Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

Archive for December 2008

Dear Expectant Parent

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Just added this to my holtsurvivor blog, but I thought you might find it interesting as well…

Excerpt below:

Excerpts from the two page (yup, that’s it) guide to taking care of your new adopted child from Korea, circa 1966.  (from my own personal files) Bold added by me for highlighting.  Portions omitted are about plane arrangements, clothing to send, documents which will arrive, medical exams and immigration.  Sarcastic comments are fully mine.

Dear Expectant Parents:

This letter is to prepare you for your child’s arrival.  First of all, be sure you have all the fees paid…We must have this money before your child comes.

read the rest here


Written by girl4708

December 21, 2008 at 7:26 am

What is this need to KNOW WHERE YOU CAME FROM?

with 2 comments

The following question was deleted from Yahoo!Answers.  Fortunately, I saved a draft. Please forward to anyone who also doesn’t get it.


What is that, especially after you were brought into and loved by a afmily?

It seems rather selfish to me. It also seems like the effort to have a ready excuse for what doesn’t go the way that you want it.

I am trying to understand.

I’ll take a stab at it, but it’s nearly impossible to describe because you have to live it to really understand.

Say you had amnesia. You wake up and you are in strange surroundings with new people, and you can’t remember your name or where you came from or anything about your life prior to waking up that day. You get a new name, but you know you were called something else before. You eat food, but you know it is different than everything you ate before. You are cared for, but you know they are not who cared for you before. What a difference one day makes. How can you not remember? You know there are so many things about yourself, but they are all gone and you don’t know who you are anymore. You’re too in shock to know what to do.

This day goes on to the next and the next and you gradually become familiar with this new life. But you are confronted with questions that cause sheer chaos inside you. Draw your family tree. Chaos. How were you born. Chaos. Does your mother have the same color eyes. Chaos. Do your siblings look like you. Chaos. Form field – what ethnicity are you. Chaos. Medical history. Chaos. All you know is you had an identity once and it’s gone now. People keep asking you these things. You look at other families and they all look alike. You have a child and it looks up at you, half your face. You look up like your child and see – nothing but chaos. You look in the mirror and see – a stranger – who looks nothing like anyone else.

Yes yes yes we can and must deal with this. But in my case almost three years got erased. Three years of culture and language is no small thing. It is not just a trivial thing to lose three years. Those were my formative years. They shaped me on a profound level. But all acess to anything that can tell me anything about the beginning of my story, any clue to alleviate that unworldly feeling like you are an alien dropped out of the sky, born at age three, is denied me. To know see how I will age. Denied. To know even one sentence to cover the hole that is three years. Denied. To have even one image to confirm that I am not an alien. Denied.

We can get by all right. We just must. But this amnesia induced by others, our original identities stolen is no excuse we make up to blame others out of selfishness. It’s a very very real loss. That nobody else has to confront except adoptees and amnesiacs. And it is haunting. And heartrenching. And frustrating.

Please don’t trivialize this. You can’t begin to conceive what this is like.

Written by girl4708

December 20, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Posted in Q&A

Adoptees: if you could have picked your own adoptive parents, would you have chose the ones you have?

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No, not being adopted is not an option.

How would the AP’s you were to be raised by be different, if you’d had the chance to choose them?


I would have liked to have established a RELATIONSHIP with them FIRST, so I could see what their true colors were and make my decision based upon that. Trust should be earned. Relationships should be built. Even children deserve that.

The problem with adoption is you become an instant family. Back in the day, this was sight un-seen. They at least got a photograph. I didn’t get any. I didn’t know them from Adam, but I had to live with them. Even today, it is typically just a visit or two. I not only had zero choice, but I had zero opportunity to bond except after I had already been totally uprooted and totally dependent upon them for – EVERYTHING. I was stranded with strangers, powerless. I also couldn’t speak English so I couldn’t even communicate my fears, reservations, or needs. I also had no way to leave a bad situation. I didn’t even get an interpreter… I can’t understand why adoptive parents would want a child under those circumstances, where love is forced because there is no alternative. I wouldn’t want a parent willing to settle for something that shallow.

I wouldn’t have chosen the parents I got. They provided well, but they failed not only me but also their own biological children in every other way – in all the ways that count. They should have been screened better. And asking me to choose my own adoptive parents isn’t enough, as I would have also traded in my siblings who didn’t appreciate the fuss and disruption of my presence, so I had to grow up with them hating and resenting me.

