It happened. I met my birth mother.
Something I never thought would happen.
The morning of meeting my birth mother, thank God, I planned on meeting a friend an hour early at a coffee shop outside Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS), because it ended up taking me over two hours to get to ESWS, just two stops away from Seoul Station (any one knows Seoul… this should have been an hour in a half max trip on a busy day). As I ran to the office, unsure of where I am going, I had no time to even think what I was about to do.
I climbed the three levels of stairs and opened the door to the office. I got shuffled to the meeting room. In the room were two couches, table, chairs, a tv, a coffee table, and a box of tissues.
I had been warned the night before, from a friend that just met her birth mother just two days prior, that her birth mom was extremely emotional when first seeing her. She had cried and kept hugging her. I would not know what to do in that situation. I am never good with people crying.
As I waited in the room, I flipped through a book of Minnesota and St. Paul photos. Then the translator came back in and said she is here. I didn’t even have time to register that this was it.
This 5’3’’ or so woman walks in. I think she is absolutely stunning. My first impression is that she is so stylish: skinny black pants, black boots, nice black top and jacket. She has long hair with an ombre dye. I don’t know what I was expecting her to look like, but this was definitely not it. I think I was expecting an ajumma or something.
She sat across from me on the opposite couch. No crying. This was a good sign. I didn’t know how to start the conversation, so I offered showing her pictures of me. I showed her pictures from being a baby all the way to graduation. I showed her pictures of family members. I didn’t have time to get pictures of everything I wanted, because I only had the pictures from my computer, but I think she got a wide array of what I have been up to. I showed her I traveled, did show choir, got some awards in college, and overall had a very blessed life.
The translator told me when my birth mother stepped out of the room, that this was so new to her seeing a meet of birth mother and daughter without initial tears. When she walked in and sat down, it looked like we had seen each other before.
When my birth mother came back, I told little stories or facts about me. At first I didn’t know how to talk to her. We had a translator, because my birth mother speaks little to no English and I speak almost no Korean. I would look back and forth at the translator to my birth mother, but ended up trying more to just look at my birth mother, because she was the one I was really talking to.
It was all so weird to not know what message the translator was conveying. I know that tone, body language, and so much goes into a conversation. I had to put my trust in the translator to get what I wanted across.
I had written a letter back in October 2014 with pictures, that I gave to the agency for when they found my birth mother:
My name is Chloe. I am 21 years old. I am 5’2’’, 120 pounds, with brown eyes and long black hair.
I like cooking, dancing, and singing. In high school, I won Best Female Soloist. In college, I do not perform anymore. I am majoring in business and will be graduating in May 2015. I am President of my business school’s student government. I have been on the Dean’s List all four years of college. I am in three honor societies. I plan to pursue a career in marketing in New York City.
I do not like the dark, clowns, bugs, and have a phobia of people touching my neck. I like to go running and being active.
In my work, I am very serious and set high goals for myself. With my friends, I am very sociable, loud, and a big extrovert. I would be called “hyper” or energetic.
I have had the opportunity to travel a lot. I have traveled around Europe and Asia. I will be going to Brazil in December.
I was raised by two supportive parents. My dad is an accountant and my mom is a stay at home mom. I have a sister three years older than me (24 years old), adopted from South Korea as well. I have two older cousins, boy and girl, adopted from South Korea we well. I have two younger cousins adopted for the USA. I have two other older cousins who are blood members of the family. I have family all over the USA, but a lot live in the Midwest, where I am from.
(Looking back at this letter makes me laugh... I think I would explain my self very differently. This even shows that my priorities and goals have shifted.)
Finally, I got the courage to ask about my adoption story. Here is what I know now:
My birth mother and father worked as hairdressers in the same salon. They loved each other and wanted to marry each other, but my birth mother’s mother did not approve of the man. After she got pregnant, the man had to go do his military duty. They stayed in touch and they would meet in person during his breaks, but when she started to show, she stopped meeting him in person and only communicated with him. Her mom told her to tell him she got an abortion, so the birth father knew she was pregnant, but never knew I was actually born. After I was born, they still stayed in touch, but it was too hard to keep the secret from him, so they ended up breaking up naturally.
