Twirl, Baby Girl

The day finally came, I’m just sitting at my computer working on a blog and my daughter walks into my bedroom. She has a pool cover-up on and she begins telling me that she prefers skirts “like this”, making her skirt more fitted. At first I didn’t think anything of it, until I asked her why. Like a typical child in elementary school she just casually tells me that she doesn’t want people making fun of her for twirling her dress.

I had a knee jerk reaction, and reflecting back I was probably more stern than I needed to be, but the adoptee inside took over. I remember those days, I remember never wanting to wear a skirt again and how much someone else’s opinion of me mattered more than my own. I knew that if I wasn’t adamant about this now, I know that I would regret it later.

I pulled her close, looked her in the eyes, and I told her that if she wanted to twirl in her dress, to do it. I reminded her than true friends are not going to make her feel bad about herself and that other people’s opinions didn’t matter. She nodded of course, I knew she wasn’t going to get it and that it would not be the first time I was going to have this conversation with her.

The adopee inside me was screaming to try and make her understand, that she doesn’t have to go around people pleasing others and turning herself into someone she isn’t. I didn’t want her to start sacrificing even the simplest of pleasures like twirling in a skirt just because someone else didn’t like it. I told her that it was okay, that there wasn’t anything wrong with what she was doing and that I even loved to twirl in a skirt, because seriously, what woman doesn’t? You’ve done it too, the best are when the skirts have a little bit of tulle under them, those twirl the best.

Hopefully I won this battle but I know that this is going to be an uphill battle for the both of us. With the adoptee inside me screaming to ensure she doesn’t lose herself in the crowd of other, that it’s okay to be noticed and seen. I know the war with going unseen, to prefer to be unseen is coming, I see it in her as much if not more than I do myself. Rest assured, I’m going to do everything that I can to let her know that it’s okay to be seen, to be who she is and to twirl in every single dress she wears.

Adoption Trauma…is it a Thing?

If you follow any part of the adoption triad organizations on social media there has been a lot of discussion regarding adoption trauma. Whatever your stance is on the issue, I can tell you first hand, that regardless of when a child is adopted, there is some trauma that occurred. There have been studies that have been shown even while in utero, “the human fetus is capable of auditory processing and in fact, is capable of processing rejection in utero.” 1 Once those babies are born and are removed from their biological mother, that newborn is unable to process the loss of their biological mother. There are other studies which state that our response to trauma is coded into our cells, that even as young children and even adults, our response to certain triggers is involuntary, we react by instinct. Sometimes we, as adoptees are unable to explain our behavior, if we recognize it at all. How can we recognize something that we aren’t even aware of? There are also studies that show that when a newborn or infant monkey was cared for in consistent and inconsistent intervals which concluded that those monkeys which were cared for inconsistently showed a higher rate of insecurity, lower social standing, anxiety and depression among other things. This study also mentioned that these monkeys who received inconsistent care were unaware and their reactions and stress were stored within their lympathic system, that with each situation of rejection or abandonment, it would bring the person back to the initial trauma and our body would begin to react on instinct, as it did during that first initial trauma. For us, that pain is real, each rejection we faced throughout our lives felt as if we were re-living that first instance of trauma over and over again.

The first time that I came across this information was 3-4 years ago. I was working through an abandonment workbook. The concept it was explaining was that in our limbic system we store our first emotional memories which is the foundation of how we eventually react to certain stimuli. The workbook continued to state that when we would experience rejection or abandonment or loss, our emotional response would revert back to the our “first” instance of that same emotion and we would emotionally respond based on our limbic system. We have already been “pre-wired” in the way that we respond. That we involuntary emotionally feel the way we did that first initial loss. Isn’t that amazing? This theory means that each instance of loss, we emotionally go back to that first instance and emotionally “relive” those emotions over and over.

This blew my mind. I couldn’t believe first, that our body was that incredible that we have the capability to store those type of memories, as I reflected back through the workbook it made a lot more sense as I look at instances of loss in my life. That being said, I believe adoption trauma is real, I believe that no matter the age or situation of the child, it is still “traumatic” to separate  them from a biological caregiver. Does this change my opinion on adoption? No, and even though I am an advocate for family preservation, I am aware that everything may not be so cut and dry, that there is some gray area.

I know that there are those that disagree with me, that believe family preservation is the only way, but I disagree, I don’t believe everything is black and white, there is some gray and this is one of those things that I believe there are some situations which adoption may be the best course of action.

