Not Being Mom Is Not Easy

I was reading some instructions in my all things adoption group and something there really hit home for me personally. I want to begin saying that in this particular group there is a hierarchy – adoptees and people who have experienced foster care as a youth are given unfettered freedom of expression. Below them, next come the biological/genetic parents. The lowest level is the adoptive (even if only hoping to adopt) and foster parents. It is as it should be. Those at the top have spent much of their lives without personal autonomy or control over their daily experience – in effect – they have been marginalized in a society that lifts adoptive and foster care parents up on a pedestal.

I did not intentionally give up parenting my daughter but it happened. As I have become more informed about adoptee issues, my daughter and I have discussed how very like having been adopted her experience of growing up without me after the age of 3 was, very much like having been given up for adoption. At the end of my marriage to her dad, my self-esteem was low. I really didn’t know how important a mother was. I thought any of the two parents one was born of would be equally good (but at least birth parents still involved – and I did remain involved at a distance). I know better now but it is what it is and life doesn’t give us do-overs. Thankfully, I remain heartfully and decently close to my daughter, though I have not earned that, I am thankful she accepts the realities of her life and knows that I always have loved her immensely. That is the point of today’s blog.

There were no role models for absentee mothers in the early 1970s. I felt very alone in that regard and definitely felt judged as though – if I was not raising my daughter, I must be a terrible mother – and I still struggle with some belief that I was terrible as a mom. Having my 2 sons late in life has convinced me that under the right circumstances, I could have also been a good mom to my daughter. Still, I cannot recover all that I lost during those years.

From my all things adoption group today, it was said to the custodian parents (adoptive, foster, etc) – you are in the power position. Don’t expect moms to jump for joy when you offer visits, calls, etc. just because you think they should and you think you are doing something good for them. The thought of that is likely OVERWHELMING for many moms and it’s coming from someone raising their kid, essentially giving them “permission” to see their own child.

Can you understand how that might feel? I certainly do. I gave my daughter a telephone calling card, so that I wouldn’t cause her trouble at home by calling her first. Sometimes, I had to wait a very long time for the next phone call. I always felt judged. If I didn’t get her back from a visit by the time I had been expected to return her, I could feel the judgement as well.

It is true – society drives the expectation that a mother is supposed to love and nurture her child. A mom who loses her child to the system, or gives her child to someone else to raise, is automatically and instantaneously dealing with the shame that comes with doing that. It knocks their self-worth, and that was likely not so high to begin with, lowering it further down many pegs. It can cycle into greater depression, self-loathing, anxiety, self-harming behaviors and a general feeling of just giving up. It takes A LOT of work to build that sense of self back up. Some never do.

Moms DO love their kids – even if, for whatever reason, they are unable to raise them. That was always true with me.

Unless I Truly Try

Persistence really does make all the difference in some situations. On Sunday night, my family had a lesson in persistence. We’ve been playing Scrabble on Sunday nights and are finding while it causes our night to run late, the whole family becomes engaged and some of the problematic issues we were encountering trying to watch videos as a family are now gone. We’ve been playing with the tiny board with lock in pieces meant for traveling rather than the large, more traditional board. That small footprint works out well on our cluttered dining room table.

But on Sunday night, my youngest son dropped his piece holder. Most of the pieces stayed on the floor but improbably one piece went bouncing down the stairs to the basement. We looked forever, everywhere, and discussed giving up and playing with one piece missing. However, my son could not accept that. He suggested sending another piece down the stairs to try and determine what happened with the missing piece. I thought for certain we’d end up with two pieces missing. We didn’t lose the second piece but it did show us the missing piece probably didn’t go very far from the stairs. It was then my youngest son, who was definitely the cause of this crazy situation and very upset by knowing that, saw the piece on the floor right under the lowest stair. How we all missed that is something to wonder at. His persistence made all the difference. That word has been on my mind as a writer and I even have a book in our library with that title that I haven’t read.

Today’s story involves the persistent effort of a transracial, internationally sourced adoptee.

I have paperwork from my closed international adoption. The thing is, for many of us, we don’t know how accurate or truthful our information is. I have names of both birth parents and in 2017, I searched my birth mom’s name on Facebook out of curiosity. It was a little tricky because her name is in English but I needed to translate and search it in Hangul. A couple profiles popped up and one of them had pictures. The woman and I share so many physical similarities. So I debated and agonized over whether or not I message or friend request her. I did both. Nothing.

4 years later, I decide to try again. I messaged her this time in Hangul hoping it would help. I’ve been learning Korean since February this year in hopes of being able to communicate. I also changed my profile name to include my Korean birth name in Hangul. This was in March, still nothing. I don’t have the option to friend request her again. I know I can go through other channels to find my birth mom but I’m so discouraged already. It takes so much out of me just to even make the choice to take action. Plus, if this woman is my birth mom and I contact her through other channels, she may deny me anyway.

I know I’ll never know unless I truly try. I know I can’t and shouldn’t assume anything. I know it’ll eat away at me if I don’t eventually do this. I just wish it wasn’t this hard, scary, expensive, confusing, terrifying, and frustrating. My reality is that right now, I wish I wasn’t adopted.

One very good suggestion was this – Have you joined any Facebook groups for ex-pats in Korea? I live in Korea right now and I see people posting in the ex-pat groups looking for information about original families or unknown fathers, there’s enough people in those groups that maybe some information can turn up.

I know that in my own adoption search efforts (both parents were adopted) it did take some degree of persistence and I did not have the international complications to deal with. However, my paternal grandmother was unwed and went to a Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers to give birth to my dad. His original birth certificate does not name the father. Thankfully, my grandmother left me breadcrumbs – both in the name she gave my dad and in a little headshot photo with his father’s name on the back. And I did go into some dead ends. My breakthrough came through Find A Grave and his second marriage step-daughter. She confirmed the headshot was the man she knew.

Then, DNA matching really completed the task, even connecting me to Danish relatives still living in that country who had no idea my paternal grandfather had any children. So, a task that seemed unlikely to succeed at first, eventually brought me knowledge of all 4 original grandparents – even against what seemed like daunting odds at first.