My birth mother never wanted to give me up for adoption. Her mom had a lot of say in her family, so she had to listen to her mother. (Maybe this is where I get my bossiness from?) My birth mother and her mother went to the hospital before giving birth to me and made an adoption plan. When I was born, the mother never let my birth mother see my face. The mother knew that if my birth mother saw my face, she wouldn’t give me up for adoption.
For 23 years, this woman has never seen her own daughter’s face. Can you even imagine that?!
Over 10 years ago, my birth mother reached out to ESWS and asked the adoption agency where did my baby go? Because I would have only been 10 or so, they could not tell her much information. She was told that I was given to a family with a husband who is an accountant in the United States. She wanted to come to the United States and contact me.
I am actually really happy that it didn’t happen until now, because I do not think I would been mature enough to really understand what was happening or appreciate it.
She is the 5th youngest of 6. There has 3 brothers and 2 sisters. She has 7 nieces and nephews. She says that I look like her brothers’ daughters.
She has no other children of her own.
She was married and divorced.
She was a hair dresser and owned her own salon, but then had a cerebral damage and became paralyzed on her left side. My understanding is that it came from being stressed and it first started in her heart. Now she has recovered, but couldn’t do little minute things, so had to give up the salon.
It is funny, my friends would always joke and say I bet your birth mom was a hairdresser or something, because I would always do my friends’ hair and makeup for prom and homecoming!
She now works with her brother in a water pipe company… this was something I still could not understand.
She was born in 1969, so she was 24 when she had me and is only 46 now! From seeing her, I think I got some pretty good genes.
There are no hereditary illnesses or anything in the family.
The most interesting story was that when she was pregnant with me, she had a dream that I was born with one eye shut. She was always worried about my health because of that dream, because no one in her family has any eye problems. The memory of the dream came back when I told her that I had a lazy eye and had to wear an eye patch growing up.
I also found out that I was NOT born in Iksan…the city my adoption papers tell me I am, but instead I was born in an area right next to it (I still need to get that name!). I told her I had visited Iksan and she asked why? I had told her that that was where I thought I was born…awkward.
Other small fun facts:
She sang and dance when she was younger
She was in her church choir
She was a super picky eater when she was younger and grew out of it
She was afraid of the dark as a kid
She does not like horror movies
After two hours, we had to say our goodbyes, because I had to get back to Suwon for work. We took some pictures and then we rode down in the elevator together. I was able to say in Korean, "I want you to be happy." In English she said, me too.
We plan on meeting again. She wants to introduce me to other family members. I think that would be amazing. I really do hope I get to see her again! Now that my brain has processed some of this, I have so many other questions:
Why did the grandmother not want me or for you not to have me?
Did you have a happy life/ Did putting me up for adoption trouble your life at all?
What does my name mean? Did she name me?
Where was I born? How was the pregnancy?
Why doesn’t the entire family know about me? (Only her brothers know about me)
I want to know if she has gotten any plastic surgery, because she had a fold in her eyelids.
The biggest question I am getting now is: do I want to meet my birth father? Honestly, I have no real desire to. I mean, it would be cool, but that was never even an option in my head. Plus, it would be so hard on this woman to try to dig up such a dark past. I feel like I should be happy for the opportunity that I got to meet my birth mother and not focus on the next goal. Meeting my birth mother is enough.
This whole experience is still so surreal to me. I do not know if it has really sunken in yet. It comes into spurts of OH MY GOODNESS I JUST MET MY BIRTH MOTHER!!! WOW. I really don’t know how to feel. I mean I did not seek this woman out as a person that I needed to find, so I can find my identity. I know that I have made my identity, more than my sister, of being adopted, but I never needed to find this woman, so I could feel whole or loved. I had that with my family.
I cannot thank everyone who reached out to me and just sent good thoughts my way. I really needed it yesterday night and this morning. Sometimes I forget the amazing support system that I have.