Birth Parents, Adoptee Parents, and the Silent Language of Biology

I’ve been thinking a lot about the choice to have children as an adoptee (not that I am even close to being there yet).  But, the notion of having children, for many adoptees is pretty scary.

The “Right” Circumstances

Many of us were relinquished by our birth parents for a variety of reasons.  However, there are quite a few of us whose parents were unable to take care of us for socioeconomic reasons.  Perhaps there was no father in the picture, or religion played a role in a birth parent’s decision to relinquish their child.  Many adoptees find themselves examining the decision to have children as a re-examination of themselves as adoptees.  I’ve given it some thought, but it hasn’t been with out pain.  If I ever decide to have children, I want it to be under the “right” circumstances.  I know that there really isn’t any sort of “right” circumstance for having children, but in a lot of ways, I want to ensure that if I do have children,  I am able to take care of them as much as I can.

Our Biological Legacy

How many adoptees have ever thought about adopting?  I won’t lie, it has crossed my mind once or twice.  But that’s not to say that I haven’t considered having children biologically either.  It’s a really tough call.  Part of me doesn’t want to have children because of everything I’ve been through, and for all the frustrations I have with the international adoption system.  I want to make positive changes in policies and the systems and institutions that seem to be so poorly conceived and implemented.  However, I can’t help but think to myself “If I don’t have children, this could be the end of my particular tie to my birth family’s bloodline.”  I was the only child birthed by my two parents, and I represent the end of their bloodline.  Am I meant to carry on my birth family’s biological legacy?  Do I want to, given what I know about my birth father?  These are all tough questions, and ones that I have no answers to.

A New Mom, a New Son

I met my mom this past summer.  What changed?  Everything.  Suddenly, I’m aware of the woman who created me, who cares about me potentially just as much as she would if she had raised me in Korea.  In Korea, at our first lunch together she moved kalbi onto my plate-told me to eat up.  She hugged me close in our first photo together.  All of a sudden I had another mom, and new expectations for myself and our relationship to come.  How do you start a brand new relationship with a mother after 26 years has passed?  How do I begin to build trust and communication when we are so close yet so far apart?  Who am I as a son?  I think back to when I was a kid.  I remember always thinking to myself, “If I do something really well, maybe my mom will see me and be proud of me wherever she is.”  That feeling still exists, and has grown stronger since our first meeting.  I want to share my life with her.  But I am saddened by how I may never be able to speak to her face to face.  I’m confused by who I am as a son, and if I could ever have a son given my own pain and and anxiety.  My life seems to have been measured by expectations.  They were mostly expectations for myself, but I set the bar high-too high perhaps.

In the end, I know that these are all potentially premature dialogues I am having (in my head).  There is absolutely no way I can even think about having children at this point in my life after what I’ve learned this past year about my birth family and about myself.  But I feel different.  I long to see her face as familiar.  Not just as the face of the mother I have just met.  I want her face to be as familiar to me as my body that I know she gave birth to.  That seems to be the only thing I can cling to for comfort.  As adoptees living in America, I think we are hurt by how society sets stereotypes and expectations on us all because of the way we look.  We strive to be more than that, and to live above the superficiality of stereotypes.  But in the end, when and if we are reunited with our birth families, it’s the only thing we have that is sacred to us.  Our hands, feet, hair, and face are the only thing that link us to our birth families at times.  And they are the only things that we can communicate silently to each other as solace that we belong and that we are family.

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6 Comments on “Birth Parents, Adoptee Parents, and the Silent Language of Biology

  1. For the longest time, the ONLY way I could imagine having kids was by adoption. It was all I knew. A friend’s mom got pregnant when we were in 3rd grade and I remember being fascinated by the process, and the idea that she was about to have a younger brother or sister around who wasn’t there before. Biological ties were such an enigma to me (still are in many ways).

    I now have two biological children, the only birth relatives I have ever met. That in itself is a messed-up situation. It feels like too much of a burden for them to have to endure; the weight of our entire ancestry resting on their shoulders and mine. Yet you are right, it is sacred, that blood tie. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

  2. I had similar thoughts back when I first reunited with my Korean mom. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have children at all, for many of the same reasons/issues you mention. The time wasn’t right for me.

    When the time did seem “right” (as “right” as I think it could be, that is), my perspective had also changed in other regards and other facets. My relationship with my Korean mom, though still very much riddled with challenges and emotional and cultural roadblocks, is somewhat “seasoned,” however. We may never be able to communicate beyond smiles, glances and “Are you well?” “Yes.” But I guess our expectations have seasoned as well.

    Anyway, now that I have a biological child, not a day goes by that I don’t marvel at our connection, and how strong my bond is with her. Everything changed. And now I can’t even begin to imagine not having her in my life.

    The fact that you are asking yourself these questions now shows that you take the significance of parenthood and the legacy of family seriously. I believe that if you do find yourself at the point in the future when the time feels “right,” you have the heart (and fortitude!) to be a wonderful father.

  3. hmm… this concept of bloodline kind of bothers me. How can one place blood so highly when the only blood they ever knew abandoned them. Also, Korean’s strong regard for blood is one of the very same reasons thousands of Koreans are being shipped abroad for adoption. No one in Korea wants to adopt.

  4. Your last paragraph here is really touching, and I can relate a lot to it. During the first few months after I met my family in 2005, the main thing uniting us was the physicality of being in the same space together. I went on a weekend beach trip with them in the summer of that year, and my older sister and I had to shower once together. It sounds strange, but I was gawking at her in the shower, because her body is so similar to mine. Even now, one of the main ways that I bond with my family is to go to the jjimjilbang together where we scrub each other’s backs, compare hands & feet, etc.

    I commend you for being a thoughtful person & reflecting on these things. And thank you for sharing your ruminations.

  5. Sorry JS – Must have missed it. I’ve been getting a lot of spam comments lately so I apologize. My mistake. -GS

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