 

Parenting as an Adoptee

Last month, I was supposed to speak at IKAA, an international Korean Adopteee convention. At first I was very excited to share my story, to speak on how parenting as on adoptee has impacted me, but the more I thought about the topic and the more and more anxious I became. I ended up not speaking, not because I didn’t feel that my story wasn’t relevant or because there was not interest but because I was not emotionally prepared to go into the depths of how parenting has brought so many adoptee feelings to the surface and how sometimes it’s a struggle to tell my story and not share the story of my daughter.

I see things that both of my children do, their actions, their mannerisms and their feelings and sometimes their feelings or behavior shake me to the core. I can see why one will do a certain type of behavior or make a certain comment and I am emotionally rushed back to a similar time when I was little. I am able to have more insight into the “whys” behind the behavior and be able to address it. It doesn’t it easier, sometimes it forces me to address some things from my life that I thought had already been addressed or I had forgotten about. It challenges me to look at behavior differently, to parent differently and to continue to grow.

Without my children, I would not be the person I am today. My life would be completely different and I truly don’t believe I would have addressed some of the things from my life had I not had either of my children. They will never know how much I have learned from them and I am so grateful for them.

Summertime

I know I have been MIA a little, but there are a few things in the works that I’m very excited to share. As some of you know, this summer I will be traveling back to Korea for the International Korean Adoptee Association Gathering, also known as IKAA. It’s a conference for Korean adoptees and their families. I will be speaking in one of the conference sessions about parenting as an adoptee. I have not been to this conference before and am very excited to meet so many other adoptees and see some friends as well. Truthfully, I am a little nervous because I am not a big fan of public speaking, never have been, so I guess I’ve got to start practicing and coming up with my outline.

It has been a while since I have updated you on my biological father, appa search. There really isn’t any new information, he has been contacted and has a similar story to the one on my Korean adoption papers. For a match to be confirmed, there will need to be a DNA test and from there it will be up to him whether or he wants to connect or not. For now, my emotions have calmed down a lot. I haven’t been as anxious as I have been and although I have so many unanswered questions, I know that whatever is supposed to happen will and me worrying about it won’t make it any better. For now, I am just focusing on my trip and my session preparations.

This weekend I will also be traveling to Atlanta to be interviewed by a fellow Korean adoptee for her podcast. Once the podcast is released, I will be sure to attach a link. She already mentioned that she will be taking the summer off and my episode will be released in the fall.

If there is any new information on my birth father search or the podcast episode, I will be sure to update everyone.

 

-J

Thoughts on Jo Wilson on Greys Anatomy

For those of you who have followed this season of Grey’s Anatomy you have slowly follow Jo’s story. From her very rough start of living out of her car, her extremely abusive ex-husband, to now where she is happily married, about to start a family and starting her birth family search. I wasn’t sure if Shonda would ever give us more of a backstory about her but thankfully this season we start to see Jo’s story and specifically her adoption journey unfold as she and Alex discuss starting their own family.

*SPOILER ALERT*

This past episode we got to see Jo after what seemed like a while to process the brief interaction between her and her biological mother. Over the past couple of episodes we have seen her withdraw from Alex and the rest of her friends, she hasn’t been work, drinks more than we typically see her drink and appears jilted, angry, numb and depressed. When she emerges from her bed and starts back working she immerses herself at work, continues to push Alex away and finally is confronted that she was drinking while in the lab.

The end of the show is an argument between Alex and Jo when he confronts her about her going to work drunk and she continues to push him away. By the end of the show, I could relate to Jo on so many different levels.

I have read a few comments from other viewers about how “Jo is the worst” and she is “always in so much pain…Alex doesn’t need her…she is so petty”. The review was hard to read because Jo is incredibly relatable to many adoptees. For those that have followed my adoption journey and now with the potential of reuniting with birth family, I can understand 100% why she withdrew from loved ones. I don’t agree with her showing up drunk on the job but the degree of her heightened emotions could cause people to do irrational things.

I’m sure the million dollar question is why did Jo withdraw and didn’t explain herself to Alex. As an adoptee, who has spoken with other adoptees, specifically Korean adoptees, some who have reunited with family, some where the birth family continues to deny their existence, some who are in process of searching and other who will never know their birth family and on some level we all relate. We all have this collective experience that is unique to us that we understand all the different emotions we experience as we walk along this journey.

There are times, I admit that I prefer to speak to specific KAD friends because of where they are in their birth family search, or because of other similar circumstances we have. I do not mean to withdraw myself from my other friends and loved ones, however adoption and the trauma surrounding adoption is something that we all KADs just understand. Some of these women that I have become close friends with I have only met a handful of times but on some level we just all “click”. We understand the struggles all of us have experienced and empathize in our current struggles of having our feet stand in two different worlds.

