The Emotional Roller Coaster

It is hard to believe that Whitney and I are only a few weeks away from visiting Korea again. This will be my third trip back since 2011. Time has just flown by and so many big life changes have happened over the past few years. One of the biggest questions I’ve gotten leading up to this trip is, “Are you going to do it this time?” What my friends are asking is: “Are you planning to initiate birth family search?”

IMG_4699
Lee w/Appa (in-law)

The emotional roller coaster is hard to describe when thinking through whether or not to start a birth family search. I’ve had the opportunity to read numerous articles, watch documentaries, and listen to first-hand accounts concerning birth family searches, but I am still on the fence. From talking to other adoptees, actively participating in various adoptee events/organizations, and being married to a post-reunion adoptee, I have gained so much perspective on the complexity of adoption as a whole. Even Hollywood has contributed by putting questions in the minds of their viewing audiences, specifically adoptees.  One movie that comes to mind is Man of Steel.  In that movie, Clark Kent (aka Superman) asks his father Jonathan Kent if he “can stop pretending” he’s his son.  Mr. Kent responds to Clark by saying, “You are my son, but you have another father who gave you another name, and he sent you here for a reason, and you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.”

As long as I can remember, I have always done a pro/con list when making a difficult decision.  Unfortunately, when I tried to do it for a birth family search, it was a lot harder than I thought.  The more that I researched and started compiling lists, the more I realized that the outcomes had so many variables that could not be measured.  In the end, it was easier just to write down the positives and the negatives together in one “to be considered” list, because they are all important to factor in when debating a search.

Sometimes, still having the opportunity to possibly ask these questions is enough to get me through the day.

So my answer on doing a birth family search? It depends on the day. I have had personal experiences witnessing the positive and negative outcomes of these searches. There are days that I have so many unanswered questions that I would only hope my birth family could answer for me.  By searching, maybe some of that void and “unknown” could finally be filled. But on the flip side, what if I do a search and they don’t want to see me? The answers that I have longed for would never be answered.  At this point, I can tell myself that the answers which I seek have a chance of being found, since I have not yet attempted a search and that door has not been slammed shut.  Sometimes still having the opportunity to possibly ask these questions, without having the answers, is enough to get me through the day and allow the emotional roller coaster to continue.

Lee + Omma (in-law)
Lee + Omma (in-law)

I have read numerous forums and expert opinions on adoptees who have found their birth mother/family, but then the family wants nothing to do with the adoptee and rejects them. Rejection is something that no human being enjoys or longs for, especially adoptees. The rejection that an adoptee feels truly could stem from their relinquishment at an early age.  I think a birth mother/family is not rejecting you, if she chooses not to meet you after being found.  Instead, she is rejecting the pain of losing a child, not you as a person.  She is rejecting the pain that has built up over the years that she has worked so hard to suppress.  She does not know who you are as a person or what you have accomplished, but only knows the pain and the brokenness that it makes her feel inside, having her relive all of those memories.  Standing at her door, you represent all that was lost, and many times, these emotions are too great for a birth mother/family to handle. Instead of embracing you with open arms, they slam the door shut, leaving you with more questions than answers. I think this is one of the most important pieces of information for an adoptee, like myself, contemplating a search to understand.  It is crucial before starting a search.  Why?  Because this could be your outcome. This could be my outcome.

Lee w/Jeon siblings
Lee w/Jeon siblings

On the flip side, doing a birth family search could lead to a very happy, emotional reunion. I can only imagine, at this point, what my birth family looks like. I always wonder if I have siblings. Do I have maternal and/or paternal grandparents who are still living?  Maybe I have uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and lots of cousins. Even if I find that something happened to my birth mother, maybe I have extended family who would want to meet. Maybe they have no idea that I even exist.  I could go on and on, but these are the kinds of thoughts and questions that I ask myself on a daily basis.

Even if there is a “positive” outcome to a birth family search, there still is the point of fostering the new-found relationship with these perfect strangers.  Unfortunately, at this point, I know it would be a struggle because we are separated geographically. Of course, we have Skype, FaceTime, Kakaotalk and many other methods of communication, but nothing beats one-on-one, face-to-face communication.  I have given this a lot of thought because I would want to build on our foundational relationship and continue to get to know all my family members as best as I could.  It can definitely be done, but it would be difficult maintaining the new relationship while still living in the States.

Even if there is a “positive” outcome, there is the point of fostering a relationship with perfect strangers.

All of these thoughts really do cause an emotional coaster for not only me, but many adoptees out there struggling to decide if a birth family search is right for them.  Having a deepened relationship with Whitney’s birth family has really made me start questioning if I want to go that route and if it truly is worth the risk.  All I know is: this trip to Korea, I will definitely be paying close attention to Whitney’s interactions with her birth family to seek a better understanding of the possible road ahead, if I decide to do a search.


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