Searching for my family in Sri Lanka

The following blog series will be dedicated to our Searching in Intercountry Adoption series. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.

~에 의해 개비 베클리, born in Sri Lanka, raised in Australia

When I cook, standing in my kitchen, surrounded by the scents and smells of Sri Lankan spices, curries and dhals, I am transported back to one of my first memories of meeting my Amma in her small smokey kitchen back in the year 2000. I then fast forward to 2019, sitting in my younger sisters apartment watching her cook, being entranced by the smells, laughter and life coming from her kitchen in her home.

My life has taken so many unexpected twists and turns. I reflect upon the different versions of myself through my search and reunion with my family. I reflect at the past global climate when Sri Lanka was in the grips of a bloody civil war war and what life is like now amidst the current political instability.

I think of choices parents make for their children and the hopes and dreams we have for them. I know we all share a common thread, we want our children to be happy, healthy and content with life. I know that is what my Amma and Thatha want(ed) for me and my siblings and I know that is what I want for my children.

Yet the complex psychosocial strings that took me away from my first family and weaved a complex narrative in my second, continues to undo and reconnect as I attempt to parent my own and leaves me feeling some days like I have an understanding of what’s going on, yet most days, I struggle to make sense of it all.

My story is mine to tell, yet I am only one part of a multitude of layers, stories and connections. To tell my story is to honour my first family’s story. Our story is a love story of two people shaped by an extreme set of extraordinary circumstances that include war, love, poverty and hope. Then my second family who also experienced war, love, loss, trauma and hope; and finally the family that I have created, also has love, loss, hope and possibilities.

The way that I comprehend searching for my family is it has always been about finding out who I am, recognising the person staring back at me in the mirror and understanding who I am as a person and how I relate to the world. 

Searching for me is coming to understand it doesn’t stop when you have the answer  to your prayers, it’s then understanding and building relationships with the people who share your bloodlines and those that don’t. It’s accepting the choices that people made ‘in your best interests’ and placing those choices with the people that made them and not on myself.

Searching over the past 23 years has been important, life affirming and life saving. I have now know my first family longer than I haven’t known them — and for me that’s important milestone because it helps me understand the complex person within.

I know the trauma of that first great loss in my life has impacted my whole life. I want to bust the myth that love it s enough to conquer the hurt, pain and the trauma — it is not. 

Connection, meaningful connections and conversations, intentional understanding, acceptance, trauma informed care and a safe space to feel my feelings is what I have needed. Finding purpose and meaning in my life has come from reuniting with my family, culture and kin. I know what it is like to walk the walk and I know why it’s important to give back and assist others in their journey of healing.

Searching has never been the end goal, searching is part of the healing journey I take every day.

Coming Next: Searching for my family in Russia

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

Searching for my family in the Philippines

The following blog series will be dedicated to our Searching in Intercountry Adoption series. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts..

~에 의해 데지레 마루, born in the Philippines, raised in the USA

I was born in destitute poverty in the Philippines in 1985 and hence relinquished to an adoption agency on the day that I was born. I was taken care of at Asilo de la Milagrosa, in the care of Catholic nuns who were social workers at the time, and adopted via Holt International to the USA when I was about two years old. I did not know my adoptive parents, nor did they come out to the Philippines to get to know me. My name legally changed, and I was flown from an airplane and delivered to Caucasian strangers that were my legally binding family.

I grew up in Wisconsin, in the Midwest, and had an adopted brother, who was two years older than me, who was also adopted from the Philippines, from a different orphanage. We grew up not being taught about the Philippines. We grew up with a lack of pride or understanding of our home culture, heritage, customs and language. Instead we were heavily assimilated into the Western culture; we were asked a few times about our culture from our adoptive parents but it wasn’t enough support to keep us connected to our home traditions. 

Barriers included a lack of being informed from our adoptive parents about our homeland, ancestry and we also lacked emotional-psychological support for intercountry adoptees in the Midwest at the time. I vaguely remember a time when my adoptive mother sat me down in the living room, back in Wisconsin, she told me I was adopted, and I said, “I know,” and walked out of the living room. I went back to my bedroom to be by myself. That’s the tone of my childhood, where I was showing like I didn’t care when in fact, the whole experience was difficult for me. But I didn’t know how to reach out or talk about it to anybody.