If I could have chosen parents, I would have chosen people who bothered to get to know me first, who liked me for me and not because I filled a need and provided a role for them. In fact, I think someone like a caring big brother or big sister would have been a much better choice than having to go live with a new family, to tell you the truth. The amount of quality bonding time might even have exceeded what I got with my parents.

I would have chosen people who respected and loved children enough to not re-traumatize them and abruptly rip them from their country, their culture, and everyone they could identify with. I would have chosen local people in my own country. Local adoptive parents or the orphanage, surrounded with others like myself – that is what I would have chosen.

How would my AP’s be different? My only friend in jr. high school had five sisters, a step brother, a step mother, and her dad. All nine of them lived in a two bedroom cottage and attic space. There was more life and love in that tiny struggling house than could be found in my house times ten. Careful, conservative, proper, respectable people don’t always make good parents, just because they go to church, can fill out forms, and can balance their budget. Opportunity can go to hell. Without a vibrant, caring, genuine family like my friend had, my opportunities seem like poverty in comparison. My parents of choice wouldn’t have been so superficially perfect.

Adoption can be just as creepy as an arranged marriage. You can qualify perfect attributes of the perfect people and they can still be perfectly hideous to live with and govern you. You can create a laundry list of what you want in a child, and find you hate them once they are in your care. And there’s something very creepy about being sought after with no established history and no relationship. Without any test, without any trial relationship, we can’t even establish whether these humans even LIKE each other. This kind of courtship takes time and proximity. It takes more effort. It is so much more meaningful.

In my world, love comes first and legal recognition comes after – not the other way around. That’s the kind of world I want to live in. People who prioritize values like that are the kind of parent I wish I had.

Written by girl4708

December 9, 2008 at 2:30 am

Posted in Q&A

the ache of separation

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Perhaps the most haunting, heart rending song about loss ever written:

Dearly Departed by Devotchka



How I miss your heart

Beating next to mine


The right words

Were always hard to find

When all our times was fine

When darling you were mine, all mine


And I know,

I know you had no choice

But how I miss your voice

Singing right with mine


Flesh of my flesh

Soul of my soul

Come back home


All this darkness,

cannot hurt us

Cause they made you from the light


Here on purpose,

don’t be nervous

We will make it through, this night



How I miss your heart

Beating next to mine


Flesh of my flesh

Soul of my soul

Come back home

Written by girl4708

December 8, 2008 at 12:26 am

Posted in Infinite Longing

For those who were adopted, when did you start understanding?

with 32 comments

About how old were you when you started to understand what “being adopted” means? What questions did you ask? What questions did you want to ask, but didn’t? What answers did your parents give you? Were the answers helpful? What, if anything, could have been done or said to help your understanding?

My daughter has always known she was adopted. She knows just about everything we know except for issues that she’s still too young for. She’s going to be 10 soon.

We have an open adoption with visits, calls, e-mails, etc. She rarely asks me any questions except for “why don’t I look like my sisters and brother?” and “why don’t they live with us?” We always tell her the truth. When I ask her if there’s anything else she wants to know, I usually get that deer in a headlight look. I know it’s coming. I know she’s going to ask more questions some day. I want to be prepared.

  • 3 weeks ago

Additional Details

3 weeks ago

ETA: Thank you all. You’ve given me more to think about.

Best Answer – Chosen by Asker

Adoption has never been something I was comfortable talking about growing up. I dismissed it as an issue and pushed it under a rug. I just wanted to live my life and try and be happy.

I threw myself into my interests – vocational, recreational, and relational with great fervor and passion. On the surface I appeared vibrant and successful. Yet nothing ever lasted. From childhood to present day, I’ve always been a little remote or a little too intense or a little too vested or a little too intimate.

At 43, after a failed relationship, I crashed. I crawled into a fetal position for two months surveying all my relationship disappointments and nearly didn’t make it to my 44th birthday. Until one day the obvious hit me – that I had been living my entire life avoiding and fearing abandonment. And because avoidance had been my main focus, I was ill-equipped to handle the normal ebbs and flows of relationships most people learn to deal with. That the rough start of abandonment and adoption truly was profound. That it shaped my whole life. And confronting that wound and dealing with it in a more productive way will shape the last half of my life as well.

