As I have mentioned before, this new development in finding my birth family caught me completely off guard. I have found it difficult to find my bearings and have only recently begun wrapping my mind around the situation and what it all means. One thing I didn’t expect was just how guarded I would be on the subject altogether.
Everyone in my life knows I am going back to South Korea for the first time since my adoption in 1985…a handful of people knew I had initiated a birth family search as part of my master to-do list…and now, only a select few know that they have been found.
I bet you’re confused right about now. Obviously, if you are reading this then you know I started a blog on the internet chronicling my journey…so it seems like I’m actually pretty open on the topic. This is true, but only with the Korean adoptee community I’ve come to know and engage with online.
The only people in my personal life who have known from day one were my husband and my parents. It took me about a week to process things to a point where I could share with my two best friends and then another two weeks to share with select immediate family members.
I think the main reason I can’t share openly with those around me is that I know they won’t understand the complexity of the situation. To an outsider, their first reaction seems to be to congratulate me like I’ve won some kind of prize and go on and on about how wonderful it all is; and yes, on some level it is wonderful. I was able to find them when so many birth families are unable to be found, but that is only a small part of the variety of emotions that come as part of the package deal.
For those who are not familiar with, or were never exposed to, adoption (especially international adoption), I’ve found their views on the subject are very misguided and mostly just wrong. They seem to equate it with growing up in the foster system or being raised by a relative, etc. etc., when in reality it is not even remotely similar.
Once, someone close to me tried to explain how she knows how I feel being adopted since she was raised by her grandparents, as her own parents were not fit to care for her. The only thing comparable here is that she was not raised by her biological parents… the rest of it doesn’t fit at all. She knew who her parents were even though she didn’t live with them, knew what they looked like, interacted with them from time to time, was surrounded by biological family like grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (even siblings who were in the same boat as her), she lives in the same country as them, shares the same culture, speaks the same language….uhh yea I don’t think it is quite the same…
Up until a few weeks ago, I had never even seen a picture of someone who shared my DNA. Since then I have had several interactions via email and skype with my birth family and it has become increasingly clear just how different we are from each other. We don’t have anything in common from the culture, language, nationality, lifestyle, timezone, and the list goes on. I think up until a few days ago, my birth family was thinking that we would understand each other because we are “family” and were insisting that we wouldn’t need a translator while I’m there. The other night I got an email from the agency saying my birth mother had called requesting translation services and wanted to know when she should set that up. It sounds like my birth family is finally coming to terms with how difficult communication is despite the fact that we are biologically linked.
This might sound cold or heartless to some, but they are not my family. Growing up adopted, one’s perception and definition of “family” is a bit non-traditional. It’s like when a family member pisses you off but you forgive them, chopping it up to they’re blood, or if a parent can’t say no to a child because it is his or her flesh and blood. For me as an adoptee, the concept of loyalty to family has nothing to do with genes, or DNA, or flesh and blood. I cringe every time their translator friends refer to them as “your mom…” or “your sister…” instead of birth mother or birth sister. And I understand it is partially for ease of translation but it still doesn’t stop the visceral reaction I have to those casual references.
This is certainly an emotionally charged journey, and even though I am open to the idea of accepting these new people into my life, I am extremely protective of my family, and at this point am not equipped to deal with others’ misguided opinions and ignorance on the situation.
So to sum up, I have been very protective regarding whom I share this sensitive intel and with good reason. I’m sure there are people out there who might understand the level of heightened emotions associated; however, at this point I can’t gamble on which individuals they may be. I guess what I’m trying to relay is that it’s a private matter of the heart that few can fully comprehend.
Thanks for reading.