Wednesday, February 29, 2012

{Letters of Love}

Another letter from my birth mom... could she be any more lovely?

My dear daughter, Hyo-Eun…

Winter is at its last chapter in Korea, and spring is almost here.
We had the biggest holiday in Korea, Seol-Nal, which is Chinese New year holiday in January.
I was so happy to finally hear back from you, but I was so sadden about the news of your 2nd baby.  Just thinking about the challenging time you must be going through, it hurts me as well.
Please don’t worry too much, I may dare to say.  I worry more about you and your well being.  Medicine is so far advanced now, and I believe in hope that everything is going to be just fine.
Let us just pray in unity for the baby to be born.
We are all praying for you and the baby.
Dear Hyo-Eun,
I must have said this so many times now, but I want to tell you that every time I think you, my baby whom I was not able to keep, there is always a part me that still aches with regret.  I am just so thankful to you that you have grown up so well with a family of your own to care.  I am thankful that we are now able to be in contact with each other. 
If you ever feel like calling me, please do so, Hyo-Eun:  (017) 614-7186.
I was so worried when I did not hear from you for months.  If you don’t mind, could you also let me know of your phone number or address where I could reach you?
Being a Korean mother, I wish I could just be there for you, but I know that it will add more burden to you.
I believe that the right time will come for us to meet someday.  Just remember that I am always here, and your sisters and brother will always be here for you if needed.
Let us know if there is anything we can be any help to you during this challenging time.

You are always in our prayers.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Your mom in Korea

Dear Sweet Um-ma,
                 I am so relieved that you received my letters and the news about our baby.  I have 6 more weeks until I deliver our baby girl.  My doctors have scheduled a cesarean section the morning of April 11th.  I am eager for her to be here so I can finally hold her and then we can do what is necessary to make her healthy and comfortable.  It really is amazing how much we already know about our baby’s condition with the discoveries of modern medicine.  At my last doctor’s appointment, it was found that she has another small heart defect in addition to the Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  The most recent finding does complicate the situation even more, but I feel so blessed that our doctors are even more prepared for what to expect. 
               Despite the complications, my family and I are all very excited for this baby to be born.  We have decided to name her Zoe, which means “Life” in Greek.  I feel so strongly that Zoe has a beautiful life ahead of her, filled with love and support.  I can’t wait for you to meet your grandchildren in America someday.  My daughters are lucky to have their Korean Grandmother that loves and prays for them. 
               When you mention how you still ache with regret for placing me with another family, it hurts because I do not see it the way you do.  I can’t imagine the heartache and loss you must have felt at that time in your life, but I wouldn’t have searched for you if I did not feel that you made the right decision.  I don’t know if you are aware, but it was February 12, 1987 that I flew from Korea and met my family for the very first time.  My family celebrates that day every year at the same restaurant that we went to just a few days after I met them.  We call it “Gotcha Day”.  Gotcha Day is such a special holiday for me, because I joined my family in a very unique way and that day is worth celebrating.  I can’t tell you enough how your decision made a difference in not only my life, but many others.  My parents endured much sacrifice and hardship in their journey to find me and I know that God had a plan for both you and me that led us to reunite after all these years.  Although you were not able to keep me physically, you kept me in your heart and that is all I have every wanted.  I have always wanted to know if you loved me and wanted me.  I know without a doubt that you did and you do.  The past may be painful for you, but we have so much to look forward to in our future. 
You are my Korean mother and never have or will be a burden to me.  My life is fuller because you are a part of it.  I want you to know that you are always welcome in my home and in my family.  My whole life, I have dreamt of the day when we would reunite.  I have so much faith that our time will come sooner than later.  Considering the circumstances with our baby, I have no idea as to when I will be able to go to Korea to meet you and my sisters and brother.  If you feel that there is any way you could come to America someday, I would love to have you here. 
At this time, all I can ask is for your prayers and letters.  Your letters bring me so much hope and joy, especially when you send pictures.  Even though we aren’t together right now, we are still closer than we have ever been. 
I would love to speak with you and finally hear your voice. 

