This entry is Part II of a series. Click here to read Part One.
The last time I visited Holt Post Adoption Services was back in 2015. Whitney and I always make it a point to go back and visit Esther, who is one of the best social workers we have ever met. She has seen our stories from the beginning and even knew us individually before we were married. We wound up at her office last minute, hoping she would be there. Luckily for us, she was and it was so good to see her and catch up with her again.
When I first met Esther back in 2011, I thought at that time that I had looked at my adoption file that Holt had on record and that maybe I had forgotten about it. In 2015, when I saw her last, she was about to bring it up, but then we got sidetracked and she wasn’t able to. This time, we sat down to eat lunch together and somehow the topic about a birth family search came up. I do not remember it exactly, but I am guessing we were talking about something to do with Whitney’s birth family. Esther asked if I wanted to look at my file. I told her I thought I already did back in 2011. Luckily for me, Esther has one of the best memories possible. She told me that I did not look at the file or ask to see it. That was one topic she would not bring up with my adoptive parents present, since this was my journey, not theirs. She said that if I wanted to look, she could have my file pulled when she got back to the office and I could read it. A flood of emotions hit me like a ton of bricks at that moment. I told her yes, I wanted to see it.
Esther said she needed a little time to pull the file so Whitney and I decided to do a little shopping to kill time. I started feeling a little nervous because I thought that I had already done this and I had forgotten about it. When Whitney read her file several years ago, her family registry was on the last page. I kept on wondering if mine would be just like hers, or maybe not have anything at all in it. I stopped by the restroom in the subway station before returning to Holt and threw some water on my face and just breathed in and out for a bit. To me, this file could just be the beginning. Whitney was very wise in telling me that once you look, you cannot un-look. This is why we were back in Korea now, because of her decision to look all those years ago.
When we arrived back at Holt Post Adoption, Esther referred us to another social worker who would review my file with me. I sat in the waiting room with so many scenarios going through my head. She entered the room with the file and then began to go through it with me page by page. I asked her several questions because a lot of the file was in Korean. Whitney was there too, because I wanted her to see it as well. Each page was interesting, but I was anticipating getting to that final page and seeing if my registry was there. The social worker finally flipped the last page – it was blank. Was there a mistake? Maybe there was another file? All these questions started popping into my head. I had built up all this anticipation for it to be just like Whitney’s and it was completely different. I was a little disappointed, but then the social worker said something that I will not forget. “A search is possible.” Wait, what? This was not written anywhere or (to my knowledge) the information was not in the file.
She gave me some time to think and Whitney did tell me that maybe they changed up how they show files nowadays to protect birth families, especially with what happened during her file reading. I did not know at that point if I wanted to do a full search or not. I was hoping to start with my first question – “I wonder if my birth mother is even alive.” The social worker said we could absolutely start with that. So I decided to see if they could find that out and hold off on a search. She said she would email me the results and just to be patient. I thanked the social worker and we headed back to the U.S. a few days later.
Around a week after returning from Korea, the social worker emailed me. In her email, she said that she did a search request on my birth mother to the government agency, Korea Adoption Services (KAS), and received the result. “We received the last known address of her with the fact that she is registered as a householder’s spouse. It seems that your birth mother married afterward.” So many emotions came over me, just from one single email. I could probably write a book on how many emotions and questions I felt at that moment. The social worker said to contact her if I want to do a search. I have not responded yet and it has been two months. I honestly do not know if I am ready yet, but I know now I at least have an option, and that my birth mother is alive. For me, I feel like this journey is just beginning. It could lead to nowhere or even heartache and pain, but then in the back of my mind is the special day that we just had with Whitney’s older brother and family. It is a day I will never forget and I know I will have this email saved until I am ready to respond…if that day ever comes.
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