My brother had a lot of issues and we moved to Arizona in high school to try to start over as a family. This is a time when my adoptive mother came into my bedroom and showed me my biological papers. She said she had to wait until I was 18 to give these to me, but I was close enough to the age, or something along those lines. She left, and I looked at them and I cried. I saw the name of my birth mother, and I longed to know more about her. 

I imagined my birth mother a lot in those days. I wrote poetry, and it was never enough to fill the gap and missing pieces of my heart. 

Obstacles in searching at the time was that my biological papers, which had been established by social workers in the Philippines, didn’t preserve much of any functional information for independently searching for family members or family history. These biological papers lacked any kind of suitable, identifiable information that preserved in any way my heritage and family tree information, which would be necessary to piece together my past without needing the very individuals to re-establish the knowledge of my heritage. 

My biological papers revealed next to nothing about my father, which later on, I would find that the information that was volunteered by my birth mother was also false. But as a teenager, when all I have are these old, governmentally-certified papers from my home country, that’s all that I had. So these old-fashioned, brittle documents were my only hope, which were papers that scarcely were able to certify my birth on thin, fragile paper. I had a feeding schedule from my orphanage and a mighty, descriptive report of what I looked like and acted like as a vulnerable baby in the orphanage. And that was all I had of my entire past. These artefacts showed I was just a product of the adoption process. 

I finally decided to pursue a reunion when I was in my mid-twenties. I discovered that Holt International actually had a search and reunion department, so I emailed them, and started the process. They reached out to my old orphanage, Asilo de la Milagrosa, and the kind social workers there had found my files. They also went themselves to the address of my birth mother, and thankfully, she still lived there. From that point, they coordinated with her.

I planned a trip to the Philippines with barely enough funds to cover this at the time. It was difficult because my adoptive mother wasn’t supportive at all, and nobody from my adoptive family supported me either. But in a few months, I was able to create an itinerary. I was to leave Seattle, to the Philippines, and I was given a place to stay with the Intercountry Adoption Board of the Philippines, and later, Asilo de la Milegrosa had guest quarters too. 

The cost of a reunion is plenty. The cost of travel is hefty. But the main cost to consider is the toll of what you’re undergoing psychologically and emotionally. You’ve spent all your life fabricating an identity away from this place, and now you’re returning, and you’re having to break out of that safety net to acknowledge and face parts of your past that had been concealed all this time. So it is disruptive to the security in our lives. It is a risk one takes as well, because you don’t know the results, and how you’ll process the experience post-reunion either. 

The outcome of this search was that I was unknowingly able to have a reunion granted for me, with my birth mother and half-birth brother, due to all of these circumstances leading up to this being uniquely favourable and available to me at the time. 

My reunion was in 2012, and it is now 2023 and I’m living on my own in Indiana. My adopted brother recently passed away last year, homeless on the streets of the Philippines, in 2022. He lacked much needed support throughout his whole life, which will always weigh on me, and I miss him everyday. I don’t talk with my adoptive family anymore, although I had kept in touch with my adoptive parents and grandparents mainly. I just have one surviving adoptive grandfather now as well, so life has changed even in their circumstances. 

After experiencing the whole search and reunion process, I do have my own perspectives to share. I think what is needed is that every adoption company and governmental organisation should have a search and reunion department for all adoptees to utilise.

Every adoption agency and birth country of an orphaned or vulnerable child should be collecting all of their biographical information including family trees and family members, so that they can have the knowledge of their past to utilise for their own personal purposes. Adoptees should have a right to have their family history preserved and safeguarded, administratively. Their biographical information, including birth information and birth records, needs to be preserved as best as possible, and social workers should make sure that all information is accurate and not in fact made up. 

This biographical information is what holds the last of an adoptee’s own cultural identity and historical background, and even medically, this is paramount. This information could give a sense of security and psychological support if anything, which could save society a lot of issues in the long run. It would hold well in the search and reunion process because the more information adoptees are given, the more options adoptees have for meeting or getting to know their home countries in ways that are comfortable for them.

Supportive resources include the adoption agencies free search and reunion administrative support, biological paper filing and holding for the adoptee; it is giving an adoptee full access to their records at any time as well. Intercountry adoption boards or agencies of the home country, and the orphanage that the adoptee was cared for at, all need to be officially accountable. They all need to have proper records of the vulnerable child, and proper process and procedures for the search and reunion. Support should be accessible on a regular basis. 