My phone number is: (xxx) xxx-xxxx
I love you so much.  Please do not worry too much.  Miracles happen when you have God and family.  That is even more evident to me now in finding you.

Your daughter in America,

Hyo Eun

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Adult Korean Adoptees of Portland

It has been WAY too long since I've gone to an AKAP (Adult Korean Adoptees of Portland) dinner/event.  Tonight, Andrew and Lulu had a daddy/daughter date, while I enjoyed a much-needed dinner with my fellow Korean adoptees.  I don't know how I went for so long without spending time with these fabulous people.  Adoptees NEED other adoptees.  Even though I have never met some of these individuals... I don't need to.  We already have so much in common without words even being exchanged.

Me, Sarah & Jen

Me, Brooke, Sarah, Jen & Kaylee

 Nolin, Me, Brooke, Sarah, Jen & Kaylee

 Brenda & I - I met Brenda at my very first AKAP dinner.  
She is such a hoot!  
Love ya Brenda !

Friday, January 27, 2012

Intercountry Birth Family Correspondence: Private Translator vs. Agency

Holt's Post Adoption Services have been so wonderful in coordinating correspondence and translation between my birth family and I.  If you are a Holt adoptee considering a birth family search or in mid-search, I would highly recommend the services that Holt offers.  These individuals truly care about their adoptees, adoptive families and birth families.  Since the very first letter to my birth mom, I have been working with Debby.  Debby is an Administrative Coordinator who communicates directly with Holt Korea.  She sends letters, photos and relays other information to Holt Korea between both parties. 

After receiving my birth mother's last letter, I could tell she had not received the previous letter I sent in September.  After a quick e-mail to Debby, we figured out that through miscommunication my last letter had not been forwarded on.  Honestly, I am really impressed that after over a year of contact with my birth family, this is the first time any miscommunication has come up. 

I have had many transnational adoptees contact me with questions about whether to correspond independently and use a private translator or go through their agency.  In my personal experience, I have found that my particular agency has been the most resourceful and helpful during this process.  Using a translator may allow you more control of communication and will most likely allow you to receive letters/e-mails sooner, BUT do they know the personal nature of your situation?  Your agency speaks the adoption language and they know how sacred and personal this process is for both parties involved.  Many people that work for adoption agencies have some personal connection to adoption, which will allow them to have even more compassion for your story.  Emotions run so freely through this process that I want to make sure it's importance is respected by those handling it's fragile connection.  Now there are downsides because letters and e-mails have to go through several people before actually finding their destination.  Overall, I would rather have patience knowing that my letters are in the good hands.

Here is a fabulous example of just how amazing Holt is!  I sent a response letter to my birth mother on Monday of this week and explained to Debby the severity of our baby's condition.  After piecing together the fact that my previous letter had not yet been sent, she expedited both letters through Holt Korea as I expressed a great amount of concern for how my birth mom would respond.  I knew she would be excited to learn that I am expecting our second child, but the following information about our baby's heart defect would be extremely overwhelming.  She is such a sweet woman and I didn't want her to read both letters alone. 

Today, I received an e-mail from Debby saying... 

Just wanted to let you know that Holt Korea has spoken with your birth mother already, and she was “so thankful that Hyo Eun was alright otherwise.”  They talked about your letters and upcoming birth of your daughter.  She was understandably upset on your behalf, but took the news well.  Birth mom was very happy to hear from you, and sends her thanks.  She sounds like a very sweet woman.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do.  Have a good weekend!

Isn't Holt wonderful?  I can't wait to hear back from my sweet Um-ma soon!

For more information on Holt's Post Adoption Services, click here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where do I fit in?

The above video clip and this article: My Korean Body resonate so deeply for me as I have always been unsure of my body.  The American culture presses the beauty and normalcy of being white and the Korean culture relies on surgical intervention to alter and conform physical differences.  

