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

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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.

Shonda Hit a Home Run

If you haven’t watched this past Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I suggest you pause, watch it and then come back to this post. *Spoiler alert*

It wasn’t sure what to expect. As a habitual watcher of the show, I wasn’t sure where the story line, specifically of Jo and the search for her biological family was going to go. The previous episode eluded to the fact that she had found her birth mother and was planning on making a visit.

At first I was really anxious to watch this show. I have watch a couple of shows by Shonda Rhimes and I was a little concerned that it may be a unrealistic. However knowing Shonda and following Grey’s Anatomy for years, I should have known better.

As an adoptee, I have played reuniting with my bio family numerous times. I have played the interaction over and over a thousand different ways. Somehow, Shonda portrayed it to where it hit me in all of the feels. Jo was able to express her expectations and her assumptions of the situation her bio mom was in. This is something that I can relate too. I have my own thoughts on the situation that came about that warranted my adoption. Whether this story that I have fabricated is true or not, I have yet to figure out. However during the interaction, you start to notice that Jo was completely wrong about her bio mom. The narrative the she thought was the reality was nothing like the truth. It was it the adoption trauma of being abandon began all over as she learned that her bio mother had actually been sexually assaulted and didn’t work three different diner jobs to support herself.

In fact, Jo’s bio mom had more children, had gotten married and made a life for herself, something that Jo didn’t really think was possible, or something that had happen. Even now after hearing the reunification stories of different KADs (Korean adoptees), I still believe the narrative I have created in my head.

The episode starts out with an emotionally charged scene. If you have followed the show at all, you know that Jo was previously in an extremely abuse husband and was able to get out. However that doesn’t change the trauma that Jo previously endured, or the trauma from moving from foster home to foster home and eventually living in her car because that was safer.

The hallway scene is what got me. Even now just typing about it hits me right in the gut. The woman that Jo ends up helping throughout the episode had been sexually assaulted. This woman had NOT been wearing provocative clothing or had too much to drink. This woman had made up a story that many others have done in her position. They lied to cover up their embarrassment, their shame and the sheer fear that no one would believe them or that her outfit, her drinking or even her words would come into question.

Before the victim or patient gets surgery, she is clinging to Jo’s hand stating that she doesn’t want to close her eyes, that she doesn’t want to see the man’s face that assaulted her. Obviously this patient needs surgery, Jo and Teddy, I am not sure whom, was able to come up with the perfect solution. First you see that Dr. Webber is trying to get through and walk into the hallway. He is stopped by I believe DeLuca stating that he can’t walk through the doors and that for whatever reason, for now he cannot pass. As the patient is walked down the hallway, it is literally filled with women starting on both sides, smiling. In a brief shot you notice that Meredith has joined them and she isn’t sure but obviously comes to join the women in the hallway. Words cannot express how moving this way. It brought me to tears.

I do not claim to be an expert in trauma, sexual assault or abuse. I can only write to my experiences. During my years in college, I had too much to drink and a “friend” had decided that I was “sober” enough for consent, which I was not. Had I had the support of other women by my side, maybe my situation would have been different.

Shonda, thank you for not sugar coating sexual assault, trauma, adoption, biological family reunions, and some of the other themes that Grey’s Anatomy has addressed. It was very refreshing to know that there are women out there supporting other women and SHOWING the world what the reality it.

 

**Fathers, uncles and male role models** Take a GOOD listen and lesson from the conversation Ben has with Tuck. Women and girls can change our mind, and quite frequently we do. Once we do, it’s time out, game over. END. OF. DISCUSSION. Let their conversation be a lesson to you all.

In the World of Adoptees

Since the debut of my book, I have had a lot of conversations with a variety of people. Some are planning to adopt, some have already adopted and others are other adoptees. While I was writing Ode to Bermuda Grass, I never thought that I would have some of the conversations that would occur or the stories I would hear from others. It has given me the opportunity to not only share my story but share some of the darker stories from adoptees. Not everyone knows that there is a very dark side of adoption, that there are children who are place in adoptive homes and abused physically, emotionally sexually or that there are international adoptees whose parents did not finish their naturalization paperwork and therefore they are not naturalized citizens. These are not the stories that adoption supporters don’t want to hear or are even aware of.