And one of the main reasons for this handicap was because my parents gained more from me than I gained from them. Their self interest was, in effect, abandoning me. This is something adoptive parents don’t want to recognize. When the parent/child relationship is more about the joys and satisfaction derived from children than it is about truly what is important to the child, then who is there for the child and the child’s emotional needs?

I think childhood is not a time when children can express how they feel, or communicate their deep loss or grief or pain. I don’t think they should be expected to. Nor do I think they will necessarily share any recognition they do have with their second parents. Because you contributed to the process that caused them pain, even if your intentions were honorable. And they care about not hurting you. It’s our own private thing we have to deal with, that the child will never trust the parents to relate to. Because unless you’ve been abandoned and adopted you just can’t.

The only thing you as parents can do is put them first. Really care about them. Always be supportive. And never, ever, place conditions on your affections or put your own needs ahead of theirs. You need to be a rock of gibraltar, a constant and abiding source. They need to trust that you will always be there for them and never abandon them – in word, deed, attitude, in any way, shape, or form. Your loving words are not enough – they need to see/feel/know without a shadow of a doubt that they can be totally secure. The more insecure you show you are, the more insecure your child will be…

So I don’t think it’s a matter of having talks about adoption. In fact, that’s invasive, self-interested, a sign of parental insecurity, and a great way to further alienate yourself from your kids. It’s a matter of being a genuine and complete loving parent. And if your child wants to talk about it when she’s ready, know that all she wants is honest answers. NOT happy adoption rhetoric. HONEST self probing answers.

Again, the theme I keep going back to is this: we don’t need adoptive parents. We need PARENTS. Relaxed. Loving. Secure. Steadfast. Comforting. PARENTS.

Hope I’ve been of help.

Asker’s Rating:
5 out of 5
Asker’s Comment:
Every single answer gave me a new perspective, so my thanks go to all.
AlmostHuman, your theme of children needing genuine and loving PARENTS really hit a chord with me. Thanks also for sharing what you learned about yourself during your journey.

Written by girl4708

December 8, 2008 at 12:16 am

Posted in Q&A

remembering in korean

with 3 comments

funny how this small thing made me cry and feel joy at the same time.

i sent the following email to loved ones, as if i had graduated or something:  i guess i had.

i just had a memory from my childhood in korean.  how bizarre is that?
i remember saying this to my new parents.

i peu da

looked it up and found this:
yeh ppeu da


it means pretty

i think it must have been RIGHT AFTER I ARRIVED.  it’s very fuzzy, but i think it is real.  it was about the christmas tree…i kept saying it over and over again.

silly to flood your in-boxes with something so small, i know.  i was just excited to have the word come to me in korean out of nowhere.  i was watching a kdrama and the guy told the girl she was beautiful, and suddenly i peu da popped into my head!  and then the christmas ornaments.  i haven’t studied it.  i haven’t heard it.  i just KNEW it was a synonym.  so i looked up pretty and korean on google and the word was there! and then i typed pretty and beautiful in the free translation on-line, and sure enough, it was there…

now, if i could only remember two weeks earlier about my life at the orphanage…or nine months earlier when i was with my family…
i hope i have more of these, but i doubt it.

this is the first time I can recall where my first thought was a word in a foreign language, and not only that but inherently knowing what it meant.  i was about ten weeks shy of 3 years old when i arrived at my american home, which was four days before christmas.

he,he,he, i guess the forty hours I thought I’d wasted watching korean dramas wasn’t a waste afterall!


Relaying my joy over this reclaimed word on an adoption support board, one of the adoptees mentioned that my experience is not unlike Helen Keller’s.

from RNIB;  supporting blind and partially sighted people:

Then, after a month of Anne’s teaching, what the people of the time called a “miracle” occurred.

Helen had until now not yet fully understood the meaning of words. When Anne led her to the water pump on 5 April 1887, all that was about to change.

As Anne pumped the water over Helen’s hand , Anne spelled out the word water in the girl’s free hand. Something about this explained the meaning of words within Helen, and Anne could immediately see in her face that she finally understood.

Helen later recounted the incident:

“We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honey-suckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten, a thrill of returning thought, and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.”

Assimilation has been like having my sight taken away.  But it appears those early connections live on and can never be obliterated once formed.

We adoptees are not blank slates.

