Heart and Seoul: My Adoption Story

02/10/2016 3:51 PM | Jacquelyn Wells

It is 2016, ten years exactly from my first and only trip back to South Korea since my birth there in 1987. I wrote the story of my trip and the information I found out from my birth mother in 2006, but now with a trip planned for this summer I know that was only Part One. Part Two I will write when I return after my trip from July 26-Aug 16, 2016 this summer when I will try to meet my birth mother (and hopefully my birth brothers and birth father who are all still a family- none of whom know about me except her). Part Two will tie up a lot of loose ends. If it doesn't end up happening I am just happy to go to the IKAA Gathering and be in my home country and volunteer at orphanages, and meet others in the adoptee community. If anyone knows how to help me recontact my birth mother which was originally done thru ESWS and the Korean Ties trip, feel free to email me because I find it to be a daunting task even though it probably is not. 

Here is Part One, which was written (and edited) from 2006 and on. Reading back on it now I feel a sense of guilt for posting her picture and story which were deeply personal to her, all without her knowing. I think when I originally posted these photos I was extremely disconnected, and very young. But even still, I feel very detached from her as a human being, especially since we have not met (her decision) and I always assumed she'd never see this. I am the kind of person who is an open book and am not private, but over the past few years I have thought in depth about how much I respect others who are more private about their story and thought maybe I should do the same. However, aside from these dismantled thoughts, I believe this is a great forum and group to share this with, and at least for now and I am trying not to feel guilt about it. I hope some people will read this and be able to relate, I know we all have our own unique stories. This is just one. Feel free to share your own stories and thoughts about your journey, as I always love connecting with others.

 


Me photographed with Also Known As Inc. founder Hollee McGinnis 2006


Part One (2006)


I came to the U.S. in 1987 when I was 4 months old. In 2006, I tried digging into my past for the first time. I was 19. Through a series of phone calls, detective work, and a trip across the world, I came to find out some of the most interesting information I would ever hear, well, thus far into my life. A social worker in Korea who worked with the agency I was adopted from, Love the Children (ESWS) and with the program, Korean Ties, somehow managed to contact my birth mother who shared the story that no one could have ever made up: the truth about how I came to be.



In all of those 19 years, I never knew a single thing about my birth parents. Not their names, not what they looked like, not a single fact or story. I never really thought about it, either. Many stories I had heard from other adoptees who had tried to contact their biological parents were depressing and I figured I had all I needed right here, right now, and I did not want to delve deeper. But... at the urge of my
 real parents (Gayle and John) and several others, I decided to take a step towards finding out where I came from....


With the help of the social workers at Korean Ties program, I wrote a letter to my adoption agency to give to my birth mother (whoever she was) and included a small photo book of my family and I. They said they would try to find out her whereabouts (extremely private information) and translate and forward the letter I had written to her w/ the pictures. I thought I'd never hear back, but to my surprise, I did. They found her.....and what she said was amazing.


the letter she wrote to me was translated....by the dry-cleaners…it's actually in need of being re-translated. any takers?


We found out:
She can't speak English. She doesn't want to come into contact with me. And that she is in shock to hear of my existence, but relieved to hear that I am alive and well. But wait, there's more....
She said things that I could only dream of. She wrote that she was filled with pain, guilt, and worry about me. That she had a "heavy heart" filled with sadness the day she said goodbye to me. She wrote that she still thinks of me every single day. She wrote that she wishes she could see me, that she wishes everything for me, the world, love, and happiness.
 

She sent pictures. And I have no words.....


She wrote that her name is Eun Sook. She and my birth father were childhood sweethearts- very much in love. In Korea all males had to serve in the army for two years. He went off into the military and they broke up around the age of 18-19. She thought she'd never see him or talk to him again. After he was gone, my birth mother realized that she was pregnant. Anyways, at first what seemed like a typical story, (she was 19, etc), turned out to be slightly more interesting. Yes, she gave me up for adoption, but no.....
 she never told my birth father or anyone and when he got back from the army, they got back together.....and then got married (very unusual case in adoption)......and then had two more children.......and they are all still together, a happy family in Korea.....
but she
 still hasn't told him about my existence, or told my 2 apparent brothers, or anyone for that matter.
She might never end up telling them.
 