As a transracial adoptee, where do I fit in?

Growing up, I always saw a white person in the mirror.  I wanted blonde hair and blue eyes.  I always resented the fact that people would constantly suggest I dress up as Mulan, Pocohontas or Jasmine for Halloween.  For once, I just wanted to look like Cinderella.  I craved to look like everyone else.  

It wasn't until my junior year in high school, my friend Emma opened my eyes to the other side.  Emma was a foreign exchange student from Seoul, South Korea.  We connected instantly.  Everything about her was intriguing.  I loved to listen to her accent and learn about my birth country.  It was eye opening to me that she was born and raised in the same city that I was born and adopted from.  When Emma moved to the US to study abroad, her host family lived just blocks away from a McDonald's.  Emma couldn't get enough of those greasy and thigh enhancing french fries... burgers dripping in calories and bottomless sodas.  She was a frequent McD's customer.  After a few months into her stay, she told me that she had gained a lot of weight here in the States.  In my eyes, she was very thin and had a typical Asian body.  What most surprised me was that when she would Skype with her parents, her mother would tell her that she was fat and looked like a pig.  Emma didn't seem to express any emotion of pain or hurt feelings when she told me this.  She just said in a very matter of fact way, that she was indeed fat.  On another occasion, she expressed her interest in a very common procedure in Korea, called the Epicanthic Fold.  In this procedure, the epicanthi is removed and the eyes appear more rounded and Western looking.  This is just one of many cosmetic surgeries performed with the same goal in mind.  To look like those of the West.  Other popular enhancements are augmentation rhinoplasty (nose job), double eyelid surgery (to create an upper eyelid crease) and cheek, jaw and calf reduction.  

This CNN article: Plastic Surgery boom as Asians seek 'western' look is particularly disturbing.  Why are so many Koreans obsessed with looking less Asian?  This beautiful 12 year olds mother says, "I'm having her do it," says Jang, "because I think it'll help her. This is a society where you have to be pretty to get ahead. She's my only daughter."

"Money can't buy you happiness, but it can pay for the plastic surgery." - Joan Rivers

As an adult Korean adoptee, I feel very strongly that i have faced even more insecurities and anxieties about my body than the average American woman.  As I have explored deeper into the Korean culture, I have found that the pressures of being "beautiful" are very similar to the pressures here in the US.  It has taken me many years of soul searching and acceptance of my identity as an intercountry adoptee to look in the mirror and not just say, but actually see a beautiful Asian woman.  In the mirror, I see freckles, obvious chicken pox scars, big luscious lips, a slight crease in my right eyelid and puffy round cheeks.  These once imperfections are now a literal reflection of who I am and how far I have come.  Don't get me wrong, I am nowhere near against cosmetic surgery as I have toyed with the idea of a few nips and tucks after I am finished having children.  But as for my Asian features?  I would never give up.  Until finding my birth family last year, these almond eyes and pressed nose were the only connection I had to my Asian heritage.  They are a part of who I am.  I am a Korean adoptee.

{Waiting Wednesday}

Waiting Wednesday
A child is waiting... maybe yours.

Age 8

Bradley is a ball of energy and he always has a smile on his face. He enjoys playing Wii video games and board games. Others report, "Bradley is a very involved child who has the charisma to be a great person in life!"


Age 3

"Leah is an engaging girl who wants to play and be showered with attention. She is very busy, likes to help and play outside. One of Leah’s favorite activities is to sweep. She also loves being outside and playing at the park. She likes to build things with blocks or some small moveable ottomans she has at her home. Until recently, Leah’s favorite toys were Pooh, but she has recently made a new favorite out of Spot the dog. She has a favorite Pooh movie and enjoys books. Leah loves music and can use music to soothe. She loves bananas."