I am by no means excusing Jo’s drinking behavior or showing up to work drunk. What I am saying is that her portrayal of what adoptees go through during the birth family search is something ALL adoptive parents should see. Her story shows the darker side of adoption. As I have mentioned before, not all adoptions are happy endings, some have a very dark side. I am extremely grateful that Shonda is shedding light on adoptees, our journey, our pain, our struggles and has given us a realistic portrayal of us on prime time.

Monday evening, I finally got the courage to call the organization I have been working with. Unfortunately, the person who answered did not speak very good English so I will have to call back later this week. I am nervous and extremely anxious. I don’t speak Korean and having to explain where I am at in my search is nerve-wracking enough.  For now one day at a time, one step at a time.

 

-J

The Adoption Narrative

I can’t for the life of my find the right words. I’m overwhelmed, discouraged and disgusted. The adoption industry as a whole has turned human trafficking legal and turned children into one of the most profitable commodities. Like many other KADs, I know that the money that was paid for my adoption didn’t go to assist family supportive programs, or any other type of social service, instead it went to help rebuilding South Korea after the Korean war. To be frank, we were the nation’s hottest commodity and around 20 thousand or more per child, you can imagine the amount the country made on our behalf. Without thought of the future, Korea went as far as to try and erase our history and our past with the hope that we would never venture away from our newly found country and attempt to retrace our roots. Korea was wrong. Every month, every day, every summer KADs fly from all over the world to try and find their roots, to search for lost family members and put together pieces of a puzzle that never quite fit. We go back trying to be part of a culture that wanted us to move ahead and never look back, a culture that at times even rejects us now. We aren’t Korean by their standards and yet we try to fit into their world that we were never a part of or have forgotten. We can feel the stares when we are unable to speak Korean or when we do not know the social norms and customs. We are fully aware that we exist in two different worlds with one foot in each…and yet people still pay thousands of money each year to adopt a child from another country without knowing the impact it will have on the child.

We, as adoptees know all too well the affects that have haunted us. We are plagued daily with our own sense of abandonment, even with something as trivial as someone forgetting to call us back. We feel that sting each time. We know that eventually there will be questions that are unable to be answered or things we cannot explain. There will be things we may remember but do not know anything more than that. We will have to be reminded each time of our adoption when we go to the doctor and are asked about our family’s medical history. Each time in school we are reminded when a genetics project is assigned. We feel all those pains and those never really go away. We feel each impact that someone else made on our behalf as an infant or young child, taking us from a country we were born into and moving most of us half way across the world.

I have been fortunate enough to be on both sides of the equation. My daughter is adopted and I know that she will have questions. I know exactly what kinds of questions she is going to ask and the types of things she is going to feel. Even though she was adopted through foster care and our situations are not the same, I know there are some things I will be able help her through.

Now comes the uncomfortable part, the part where I can imagine that by all of these comments that I am somehow ungrateful that I was adopted or unappreciative of the life I was given. You’d be wrong if you think that, but I know that won’t stop you. You know who you are and your opinion of me will never change. I am not ungrateful in any way, shape or form, nor am I upset, bitter or even resentful that I was adopted. What I am saying is that adoptive parents don’t always know the impact that adoption has or will have. Even as babies, we are not clean slates. There have been numerous studies that show babies are able to identify their biological mother after they are born. Ripping them from that is traumatic whether you are able to admit it or not, there are plenty of studies that will confirm that it is traumatic for an infant to be separated from its mother.

The adoption narrative needs to change, how it needs to change isn’t something that I’ve been able to find a solution for yet. I know that there are millions of adoptee voices out there each with their own opinion on adoption and each with their own experience and story and they need to be heard. We are the experts. We are willing to sit down and have a conversation on what an adoptee means to us and how it has impacted who we are. The conversation only happens when people, mostly people who want to adopt and those who perpetuate the adoption commodity are willing to listen.

Appa Update

Back in December, I wrote about finding out the name of my birth father and where he currently resides in South Korea. Since then, that is where the information trail stops. I have attempted to contact my case worker through the organization I am using and the last I heard was that there was going to be an attempt to contact him. Since that last email, the staff has changed a little bit and it appears that I have slipped in between the cracks.

After four different emails sent to the general email inbox, my next attempt will be to call them in hopes to make contact with someone who speaks English and I can see the status of my case. My plan is still to return to visit this year, however, if I do not make it this spring, and it’s looking like that, I will probably wait until fall. I don’t have a desire to go during Korean summer with heat and humidity.