Apparently it's her deepest darkest secret. In Korea, especially 20 yrs ago, those who have babies out of wedlock are ostracized and treated like second hand citizens, things that still need to change. Also, men are dominant for the most part in their culture, and they get what they want in most divorce cases. She mentioned to the social worker that she was very much afraid to tell my birthfather (her husband) that she gave away his baby without his permission, and even more scared to tell him she had been hiding this secret for 20 years! I think she was afraid he would divorce her and then proceed to take her children away from her. And after all these years……

Airplane Day: Shown with my dad at 4months old


{side note: I think one of the reasons I have always felt slightly unaffected by my adoption and was uninterested in exploring it is not because I was afraid, but because I have such a close relationship with the family who raised me, the family who knows me, the family who loves me. My mom is probably the most loving, accepting, and open person I will ever meet. Every day I feel lucky to have been brought to them. I am not sure why I was chosen to be so lucky (or some would say unlucky), and given such an amazing opportunity at a life I never would have had if I hadn't been given up for adoption. Some say that it's sad that I was abandoned or unwanted by my "real" mother, but I know that's not true because my real mother is right here with me every day, always. She probably is leaving me a voicemail right now checking in on me or asking me how to fix her computer. It's a strange concept and every year I feel differently about it. I have never felt unwanted, though. My brother is my best friend. My dad is my rock and such an amazingly wise person. I do want to meet my birth family, and am currently looking into it, but I don't want to disrupt her life. I make this joke all the time saying "I could be in a rice field right now!" instead of wherever I am. It's a joke, but it is something that crosses my mind more often than not. I may not have been in an actual rice field, but I can assure you that if I was still in Korea, I would not be the open-minded and accomplished or independent person I am today. Many struggles that I have faced in many areas would not have been addressed or solved had I grown up with my Korean family. Granted the adoption itself may have caused me the emotional problems I had, and having that issue of always feeling out of place or not being enough, but I'd take that any day over the alternative of probably not having the resources I needed to remain healthy and happy like I am now. And trust me it was a long struggle, and without my mom Gayle, and dad/friends I don't know what I would have done. I was blessed to have been given everything, but I will never take it for granted. }




Back to the story: 

I visited the town My birth mother had me in and still lives in. Everywhere I turned I thought I might see her or my brothers. In that city, I visited the hospital and orphanages where I was born and stayed the first four months of my life. It was the most sad to leave the children at the orphanages after playing with them all day. They started crying when we had to leave. So did everyone we were with, very emotional! The attention my "story" got from middle aged Korean women was absolutely hilarious though. They all wanted to hug and kiss me quite close to my actual lips. They also really liked my dad for some reason....Actually, now that I think of it, my dad and brother got so much attention from the Korean women/girls during those two weeks....(they thought my brother was a movie star, oh white male privilege (jk))…


Quote from Johnny: "Wouldn't it be awesome if me and your brothers just killed it together!?" made me laugh out loud. they definitely would. 


My 100% blood brothers happen to look exactly like me (2006)........

It's so weird, they are actually around Johnny's age (my brother, 23). I wonder what they are doing now...


To have these pictures, after 20 years of knowing absolutely nothing.....well...I can't really describe it. It's incredible, crazy, and just strange for me. All of my friends whom I've known since childhood also were  mind-blown, not to mention my family members, laughing, in disbelief...crying.... None of us ever knew or thought we'd ever see these photos.
I didn't cry. At first I was definitely speechless and reverted back to my 6th grade behavior and became embarrassed about the whole thing, and thought it was shameful or awkward to talk about. I really haven't shown many people these photos until I was about 24. Now I'm 28 and have a whole new outlook on adoption, and the beautiful thing it is, as well as a whole new understanding of what I and others like me been through.

