This year, I will be featuring guest bloggers who will share their thoughts and experiences on a variety of adoption-related topics. This blog is my baby, so one can only imagine how nerve-wracking it was to make the decision to feature the voices of others who have been touched by adoption! When I received the first draft of Katrina’s blog post, she immediately put my mind and heart at ease through her beautiful words and captivating story. As I read the final lines of her draft, I knew I had to open this guest blogger series with her story.
It is an absolute honor and pleasure to introduce Katrina Ivatts, adoptive mother of a beautiful son from Korea, as Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee’s first guest blogger! Enjoy!
“Musings of an Adoptive Parent”
As a child, I always dreamed of being a mother. Unlike many people whose adoption journey begins with their inability to conceive a child in the conventional sense, my story follows a slightly different path. I was born with a complex congenital heart defect. In my mid-twenties, I came to a difficult crossroad—to have a revision of a childhood open heart surgery, which would enable me to have my own biological child, or to adopt. For me, it was a no-brainer—I would adopt. My dreams of becoming a mother have come to fruition, but in a very different manner than I ever dreamed possible, with the adoption of an 8-month-old boy, Jungbin, from South Korea in 2008.
There are moments in our adoption journey that I will never forget, such as the day I received the phone call from the adoption agency letting us know that we had been matched with a baby and his pictures and file would be available the following day. Upon the acceptance of our referral, we waited for what seemed like a forever before receiving the phone call to fly to Seoul. The 15-hour flight to Seoul was arduous, and time seemed to tick at an especially slow pace. Questions loomed in my head about whether or not I would make a good parent. We had seemingly jumped through so many hoops with home studies, vast amounts of paperwork, and tight deadlines, but we were finally going to meet our son.
The morning after our arrival in Seoul, I would meet our little boy whose Korean name means “righteous” and “bright.” Upon our arrival at his foster mother’s home, she came down to greet us. We followed her to her apartment where she proceeded to take off her jacket, unveiling our son, who had been riding in a cloth sling on her back. Once on the floor, he crawled straight to me and put his hand on my face, stroking it, as if he had been waiting for me, and was trying to get to know me. At this moment, I knew in my heart that I wanted to preserve his connection to Korea by using his Korean name as his middle name, so he thus became Miles Jungbin. One week later, we finally had our little boy bundled in our arms, ready to fly to the East Coast. We had magically transformed into a family of three.
Building our family through adoption has filled our lives with great joy. As we adopted transracially and transculturally, we have enjoyed learning about our Miles’ country of origin. As Miles has grown, we have enjoyed learning about the Korean culture together and sharing this experience with him. He is the light of our life and, like other parents, we have enjoyed hearing him speak his first words and take his first steps. We have enjoyed watching him develop and shape his identity through traits and qualities he was born with as well as those of which we have instilled in him.
As with any adoption story, the overwhelming joy Miles has brought to our lives inevitably comes with great loss. As a woman, I have often wondered how it might have felt to have a child grow in my womb and to feel his first kick. Baby showers for friends have always been difficult for me—most of which I choose not to attend. Likewise, friends telling me every graphic detail of their pregnancies and birth stories leave me feeling uncomfortable and are a constant reminder that I will never fully belong.
As a mother, it can be difficult to appropriately respond to people who ask you how you can possibly love a child who was adopted as you would a child who was born to you. I have found that you need to be strong enough to be honest and forthright with your child when they come to you with questions regarding their birthparents, yet sensitive enough to appropriately respond when your child asks heartbreaking questions like, “Why did my mom and dad in Korea not want me?” or “Why couldn’t I stay in Korea?” When you hear questions such as these pass your child’s lips, you know they are dealing with feelings of loss.
I often reflect back on the experience of having to write a letter to Miles’ birth mother before receiving an adoption referral, which would eventually be sent to her through the adoption agency. How I wish that I could re-write that letter! If I were given the opportunity to write a letter to Miles’ birth mother now, it would be much more heartfelt, as I now know her child. I would love to let Miles’ birth mother know that he is happy and thriving. I often think of the agonizing decision she made in choosing adoption for her child, and how we benefitted from this extreme sacrifice. I am sure she thinks of him, as he often thinks of her. Birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees all stay connected if only in one’s heart.
Miles often says he would like to meet his birth mother someday, and I have told him that this would be a nearly impossible task, due to the limited amount of information we have about her. In a perfect world, I would also love the opportunity to get to know her—to see beyond the 10-page dossier we received from the adoption agency. I would love the opportunity to let her know how grateful I am to her for giving us the gift of Miles.
The adoption of our son has been a real journey. I anticipate every milestone in Miles’ life to be met with a mixture of joy and sadness. I am filled with gratitude towards my son’s birth mother and father, the adoption agency, foster mother, and to God for helping us build our family.
Katrina is a grants analyst, children’s book aficionado, and adoptive mother. She enjoys taking long walks, watching foreign films, visiting museums, and creating mixed media art canvases.