Breadcrumbs Blowing in the Wind – half draft
For four decades I never cared about searching for my birth mother.
In fact, the very mention of it made me stiffen, and I would quickly find some way to dismiss the idea and try to steer whoever was asking back onto a more comfortable topic.
My comments changed over the years, from:
I already have parents, I don’t need to look for more
Why bother, it’s impossible
Why would I want more drama in my life?
Then my parents, who I’d been estranged from since I was 17, both died. Then I was raped. Then my best friend abandoned me because she blamed me for the rape. Then I fell in love with someone very young and was abandoned because of our age difference. Then another friend abandoned me because I would do something so reckless, because she couldn’t understand my value system. All this abandonment and heartache in the course of two years. Unrelenting.
I had a nervous breakdown; just stayed in a permanent fetal position for two months and fought off the continuous waves of pain. It was so physical, so piercing, I just wanted it to stop. I love my kids and I’m a good mom, but all I could think about was ending this pain, making it stop forever. I realized my childhood abuse had made me withdraw, permanently disadvantaging me in being able to communicate with people and live comfortable in society. Maybe this was why people always left me.
I went to a therapist who specialized in incest. It helped a little with the child sexual abuse. But it didn’t help with the grief I felt about all the people I’d just lost and I didn’t think I could ever trust anyone ever again. Perhaps I still don’t. So I looked elsewhere on how to deal with the grief. I’m still looking. But one day, everything came full circle and I realized I had been adopted and that maybe being abandoned at an early age had everything to do with everything.
I know, I know – it’s so obvious. But when your life depends on making the best of a bad situation, on doing whatever it takes to be progressive, to not be destroyed by your circumstance – then sometimes you have to distance yourself from the obvious. It’s called denial. Others call it the adoption fog. And when you’re abused, taking care of yourself – your emotional self – requires you to push the real you down deep, far from harm’s way. So far even I couldn’t access it, couldn’t identify my own emotions, wants, needs. I just blindly moved always forward, guided by an impossibly rigid moral compass, superhuman.
But one day I woke up. I realized the glue that held me together was gaseous. It was a thin vapor of some remote early self esteem. Little molecules of self esteem moving slowly through a soupy void of concentrated grief and abandonment, which had been there since earliest memory. I’d never isolated the grief because it was my constant companion, my waking state of being. So it wasn’t just the recent string of losses, but a back catalog of grief, stuffed inside too small a container. How did I make it to so many birthdays? Could those little molecules of self esteem have been enough to have pulled me through an entire childhood of abuse, and the handicap that created as I tried to make a career and a life for my two babies? And where did that self esteem come from? It certainly didn’t come from my sterile and repressed mother, or my cowardly self-pitying father, or anyone else in my post adoption household. It came from some far off place, in a distant land, from some far off people.
It was time to search.
After my parents’ death, I received a box with some papers in it. Inside was a baby album and some documents. I’d never seen the documents before. Naturalization papers and some correspondence with Holt adoption agency in Eugene, reminding my parents that I needed to be naturalized, as well as some courtesy replies to unsolicited updates from my mother, and supporting documents from my grandmother who assisted getting my parents approved for adoption.
In the baby book was a treasured photo of me and my foster mother. She looked equal parts caring and tough, this thin wrinkling woman holding the fat baby. To her, all my gratefulness and longing for mother was directed. I simply HAD to find her and thank her for giving me whatever it was that kept me going all these years.
My parents told me very little about my adoption, mostly only about the stress they underwent as my flight got repeatedly delayed due to bureaucracy and then bad weather, and how they had to drive from Detroit to Chicago twice to pick me up, one time empty handed. They told me I was fat and well cared for, thanks to my foster mother. They told me they had no further information.
So all my life I thought I had been given up at birth, and this woman had taken care of me for almost three years. I WAS fat and happy – once – and I owed it all to her.
So I took the big step and emailed Holt, and then my whole world went sideways…
I entered the passive registry, paid the $25, asked for my child records from Holt International in Eugene, and also inquired about contacting the foster mother, whom they said they could forward information on to.
Turns out that wasn’t necessary, as the papers reveal I was at Holt’s orphanage, and that if I had a foster mother, it was only for a very short time:
Instead of being admitted at birth, I was admitted at 2 years of age. Instead of living in Seoul, I came from a small town sixty miles away from Seoul. Instead of having a foster mother my entire infancy, I had A FAMILY for two years! The medical reports state the nurses say I made friends easily and was cheerful and obedient. No mention of foster mothers. The woman in the photo was probably a nurse.
Knowing I had a family changed everything. In tandem with this search was also an exploration of adoption and what it means / what it does to children. The more exchange I had with Holt, the more incensed I became at the violation of our rights as adoptees – both at the time we were being shipped all over the world to now, as adults.
Return Email from D. at Holt:
Photos are not required when registering for the VAR. Photos and a letter are to be included with an Assisted Search application, which can only be submitted following a favorable file assessment.
After reviewing your file here at our headquarters, it appears that you were abandoned and that there is no other information regarding your birth family. Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t enough information for Holt Korea to begin an assisted search.Also attached to this email is some information regarding conducting an independent search which you might find helpful. I am going to request an assessment of your file from Holt Korea in the fall, just to confirm that they have no additional information. I will be holding your file until September, and will let you know what the response is to our request. It is extremely rare that Holt Korea would have additional information that has not been passed on to us, but I’d prefer to confirm this.