So, yes I am disappointed that I couldn't meet her, but I still believe that I will maybe someday when she's ready. I would love to meet my biological brothers, too. She described them as funny, and full of life. The one on the left is into musical instruments and the arts. The one on the right she said was very athletic in sports. This made me smile. Even though I can't meet her now, the hope that one day I will along with the letter and pictures she sent are enough for me right now.


So the story's almost over, except that it goes
 full circle. On the last day of my 2 week long trip around South Korea, people from an adoption agency asked me, personally, if I would take one of their babies home on the 24hr plane ride....to its new family in the United States. ?!!??!?!? Of course I said yes. This was an honor. Everyone was making a huge deal of it....crying, hugging me (again)-- agency people, my parents, friends I made on the trip, people I didn't know.... it was outrageous. A couple more people from the Korean Ties Program also got to bring babies to America to meet their new families. I'm not just saying this, but I DEFINITELY got the cutest one. Hands down. (not that it should matter but at that time I was quite pleased). I didn't get to pick either-- she was assigned to me. She was so small and her hair was in a tight ponytail that was sticking straight up in the air. Sound familiar? (some call me bam bam). Oh my goodness, I loved her so much. She was four months old. Just like I was.

I took her home on the plane. My mom somehow also appeared with a baby, too- a little boy. Both babies slept and cried the whole time. I fed her formula in a bottle and walked her around the aisles for what seemed like years. The poor thing had serious ear problems from the plane ride, which also had happened to me when I was being flown over at 4months old too.

When we finally got off the plane with our babies, we were met by the new, excited, and nervous awaiting families. I had creepily decided in my delirious state that I was going to keep her, and that I wasn't giving her to the family anymore....that I was taking her with me, and was going to make a run for it.
 
...Didn't go over too well, but I definitely couldn't stop crying (first time I cried on the trip) because I was so mad that I had to give her away. I can't even imagine what our mothers felt like when they had to give us up for adoption. 


I still love her because she symbolized something to me. Something beyond just the usual innocence and purity babies symbolize. She was a symbol of who I used to be, who I was- just a helpless infant on a 24hr flight across the world not knowing a damn thing of what my life would be. They named her Pearl, btw. What a beauty.


Long story short, it's been ten years since I contacted Eun Sook. Maybe there is a letter at the agency waiting for me saying she wants to meet. Maybe there isn't. Maybe my birth brothers are well over 21 and speak English- maybe they even go to college in the USA. Maybe they don't. Maybe she has told them about me, maybe she hasn't. These are things I will find out this summer and these are things I would like to know, even if they cause more dismantled thoughts. Even if she doesn't want the things I'd love to have happen, then that is okay I would not be mad or feel upset. I would feel very badly for her though. That she had to hide these things because of the way the culture is over there. I probably won't be able to help but be disappointed, however, if I can not meet my birth brothers now that they're all grown up. I know we would "kill it" together! 

We shall see.


Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

I look forward to talking with others and continuing to grow with this amazing organization The Boston Korean Adoptees who helped me to post this story.

Please don't hesitate to contact me or reach out via facebook or email. I am currently working with www.womencrossdmz.org to try to bring peace between North and South Korea. Also some of my music is on Spotify or iTunes or bandcamp under my name Jacquelyn Wells and my jewelry line is available in stores around New England and online at www.oohjacquelina.com Feel free to reach out to me in any way, I'd love to hear your story.


As for now, this Story is To Be Continued....



P.S. there is a documentary called "Somewhere Between"  on Netflix about Female Asian Adoptees that went thru a similar experience as myself. It's amazing. A quote I liked from it was " if you're always being seen and you're never just blending in, of course you want to appear like you have everything under control and everything is perfect all the time." Which I found to be a very interesting statement.


