In 1972, at 16 years of age, Judith was taken advantage of by an older boy who offered her a ride. Her parents sent away to a maternity home when they discovered she was pregnant.
She describes the treatment by the nuns who ran the home in ways common to all who spent time in Catholic maternity homes and how she was repeatedly told it was not "her" baby she was carrying and wanted to keep.
Like so many of us, Judith functioned, mostly aided by medication prescribed for "depression" as a result of her trying to "put it all behind her" and get on with her life.
"Ironically," she writes, "my parents thought the medications were helping me because I stopped crying. Really this was when I was at my lowest."
She worked and she married and she had three more children, all the while tyring to keep a lid on her memories.
In the late 1980s Judith met other mothers who lost children to adoption, she began to really confront all that happened....
"By then I had been on antidepressants for years. I was labelled as depressed but in actual fact I had been silently grieving a loss no one, except other mothers who had been through the system, understood or even noticed back then."
Suppressed grief. Stuffed. Silenced. How that eats at us!
In the midst of reading this account from the vantage point of this mother, I was sent a link to a post by a very angry adoptee.
Here is her story of the anger that explodes when losses are unrecognized and gratitude expected, just as mothers who lose children are expected to also be grateful to be freed of their obligation and freed to get on with their lives!
I used to think that anger could save me. It protected me, kept me going. It helped me survive. I hope it still works.It's not Korea. It's adoption! They take our our kids. They take identity away from our kids. And we're all supposed to be happy and GRATEFUL!!
Three months ago I found my Korean family. And for the first time in a long time, I felt hope. I thought I had located the source of this deep sadness I’ve been carrying with me my whole life, and I would finally know the answer to “Why?”
But no one told me family reunification would be this way.
However I look at it, there’s no resolution, no relief, no peace of mind. My grief has only multiplied since I met my family. Knowing more about the reasons why doesn’t make it hurt any less. Knowing more about what I’ve lost, I wish I’d never started searching.
Here in Korea experiences are raw and overwhelming. People keep telling me to be strong, but I think I am weak. Korea makes me feel like I can’t survive, like there’s no reason to keep trying so fucking hard. I’ll never make it here anyway. I felt such relief from American racism when I first returned, I failed to notice that Korea doesn’t want me either.
My birth family doesn’t understand why I cry so often. Smile. Our family is complete now. We are so happy you are here. You should be happy too. They expect me to fit right back into their lives. They’ve been waiting for me, building up hopes, anticipating my arrival. It feels eerily like adoption. The pressure to perform the same kind of emotional labor that was required of me as an adoptee is enormous.
I’m told that anger is the wrong response in this situation. But it’s all I’m feeling. There is no fresh start. Too much has already been taken from me. As a “reunited adoptee” I have even more I’m supposed to be grateful for, and so many things I’m told to be careful about.
Maybe get to know them first, and tell them you will address the marriage issue later. Things are changing, but it’s uncertain how they will respond to you.
You mean because I’m GAY? I thought I would just be myself in this situation. I finally have a chance at an authentic relationship with a family, my family. But the fear of rejection is huge.
I depend on others to translate culture, and I feel lost. The gifts from my birth family make me angry. Especially the envelope of money shoved into my purse. But I’m told to accept it because it is a symbol of love. One translator orders me to say “Thank you.”
You should accept your family’s goodwill. They are your strength.
I want to punch him. This feels exactly like adoption.
1. Add instant adoptee.
2. Shake until happy.
My birth mother assumes that I will drop everything and come live with her, now that we are reunited. She tells me to study hard and learn Korean because she’s too old to learn English. Live with me. Speak Korean. Just like nothing happened.
I know this is also out of her control in so many ways, but I refuse to believe this is all she can do to show her love. I understand not wanting to feel pain. But this will never fix what’s broken. What if we tried confrontation, anger, even rage? Will I be told that it’s not Korean to behave this way?
If I could, I would tell my birth family that last weekend in Seoul, an adoptee tried to kill herself. She jumped from the balcony of our hostel. I was sitting in my room on the first floor, and I heard her body hit the ground outside my window. I knew instantly what she had done, because I had thought about doing it myself. But I knew it wasn’t far enough to fall.
I can’t help it if it’s wrong. I have to tell. I want other adoptees to know what happened. It’s traumatic. But I can’t pretend to forget, and just do nothing. It’s common knowledge among us that Korean adoptees have a very high suicide rate. Maybe we’ve internalized the message that our pain is private, individual, unique. But it’s also systemic. How can we hold Korea accountable for selling us off if we continue to erase each other?
I wonder how many adoptees have to commit suicide before Korea will be embarrassed enough to do something about it. Maybe it’s not numbers that matter, but our response as adoptees when it happens. The atmosphere here feels desensitized. I need other angry adoptees.
I have to keep saying the ugly things that no one wants to think about or remember. I heard her body hit the ground. It’s not poetry. I don’t want to make a film about it. I hear that horrifying noise when I lie in bed at night, and I think, how is it that adoptees do not explode with anger at how disposable we are in Korea?
I feel despair here, but also an intense anger, which reassures me that there’s work to be done. I still believe there’s power in our collective anger. If we can let ourselves feel it, and talk about it. Ignoring, pretending, forgetting. I do it too, I think we all learned different ways to cope with the bullshit of adoption. But I didn’t come to Korea to pretend.
The similarities of these two perspectives is evident. Adoption invalidates our reality. It's like being incested and having everyone in your family say you imagined it, it couldn't have happened. That kind of denial and invalidation of such a deep primal wound to the very soul is devastating. It becomes impossible to separate which hurt is the greater of the two.
Grief of loss is REAL! Our pain is real. Mothers who miscarry or whose infant passes away are ENCOURAGED to GRIEVE. Yet those who lose children to adoption are not supposed to. We are supposed to forget it as if "it" never happened. Be glad [read: grateful] our child has a "better" life, and some of us have even been told to be happy for the otherwise childless family we brought such happiness to, as if we were intetonal surrogates or organ donors.
The needs of mothers today who are in open adoption will be further misunderstood. They can see their kids, but they are still not mothers! Does anyone understand what they've lost and their need to grieve? Are their friends and family understanding or compassionate or does everyone feel they got what they wanted and remind them how LUCKY they are that their adoption is "open." Where does the anger go? INSIDE US ALL!
We are disallowed human emotions and any show of concern for our losses because adoption dehumanizes us! As non humans we are expected to have no emotions, no need to mourn or grieve, We are things: commodities and the warppings of gift came in. Non human things.
The only wonder is why more of us don't EXPLODE with anger! Far too many of us play the part, keep the peace. Smile for the camera. Do the "polite" "good girl" thing! Stuff the anger. Deny ourselves the right to be frustrated and pissed off!
Now compare that to gays who are fighting for marriage equality, the right to serve in the military and to adopt children. They're getting what they want - at least in part. So too did the first responders of 9/11. They did not get anything and would never have gotten anything, by sitting back and being "good" and polite....or by being angry and simply writing about it or bitching to one another. They got what they got by getting angry and focusing their anger into legislative activism!
We need to channel that anger into righteous indignation and legislative activism! Fight to change what is wrong with adoption - how mothers are exploited and children commodified...all to meet a demand!
If you aint angry about that you aint paying attention...you're numb, brain dead...like a zombie victim of Stockholm Syndrome.