Both Sides Now: Reunion & After

Our guest blogger today has been a faithful follower for awhile now and we are so honored that she chose to submit this poignant piece of her story for us to share with all of you. Thank you, Sara, for your openness and willingness to share with our We the Lees community. We trust that you will find them as lovely and supportive as we have.

Sara is a KAD, raised all along the east coast. She currently lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband of three years and large dog. She is a hospitality interior designer and loves cooking, eating, vibrant color and all kinds of music. She and her husband are expecting their first baby this winter. She can be contacted at designer_ss@hotmail.com.

Note: Our guest bloggers do not represent the views or opinions of We the Lees. They are friends and followers of our blog who have voluntarily submitted their work for posting on our site. If you are interested in submitting a guest blog on any adoption-related topic (KADs only at the present), please CLICK HERE for more information and email us at wethelees2013@gmail.com.


My whole life I wondered who I was, where I came from and how I was going to explain myself to my children when I knew of no history to explain. These are the typical reflections of someone born in Korea in 1982, given up at birth, and adopted at five months by an American couple. When you live your entire life feeling like you have no roots, no past, no culture to call your own, you try to just come to terms with it. This was how I existed, swimming along for 34 years until my husband and I started considered having a baby. Then I began wondering about the start of my own life. How did I get here? How do I move forward when I barely know how I began? I never expected to find any answers.

Eastern Social Welfare Society, Seoul, June 2017.
I’m sitting in a folding chair, drinking orange juice and trying to concentrate on the woman speaking to us in front of the room. The banner behind her reads “Welcome to Your Motherland, Korea!” I’m 15 weeks pregnant and my shirt is starting to hug my belly. My husband holds my hand and snaps some pictures as I nervously fidget with my plastic cup. It’s the day I meet my biological mother.

The day of the meeting, I am told my birth mother was coming maybe with an aunt. I had hoped to meet one of my five full biological sisters, but of course I am overjoyed to meet any biological family at all.

In previous communication, my birth mother revealed that she and my biological father, now deceased, had hidden my live birth from the rest of family. To my biological sisters, all they knew was that I had been still-born. In her second letter to me, my birth mother explained that after I contacted her, she told the family about my existence. I understand that after such a long time, it was difficult for her to share that information with them and I am incredibly grateful to her for telling my sisters.

My birth mother has a low husky voice and high cheekbones. As she enters the room, tears start falling when she sees me. With great surprise, three of my sisters enter one by one, hold onto each other and sob. We tearfully embrace and they sit on the worn couch that has seen so many reunions like this one. Conversation ebbs and flows hesitantly through our translators. This is the moment I have been waiting for, dreaming for my entire life. What do you say after all these years?

A week later we meet again in my birth city of Daegu, a two-hour train ride from Seoul. In my second oldest sister’s apartment, it feels more intimate and casual this time. I meet my oldest sister for the first time and she is especially emotional to meet me. I’m sure she remembers our mother’s pregnancy with me and her grief after my delivery. We are startled to see that we look incredibly similar, and I start to feel like I truly belong.

Our second reunion is short-lived and only a few hours later, I have to catch the train back to Seoul. I wait with my Korean family at the train station. As we start the walk down to the boarding platform, arm in arm with two of my biological sisters, it hits me that this is it. When will I see them again? When will ever feel like this again? I step onto the escalator down the platform and can’t hold back my tears anymore. The sobs come in waves and I want to wipe them away, but I don’t want to let go of the arms that missed me, that love me so much. We embrace goodbye and my emotions render me speechless. When the train starts to move, I turn around to see them one more time and they are still waving at me.

IMG_3008
Sara’s reflection, along with her birth family, at the Daegu train station

Back in the States, I set aside some time to process my experiences on the trip. What I hadn’t counted on was the jet lag. I fought extreme nausea and exhaustion for two weeks. Now, two months away from the trip, I have been trying to understand what this all means to me.

I am incredibly thankful to all the people and events that enabled my birth family reunion to happen. It has been a life changing experience, and I know that I am incredibly blessed. I have kept in touch with my bio-family here and there on a Korean message app Kakao, but our words don’t translate like smiles and hugs do. As time is starting to slip by, and I begin to see our reunion getting smaller and smaller, I know the events of just a few hours have changed me. I feel like my heart doubled when I met my biological family, but then I had to leave part of myself there with them. Now I wrestle with a gaping hole without remedy.

I’m 21 weeks pregnant now and our little girl is growing every day. I can’t wait to tell her about my biological Korean family and how I brought her to meet them when I was pregnant. She was a big part of the reason I went to Korea this year and why I felt so moved to find answers to my life’s biggest questions. I am considering a Korean middle name for her, maybe part of my own birth name – Hea Sook.


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