It is 2016, ten years exactly from my first and only trip back to South Korea since my birth there in 1987. I wrote the story of my trip and the information I found out from my birth mother in 2006, but now with a trip planned for this summer I know that was only Part One. Part Two I will write when I return after my trip from July 26-Aug 16, 2016 this summer when I will try to meet my birth mother (and hopefully my birth brothers and birth father who are all still a family- none of whom know about me except her). Part Two will tie up a lot of loose ends. If it doesn't end up happening I am just happy to go to the IKAA Gathering and be in my home country and volunteer at orphanages, and meet others in the adoptee community. If anyone knows how to help me recontact my birth mother which was originally done thru ESWS and the Korean Ties trip, feel free to email me because I find it to be a daunting task even though it probably is not. 

Here is Part One, which was written (and edited) from 2006 and on. Reading back on it now I feel a sense of guilt for posting her picture and story which were deeply personal to her, all without her knowing. I think when I originally posted these photos I was extremely disconnected, and very young. But even still, I feel very detached from her as a human being, especially since we have not met (her decision) and I always assumed she'd never see this. I am the kind of person who is an open book and am not private, but over the past few years I have thought in depth about how much I respect others who are more private about their story and thought maybe I should do the same. However, aside from these dismantled thoughts, I believe this is a great forum and group to share this with, and at least for now and I am trying not to feel guilt about it. I hope some people will read this and be able to relate, I know we all have our own unique stories. This is just one. Feel free to share your own stories and thoughts about your journey, as I always love connecting with others.

 


Me photographed with Also Known As Inc. founder Hollee McGinnis 2006


Part One (2006)


I came to the U.S. in 1987 when I was 4 months old. In 2006, I tried digging into my past for the first time. I was 19. Through a series of phone calls, detective work, and a trip across the world, I came to find out some of the most interesting information I would ever hear, well, thus far into my life. A social worker in Korea who worked with the agency I was adopted from, Love the Children (ESWS) and with the program, Korean Ties, somehow managed to contact my birth mother who shared the story that no one could have ever made up: the truth about how I came to be.



In all of those 19 years, I never knew a single thing about my birth parents. Not their names, not what they looked like, not a single fact or story. I never really thought about it, either. Many stories I had heard from other adoptees who had tried to contact their biological parents were depressing and I figured I had all I needed right here, right now, and I did not want to delve deeper. But... at the urge of my
 real parents (Gayle and John) and several others, I decided to take a step towards finding out where I came from....


With the help of the social workers at Korean Ties program, I wrote a letter to my adoption agency to give to my birth mother (whoever she was) and included a small photo book of my family and I. They said they would try to find out her whereabouts (extremely private information) and translate and forward the letter I had written to her w/ the pictures. I thought I'd never hear back, but to my surprise, I did. They found her.....and what she said was amazing.


the letter she wrote to me was translated....by the dry-cleaners…it's actually in need of being re-translated. any takers?


We found out:
She can't speak English. She doesn't want to come into contact with me. And that she is in shock to hear of my existence, but relieved to hear that I am alive and well. But wait, there's more....
She said things that I could only dream of. She wrote that she was filled with pain, guilt, and worry about me. That she had a "heavy heart" filled with sadness the day she said goodbye to me. She wrote that she still thinks of me every single day. She wrote that she wishes she could see me, that she wishes everything for me, the world, love, and happiness.
 

She sent pictures. And I have no words.....


She wrote that her name is Eun Sook. She and my birth father were childhood sweethearts- very much in love. In Korea all males had to serve in the army for two years. He went off into the military and they broke up around the age of 18-19. She thought she'd never see him or talk to him again. After he was gone, my birth mother realized that she was pregnant. Anyways, at first what seemed like a typical story, (she was 19, etc), turned out to be slightly more interesting. Yes, she gave me up for adoption, but no.....
 she never told my birth father or anyone and when he got back from the army, they got back together.....and then got married (very unusual case in adoption)......and then had two more children.......and they are all still together, a happy family in Korea.....
but she
 still hasn't told him about my existence, or told my 2 apparent brothers, or anyone for that matter.
She might never end up telling them.
 
