When KADs Become Parents
For most people, it is probably safe to say that having a child is a big deal. It is one of those life-changing, flip-your-world-upside-down, type of things that is filled with a host of different emotions. In addition to the many normal and natural experiences a person might have when they realize that they will be responsible for raising a human (e.g., joy, excitement, shock, disbelief, and perhaps even a little bit of dread), becoming a parent may also bring up some unique feelings and thoughts for Korean adoptees (KADs). For many of us, our child may be our first biological connection in this world. On top of that, he or she might also be our first felt connection to Korea and the first time we see ourselves physically reflected in another human being. Having a child might also make us think about our own birth families and prompt reflection on what it was like to grow up with our adoptive families.
So yes, while becoming a parent is a big deal for just about anyone, we would like to celebrate this Mother’s Day by focusing on the special experience of becoming a parent for KADs. In this blog, we share the perspectives of a father of a four-year old daughter (Steve Kalb) and a mother-to-be (Danielle Godon-Decoteau).
“Reunion by proxy”
~ Written by Steve Kalb, BKA's friend on the west coast
On February 16th, 2012 at 12:25 pm PST, my daughter, Tae, is born. She’s my only biological connection in this world. As I sit in the hospital room mesmerized at the sight of my wife and daughter, my mind begins to wander. It was supposed to be an old Korean woman embracing me amidst a bustling airport, or the pungent smells of kimchi in a small apartment as a young man grips my hand and pulls me in for a hug. The maternity wing of a hospital in Oregon is not how I imagined this moment. As I struggle to reconcile the conflict, Tae’s whimpers and coos pull me back to the present. I look at her. A sense of security drapes over me like a warm blanket that calms my nerves and slows my racing mind. A tiny reflection of myself, asleep in her mother’s arms, brings me peace, for now.
Since then, Tae’s smiles, giggles, and frowns, flash familiar images that comfort my soul before vanishing into the ether. I see her mom when she grins, my sister-in-law in her sly smile, old photos of my childhood in her somber moods, my wife’s grandma when she purses her lips. Over time, these familiar images reveal the truth behind the sense of security I felt that afternoon in the hospital. It’s not just my wife and me I see when I look at her; it’s Korea. Perhaps my birth mother in her furrowed brow, my birth father in an expression of shock; aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents - everyone. Tae brought peace, to an unrest I didn’t realize I had, by literally and figuratively bringing birth family into my life.
"All My Mothers and Me"
~ Written by Danielle Godon-Decoteau, BKA Treasurer
When I was a child, I vowed that I would never be a mother. I was probably more surprised than anyone when, around the age of 25, my maternal instincts suddenly burgeoned. Perhaps that was when my “biological clock” kicked in, but this newfound desire for children also coincided with when I began exploring my Korean adoptee identity, reflecting on my life growing up, and feeling more comfortable in my own skin.
I lost my Korean mother to adoption and then I lost my adoptive mother to cancer. I did not realize it then, but losing two mothers before the age of 10 made me feel ambivalent about motherhood. By the time my step-mother came into my life, I remember thinking that I was bad luck and that, “I can't keep a mother.” Now that I find myself in this transformational period of pregnancy, I am finally starting to understand and accept the complexities of motherhood. As I feel my son kick, I imagine the mixed emotions my Korean mother must have had when she felt me move inside her stomach. I think about how I love him so much already and how the thought of losing him is unbearable. When I picture my son’s early childhood, I am finally able to appreciate how much love my adoptive mother had for me. I feel her presence very strongly now and, at the same time, I am more saddened by her absence than ever before. As I prepare for motherhood, I ask my step-mother so many questions and realize that I have grown to rely on her because she has always been a solid rock, providing support and guidance throughout my teenage years and adult life. Being pregnant is starting to give me a sense of peace through my deepening connections with my son and these three amazing women, all of my mothers.
I also am beginning to feel more connected with myself. Like many KADs, I grew up in a White family and in a White community. I hated my reflection in the mirror and I wanted nothing to do with Korean culture. However, when I envision my son, I adore the Korean features he will have and I hope that he is able to feel proud of his Korean heritage. I am beginning to embrace the parts of me that I once loathed and I am enjoying learning more about Korean culture so my partner and I can teach our son.
Call for more KAD parenting stories!
If readers are interested in this topic, we hope to share more stories related to KAD parenting in future blogs. Please feel free to email Danielle (Danielle@bkadoptee.org) if you would like to make a blog contribution about parenting. All perspectives are welcome – KADs who have children, KADs who want to be parents someday, KADs who have adopted children, KADs who do not want kids, KADs who are grandparents, etc. We want to hear from you! Happy Mother’s Day from your friends at BKA :)