Ages 11 & 9

"Joshua and Matthew are terrific boys with some nice strengths. These brothers have strong bonds with one another and want the opportunity to grow up together. Joshua is polite and well-mannered and enjoys being helpful. His high energy can easily be channeled into sports of all kinds. He especially likes playing soccer. He also likes to collect things, such as marbles, and play video games. Creating art and drawing not only bring him enjoyment but are also therapeutic tools that help him to process his thoughts and feelings. Matthew is a very active, affectionate boy. Sports and other high octane pastimes, such as dancing, are also great ways to channel and focus his energy. Matthew loves to be busy so just about anything that engages his interest will help keep him happy."


Age 4

"Tristen is a very inquisitive and social little boy. He is quite active, has a great sense of humor and is very fun to be around. He loves school, has a large vocabulary for is age, knows all of his colors and counts extremely well. Tristen likes to swim, ride his bike, and watch movies especially Scooby-Doo and Madagascar."


Ages 10 & 6

"Elena and Roberto ‘Beto’ are wonderful siblings who have a strong bond and hope to be adopted together. Both children love to be cuddled, hugged and are very affectionate. They enjoy being outdoors and are very active. They enjoy biking, swimming, and taking care and maintaining their foster family’s horses, goats, and chickens."


For more information on one of these Waiting Children, 
click on the name above!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Journey Continues...

My Dear Readers, 
What a terrible blogger I have been!  It seems as though my lack of updating is becoming a bad habit.  I do have big plans for Seoul Searching Mama in 2012 and hope you will continue to join me in this beautiful journey of search and reunion.  

So much has taken place in my life since I last posted in September.  You have all been a wonderful support in this journey, that maybe you would like to follow me in yet another?  It seems as though life is truly full of surprises and I rarely ever know what I am really doing but have found that in these last couple years of soul searching, it is impossible without God.  More now than ever, I am learning of His divine plan for all of us and that with faith, all things are possible.

Last Thursday, I received a letter from my Um-ma whom I have not heard from since September 15th, 2011.  With every letter, I am reminded of how motherly her instincts are for me.  After reading this letter, it is clear that she has been extremely concerned about me and my family.  I feel so badly that I have not written her more as recent events have transpired, but I hope she will understand after reading my response letter.  

Thank you for your patience and support in this journey!  Your thoughts, prayers and comments have constantly been an inspiration to me through this process.

My daughter, Hyo Eun,

Here where we are is now very cold.  Did you say that it is much warmer where live?  How have 
you been doing?  I have been hoping to hear from you, but I decided to write to you since it’s New Year. 
I was hoping so much to be able to see you, even in my dreams.
Hyo-Eun,  I hope that everything is okay with you. Could you please let me know how you are doing?  Let me know at least that you are well.  I hope that your adoptive parents are also well.
How is your husband and daughter? 
I just wish that I could at least hear from you.
Everyone here is doing okay.  I just hope to be able to see you and your family sooner than later.
My daughter,
I am now 63 years old.  Although no one can ever count his/her days, but how wonderful it would be to be able to see you when I am able. 
If you are in a situation that you won’t be able to visit Korea any time soon, please let us know.

I look so much forward to hear from you.

Until next time,
Your mother who misses you very much

Response & Photos:

My Dear Umma,

I just received your letter and it seems like you may not have received the last letter that I sent to you in August.  I am so sorry that you have been worried.  All this time, I have been concerned because I haven’t heard from you.  It is so difficult to only be able to communicate through letters.  I so wish we could finally meet and be together after all these years, but I fear that it will be quite some time until we can go to Korea. 
In my last letter, I shared the news that we had just found out we were expecting a new baby.  That was the main reason that we had to postpone our trip, as we felt that it would be too much of a risk to travel so far while pregnant.  I am now 7 months pregnant and carrying a beautiful baby girl.  She is due to arrive on April 14th
Initially, our new plan was to visit Korea this summer 2012, after our new baby is born.  Unfortunately, it is beyond difficult for me to tell you that I will no longer be able to come see you at that time.  This last December, I had a routine ultrasound of our baby.  About a week later, we were referred to a Perinatologist and a Pediatric Cardiologist, where we then learned that our baby has a rare congenital heart defect, known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  The left side of our baby’s heart is not able to fully develop without multiple surgeries after she is born.  She will have her first surgery within 2-3 days after birth, and at least two more surgeries before she turns 3 years old.  We have many doctors working hard to help us and our baby, but it has been very difficult to emotionally prepare for her arrival.  My husband and I feel that everything is going to be okay and that our baby is in the best hands.  We have faith that God is watching over us and blessing our family with love and support. 
I know that this news must be very difficult for you.  There is so much uncertainty with our baby’s condition, that I have no idea when we will be able to come visit you and the rest of my Korean family.  It seems as though finding you was the easiest part of our journey, but bringing our lives together isn’t so simple.  I want you to know that you are continuously in my thoughts.  My desire to meet you and hug you for the first time has not changed.  I look at your pictures daily and share them with my daughter Londyn.  She points to your picture and says “Mama”.  I love you so much and hope that you understand I have not forgotten you and that even though we are so far apart, we are so much closer than we have ever been. 
As a mother, it has been so hard for me to control the fears and concerns I have for this new baby’s future.  I often think of the same uncertainties that you must have felt when you placed me for adoption.  The only word I can think of to describe this pain that you and I share for our babies is “heartbroken”.  When I think about the decision you made to place me in another family, I think of how strong you were and are in such an unimaginable situation.  You are a woman of courage and have given me hope that all will be okay.  You are a wonderful mother of a son and daughters, but it wasn’t easy.  It is a journey like ours that I am reminded that life is not easy, but it can be filled with joy because of family. 

I love and miss you so much and hope to hear from you very soon.

All my love,
Hyo Eun 
US Marine Corps Ball - November 2011

Christmas - December 2011

Christmas - December 2011


26 Weeks Pregnant - January 2012

Ultrasound of Baby Zoe - January 2012

Monday, September 26, 2011

{Change of Plans}

It has been almost 5 months since my last post, and really since I last had contact with my birth mom.  I I have been worried for a while that maybe the excitement of finding her had worn off or maybe she was having second thoughts about opening up her life to me. It also didn't help that after lots of thoughts and prayer, I decided it would be best to postpone our trip to Korea until next year.  This decision took in to consideration my husband's military responsibilities, work schedules and weather conditions.  For some reason, I had kept having the feeling that the timing was just off.  About a month after finalizing our decision, I found out that I am expecting our second child!  Although my husband and I were hoping to get pregnant again, we figured that if the time was right- it would happen.  After finding out about this pregnancy, I felt confident in my choice to postpone our reunion to a time when it my birth family can meet all of us, including the new baby!

 Last week I was surprised and relieved to receive a letter from my Umma.  I learned that my fears were just insecurities and she still feels strongly about having me in her life.  After getting her letter, I started to have second thoughts about waiting to visit but... my feelings were eased after a terrible few days of nausea and body aches.  I can't imagine traveling across the world, feeling this yucky!

My Umma's letter was so heartfelt and sweet.  She always expresses such a motherly concern for me and most of all, her guilt and shame for my relinquishment.  I hope someday I can free her of the heavy burden she has held onto all of these years.

Here are our letters...

My dear daughter, Hyo-Eun,

Hot and long summer has finally come to an end, and autumn is already here. 

No matter how many times I say how thankful and truly grateful we are to your adoptive parents, it is just not enough to express the gratitude I have for them.  It is wonderful to see you being happy in pictures, keeping good relationship with your family.

I have been feeling so much guilt, shame, and regrets over the years since I had to relinquished you for adoption.  Oh, how you must have blamed me as you were growing up.   However, I am just thankful that you have grown up in such a loving family. 