The longer time passes as I wait to hear from the organization, the more anxious I get about losing the little piece of information that I have. It’s crazy the emotional roller coaster that I have been put on even with just the case of having his name. I used to think that such information was enough, that I would only need to know a name that would satisfy my curiosity but it seems like that isn’t the case.

Now that there is known information, everything feels like it is within reach. I can sick to my stomach just thinking about the numerous possibilities. Before I knew any of this information, I had come to accept that to find him would be a near miracle…and now that it has completely proven me wrong I am curious now more than ever.

My plan is to call the organization in Korea in the next couple of weeks to see if there is someone who is still in contact with the people handling my case. I am hoping that there is at the very least something to report back so I can start planning my trip back to Seoul.

Here is a link to the bringing of my appa search. Nothing Short of a Christmas Miracle

 

Self Destruction in 3…2…1…

At some point in our lives we self destruct. Am I right? Maybe it’s the pressure of every day life debating whether or not you are spending too much time at work or not enough time at work. It can even be that your child’s birthday party wasn’t like the one you saw on Pintrest or their classmates. Whatever the reason, we some point we hit our breaking point, the point in which we can no longer bear the weight that has been placed upon our shoulders.

Even now, years later, I can still recall my though process prior to making an impulsive, self destructive decision whether in middle school or even into adulthood. My thoughts were always the same, I had made up my mind that whomever I was currently infatuated with, was about to leave and had lost all interest in me…even though those thoughts were based off of my own feelings and not facts. Since whomever I was with at the present moment was about to leave, I justified my behavior believing that I was only moving on and showing the world that I was not hurt on the inside…that I was as tough as I claimed to me. This was not the case, the strength I pretended to have was a facade, it was all pretend. It was the way that I had learned to protect myself after years of feeling left behind and rejected.

I have included the links to the books that have helped in my self sabotaging behavior and helped me identify my triggers while showing me tools too help become more self aware. If you have the chance, please check them out. They have been worth every penny that I have spent. The following books have given me more explanation, tools and self realization than I thought were possible. For a long time I always felt alone and out of place. It was as if my experience made me unique and stand out from the crowd. It wasn’t until decades later that I would meet others that shared in the same type of struggle, that knew the types of feelings that I had experienced.

The light bulb above my head had been turned on and once I had gotten explanation for what I was doing to hurt those I cared most about, I knew it was time to fix it. Fixing it ended up being one of the hardest things to heal from. In fact, I am still healing. I believe this healing journey will be life long. I will tell you that there are days and situations in which I end up thinking the most irrational and ridiculous thoughts but now I know those thoughts are coming and I am prepared for them. Take care of yourself.

 

J

 

The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Revised and Updated: Surviving Through and Recovering from… by Susan Anderson 

The Abandonment Recovery Workbook: Guidance through the Five Stages of Healing from Abandonment… by Susan Anderson

Taming Your Outer Child: Overcoming Self-Sabotage and Healing from Abandonment by Susan Anderson

What I’ve Been Reading

I thought this post I would take a different take on things and include some of the books that I have been reading over the last couple of years. I have not included all of them but wanted to highlight some of the ones that really meant something to me. I have included the links to either the author website or their Amazon page. Please feel free to check them out. I will be reading them again soon.

The first book that I want to mention is “Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing of Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers”. This is a book that was recommended to me about two years into therapy. By this time my therapist and I had built a very good rapport and we began to dive into a lot of the issues.

Before I explain what this book is about, I want to make one thing clear. Neither my therapist NOR myself, have diagnosed any of my family members. The resources that were given to be were based upon the conversations, situations or comments that were brought up during therapy with regard to situations that I had throughout middle school and beyond.

My first initial reaction hit me straight in the chest. The main question asking us if we will ever be good enough was a hard pill to swallow. From middle school into my early adulthood, this is how I felt. I thought that no matter what I did or how I acted, I would never been good enough. I ordered the book off of Amazon and started to dive into it the first night I got it. I have to admit, there was a disclaimer from my therapist that I may not relate to everything mentioned in the book, because the topic of abuse is brought up and that is not something that I have experienced.

I was however able to identify with a lot of other emotions presented in the book. While reading through, I completed the exercises that were suggested and did my best to follow their instructions and tips. I felt better, as if someone truly understood what was going on through my head. It was such a comfort in the validation that came from hearing other people’s stories.

If you are interested in learning more, I will include the link at the bottom of this post.

The next book is one that I jumped into when I started attending my church small group. It was the only one that worked with my schedule. Each Tuesday at 6:30AM we would meet and start out our morning in prayer and discussing our current study. I joined this group in April of 2015 and it was one of the best decisions I have made. I have met some of the most amazing Godly women whom I call sister.

