I spoke at an adoption-related program awhile ago, and the subject of guilt and shame came up. The specific question asked was "Have you experienced guilt or shame about adoption, and if so what caused it?"

Over the years I have found my thoughts about adoption becoming ever darker. In the beginning of our adoption experience, I could see only positives - positive solution to a birth mother's dilemma, positive opportunities for our children, positive joy for us.

But over time I have come to know that Korean birth mothers - married and unmarried - receive virtually no support from their families, friends, and government at the time they most need it. Families that fall into poverty may orchestrate an adoption, sometimes going to the extent of pretending their child died in childbirth, because they have no alternative when their financial means do not allow another mouth to feed. Unmarried single parents remain outside the norm of Korean society, so young women with children but no husbands find few opportunities, and receive little support from the community.

It is ultimately my fault that I did not understand these facts at the time my husband and I adopted. The entitlement with which Americans, particularly white Americans, approach the adoption of children from other countries closes our eyes at the time at which they should be wide open. Those of us who come to adoption from infertility are often so emotionally drained from that experience that our eyes see only the child, and never even flicker across the faces of the birth mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and siblings left behind when our children come to us.

My first encounter with my children's birth parents came at the airport when we met our son, our first child. He was so unlike my husband and me - among the very first questions that came to our lips were questions about his birth family. And the realization that a woman was undoubtedly grieving on the other side of the globe wasn't far behind.

That realization has grown over the years into the constant presence of my children's birth parents, particularly the mothers who bore them and wept as they were taken away to new families. Although they may have made the only decision available to them, the injustice of it cannot be denied.

I don't want to feel guilty for having adopted, but I do. This feeling of guilt does not displace my joy at being a parent, at having a family. Rather, it reminds me that along with the joy of being a parent, I have an obligation to advocate for social systems in Korea that make it unnecessary for families to part with their children for want of financial aid or social acceptance.

Read more about the evolving Korean perspective on intercountry adoption in The Korea Herald and The Korea Times:
Lawmaker pushes ban on overseas adoption, May 10, 2006
Domestic adoption policy desperately needed, May 11, 2006
Adoption Day: Measures Needed to Promote Adoption, May 11, 2006
Koreans Should Adopt Babies, May 14, 2006


GreenFertility said…

I love reading our blog and seeing the cute pictures of your kids. If it makes you alleviate any of your "guilt.," even as a K-A I have really ambivalent thoughts about adopting even as I lurch toward the cutoff age (is it 45?) for Korean adoption. After all the wonderful things the Korean birthmothers shared with me, sometimes I feel like I really would like to do it, other times I feel like it would be too hard and I don't know if I have the character for it, if you know what I mean. Having bio. children makes so many thing automatic (or at least we think they are) but adoption is all about making decisions and choosing. I dunno! But thanks for complicating things even further! (ha!) I do appreciate your honesty.


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