The Good Adoptee
When I went to Korea several years ago on a service tour, I went to learn more about my relationship to Korea, to volunteer in the community, and to experience being adopted in ways that would deepen my awareness as a person.
I got into Seoul later in the evening after a long delay and a cancelled flight, was jet-lagged and feeling the weight of being there, so far away from my “real” life and family. Given that I had searched twice and not found, I found myself wondering whether this was all a mistake. I had searched and not found while most of the others on the tour were meeting their birth parents and families, what was I doing? It’s hard enough to feel lost and alone in your everyday life, but it felt even worse to feel lost when in a way, the others around me had been “found.” Their search was over.
I shared a room with my adoptive mother who agreed to come with me, and we were staying on the same floor as the infant care unit for the agency. I didn’t actually volunteer there until the end of the week and so I didn’t hold the babies for several days, but as I lay down that first night, all I could hear was crying. The crying never stopped, there was always someone crying all through the night.
There I was, listening, still lost and I found myself wanting to run in there and tell the babies who were crying, “Shut up! They’re not going to choose you if you cry.”
And, it was then that I felt overwhelmed by what it meant to be a “good adoptee.” If you’re a difficult baby, a crying baby, a hard-to-soothe baby, does that lower your chances of getting adopted? The good adoptee doesn’t want to risk finding that out. The good adoptee wants to be easy, adoptable, easy to love, easy to parent, so that the parents feel good about themselves. The good adoptee knows that they can’t afford to take that chance of being a “mistake” twice.
And, yet, although there was a part of that wanted to run in and shut down the evidence of pain, I also knew that their voice, their needs their anger is theirs to share because this isn’t the way it was supposed to go. As I listened, what I heard was, “Where the f— is my mommy!” They deserve a mother who’s there, they deserve an explanation, an answer for how their life fell apart, and no one is giving them one. And, they should be able to cry without fearing that it will change things.