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True Stories | Chosen Family: International Adoption

By Mary Coffey

At the end of our thirties and after seven years of marriage with two heartbreaking miscarriages along the way, my husband and I had reluctantly settled into the acceptance that having a child was not to be for us.  My mother had died from ovarian cancer so I was not about to start all that fertility shot business.  We dismissed adoption because of a nightmare adoption experienced by a relative and some adoption-gone-wrong stories in the press at the time.  After the miscarriages I didn’t think my heart could take more disappointment or loss.  But one Christmas evening that changed.  We visited some friends as we always did, and relatives of theirs were also visiting.  They had just adopted a baby.  After all the family had passed this beautiful 5-month-old baby around for hugs and adoration, I had my chance to hold him.  My heart melted.  My husband never held him but watched me play with him.  On the way home in the car I said, “I want one of those babies.” My accountant husband who takes forever to make any decision and only does so after doing extensive research and creating an Excel spreadsheet analysis simply said, “Okay.”   I was shocked, happy, and nervously excited.

A little over a year later we were at the airport at midnight to meet our daughter arriving from Korea.

The decision we made so simply and easily that Christmas evening has been the best decision of our lives.  This changed our lives completely and joyfully.  Being our daughter’s parents has been easy – to her credit.  She was an easy, happy baby and is now a well-adjusted, successful young adult who most importantly is a kind, loving person.  I’d love to take credit for that, but I can’t!

parent child hands

She’s had her questions along the way.  At age four she came to me while I was on a ladder hanging curtains and said, “I’m thinking about something and you’re not going to like it.”  I responded, “Maybe I will and maybe I won’t, but it’s okay if you tell me.”  She said that she was thinking that I went to Korea and stole her from her real mother.  I almost fell off the ladder.  Recovering quickly, I reminded her of the video we watch every “family day” of us meeting her for the first time at the airport when she came off the plane from Korea.  I told her it was okay to talk about her birth mother and sometimes we would light a candle in church and pray for her.  There is no one on Earth I appreciate more than her birth mother and the courageous decision she made.  Some day I hope to hug her and tell her that.

When our daughter was about 13 my husband accompanied her on a heritage tour with other Korean-born adopted children.  We always wanted her to respect her homeland and the culture of Korea.  After that trip she strongly identified with being Korean.  We ate bulgogi with chopsticks.  She learned to read Korean.  And she wanted to meet her birth mother.  Well, me too.  That would have to wait until she was 18, but I told her we’d support her in that effort.  Now at 21 she says she’s grateful for her life the way it is and isn’t interested.  We remain open to the opportunity if and when she decides to pursue it.  At first it seemed threatening to me – would I be replaced as her mother?  Then I decided that her birth mother would be welcomed into our family and our family would be bigger and better for it.

Being an adopted mixed-race family has never been an issue to the three of us.  We’ve had some idiotic remarks and questions over the years, but out of ignorance, not malice. We choose to use those as opportunities to educate rather than take offense.  What surprised me was the reaction of some of the other Asian kids who were my daughter’s age who could not comprehend that she had a white mother.  One Asian first grader refused to believe I was her mother, insisting that I was a teacher.  We just couldn’t convince him.

Generally, adoption is seen in a positive light.  It has definitely been positive for us.  There are some groups who are critical of international or mixed-race adoptions.  These groups are easy to find on the internet and some of the points they make are substantial.  Anyone considering international or mixed-race adoption should research and reflect on these arguments, in my opinion.  But at the end of the day, it has been the best decision of our lives.

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