Does this mean that I don’t support adoption? Of course not, I believe that there is a place for everything, even an adoption. Although I don’t know the story surrounding my adoption and my birth mother’s circumstances, I choose to believe that she made the best choice because of her situation.

I don’t believe that I see the world through rose colored glasses, but I was not aware that such stories like these existed in the adoptee community. These stories exist and their voices are not often heard. Like all things there is an ugly dark side of adoption, one that is not frequently talked about or even addressed. I have heard stories of adoptees being “returned” by their adoptive family and felt rejected from not only their biological family but by their adoptive family as well. The devastation that this creates in unimaginable and heartbreaking.

I say all of this to say that adoption shouldn’t be taken lightly, that there are a multitude of attitudes, feelings and situations that we as adoptees face. Does everyone understand them? No. Are there enough supports for adoptive parents and adoptees? I don’t believe so. Even if these darker stories are not shared from those who have experienced it for one reason or another, it is something to be aware of. Take the time to understand us adoptees, our stories are not always fairy tales with storybook endings, sometimes they are tragedies, thrillers or dramas.

Why Can’t I Visit Them?

It has finally happened. The questions I have been dreading for the last four years. My daughter has started asking why she can’t see her “other parents”, her biological parents. I partly blame myself since I have been talking about the fact that I have most likely found my birth father in Korea. The thought of explaining to her why she is unable to have any contact with her biological parents is something that has weighed heavy on my heart.

Recently it has been brought to my attention that I claim to be an “adoptive” parent however I am not on my daughter’s paperwork. This is true, and if I have misled you in any way, you have my apologies. However it does not change the fact that paperwork does not define a family, that is exactly what it is, just a piece of paper. Throughout my life, I know families whether, through law or otherwise who aren’t on each other’s papers, that doesn’t make them any less family. If you ask my daughter she will tell you I am her mother. To HER I am her mother, that’s all that I need.

Since she has come into our care, we have always kept things at her level. We try to explain different situations in a way that she will understand. When the topic of biological parents would come up, she typically would use the term “other parents”, a term she continues to use. It what makes sense in her head. Eventually, I know there will come a day where we have to the hard conversation about why she can’t see them and the circumstances that lead her to come into our lives.

From the very beginning, being adopted, I already know the type of questions that she is going to ask. I know the type of information she is going to ask. As of right now, she continues to have a relationship with her maternal grandmother, however eventually I know that will not be enough. As she continues to watch me walk down my journey, there are going to be a lot of similarities and differences. There will be questions that I won’t be able to answer and ones that I never thought she would ask.

Over the last four years, I have gone over and over in my head the type of information that I would want in her position and go from there. Like any good parent, I have wanted to do everything possible without hurting her to shield her from her previous circumstances. There are experiences that a two-year-old should never be exposed too, words that they should never hear and situations they should never be placed in. I know that one day, I will have to answer the hard questions and walk beside her as she slowly starts to discover the truth. My only hope is that I can be the mom she needs and use my experience and journey to help her when she walks through the valleys.

Always,

J

Stronger than Catastrophe

A friend of mine shared a video on Facebook. It started with the statement that every parent needs to watch this. Naturally in my half awaken state I began to watch the video. WOW, just wow. After watching this very short video I was completely inspired. All if it resonated with me which meant of course that I immediately had to post it on Instagram. Coincidentally I had found a meaningful quote, probably on Pintrest I wanted to use. I have included the link to the video here. Trust me, it’s worth the 3 min.

It begins with explaining why we love our children, they we love them because they are fragile and dependent on us. Which continuing through the video is explains that we as parents need to teach our children to be strong. We teach our children that when we fall, we dust ourselves off and continue with what we are doing. It didn’t hit me until I heard that, it made me realize that this entire time throughout my childhood and the way I have raised my children, I am teaching them to be strong.