There should be rapid communication readily available for adoptees today such as having proper email addresses, current phone numbers and customer service at hand. Support should be granted such as places to stay when the adoptee visits the home country and on a reunion; they should be informed of the reunion process, given counselling support, translator support, and if someone can document the reunion for the adoptee, that could help too. 

Now in 2023, after all these years of living life, pursuing therapies, working and becoming the owner of my own life, I’ve decided to start a new chapter of my search and reunion by requesting a MyHeritage DNA Kit for starting an initial search for biological relatives, and to also learn about my DNA heritage, and where I come from. This DNA kit was free due to the program in place recently, which was why I’d participated in requesting this kit. 

The difference in this is that before, I would say, I experienced more of a direct line to my poverty-stricken past at Asilo de la Milagrosa, where in my mid-twenties, I met my birth mother and half birth-brother in 2012. Now, it is simply nice to search in a more discovery-toned, self-paced way, versus having to respond to a critical need to grasp the truth of what happened to me as a vulnerable baby and understand why my mother gave me up when I was born.

In this DNA search, I don’t have to ask too many hard questions, although even to this day, some questions can still linger in my mind from time to time: Why didn’t my biological family contact me all this time? Why wasn’t I able to mend the fabric of my biological family history at a certain point in my life? And, why did my past have to be such a void? 

Coming Next: Searching for my family in Sri Lanka

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

Searching for my family in South Korea

The following blog series will be dedicated to our Searching in Intercountry Adoption series. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.

~에 의해 Samara James, born in South Korea, raised in Australia

artwork by Samara

When I first moved to South Korea back in 2008, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to locate my birth family. How do you know whether you want to unlock the biggest mysteries of your life? How do you know if you are ready for it? For me, it was a curiosity, but for my Korean friends, they seemed determined to make the reunion a reality with an almost feverish determination. This is what really propelled the search for my birth family, and despite not really understanding what that would mean or preparing for what may happen, I agreed to do the search. Ann Babe, breaks down the attitudes toward gyopos into three types. She described the first as, “A person that’s older who is sort of angry about you being a Korean but not being fully Korean.” There are the “people who seem flummoxed and simply incapable of grasping your background” but then there are also those who are “very friendly and helpful” but sometimes “overbearing when they try to convert you or reform you” (Wiggin, 2010). My Korean friend (who was also my boss) was this third type. As an older sister figure to me in Korea (or unnie) she took me under her wing and introduced me to Korean life; eventually the reunion between myself and my birth family became her personal mission. My adoptive parents were concerned about me locating my birth family. I knew they didn’t really want me to do it. My mother used to watch movies about adoptees reuniting with their birth families and choosing to stay and live with them, as if they were horror movies, “You would never do that would you?” she used to ask me. I had always promised I wouldn’t but when I asked for my adoption paperwork, I knew in a way I was betraying them. 

My paperwork was scarce to say the least, a piece of paper with my parents’ names dates of birth, the name I was issued by the adoption agency, and the province I was born in, translated into English that only led to dead-ends and we exhausted most of my options quickly. Leanne Lieth, founder of Korean Adoptees for Fair Records Access, explains, “Access to our Korean records is dependent upon whether the adoptee knows that there are duplicate or original records in Korea, that those records may have additional information… and that the adoptee has the will and tenacity to investigate across continents and languages with the often uncooperative and hostile Korean international adoption agencies. This process is arbitrary, inconsistent, and can drag out for years” (Dobbs, 2011). According to Dobbs (2011), “There are no laws sealing or regulating adoption files, which are technically agency private property. The agencies could burn the records if they wanted.” Eventually, my friend convinced me to go on a Korean reality TV show where adoptees can make a public plea for any information that may help to locate their families. Say your Korean name into the camera, she said. I had never used my Korean name before. “My name is Kim Soo-Im. If you have any information about my biological family”… the rest was a blur. Before I knew it, we had found them. 

After declining to film the reunion on air, we drove to meet my birth family. I had no idea what I was walking into, or even where we were. I didn’t expect to have family, I thought I was an orphan but when I walked in the door, I was taken aback to see almost 20 relatives – mother, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents who were all crying inconsolably. I didn’t understand. My friend was so excited and I was completely at a loss for how to react. I didn’t have any questions prepared, I think I was still in a state of shock. All I could think was, why couldn’t I have stayed here? Why are they crying when they abandoned me? 

