV station gave people a house and DIDN’T FILM IT, but that is not exactly what they’re about. They wouldn’t BE megarich and have the capacity to be giving away houses if they didn’t have a show that raked in ratings.

Same with this show. How lovely it would be if anybody who wanted to find birthfamily could just contact ABC and they’d put their dozens of sleuths on the trail, and people could discreetly and privately reunite without cameras bearing down on them. But, same thing. The two things sorta go hand in hand.

What would be ever NICER (and I’m just repeating myself, but I think it bears repeating) would be if all adopted adults had access to their own vital records and didn’t need a television station to do this for them.

So, that’s my two hundred cents. Will I watch it again? Probably. Do I KNOW that the show ends at the spot when everyone’s journey is just beginning, and that it will most likely be fraught with complexity and drama and some degree of suffering?? I know that, people. I was not born yesterday. (ha ha ha)

M1 said that of course they have to show those ultimate dramatic moments: The Letter. The revelation. The finding. The dramatic moment on the Hill.

But face it, those ARE the dramatic moments. I will never in my life forget what those moments were like for me. They were life-changing.  Sure, there are a million other small moments that make up the journey of a Reunited Adoptee, but if you only have 30 minutes including commercials, that’s what you have to show.

(ha, speaking of commercials, this was the FIRST time I ever begged for commercials to interrupt because I had SO much to say and I needed a break in which to share and express!)

That’s it, I think. For now. But my opinion is that while the show is cheesy, melodramatic and emotionally manipulative, it also showed some real truths. It was hosted by real adoptees. The people seemed stable and reasonable, for the most part. And their journey is just beginning. Y’all can watch the whole thing here.

Oh, and one more thing, Mrs Rainbow-Kids-Mom-Who-Cant-Stand-Having it Not-Be-All-About YOU:For anybody who knows ANYthing about me, you’ll know that you’ll be hard pressed to find anybody more fiercely loyal, protective and loving of their adoptive family. AND guess what, I also want to know who and where I came from! Guess what, in this complex world of adoption, these two things CAN coexist. (duh)

Anyway, anybody want to watch with me on a Monday night, let me know. I’ll make popcorn.

No, it isn’t really called that. But that is what the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering and Film Festival feels like to me. When I was growing up, I really did feel like a unicorn, or the only one of my kind.  I barely knew any adoptees, I knew a tiny handful of mixed-race Asians, but I didn’t know ANYbody who was both. I didn’t know any Korean adoptees at the time, although I did have a tattered copy of a book about a little girl named Kim who was adopted from.. Korea? Vietnam? I don’t remember, but I gobbled that book up and read it many, many times.

As I’ve been an adult, I realize that the vast numbers of Korean adult adoptees out there facilitates their being extremely organized. They’ve had conferences, gatherings, support groups all over this country as well as internationally. As a domestically adopted Asian (half-Asian!) adoptee, I’ve kind of watched them with longing as well as a sense of outsidedness.  But when would there be a gathering of half-Asian adult adoptees? Who weren’t internationally adopted? I figured: NEVER.

But earlier this year I heard that the Korean adoptee organization that put together a gathering, had opened it up to all Asian adult adoptees. When I learned this, it put a big huge lump in my throat. You know, it seems like not such a big deal. They didn’t have to do that. They could have kept it Korean-only and had a huge turnout. But they took a big step in opening it up like that. For the first time I felt really included. And recognized. And (yes! big adoptee word!) grateful.

Of course I planned on attending. But I was really stunned when my proposal to do a panel of mixed-race Asian adoptees was accepted. I am going to be on a panel of FIVE other unicorns. Imagine that!! And people might actually be interested in what we have to say. I am beyond excited, moved, validated-feeling, and just happy.

I’ll be there starting this Friday, in Hawaii. Aloha!!

hollywood.jpg

This article certainly grabbed my attention. And this in particular:

Concerned that a mixed-race child would face prejudice in Japan, Ouchi allowed an Air Force couple in Japan at the time to adopt her son when he was about 2 months old.

Just like me, he was relinquished for adoption because he was mixed race. Sigh.

Maybe I ought to track him down and invite him to the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering in Hawaii this fall.

images1.jpgMarch 8, 1980. Twenty-eight years ago today, I was a terrified college student in a snowy Midwestern city, going to meet my birthmother for the first time since I’d been born. It’s one of those days whose details I will never forget: the stone church next to the Holiday Inn where we’d arranged to meet; how I went inside trembling, looking for comfort, and found a young Christian man who sat next to me on a wooden pew and helped me pray for courage. I remember staring at myself in the hotel restroom before taking the elevator up to the room. What I was wearing (jeans, clogs, a blue sweater) Knocking on the door. Her face. Our eight solid hours of talking. Tears. Anger. Finally, tenderness and an embrace. Sharing photographs. Questions. How we went downstairs to the coffee shop and ordered the same lunch. How she walked me to the bus stop when it got dark and said into my hair, “I didn’t want this to happen, but now that it has, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

How that deep ambivalence, that back-and-forth, has been present for twenty eight years. A while back, I considered sending her this book but I was afraid to. I’ve decided to send it today. She might see it as an attack, as a reminder of a Bad Memory, but that is not how I mean it. I mean it to say, I am trying to understand your experience. I feel for you. I realize that I do not have control over how she will react.

It’s been a long, long journey. And I guess I can say, it’s not the way I really wanted it to go, but still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, either.

images-1.jpgThis story has been ricocheting around the blogosphere this week, and I’ve been sitting here wordlessly trying to figure out what to say about it. There really are no words. Or others have found better words than what I’ve been able to come up with.

Here’s the summary.

A Dutch diplomat and his wife have given up a seven-year-old South Korean girl they adopted as a baby, saying they had failed to integrate her into their family, consulate officials in Hong Kong said Monday.

The couple, whose names were not released, made the move in the last few months, seven years after they adopted her, a South Korean consulate spokesman told AFP.

“They now have their own children. They decided it was difficult to raise her because of cultural shock. They said she’s not willing to eat their food. That’s one of the reasons. It’s a strange reason,” said the spokesman, who did not want to be named.

“She was raised from a very early age. It’s a very uncommon case. It’s a difficult situation for us to understand,” he said, adding that the couple had adopted the child when the diplomat was working in South Korea.

If you have the stomach to read more, it gets worse, more bizarre and more heartbreaking. I’d recommend reading what Sume has to say.

Resist Racism discusses it here and here. Ungrateful Little Bastard has a thorough listing of documents on the story. Harlow’s Monkey wrote a brilliant response, as usual. And Julia’s post is compassionate, insightful, and devastating.

Edited to add Paula’s incredibly articulate POV. 

One of the links that shocked me the most was this link from Harlow’s Monkey. I stared at it for a long time. I really could not fathom that it was real, and not a spoofy kind of joke from The Onion. But it’s real. If you’re not satisfied with how your adoption turned out, you can seek restitution! Even after forty years!

Sorry, Mom, if you’re suffering from Adoption Disappointment, you’re eight years too late.

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