The older gentleman speaking is Jordan Peterson, in the video he says, “It’s not that life is better than you think. Life is as harsh as you think. It might even be worse. But you are way tougher than you think.” When we are faced with challenges big or strong, we forget to give ourselves credit for facing adversity head on. I don’t believe we give ourselves enough credit for facing life head on and we don’t even realize it. We are so damn tough and we fail to realize it. Give yourself a pat on the back or enjoy a glass of wine or two, you are way stronger than you think you are. In fact, you are so damn tough you have faced all of these terrible things and are still breathing. We may be bruised, broken, and hurt but we are still here, still facing life and all that it has to throw at us.

This little bit of encouragement was exactly what I needed today. Don’t forget to remind yourself that YOU are a warrior, YOU have made it through hell, and YOU will continue to thrive. It’s okay to know you’re unstoppable, that there is something deep inside you that will rise to the occasion even when you believe you will break. In my life, I have thrived despite the adversity, loss, rejection, and grief. Be unstoppable and recognize your strength. I’m in your corner cheering you on reminding you how tough you are.

Always,

J

Grief…what it’s really like

The beginning of October is an emotional rollercoaster for me. October 1 is my mom’s birthday and October 8 is the anniversary of my dad’s passing. Grief is something that I had become accustomed too even from a young age. After losing my mom in grade school, it became something familiar. Years would pass by and the sting of losing someone you love whether expected or not still hits you in the chest. There are days where things are alright and you have accepted the great loss but you can expect days that drag you down and it takes everything in your power not to scream each moment of the day. Throughout my life, I learned that grief is not linear rather that it comes in waves like the ocean. Waves of acceptance and peace wash over you and the world around seems just as bright as when they were a part of this world. Once the waves go back out into the ocean again the wounds reemerge only to feel as raw as the day the loss occurred. Those days when the pain is real and raw are some of the hardest days to keep a smile on your face.

When you lose someone you love you want the world to remember to stand still even for a moment to recognize what the world has lost. That the loss you have suffered has affected those around you. For those that have not experienced such a loss, it is hard to put yourself in our shoes. We belong to a “club”, one where membership is involuntary. The loss of a parent is something that you can’t put into words, it is something that pours over into every aspect of your life. There are moments that I want to call my dad and tell him about the newest thing that his grandchildren are doing or ask his advice about home renovations. Some days I try so hard to try and remember my mom’s infectious laugh and continue to wonder if I resemble her in any way.

Grief challenges you, it makes you dig deep and find a strength you never knew about, not because you want to but because you are made to pick yourself back up and continue to stay a part of the world with only the memory of someone you love. We have to find the strength in the midst of a loss to smile and enjoy life again.  If you have lost someone you love, I understand. I may not know the circumstances or can relate 100% but I can tell you that I have felt the pain and sting of loss and it absolutely sucks. I feel ya. I get it. I live with it. Hug your loved ones and never let them forget how much they mean to you.

Always,

J

Dear Adoptive Parents Everywhere,

What you have is a blessing and a curse. The mere foundation of your family is built on someone else’s trauma. This thought of happiness founded on trauma never really occurred to me. Honestly, I had always assumed my biological mother was “better off” and that her decision to place me for adoption was in my best interest and hers. After speaking with other KADs, some of whom have reunited with their biological family and others who have decided the unknown will never be known. There is a possibility that some of these birth mothers were coerced into giving their child up for adoption. The circumstances surrounding adoptions may never truly be known and the intentions unclear.

As an adoptive mom, I know some of the struggles that my daughter will have. There are times even now that I have to be very mindful of how I word things or how things are phrased. She remembers that she has another set of parents, but she doesn’t remember what they physically look like. One time she even asked me why they couldn’t keep her and when she came to live with us. After speaking with her therapist, our answers continue to be age appropriate. We have never spoken badly of her parents to her, we simply stated that they were unable to keep her safe. “Safe”, a word she knows very well and a word I still struggle to feel. My daughter likes being protected, she needs to know and feel that someone is with her, that someone won’t leave her and that either myself or her dad will return. For now, that is the best answer I can give her.

Adoptees struggle being stuck in two different worlds, at least those in transracial adoptions. We belong to a culture that we don’t identify with yet we identify one in which we were raised. There is a constant inner struggle that goes on within each of us between the two worlds. We are not white enough to be white, and yet we are not culturally Korean enough to be Korean. We may look the part of being Korean, but most adoptees still struggle with identifying with the Korean culture.