Written by girl4708

December 7, 2008 at 3:27 am

Posted in Infinite Longing

Tagged with

update on letter to girl4709

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On a cold March day in 1966, two little girls began a journey which would change their lives forever.  That day was the day they were transferred to an orphanage to begin their life as orphans, to be adopted and sent away to foreign lands with foreign people.

You and I were together that day.  You and I were together the next four days and possibly the next nine months.  Were we together prior to that day?  Only meeting can rule out the remote possibility of relations undocumented.

You are the only living person I know who has anything to do with my past and I would at the very least like to contact you, however you feel comfortable.  We are sisters in solidarity, and I would be interested in hearing how you’ve fared in life.

fondest regards,



My earliest document atypically referred to two people at one time:

  • two little girls
  • both the same age
  • both given “provisional” names
  • both abandoned on the same day
  • both sent onward together
  • both sent to Holt and given consecutive Holt orphan numbers

My struggles to obtain this document, and the struggles to be allowed to passively contact this girl, whom Holt had identifying information for, was herculean.  Finally, they relented.


Never letting up reminding/prodding Holt to not let up and asking for updates as to the search for girl4709, Holt called and said they have located her.  It is now up to her.

If this is true (or just a ploy to get me to stop harassing them) then I feel sorry for girl 4709.  But then again, it was not I that orphaned her nor I that sent her to foreign lands and foreign people for adoption, so I hope she harbors no resentment towards me for upsetting whatever calm she has in her life.  Hopefully, like me, the knowing of the truth has more value than some temporary emotional turbulance.

I recall how I felt the morning my Korean speaking friend gave me a rough translation of my earliest document from Wonju city hall.  At first I was just numb.  A kind of “well don’t that beat all” kind of disbelief, which lingered throughout the day.  It kind of felt like the feelings I had harbored about adoption in general all my life – pushing it aside as a non-issue in hopes its nagging implications would just go away – only it was like times ten.  And then I was driving on the long commute home when it hit me.

When I first asked for my adoption records, my daughter asked me if I would search for my birth mother.  I had no interest in upsetting the life she had established and I told her no.  When my daughter mentioned that I might have siblings as well, I told her I hadn’t thought about it before, but probably I wouldn’t bother.  I was shocked that I had NEVER EVEN CONSIDERED this as a possibility.  (In retrospect, I can’t believe I had never entertained this possibility – but it is true.  The depths of my own denial and self preservation amaze me)

On the long commute home, I recalled my daughter bringing up siblings and my cool reaction.  And then I thought about the other girl from Wonju.  And what if’d.  What if she was my sister?  What is we were even twins?  What if I was not only separated from my parents due to poor economics (the most likely scenario, since I was already two years old) but also separated from my sister?  from my twin???  Can I even begin to imagine what kind of pain that would have caused a parent?  Can I even begin to imagine what the severing of twin bonds can do to a person?  Possibly myself?  What if my almost hostile attitude about birth family search has always been so negative because maybe my loss was too great to deal with?  It was not just a loss of an incubator.  It was the loss of someone who cared for me well (I was a fat, secure, well-adjusted child upon arriving for adoption) and thus presumably well loved.  The loss of a sibling on top of that was unimaginable. The loss of a twin on top of that was unfathomable.

I started to sob in the car.  Full body racking sobs.  I couldn’t tell the difference between the rain outside and the rain inside.  I could barely drive home.  Whereupon I stayed immobilized in the car for an hour, sobbing.  Sobbing like I’d never sobbed in my entire life.  Primal sobbing.

What had adoption done to me?  How could it take over forty years for me to finally acknowledge and cry about my loss?  I still can’t wrap my head around the profound consequences of the redistribution of children.   It puts an end to my words and makes me silent.

And so I wait to hear from girl4709.  I wait for her to catch up.  To have her primal cry in her car.  To have that healing cry.

We might not be/probably aren’t sisters.  But there is that small possibility we are, so that possibility must be exhausted.  And either way, that jolt to my adoption psyche helped me realize how essential the fundamental facts of our origins are, how important their meaning is.  Whether it is girl 4709 or not, while there is still time to piece together this picture, I must at least try.

I am glad my sleep got disturbed.  I am glad to be awake.

I hope girl4709 will one day feel the same way.

Written by girl4708

December 5, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Infinite Longing