Will I have the guts to post this letter to you? I've tried to write it so many times.
People have often asked me if I want to search for you. The answer growing up was always a definitive, "No." Why would I go looking for you when, in my self-centered child's mind, you must not have wanted me at all? Why would I need you when I had a family of my own, one that fed me, clothed me, hugged me, read to me, nurtured me, wanted me? You were my incubator, and I was only begrudgingly grateful.
I didn't want to go to Korean school, didn't even want those stupid rubber shoes my parents proudly displayed. I wanted to be the same, to fit in. I wanted to be blond-haired and blue-eyed, freckled and fair. In my head, I was. I only remembered when I looked in the mirror and saw dark almond eyes and golden skin. I wondered if, in Korea, I would be considered beautiful.
Then, in Catholic school, I learned a most hateful word. "Illegitimate." I took it to believe that I was an aberration, a pox on the planet. That my existence must have ruined your life, made you feel shame. I shifted my blame for my adoption from you, onto myself. Seeds of doubt crept into my mind - perhaps my parents didn't really want me either - maybe they just felt sorry for me? I began to worry that I didn't belong, that I wasn't worthy. That had everything unfolded according to God's plan, that I shouldn't be alive. That maybe I was a product of the devil. Too frightened to talk about it aloud with my parents, I hid this grain of guilt and pain inside, covered it up, tried to deny it, tried so hard to be the perfect child, thinking maybe I could make up for my sinful existence by "earning" it through my goodness.
Occasionally, I would fantasize about you and wish that maybe you did love me after all. Maybe you were a princess or queen in a war-torn country and had to send me away to keep me alive. Maybe you died a tragic death during childbirth. Or maybe my birthfather died, and you just couldn't bear to look at me because I reminded you of him. My parents told me you must have loved me, and I wanted to believe them.
Later, I would even forget about you. When filling out college applications, my hands wanted to write "Ohio" in the birthplace box. I even had to white-out a few forms where I'd started the "Oh.", I felt so unconnected to you, to my birthplace, to my heritage. Who were you? Not someone who belonged in my life. You walked away from me? Watch me walking away from you.
When I turned 19, which is the age you were when I was born, I started to understand. I wasn't ready, not even in the slightest, to be a mother. You were in college, just like I was. You were trying to figure out who you were, where you would fit, how to find your talents and apply them to life. If I couldn't parent at this age, how could I expect you to have tried?
When I first met the boy who would become my Hubby, and fell in love, I began to remember you. I began to wish you knew that I was happy, that I had found love, that I was getting married. You should have been there. I never once wanted to give up my family for you and I would give you up for them in a heartbeat...but I wanted you too, even if I couldn't admit it aloud. I wanted you to claim me, to be proud of me.
When we started the adoption process, I gained a much greater understanding of the challenges you faced, creating my adoption plan. I witnessed firsthand the pain and love of many birthmothers. When the Nugget's Tummy Mummy waved a tearful goodbye as we tucked her most precious child into our car and he became our son, her heartbreak was so palpable that my tears were of joy to finally become a Mommy but also of pain to know what she gave so that the Nugget might have the life she desired for him. I have told her many times that knowing her, having her in our lives has healed me. I might never know you, but I live vicariously through her love for the Nugget. My birthmom loves me, I think, I hope, I know. You must have looked at me, held me for the briefest moment, the same way she held him. I hope that by knowing her, the Nugget might be spared the wondering, the pain, the guilt.
If the adoption agency told the truth, today you'd be 49. That's funny to me, because I always picture you as the 19 year old you were when I was born. Maybe you're dead. Maybe you're married with grown children, my birthsiblings, whom you were able to parent. Maybe your husband knows about me. Maybe I'm a secret, never spoken of aloud. Maybe you're a grandma.
So what do I have to say to you today? Thank you for giving me the gift of life. I'm sure it wasn't easy, and I'm sure you had to endure stares and whispers. I want you to know that I'm happy, that the life you gave me was everything you could have wished for or wanted. My family is incredible, I have had so many amazing opportunities and experiences. I can guess that had you chosen to parent me, our lives would have been filled with poverty and need. I have learned that Korea treats single mothers and their children as second class citizens, and I thank you for giving me a world where my voice would be heard. I thank you for all the genetic gifts you've given me - not sure which ones are from you, but maybe it's the straight teeth, the shiny hair, my artistic streak, my efficient hands, my speed-reading ability. For so many years, I deluded myself into thinking that you had forgotten me, but now that I know what it is to be a mother, I'll bet that I haunt your thoughts and dreams. I give you permission to be happy; no, I hope you ARE happy. You made the right choice for me, you put me exactly where I'm meant to be. I know now that I am meant to be alive, to make my mark on this earth. To be daughter, sister, wife, aunt, friend, and mother. I owe the person I am to my family. But I owe my life to you. Thank you.
I have a Korean name. I'm not sure if you named me or not. But it means "treasure". I hope you named me.