Whether you are transracially adopting or not, it is important to know that we as adoptees have a lot going on underneath the surface. We may have memories that may be triggered by smells, locations, seasons, food or even sound. Personally, I am not sure that I have any memories sounded by these but I know there are some that have them based on food and seasons. We don’t always remember events, but our bodies do, we don’t remember any possible neglect or abuse, but our bodies do, and we especially don’t always remember the trauma of being separated from our biological family but our bodies do. Please support our emotional health as well as our physical, we may not know the cause of our pain but help us get the support we need.

Remember to show us compassion and love, sometimes we need an extra hug or an extra reassurance that we are safe and secure. Remember to support us if we decide to search for our biological roots. We are only curious to see where we came from, you cannot blame us for being curious, but we would never replace you.

*This may not apply to all adoptees, but in my experience, this is what I have seen*

Always,

J

Wait…Are YOU her Mom?

While I was checking out in the grocery store with my two children the cashier asked, “Um…where does the blonde hair come from?” My daughter does not have the same physical features that I do, her hair is golden yellow, her eyes are one of the most beautiful blues I have ever seen, and her skin is milky white, she physically appears the polar opposite to my monolid eyes, dark hair and olive skin tone. During the four years, I’ve been this little girl’s mother, I always heard the same types of questions. People wanted to know how me, being of Korean ethnicity came to be the mother of a blue-eyed blonde hair little girl. As a foster parent and eventually an adoptive parent, I never want to explain my little girl’s past to complete strangers, I felt it was intrusive an inappropriate. She is still very little and she doesn’t even comprehend her history or life before she came to live with us. My response was very curt, I simply stated that she got the hair from her father, it was quite the clever answer if you ask me, both her biological and adoptive fathers have blonde hair. Technically I wasn’t deceitful, I was able to provide an appropriate answer while still protecting my daughter’s privacy. The cashier asked if those were strong genes given that my hair is so dark, I nodded and proceeded to finish checking out my groceries.

Since this little girl came into our home, she was one of the best things to come into my life. She has challenged me in ways that my son never did and gave me a lot of things to self-reflect over. Part of the topics I discuss in my book is because of her, and my desire to provide her with the best home and mental support available to her. My hope is that she would be able to process things that had happened in her past and would be able to heal from them. By this time I had also started to become part of the KAD community (Korean Adoptee), this too aided in the self-reflection and hearing stories from other people.

Adoption creates something within us, it leaves a scar that only other adoptees speak of and understand, some of us can instantly connect even without meeting in person. The experiences and stories that I have heard are a comfort to know that it wasn’t just my experience or something unique to me. There are not a lot of adoptees who speak about their feelings or about the feeling of being stuck in two different worlds. Being a transracial adoptee AND adoptive mom has its own struggles and stories. There are countless instances in which I can feel and see the glares, the questioning looks, and comments that have been made.

There was one evening while I was attending a friend’s church, a woman approached me from the congregation and asked me if I felt grateful that my parents adopted me. Most likely from the look on my face, this poor woman didn’t realize what she had said. Grateful? GRATEFUL? My mind could not process being grateful, I was a baby when I was adopted, I wasn’t given a choice or an option on where to go, I was just sent where I was placed. Even now decades later I can only speculate what my life would have been like if my parents would have not adopted me. The different scenarios that someone could dream up are endless.

Why don’t we, as adoptees speak out more? For me personally, I was always concerned about what people would think or how it would make my parents feel. My intentions were never to hurt them but my feelings and experiences are different than others. However, I believe that adoptees need to tell their stories, that even pain and trauma can emerge from growing up in loving two parent stable homes. That there is something significant that happens when you adopt a child or even a baby. Our experiences are unique and significant for others to hear. If we don’t speak up and use our voices to tell our stories we have failed future adoptees and adoptive parents. Without us taking the courage to use the voices we’ve been given leaves an opportunity for nothing to change. Be courageous and tell your story, experience, and feelings even just to your friends.

Always,

J