Apparently it's her deepest darkest secret. In Korea, especially 20 yrs ago, those who have babies out of wedlock are ostracized and treated like second hand citizens, things that still need to change. Also, men are dominant for the most part in their culture, and they get what they want in most divorce cases. She mentioned to the social worker that she was very much afraid to tell my birthfather (her husband) that she gave away his baby without his permission, and even more scared to tell him she had been hiding this secret for 20 years! I think she was afraid he would divorce her and then proceed to take her children away from her. And after all these years……

Airplane Day: Shown with my dad at 4months old


{side note: I think one of the reasons I have always felt slightly unaffected by my adoption and was uninterested in exploring it is not because I was afraid, but because I have such a close relationship with the family who raised me, the family who knows me, the family who loves me. My mom is probably the most loving, accepting, and open person I will ever meet. Every day I feel lucky to have been brought to them. I am not sure why I was chosen to be so lucky (or some would say unlucky), and given such an amazing opportunity at a life I never would have had if I hadn't been given up for adoption. Some say that it's sad that I was abandoned or unwanted by my "real" mother, but I know that's not true because my real mother is right here with me every day, always. She probably is leaving me a voicemail right now checking in on me or asking me how to fix her computer. It's a strange concept and every year I feel differently about it. I have never felt unwanted, though. My brother is my best friend. My dad is my rock and such an amazingly wise person. I do want to meet my birth family, and am currently looking into it, but I don't want to disrupt her life. I make this joke all the time saying "I could be in a rice field right now!" instead of wherever I am. It's a joke, but it is something that crosses my mind more often than not. I may not have been in an actual rice field, but I can assure you that if I was still in Korea, I would not be the open-minded and accomplished or independent person I am today. Many struggles that I have faced in many areas would not have been addressed or solved had I grown up with my Korean family. Granted the adoption itself may have caused me the emotional problems I had, and having that issue of always feeling out of place or not being enough, but I'd take that any day over the alternative of probably not having the resources I needed to remain healthy and happy like I am now. And trust me it was a long struggle, and without my mom Gayle, and dad/friends I don't know what I would have done. I was blessed to have been given everything, but I will never take it for granted. }




Back to the story: 

I visited the town My birth mother had me in and still lives in. Everywhere I turned I thought I might see her or my brothers. In that city, I visited the hospital and orphanages where I was born and stayed the first four months of my life. It was the most sad to leave the children at the orphanages after playing with them all day. They started crying when we had to leave. So did everyone we were with, very emotional! The attention my "story" got from middle aged Korean women was absolutely hilarious though. They all wanted to hug and kiss me quite close to my actual lips. They also really liked my dad for some reason....Actually, now that I think of it, my dad and brother got so much attention from the Korean women/girls during those two weeks....(they thought my brother was a movie star, oh white male privilege (jk))…


Quote from Johnny: "Wouldn't it be awesome if me and your brothers just killed it together!?" made me laugh out loud. they definitely would. 


My 100% blood brothers happen to look exactly like me (2006)........

It's so weird, they are actually around Johnny's age (my brother, 23). I wonder what they are doing now...


To have these pictures, after 20 years of knowing absolutely nothing.....well...I can't really describe it. It's incredible, crazy, and just strange for me. All of my friends whom I've known since childhood also were  mind-blown, not to mention my family members, laughing, in disbelief...crying.... None of us ever knew or thought we'd ever see these photos.
I didn't cry. At first I was definitely speechless and reverted back to my 6th grade behavior and became embarrassed about the whole thing, and thought it was shameful or awkward to talk about. I really haven't shown many people these photos until I was about 24. Now I'm 28 and have a whole new outlook on adoption, and the beautiful thing it is, as well as a whole new understanding of what I and others like me been through.