My friend did the introductions in Korean, and it was only then I realised, she wouldn’t be able to bridge the linguistic and cultural gaps between us. I struggled to understand most of what was said, but a few things came through. I looked like my father who had died a few years earlier. I guessed by my mother’s age, that he may have been in his 40’s at the time. They couldn’t explain to me how he died exactly, but I inferred by their hand signals it was something to do with the chest – I hope it isn’t hereditary. I was told that I have two siblings (who were also put up for adoption) and I was the last of the three children to reunite with the family. My brother who was there, didn’t say anything to me that day. Apparently, he could speak English, but I guess chose not to. I have no idea what he was thinking or what his story was. My sister wasn’t there, when I asked where she was, the reply was “she’s gone”. I couldn’t figure out what ‘gone’ meant. Was she missing? Was she dead? 

My birth mother plead with my friend to tell me that she regretted putting me up for adoption and that she tried everything to undo it. She didn’t know I was sent overseas. My friend looked so overjoyed, but I wasn’t sure what to say, I couldn’t understand. I thought she didn’t want me, I was told I had been abandoned after birth. I was prepared for rejection but regret, despair, shame, longing I didn’t know what to do with. I sat there silently for what felt like hours, then the family asked if I was staying to re-join the family and asked if I would help take care of my ageing mother. Everyone was looking at me expectantly. It was at this point I felt something shutdown inside me, and I told them that I was going to go back to Australia. My birth mother asked if I would sleep over that night and let her hold me. I declined. I wanted to enter that world, but I didn’t know how. It’s something that still haunts me. This part of my life had been closed for over 20 years, and for those moments when I opened it again, I didn’t know what to do. I had never felt so useless, so I closed it again as quickly as possible and I haven’t spoken to them again. This was 15 years ago. 

Behar (1996) who talks about ‘roots’ and ‘routes’, asks how do you return to a home that is lost? How do you reckon with what you uncover? What are you really returning to? What does it offer? Digging through old paintings, I find a self-portrait from when I was a teenager. Half human and half tree, floating above a dark ocean. My roots are exposed and I’m crying the sea of tears that I’m floating above. If I was trying to replant my roots, I was experiencing transplant shock. I didn’t know how to process what had happened. Returning to my office after our reunion, I found a large box of dried squid on my desk. “It’s from your family, they really must love you” my friend exclaimed. I am still at a loss to what that means. What a cruel irony, I had spent my life trying to blend in with my peers in Australia, trying to belong as an Australian. It was all I ever wanted. But in those moments, I wish I could have been Korean. Korean enough to understand what my family was saying and the meaning and context behind it. Now I’m so Australian that it feels like I’ve locked myself out of that world. 

15 years later, looking back from a point in my life where I realise the gravity of what I dug into and how it lingers in my subconscious as an unresolved part of my life. Now that I understand a little more about Korean culture, the adoption system, and the impossible choices my birth mother would have faced, I have finally come to a point where I want to try and reconnect with them again. I realise now that the birth family search is not about guaranteeing a fairy-tale ending, but it’s about opening yourself to something. This time I’ll go in with a completely open mind and heart, no expectations and an adoption specialising translator. I just hope my birth mother’s still alive so I can properly meet her this time.

Samara James (Kim Soo Im)

참고문헌

Behar, R., 1996. Anthropology that breaks your heart. The Vulnerable Observer. 

Dobbs, J.K., 2011. Ending South Korea’s Child Export Shame. [Online]. Foreign Policy in Focus. Last Updated: 23 June 2011. Available at: https://fpif.org/ending_south_koreas_child_export_shame/ 

Wiggin, T., 2010. South Korea’s complicated embrace of gyopo. Los Angeles Times. [Online]. 14 February 2010. Available at https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2010-feb-14-la-fg-korea-return14-2010feb14-story.html. 

Coming Next: Searching for my family in Romania

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

베트남에서 가족 찾기

The following blog series will be dedicated to our Searching in Intercountry Adoption series. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.

~에 의해 Huyen Friedlander, born in Vietnam, raised in the USA

On Sunday, I learned that my birthfather had died. I’m still sifting through how that feels, a unique kind of loss of a parent. Even though we reunited over 20 years ago, there was still a lot left unspoken, and maybe a lot that we didn’t know or understand about each other. We met in-person twice. The first time was shortly after 9/11. I had his contact information for almost a year, but I wasn’t ready to reach out. Knowing that he lived in New Jersey, so close to NYC where the towers fell, I felt a sense of urgency that I shouldn’t waste any more time. I called on a Friday night. I left a voicemail that my name was Huyen and that I thought he had been a friend of my family in Viet Nam. The next morning, he returned my call. 

