Myself and my biological sister (who is about 18 months older than me) were put up for adoption together in South Korea around 1985/1986. Long story short, essentially my biological parents parted ways, leaving my sister and I with our father. At some point he was no longer financially able to support two children so he had a neighbor take my sister and I to an orphanage. There we remained with a number of other children until we were adopted via the Holt International Adoption Agency. I don’t have any recollection of the orphanage – just a few photos.
We were flown to the United States (with an interpreter/caretaker) just after my second birthday to our adoptive parents and family, crossing oceans and flying on multiple planes…perhaps this is where I get my love of travel from?! Our new life had begun and our old life was now a thing of the past – for me – a very distant memory. I was fortunate enough to not just be adopted – but also have my sister adopted with me – so I got to keep a part of my biological family. From what I’m told, my sister did much to ease my life during our time in Korea and in the orphanage, from protecting me, translating for me to others, and even giving me the larger shares of food, and for that I’m grateful. We got to spend our lives in the same home growing up and multiple child adoptions/sibling group adoptions are (of course) more expensive, and some families/couples aren’t ready to just get more than one child overnight – which I totally understand – but I think my parents are very special people to be willing to take in multiple children at once and attempt to keep siblings together. I can only imagine what it was like to receive two toddlers (I was 2 and my sister was 4) one day and be like “well here you go – good luck”! That’s a BIG change and even though my parents knew it was coming, it’s still so much to deal with at the flip of a switch!
The 2016 film “Lion” is a really interesting account of a boy who gets lost/separated from his family, is homeless, almost sold, finally is put into an orphanage of sorts and ends up being adopted by a family in Australia. As an adult he finds that memories of his childhood are haunting him and is eventually so compelled to seek out his biological family, at great lengths. Though different in background than my own adoption, the perspective of the adoption dynamic in a family is SO real. The scenes where the family is struggling, the kids are trying to adapt to a new home, the parents are trying to understand the children’s needs. etc were heart wrenching. As an adult, it’s really different to look back on the childhood I lived versus the childhood that I COULD have lived. In scenes of the film where we see the adoptive parent’s private moments of hurt, rejection, love for a child but with so much confusion… they were so much more impactful as I watched from an adult lens and saw a realistic view of what I probably put my own adoptive parents through at some level.
What bothers me about being adopted? Nothing.
I know this might seem careless or cavalier, but truly I don’t feel a negative impact in any way. I also don’t feel any sort of resentment or “un loved” type of feelings – because I know I LOVE my life. I love my adoptive parents, and family, and I have had SO many opportunities in every way, shape, and form. I have undoubtedly lived a much different life than I would have otherwise – but different doesn’t mean bad or unfulfilled. My parents raised me well. They provided every comfort any child could need and many more that were just “wants”, like cars when we were old enough to drive, summer camps, school sports and music classes, family vacations to Disneyland/DisneyWorld and more. Do I sometimes feel residual “inner child” feelings of abandonment and the wounds from that, yes. However, I truly believe that my life is better for having been adopted and I would never change it, or my family that adopted me.
Do I wonder about my biological family? No.
I have had limited contact with my biological family – initiated by my biological father and facilitated by the adoption agency. I don’t hold any ill will or animosity toward my family in Korea (I am told I have a half brother too!) – but I just don’t have any connection to them. I don’t remember them and I don’t really have any desire to. I am appreciative and grateful that they were able to let me (and my sister) “go” and have a better life than they could provide, but outside of that I just don’t have much else to offer. I think honestly the only thing I wonder about in regard to my biological family is medical history. I would like to know if I have a family history of any diseases and such – but with modern DNA testing/medicine, there’s really nothing stopping me from knowing.
With regard to communication, I approach from a side of caution as well, as many adult adoptees have been warned about situations where biological families attempt to gain money, financial or emotional support, transport to a new country, etc. upon re-establishing “relationships”. To be honest, I have never disclosed any identifying details in my letter to my biological family. I have never told them my american name, where I live or where I work. Only generalities such as “I completed college” and “I served in the military” and that I am happy/healthy. With that – I think if someone does have a desire to meet their biological family, by all means do – just be realistic and be smart about it.
— HOWEVER —
I am interested in visiting Korea and going on a Heritage tour. Heritage tours are coordinated through the Holt Adoption Agency and allow adoptees to go back as a group. Not only getting to see the sights and culture of their home countries, but they can also choose to go back to the orphanage that they were adopted from. If they want (and are over 18), they can sit with a coordinator as well and read their adoption files, ask questions and discuss any other concerns. Additionally, prior to going, the agency will also work to do a family search, if an adoptee would like to try and meet their family. These trips are a bit pricey – but I think well worth the cost and a really great option for people who may want to see where they came from. I would honestly love to do it, and to take my adoptive parents with me (if they want to go), so they can experience it too.