So, yes I am disappointed that I couldn't meet her, but I still believe that I will maybe someday when she's ready. I would love to meet my biological brothers, too. She described them as funny, and full of life. The one on the left is into musical instruments and the arts. The one on the right she said was very athletic in sports. This made me smile. Even though I can't meet her now, the hope that one day I will along with the letter and pictures she sent are enough for me right now.


So the story's almost over, except that it goes
 full circle. On the last day of my 2 week long trip around South Korea, people from an adoption agency asked me, personally, if I would take one of their babies home on the 24hr plane ride....to its new family in the United States. ?!!??!?!? Of course I said yes. This was an honor. Everyone was making a huge deal of it....crying, hugging me (again)-- agency people, my parents, friends I made on the trip, people I didn't know.... it was outrageous. A couple more people from the Korean Ties Program also got to bring babies to America to meet their new families. I'm not just saying this, but I DEFINITELY got the cutest one. Hands down. (not that it should matter but at that time I was quite pleased). I didn't get to pick either-- she was assigned to me. She was so small and her hair was in a tight ponytail that was sticking straight up in the air. Sound familiar? (some call me bam bam). Oh my goodness, I loved her so much. She was four months old. Just like I was.

I took her home on the plane. My mom somehow also appeared with a baby, too- a little boy. Both babies slept and cried the whole time. I fed her formula in a bottle and walked her around the aisles for what seemed like years. The poor thing had serious ear problems from the plane ride, which also had happened to me when I was being flown over at 4months old too.

When we finally got off the plane with our babies, we were met by the new, excited, and nervous awaiting families. I had creepily decided in my delirious state that I was going to keep her, and that I wasn't giving her to the family anymore....that I was taking her with me, and was going to make a run for it.
 
...Didn't go over too well, but I definitely couldn't stop crying (first time I cried on the trip) because I was so mad that I had to give her away. I can't even imagine what our mothers felt like when they had to give us up for adoption. 


I still love her because she symbolized something to me. Something beyond just the usual innocence and purity babies symbolize. She was a symbol of who I used to be, who I was- just a helpless infant on a 24hr flight across the world not knowing a damn thing of what my life would be. They named her Pearl, btw. What a beauty.


Long story short, it's been ten years since I contacted Eun Sook. Maybe there is a letter at the agency waiting for me saying she wants to meet. Maybe there isn't. Maybe my birth brothers are well over 21 and speak English- maybe they even go to college in the USA. Maybe they don't. Maybe she has told them about me, maybe she hasn't. These are things I will find out this summer and these are things I would like to know, even if they cause more dismantled thoughts. Even if she doesn't want the things I'd love to have happen, then that is okay I would not be mad or feel upset. I would feel very badly for her though. That she had to hide these things because of the way the culture is over there. I probably won't be able to help but be disappointed, however, if I can not meet my birth brothers now that they're all grown up. I know we would "kill it" together! 

We shall see.


Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

I look forward to talking with others and continuing to grow with this amazing organization The Boston Korean Adoptees who helped me to post this story.

Please don't hesitate to contact me or reach out via facebook or email. I am currently working with www.womencrossdmz.org to try to bring peace between North and South Korea. Also some of my music is on Spotify or iTunes or bandcamp under my name Jacquelyn Wells and my jewelry line is available in stores around New England and online at www.oohjacquelina.com Feel free to reach out to me in any way, I'd love to hear your story.


As for now, this Story is To Be Continued....



P.S. there is a documentary called "Somewhere Between"  on Netflix about Female Asian Adoptees that went thru a similar experience as myself. It's amazing. A quote I liked from it was " if you're always being seen and you're never just blending in, of course you want to appear like you have everything under control and everything is perfect all the time." Which I found to be a very interesting statement.

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