In the first few seconds of our conversation, I said my name again, said who my birthmother was and said, “I think you may be my birthfather.” Immediately, without any hesitation, he said, “I think I am, too.” That was an enormous gift to me. No denial. No defensiveness. “I thought you and your mother had died.” 

He had been told by an army connection that my mother had died trying to make it to Thailand, and that I had died in the Babylift crash. He said he had wanted to marry my birthmother, but wasn’t allowed to because her family had originally been from the North. 

It felt so surreal to finally have this information, a little window into what had happened. Within a few weeks, I was headed to the East Coast with my adoptive father, my husband and my 17-month-old son in tow. I was about two months pregnant with my daughter at the time. My birthfather and his wife greeted us at a restaurant, with a hug and flowers in hand. After dinner, they were gracious and invited us home for cannoli and a chance to visit more. 

At the house, I was excited to meet my half-sister, who was also the mother of a young son. My birthfather brought out a photograph of me, probably at about 2 years old, a pristine copy of a tattered photo that my birthmother’s sister had held on to for 20 years in Viet Nam. We never did DNA testing; this picture that they had both saved was proof enough. My birthfather also gave me a gold cross that my birthmother had given to him before he left Viet Nam, to protect him on his way home. Similarly, when my birthmother took me to the Friends of the Children of Viet Nam in Saigon to relinquish me, she had put a St. Christopher’s medallion on a string and tied it tight around my neck, to protect me in my new life. Giving me the photograph and the cross felt generous and thoughtful. 

Over the next decade, we checked in periodically by letters or telephone. By the time we would meet in person again, I was widowed, a single mother of two young adolescent children. Having lost my husband, I again felt some urgency in making sure that my kids would meet their biological grandfather. And again, my birthfather was gracious in saying yes to my request. Our visit was sweet and the kids thought he and his wife were fun and kind. Before we left, my birthfather gifted us with an ornate serving set that he had brought back with him from Viet Nam. 

Following that visit, much of our communication happened through Facebook, with occasional comments on each other’s posts. Facebook allowed us to see aspects of each other’s lives in a very natural way. I got a tiny idea of his sense of humour, his love of fishing and model trains. Facebook also happens to be the primary way that I maintain contact with my birthmother; we FaceTime and she sees my posts and photographs.

I didn’t want to post anything about my birthfather’s death on Facebook until I had the opportunity to FaceTime my birthmother in Viet Nam to let her know. During that initial visit with my birthfather in 2001, he told my dad that my birthmother had been his first love. This was a gift to hear, even knowing the sad outcome for them, because in some way it validated my birthmother’s faith that he would come back for us. She waited for eight years. 

In my reunion video with my birthmother (five years before I found my birthfather), we are sitting at my grandparents’ dining room table. She is beaming at me, with an arm around me, and laughing, she says, “Beaucoup love made you! Yeah, beaucoup love made you.” When she looked at me, she saw him. She’d point to my features and say, “Same! Same!” It seemed to bring her joy, to see him in my face. 

I was nervous to call her tonight to tell her the news. I asked my dear friend Suzie to join the call to help translate. I spoke in English, “My birthfather has died. X died. I am so sorry.” And immediately, she let out a mournful cry. Even though my birthmother eventually married and had five more children—the foundation and joy of her life—my birthfather held a special place in her heart as her first love. For a year in their young lives, they had loved each other a lot. 

Suzie helped to translate the details that I’ve heard before. It was wartime. There was nothing they could do to be together. 50 years later, my birthfather’s passing is a loss to my birthmother. As a devout Catholic, she is praying for him now. There was a lot I didn’t know about my birthfather, and I would still like to know more, but I can also be at peace with what I know. 

For now, I’m staying grounded in the gratitude that I feel for having found him, gratitude that he recognised me, and gratitude for the opportunities that I had to connect with him and his family. I’m saying a prayer for his wife and family as they navigate this loss.

Coming Next: Searching for my family in South Korea

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

콜롬비아에서 가족 찾기

The following blog series will be dedicated to our Searching in Intercountry Adoption series. These individual stories are being shared from our 원근법 종이 that was also shared with our Webinar, Searching in Intercountry Adoption by Adoptee Experts.

