Friday, September 01, 2006

MY STORY

The Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network has ever so graciously posted a link to my blog on its website, and I am so glad to hear from people all across the country with adoption stories! Thank you for your emails! I love to hear about your experiences...

therefore, I'd like to share mine with you...the quick version, at least!

I was born in Pusan, South Korea, and came to the United States when I was six months old. These are my parents, Charles and Sharon:


I love them so much!

I know Korean children have found permanent homes in the states since the 1950s, but I really feel like my parents were ahead of their time when they adopted me 20-some-odd years later. They worked and sacrified to give me the world, at least as much as you can in small-town Missouri.

Anyway, when I was 18, my parents surprised me with a trip to Korea. I went with Dillon International, the agency I volunteered with for four years (www.dillonadopt.org). The trip, called a birthland tour, catered to an adoptee and his or her family. Not only did we travel the country to get a glimpse of the culture, we also stayed at the Eastern Social Welfare Society where we held newborns awaiting homes in the U.S. We visited an unwed mothers' home, and saw our own adoption files, too.

I was adopted through Holt International (www.holtintl.org), so when I had some free time, I went to the agency's office. One day, I even had the privilege to eat with Molly Holt, the daughter of the agency's founder, Harry Holt. We had pizza! What an amazing woman.

I did say this is the short version, right?

Anyway, I wasn't expecting to meet my birth family, but I did a few days before I left the country. It was overwhelming. My Korean parents are still married, and I have three biological sisters--two older, one younger.

I thought it was pretty interesting since I had no idea of my background, but it's not near as fascinating as the story that landed me in the states--this is what I was told:

My Korean parents were not doing well financially in the 70s. They already had two toddlers and were expecting their third (me). My birth father was a fisherman, and he went away to work. He and my birth mother hoped for a son. It's a cultural thing, sons traditionally bring more honor to a family since their role is to take care of the aging parents.

When my Korean mother gave birth to me in a free clinic, I guess she felt desperate. She relinquished me and told my birth father that I had died. When he returned, he consoled her, and almost immediately she got pregnant again. However, she kept her secret for 18 years, until the summer I made my way back to my birthland. Isn't that crazy?

We're almost at the end...this is longer than I thought.

How did it all turn out?! My birth father was shocked, but in the end, he apologized to my Korean mother for putting so much pressure on her to have a son. I suppose my birth mother finally felt relieved...and they were both extremely grateful to my parents, Charles and Sharon, for "raising such a happy child". I was ecstatic to learn that I had sisters, but at the same time I was incredibly sad to go through such a life-changing experience without my parents. They were a wreck back in Missouri! The international phone bill was more than the value of my current car, which really isn't saying that much, but c'mon!

My dream is for my parents to meet my birth family. Charles and Sharon are just too dang old to take a long flight and then walk all over Korea. My mom has bad knees, my dad has a bad back, and he's had a long and hard year recovering from brain tumor surgery. On the other hand, it would cost a fortune to bring my entire Korean family over for a visit. So, if anyone knows how they can meet, give me some ideas!! Please!

My sisters are all wonderful women. My Korean parents got back on their feet and were able to put the girls through college. They're single and workin' it! They are a blast, and there's not a day goes by I don't think of them. We can sort of communicate because I took two years of college Korean, and they learned English in school as well.

So that's my story! If you can believe it, it's actually WAY longer. But I talk for a living, what did you expect?! Thank you for all of your stories, please send me more and post them so we can all share!

8 comments:

Rose said...

Michelle,
Wow -- your story brought tears to my eyes. So what about combining your TV work and your family situation to forge a meeting -- on the network's dime? You could cover it and embed yourself in the story like say Anderson Cooper. Maybe your birth family and your parents could meet at a location that wouldn't require everyone to rough it and walk so much? Just a thought. You certainly have the writing ability to catch the special emotion of the situation. Maybe pitch the story for November, National Adoption Month...

Granny Geek said...

What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing. ALL of your parents are amazing people, and they all must be so proud of their daughter.

Ann said...

That IS a great story and yes, thank you for sharing. You've had a really amazing experience and life it sounds like. As for ideas on how to bring everyone together, perhaps you could use some sort of video conferencing thing? Not sure how one would go about coordinating that, but I'm sure you could find out. Just a thought.

Oh and btw, you should go to the next gathering of Korean adoptees which is set for August 2007 in Seoul. www.ikaa.org for more info!

Michelle said...

Thank you so much for your responses! I would love to go to Seoul in 07, but I doubt I have the budget for it. And thanks for your suggestions, maybe I could book some satellite time or something...it's just not as good as a hug!

Derej said...

Michelle,
Wow, I had no idea the whole backstory. I knew you had gone to visit them in Korea, but didn't the whole story about how you were put up for adoption or anything. Quite interesting. Thanks for sharing and I'm pulling for you :)

She Ra said...

Fabulous story! Thanks for sharing.

Can I add you to my blog?

Darin said...

Hmmm..ok, thought a lot about this one and I think someone in your position could create a charity, cause there are a lot of people in the same situation - many haven't met thier parents.
I imagine, many would want to know that there children had a good life. And there are kids looking for an identity. It's not that they haven't been loved or are part of a good family- it's just something inside us that wants to understand our roots.

Really happy you shared this.

You could start on this blog with a donation button on the side to make it easy....Bet you could do it...I got 5 on it.

Michelle said...

I would love to start a charity. I was thinking more on the lines of a big brother/big sister program for adoptees. I always wanted something like that as a kid...as far as donations, I don't know how to even go about that. I could think of one organization that could use extra money, but I think that sounds complicated. Darin, you're the expert, you tell me!