There are 2 mothers in this world who will go unrecognized on Sunday. One lives in Korea and one in China. They gave birth to my 13 and 15 year old daughters and have not seen them since days after their birth. Their stories are presumably very different. In Korea, most children that are placed for adoption are born to single mothers. Public acceptance of unwed mothers is low and the family often hides the pregnant woman from the outside world. Adoption paperwork is completed in the first few days after birth, as was the case with our daughter. If the woman later marries, she often does not inform her husband of the first child and her family never talks about the child. This is only one of the many reasons that searching for birth parents can be frustrating.
The reasons that children in China are placed for adoption has changed over the last few years with the relaxing of the one child policy and the increase in economic prosperity of the people. When our daughter was born in 2000, the one child policy allowed for a second child if the first child was a girl. We do not know her exact circumstances, but she was probably the second daughter of a rural family who needed a son to continue to farm the land. Her mother would not have had much input into her abandonment (placing children for adoption in China is illegal) as this is often the decision of the husband and mother-in-law.
I am not judging either of these women. If in the same circumstances, I can’t say that I would have made a different decision. I would love to reach out to each of them and communicate how much their daughters are loved and flourishing in their current environments. However, this needs to be a personal decision by each of my daughters. So much of their early story was out of their control that this is one important choice that they can control. They are aware of my feelings about openness in adoption, but have heard enough stories about family searches that have not ended well, that they have put any ideas about searching into the future.
Currently, open adoption is very common in the United States and preferred by both adoptive parents and birth parents. International adoption is traditionally closed, with adoptive parents receiving very little information about the circumstances of the birth family. This is slowly starting to change as the world is getting smaller. More adoptive families are traveling to their child’s country of origin and meeting extended family members. Social service agencies are facilitating communication between families after the adoption is completed. I can only see this as a positive as it helps a child have a history of less “unknowns” regarding the circumstances of their early years.
As much as I love my daughters and cannot imagine life without them in our crazy family, I still sometimes wish that they could have grown up within their birth countries. They will both be strong woman and they may have been able to change some of the strong social mores in Korea and China that led to their adoption stories. Individualism is a strong force in America, unlike Asia where more of the focus is on the family. My daughters were sacrificed for the overall betterment of their birth family. They were received in American to benefit an individuals desire.
In my work in the developing world, I have seen some families make even harder decisions. When there is not enough food for everyone, which child will need to go hungry? When there is only limited funds for school, which children will benefit from an education? If a child is sick, does it warrent the expense of a medical visit? These are choices most of us cannot imagine making once, let daily or weekly. These are the moms that most deserve our thoughts on Sunday if we have a quiet moment. On Sunday, I will be thinking of the stories I have heard both in Africa and Haiti and giving thanks to a special mom in Korea and China.