Voices of Adoption
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Heather Papp Jamie Kemp Jo Rankin Karen Eckert
Kate Hershiser Michael Lorilla Steven Haruch
I then worked on my search for a month and a half, spending 10 to 15 hours per week contacting various organizations, trying to see if I could find this woman. I wanted to find her so badly because I knew from information from other adoptees' searches that children are nearly always taken to the orphanages/police stations by a family member or a close friend. On top of the time I spent on my search, I had to work my full-time job during the day, my part-time job at night, and also spend every moment I could with my little girl. I was only getting three to five hours of sleep per night during the last couple of weeks before I left for Korea. I think my determination grew because it never sat well with me that she was just some lady who cared for me. If that is all it was, why would she have gone to the trouble of leaving a name and address? There had to be more to it. I had to find out the truth.

During my search for Mrs. Kim I went through some deep emotions. Like many adopted Koreans who search for birth families, I was emotionally ripped apart, and had my strength and ambition tested to the limit. Doors were closed continually in my face. People told me what I was doing was impossible. At each door slam, I would cry for two or three seconds, then I would get up again and try to to think of other avenues to search. I had no help in doing this.

As I retraced my steps backwards into the past, I found that my fear of abandonment became real again, not as a child, but as an adult. I stared at my file, realizing that for an entire year of my life, from age two and a half to age three and a half, I had been alone without any family, friends, or even any "real" name. My name was changed with each new home, as if I were a puppy dog. That was a really hard thing for me to face and deal with.

It was at this point that I realized I did now have people to turn to - my "real family." Those of us who are adopted know that our "real" families are actually our adoptive families. For the first time in my life, I realized that I needed to ask for their help and support. That was a tough thing. In the past, they always gave it to me whether I wanted it or not. They gave me that love and support without even needing to think about it, and I thought to myself 'Wow I can actually trust them and let myself fully love them for the rest of my life.' For the last 23 years I had always rejected their love. Now it was time to grow up.

When I was young, I felt that if I wasn't their perfect child that I wouldn't have a home any more. This was simply not true. During my teen years, I challenged their love continually. I rebelled at everything and anything I could. I would purposely test them to see if they would pass or fail and they would always pass. So then I would get angry at them for passing and then test them again. They never left my side, and although there was a time in my life when they had to show me tough love, they never left me or stopped loving me. I kept thinking, "Why do you still want me to be your daughter? I am not acting like a perfect child any more, why do you still think that you love me?" I kept thinking "When are you going to leave me?"

My poor mother kept saying the words, "Jamie, you are my daughter. I chose to adopt you. Adoption is always a chosen thing. I will always be here as your mother and I will never leave you." She said those words for many years until she was blue in the face. I could never get myself to believe those words. Nothing she could ever say would have been good enough for me at the time I was rejecting them. Deep down inside, I always wanted and needed their love more than anything in the world, but it was much safer for me to deny it.

For me, the fear of another abandonment was a very real and scary thing. I couldn't let myself get too close to them but now since I was ripping open many old wounds that needed to heal, I made the discovery that they are not the enemy. They are my family and they will forever be there for me no matter what. They have proven their love for me for every day of the last 23 years, and during my search, I realized finally that, without them, I would have been nothing but a lost child with no family to call my own.

I learned so many new things while I was in Korea. I learned that women are not treated as people. When a married couple gets divorced the father has all the rights to the children and can strip the mother away from her children. She has no say in anything, and when the father takes the children away and finds himself in a difficult situation he can place the children for adoption without the mother's knowledge. The rate of alcoholism is very high in Korea among men. Many die of cirrhosis of the liver at a young age.

In Korea, many families are poor and young girls from poor families hang out with prostitutes after school and sell themselves to earn more money to buy the things they want. Women are discriminated against in both big ways and small ways. For example, it is considered disrespectful for young women to smoke out in public on the streets, so they must smoke in the bathroom stalls or in a bar or coffee shop.

There isn't any social welfare system in Korea to help young single mothers. If pregnant women are young and unwed they are ostracized from their families. Most pregnant single women keep their pregnancy a secret, and eventually find a birthing home for unwed mothers.

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