Dear Hyo Eun,

We were all eagerly anticipating to see you this month, but with the news that you had to inevitably change your plan, the whole family here were so sad since we were hoping to see you and hold you in person sooner the better. 

I am praying everyday for you and your husband, your daughter who is my grand-daughter.  All of us here-me, your sisters (Jin-Hee, Eun-Young, Jin-sook, Eunjeong) and your brother, Heng-hoon talk and think about you and your family every day.  I was already 41 when I had your brother.  He is now 22, graduated from college. He is serving the military now. He would very much like to meet his youngest older sister.

There is a weekly TV program here in Korea about finding missing family members.  Every time I watch it, I cry in thinking of you.   I truly hope that pray that we will now be able to have more opportunities to see each other in the future.

Your searching for me lifted all the weight in my heart, and I thank you so much.   Knowing that you are well, and exchanging letters like this are more than I have ever wanted. 

Hope that you will be a wonderful mother to your daughter, and happy with your husband. 

Although there is so much to tell you, I will say ‘bye’ for now, hoping that we will meet soon.

Please send me more pictures of you, and hope to hear from you soon.



My response:

My Dear Umma,

 I am so deeply sorry and sad that I had to postpone our trip to meet you and the rest of my birth family.  It was such an extremely difficult choice to make, but after much prayer and thought – I decided that it was the best decision for our family.  I hope you know that even though I had to cancel our trip, my feelings have not changed and I still can’t wait to see you!  I was so eager and ready to jump on a plane and fly to see you, but something was holding me back.  I wasn’t sure why, but the timing just didn’t feel quite right.  Even though I am so sad that I won’t be able to see you this year, I do have good news.  You are going to be a grandmother again!  I am expecting a baby to arrive in April of 2012.  Once I found out this news, I was relieved that we postponed our trip to Korea as I would not have been able to travel so far under these conditions.  My prayers were answered and now I know that when we do meet, the time will be right and it will be a beautiful reunion. 

So much has happened since my last letter.  Our daughter Londyn turned 2 years old in July and is such a joy in my life.  She is very talkative, active and just started taking dance lessons. 

I am still early in pregnancy and haven’t been feeling very well.  I have my first ultrasound tomorrow and am excited to finally see this little baby growing inside my belly.  I will keep you updated when I know more!

We had a wonderful Summer of sunshine and heat.   Although I am sad to see the sun go, it is nice to have the cooler weather now.  The Autumn and Fall seasons are my favorite here in Oregon as the leaves on the trees are so crisp and beautiful.  I hope someday you will be able to come visit us. 

I am so happy that you wrote in your last letter about my brother Heng-Hoon.  Since I haven’t heard from him yet, I was worried maybe he wasn’t ready to have me in his life.  I have always been the youngest in my family, so it is very exciting to me to have a younger brother!  I admire him so much for his service in the military and pray that he will remain safe.  Please tell him I love him. 

It still brings me great sadness to hear that you have held on to so much guilt, shame and regret after you placed me for adoption.  I never once blamed you as I never had any reason to feel angry or upset.  You are an inspiration to me and I hope that I have inherited some of your strength and motherly love.  I can promise you that I will see you and hold you very soon.  I pray that I will be able to comfort you and assure you of the decision you made for both of us almost 25 years ago. 

It is ironic that you watch a TV show on missing family members, because my mom and I watch those same kinds of shows here in the United States.  My mom especially, has always wanted to meet you and thank you for giving her another daughter.  I am so blessed to have two mothers.

Although it may be strange and I haven’t been with you since I was born, I have always had feelings of missing you.  These feelings of missing you have only been stronger after finding you and seeing your picture.  I have your picture hanging in my home and I look at it every day.  When I look at your face, I see someone very familiar and close to me.  Even though we have been apart for so long, I love you and miss you very much. 

Please share my love with my sisters.  I love their letters and hope to hear from them soon.  Take care of yourself and know that you are close to my heart.  I love you and look forward to your next letter.


Hyo Eun

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