When I started this group, they were reading “Biblical Femininity” by Grace Church. The entire book focuses around how women are image bearers of God and the feminine qualities of God that we reflect. Women are called to be “helpers”. Mentally and spiritually, I was not in a good place when I joined the group. I was separated from my boyfriend at the time whom I had selfishly hurt in the worst way possible.

I desperately wanted answers to my brokenness, to understand what had happened. It was there in those early morning studies that I came to find the broken pieces. This book not only explains how women were created to be helpers, but also explains how we can be tempted and what happens when we succumb to those temptations. As we started to learn and read about our core temptation things started to fall into place. I started to understand my role as a woman and even more, understand why things had happened the way they did.

Since the first time I have read this book, I have read it two times since then. It seems that the more I read it the more I get out of it. It was one of those books that turned on a light bulb for me.

There are other books as well, however I am going to include those in the next blog post, because those are written by the same author and have an overall theme together. I have included the links to the two books I have mentioned today. They are worth the read. I will be posting more as I’ve got a nightstand full of books that I need to start reading.

 

 

 

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing of Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karly McBride, Ph.D.

Biblical Femininity by Grace Church

Respond not React

 

 

 

 

For years, starting in my adolescence, I have allowed the overstepping of boundaries from family members, mostly because it was always easier to ignore and allow myself to be my own worst critic. I have also learned from previous lessons that reacting instead of responding creates the exact type of response that I do not want. This is not emotional, this is strictly concerning behavior, not emotions or feelings. Feelings are not facts.

Here are the facts, on December 1, 2018, three women, all of whom I am related too, show up unannounced to my launch party promptly around 2pm. They were my stepmother, and both aunts, one of which flew from California. First thing out of my aunt from California’s mouth, “The weeds are here”. Without provocation, I am called a liar, that I have a restraining order against me, I don’t know what the word “family” means and I wrote nothing more than a journal that should have been kept under my pillow.

They were very quickly asked to leave from two bystanders, only to tell someone else coming into the venue that I am a liar but not before calling a friend of mine “trash” because he asked them to leave. Mind you, my children were in the other room, thankfully they did not hear or see these women.

Next, I am told these family members are in town on “business” for 5 days. They have zero business in SC other than myself and my children, they do not work for companies based in SC nor are there other family members or friends that reside in the state. Unless my flight attendant aunt was here on business, which had not previously occurred, their “trip” here was solely to “attend” my launch party.

On December 4, 2018, after at least 2 other previous conversations with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, I stay on hold as a deputy contacts my aunt, Mary Pat to stop contacting me. The deputy stated that she did not answer the phone and left her a voicemail. Picture number one shows an unsolicited text message from her and my response. I have not responded to her text messages for over a year. You are able to see her response in picture number two.

After the deputy left a message on her cell phone on December 4, 2018, I was made aware that on Monday, December 3, all three women “verified” where I was living, went by my apartment as well as walked around the home where my kids’ dad lives knowing we weren’t at home.

Since my aunt Mary Pat has not contacted me via text message, phone call or email, she has continued to visit my website and “comment” on my blog posts. After her first two comments were made, I promptly blocked her, see pictures three and four.

Since I have blocked Mary Pat from commenting on my blog posts, “Frank” has begun to comment on my posts. Oddly enough his email address is fake and he sure takes the tone of Mary Pat, see pictures five, six and seven. His IP address is also out in California…I have since blocked “Frank” but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to stop “his” comments.

After speaking with a local magistrate, a restraining order does not protect out of state contact, it would only prevent contact if she were to be in the state in which I reside, this does not help the situation because due to the nature of her job, she flies around the country and so there is never one set location or schedule. In speaking with the local magistrate, he suggested I speak with an attorney regarding a civil lawsuit. After a brief conversation with an attorney, it was noted that such comments appear not harassing in nature but more to produce an emotional response and at this time is not worth legally pursuing.

I have chosen to put her and her comments on public blast in hopes that it will be a deterrent. I have spoken with a magistrate, attorney, and several sheriff’s deputies. It is my sincere hope that with such a public display that it will deter any further behavior. In addition, any further harassment, name-calling, accusations or otherwise comments will be continued to be documented, treated as harassment. I am not under any circumstances, however, waiving any legal rights I have presently, or future legal remedies against you by posting this blog.

I have not reached out to contact you and will continue not to contact you. I am publicly requesting now, no further communication from you or known associates with me or either of my children. I have not in any way coerced or forced you to read my memoir or my blog. If it upsets you emotionally, that is not the intention and you are welcome to completely ignore the content.