It was a cold January day 30 years ago when a 23 month old toddler stepped off an airplane after a long journey from Seoul, South Korea into a bizarre, new world. With nothing more than the clothes on her back, she was welcomed with open arms to a family who had been anxiously awaiting her arrival. It was her family.
This is how my story begins. It actually begins before then, but my mind no longer recalls any of the moments before the one described above. I technically don’t even remember that moment. I now only have photos and stories passed down to me by loved ones about the day I joined my forever family.
Most days pass by and I never think about being different. It never crosses my mind that my story began drastically different than most people’s experiences. However, some days it’s all I can think about. Sometimes it’s because of something little like reading a story about an adoption or reminiscing about the past. Sometimes it’s something bigger like an outright racist comment or tasteless questions about my “real” parents. (P.S. Use the terms biological parent or birth parent. Because adoptive parents are real parents, too.) When something like this “triggers” my reflective thought process, it can be hard to shake off the feelings that follow. It feels like being out of place or like something is wrong with you. This is hard, because, let’s face it, in our society, feeling different can be rough. And being different can make you feel like an outcast. As a child, there were days that I desperately wished I had Caucasian skin like my parents and that I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb wherever I went. I wanted to be another face in the crowd…
It was a warm day in mid-July 12 years ago when two expecting parents anxiously awaited the arrival of their child. He was born at 4:10 pm. Ten tiny perfect toes, ten tiny perfect fingers, and a head full of dark fuzz. He was mine. All I could choke out was, “I love him! I love him so much!” It wasn’t long after that moment that a striking realization had popped into my head. This was the first biological relative I had met since I was a baby. My own child. I reveled in the realization. Not long after, on a cold Valentine’s Day seven years ago, we welcomed a precious baby girl to our family. She too had ten tiny perfect toes, ten tiny perfect fingers, and a head full of dark fuzz. She was mine.
As my children grew, I found it completely heart-warming to find our physical similarities as well as our common character traits and interests. What set me apart from others was now something common between my children and me. Instead of being disappointed in being different I started celebrating what made me different. What made us different.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a lot about myself and my feelings regarding being different. I had to confront what it means to have the loss of my history, the loss of my birth parents, and the loss of growing up in the country of my heritage. Things that most people never have to think twice about. Although I have gained so much and I would not change my life for anything, my feelings were something I needed to confront in order to grow. Being able to reflect on my adoption through the perspective of my motherhood experience has given me great insight. After having children of my own, I now know have a richer understanding of what adoption means for all people involved. Not just the child but the birth parents and adoptive parents as well. Not only has becoming a mother helped me broaden my understanding of my adoption identity, it has helped me to embrace my differences as something positive. Teaching my children to accept themselves for who they are has ultimately helped me accept what makes me different. And being able to celebrate what my children and I have in common is a gift I treasure.
On the days when being different is at the forefront of my mind, I like to think about my children and how they’ve taught me so much. They’ve helped me realize that being different is ok. I am thankful that every day presents a new opportunity to celebrate being unique and teach my kids to do the same.
Are you an adult adoptee? How do you celebrate being different? Has motherhood affected your adoption identity?