~에 의해 Jose Taborda, born in Colombia, raised in the USA

First journal entry by my adoptive mother

In the spring of 1978, I was born in Medellin, Colombia. Separated from my first family by adoption, I was brought by my adoptive parents to New Jersey and grew up with my younger adoptive sister in a Northern New Jersey suburb just outside of New York City.

I was lucky as an adoptee because my adoptive parents made a conscious decision to talk to me about my adoption from an early age. They attended a couple of workshops about adopting a child offered by an adoption agency prior to my adoption where they had been counselled to inform me as soon as possible about my adoption so as to normalise it for me. This advice informed their approach in terms of collecting information and artefacts of my adoption. This included stories of my adoption in Colombia in the form of journal entries written by my adoptive mother, a photograph of my first mother, and my adoption records containing identifying information about my first mother. 

Upon refection, it wasn’t just luck and good advice, my parents were compassionate people who made the decision to share what they knew about my origins with me throughout my life. They had the right instincts that led them not only to send me a dossier containing every artefact about my adoption while I was in college and I first expressed an interest in searching, but also to support my search when I began. 

 When I moved to New York City in my mid-twenties, I started searching. At the time, I had a Yahoo! Email account and noticed that it offered searchable interest groups. There was a group called Colombian Adoptee Search and Support (CASAS), which gathered many people like me: twenty-something Colombian adoptees who grew up around New York City and living in the area! I was shocked to find hundreds of people who were sharing resources about searching, so I started making connections and attending meetups and dinners in Brooklyn and Manhattan where we enjoyed sharing stories and Latino fare. 

Through these meetups, I had gotten the contact information of a private investigator in Medellin with whom I started to interact about my search. Because I had identifying information about my first mother, it took him two weeks to find her. A couple weeks after that, I had my first phone call with her. As one can imagine, finding my first mother within a month of beginning my search was all a whirlwind and very overwhelming. My excitement got the best of me, and I dove right into making plans for a reunion. Well, all of this came as a shock to my adoptive mother and sister, who weren’t as excited as me. They felt threatened by my news. I remember spending a lot of time convincing them that I wasn’t trying to replace them, but rather, it would be an opportunity to learn about my origins. They were not convinced that it was so simple. Searching for first family by adoptees may bring up many past trauma wounds for all members of the adoption constellation. I have heard stories of adoptees shying away from doing any searching while their adoptive parents are still alive due to the raw emotions around adoption that are very rarely acknowledged and dealt with during an adoptive family’s time living together. And when the possibility of a reunion arises, adoptees may find themselves having to reckon with these complicated emotions. This reckoning is not our responsibility as adoptees, but it may be an unanticipated and unwelcome reality that adoptees must face when searching and reuniting with first family.

Coincidentally, the film “Las Hijas” was going to be screened. It was timely that Maria Quiroga, a local filmmaker, was releasing the film profiling three female Colombian adoptees and their reunions with first family.  So I invited my mother and sister to join me. It was an interesting experience because the filmmaker handled the subject matter responsibly in presenting the reality of how complicated reunions between adoptees and first family can be. It helped to see this objective perspective on the emotionally charged situation that was playing out for us. It provided a context for our sensitive conversations, and it helped us to understand that we were not the only ones experiencing the feelings we were. Despite all of that, we continued to have conversations that required my soothing their frayed feelings around my upcoming reunion. 

One thing that stands out for me now sixteen years later as I reflect on my reunion as a young man, is that I did not pursue any mental health support to guide me on that complicated endeavour. In my local adoptee community, the discussion was more centred on the topic of search and reunion in my memory and not as much on adoption mental health issues. However, I acknowledge there is a high likelihood my antenna wasn’t tuned to that particular signal, so to speak. More recently, I have read a lot of highly-respected literature about adoption and mental health including 원초적인 상처 by Nancy Verrier and 입양된 자아의 여정 by Betty Jean Lifton to name a couple of outstanding examples. I am a regular listener to adoptee podcasts including 입양인 with host Haley Radke and 적응 with host Kaomi Lee among others. I have met many adoptees and I am lucky to live close to an adoptee organization called Also Known As, Inc. that hosts meet ups for transracial, intercountry adoptees. Wise adoptees and adoption professionals these days counsel adoptees who are engaged in reunion to set some boundaries that include having a third-party present during reunion meetings, not staying with first family right away, and pursuing therapy before, during, and after reunion. I did none of those things. 

All of this gathering of resources and self-education on the intersection of adoption and mental health has demonstrated to me that I took a very impetuous, uninformed, and quite risky path on my reunion journey. I stayed with my first mother and her family for three weeks at their home in an outlying municipality of Medellin. I do have very positive memories from my first visit in 2006 that led me to return in the two subsequent years. However, somewhere down the line some members of my first family started to develop expectations that involved money. It was not much at first, but, with time, their boldness grew. This expectation made me uncomfortable because I didn’t want to have to explain to any of them that I am a professional in a field that is not very highly-compensated. To them, I was just the more fortunate one who was able to escape their humble circumstances. No matter how difficult my personal situation was, they are right that I had many more opportunities in the U.S. than they did in Colombia, but I did not feel that it was my responsibility to have to provide for them. I wanted to just get to know them knowing that it would take time to develop a family bond. Truly, I faced hard feelings when they asked for money and that made things very confusing for me. While I know that my experience is not unique, I wished that it wasn’t part of my reunion story. At some point, I stopped contacting them because it all became too much for me. This is where an intervention such as adoption-focused therapy would have been helpful. 

Some years passed and I turned the page on my adoption by quite literally ceasing to think about my adoption and pausing all the actions I had taken to learn about my origins during my twenties. I turned thirty, I got married and became a new father, and I wanted to focus on my new family in Brooklyn. I was also in graduate school, so juggling responsibilities was the theme starting in 2010. Since that time, a lot has changed.

Nowadays, I am divorced, I am co-parenting a budding teenager, and I have settled into a career as a college educator. As I moved into middle-age, I became more introspective, and I found myself interrogating some difficult feelings that felt like depression and anxiety. When I realised that I did not have easy answers to that line of inquiry, I began searching for ways to remove barriers to happiness that had started showing up. It started to dawn on me that my adoption may be the cause of some of my bad decisions in life and the source of a feeling of malaise that crept in every now and again. I remember once sitting on a beach in the Rockaways with my best friend and confidant of many years and reflecting out loud that I should look into therapy for adoption to try to answer some nagging questions. 

About six months after that conversation in 2021, I got around to doing some basic internet searching and was amazed by what I found. There was so much work that had been done in the intervening years since I started my search. As I previously mentioned, I went down a path of self-education, I engaged in some adoption-focused group therapy, and I have been attending online and in-person support groups made up of adoptees since that discovery. I have learned so much about myself and adoption since I started to reconnect to my adopted-self. Some of it has been difficult, but I am very happy to have opened myself up to feel, meditate, inquire, grieve, and build community. It is cliche, but I wish I knew during my reunion and prior what I know now. 

In short, I hope that adoptees who are on the bold path of searching and reuniting with first family will take careful, well-informed steps. I know from my experience that there are no easy answers, and reunion may be when many hard questions rise to the surface. However, that search for the discovery and recovery of self and identity is worth it all because even if one does not find first family, there is so much to learn about oneself along the way. 

I hope that adoptees take the time to explore all of the particular intersections of adoption and mental health including, but not limited to, the Primal Wound theory, the post-traumatic stress implications of adoption, ambiguous loss, and the Adoptee Consciousness Model. Most definitely read the two books by Verrier and Lifton previously mentioned. Check out Damon Davis’ podcast Who Am I Really?, and the two others previously mentioned. Read JaeRan Kim’s brilliant blog 할로우의 원숭이. If looking for a therapist in the U.S., check out Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker’s adoptee therapist directory curated on her website Grow Beyond Words. If one does not have the money to pursue therapy, there are plenty of books, podcasts, and support groups that could provide information and resources helpful in informing decisions around searching, finding, and reunion with first family. Just start checking out all of the amazing resources on Lynelle Long’s comprehensive treasure of a website 국가간 입양인의 목소리. Search on Facebook for a group you can join that holds online support groups, or, even better, search for a local group in your area to meet up in person with adoptees. A great place to search for a local group in the USA is on Pamela A. Karanova’s website Adoptees Connect

The above is just a cursory glance at some of the most salient resources I have found that have nourished my soul as I step into more consciousness about my adoption on my journey of self-discovery. My greatest hope is that someone reading these words may find something in them to hold onto. 

Coming Next: 중국에서 가족 찾기

자원

국제 입양에서의 탐색과 재결합

입양인으로 태어났다는 확인

~에 의해 홀리 맥기니스 한국 태생, 미국 입양, Also Known As(AKA) 설립자, 버지니아 커먼웰스 대학교 사회사업 조교수

많은 입양인들과 마찬가지로, 내가 태어나서 자라는 모습을 담은 유일한 사진은 두 살 무렵에 고아원에 들어갔을 때 부모님이 내가 그들의 딸이 될 것이라고 확신하게 했을 때의 사진과 내가 미국에 도착했을 때 찍은 사진뿐이었습니다. 삼. 그래서 나는 어린 시절 보잉 747을 타고 하늘에서 떨어지고 걷고 말하고 배변 훈련을 받은 것처럼 느꼈습니다.

태어난 것은 낯설었다. 나는 그 일이 나에게 일어났다는 증거가 없었고, 나를 상기시켜주는 거울이 되어줄 사람도 없었습니다. 단, 거울을 들여다보고 내가 가족이라고 부르는 사람들의 얼굴과 일치하지 않아 낯설어 보이는 얼굴을 보았을 때를 제외하고는 말입니다. , 다시 피어링.

나의 탄생에 대한 모든 지식을 품고 있는 그 얼굴, 이 몸을 알고 ~ 받아들이고 사랑하기까지 ~ 긴 여정이었다. 내 얼굴의 지형은 어머니와 아버지, 그리고 한국의 조상들로부터 물려받았습니다. 하지만 웃음선, 까마귀 발은 모두 미국에 있는 가족과 친구들의 사랑으로 가득 찬 삶에서 각인되었습니다.

한국 엄마인 엄마를 처음 만난 후, 엄마는 고아원 원장인 양아빠에게 위의 사진(왼쪽)을 가지고 다니던 아기 사진을 주었고, 그는 그것을 나에게 보냈습니다. . 나는 엄마 Eva Marie McGinnis를 기억하고 둘 다 내 곱슬머리를 가진 유아인 나를 보고 충격을 받았습니다! 그녀 역시 내 유아기에 대한 어떤 증거도 거부당했습니다.

나중에 엄마를 다시 만났을 때 엄마는 머리를 말아서 이 사진을 찍으셨다고 말씀하셨습니다. 그녀는 사진을 찍는 것에 대해 진심으로 웃었고 그것이 그녀에게 행복한 기억을 되살리는 것이 분명했습니다. 나는 이 사진에 포착된 순간을 상상해 보았다. 시간을 내어 아기의 머리를 말리는 우리 엄마(나는 내내 꿈틀거리고 있었나봐!), 그녀가 고른 옷, 나를 포즈를 취할 장소를 찾는 것. 모든 몸짓이 너무나 친숙하게 느껴졌고, 엄마가 제 머리를 쓸어주고, 아름다운 드레스를 찾고, 포즈를 취할 장소를 찾도록 도와주셨던 기억이 있습니다(아래 주니어 무도회 사진 참조).

통합은 온전함으로 가는 길이지만 많은 입양인들에게는 친가족을 찾을 기회도, 사진도, 상상하고 의미를 만들 수 있는 기억도 없기 때문에 불가능합니다. 그래서 우리는 당연히 혈통이 있고 태어났다는 막연한 느낌을 갖게 됩니다. 그러나 우리는 다른 인류와 마찬가지로 이 세상에 태어났지만 그에 대한 어떤 진실된 정보도 가질 수 없다는 증거로 우리의 얼굴과 몸의 노화된 특징만 남을 뿐입니다.

그래서 내 생일에 내 소원은 입양된 모든 사람이 자신의 출생과 인류에 대한 확신을 가질 수 있도록 자신의 기원에 대한 정보에 접근할 수 있기를 바랍니다. 그리고 자신의 기원과 단절된 느낌이 드는 사람이라면 누구나 자신의 몸에 그것들을 가지고 있다는 사실을 알도록 초대합니다. 아기 사진을 보는 것처럼 거울을 보고 어머니와 아버지를 사랑, 연민, 부드러움으로 볼 수 있는 능력은 항상 찾고 있던 사진입니다.

인스타에서 홀리와 연결할 수 있습니다 @hollee.mcginnis

자원

2014년부터 ICAV에서 Hollee의 이전 공유 읽기 신원

Hollee McGinnis가 작성한 다른 기사

한국어
%%바닥글%%