A large manila envelope packed stiff with paperwork was dropped in a FedEx bin around 7:00 last night. Forty notarized forms, original copies, certified copies, document scans, certificates, psychological evaluations, and financial statements. Rarely are any of these forms or documents very heartfelt. You can only insert so much personality into a social security number.
But when we are given the rare opportunity to expose our hearts in this adoption, we take those moments very seriously.
One such moment came yesterday.
We were given the option to write a letter to our child’s birthmother. At first, I didn’t think much of this task, and didn’t really know how to prepare myself for it. In fact, this option was presented to us months ago and we made it clear we wanted to do it, but we also placed it on the back burner for a bit. What in the world would we want to include in possibly the only contact we will ever have with the mother of our child?
We didn’t know where to begin.
After a long prayer and a small glass of wine, I began typing the only words I will ever be able to share with this woman. While I won’t expose all of the details or words of this letter, as it was written especially for her, I would like to share our opening paragraph and the heart behind each point to provide insight into the realities of what adoption really is. So often the paperwork is demonized and the end result is romanticized, but the truth of adoption is that it is born out of pain and loss in faith that it will one day result in hope and redemption.
There are so many things that I wish we could say and share with you. There will be so many moments throughout our child’s life when we will wonder about you and wish we could assure you of the joys, successes, and growth that you must undoubtedly have wished for when you decided to choose adoption for your child. In reality, this letter may be the only contact we will have with you which makes this quite a difficult letter to write. Of all the things we could say or share with you, we want to be sure that you know three things with such assurance that it may give you peace about your decision and the well-being of this sweet child.
We hope you will trust these words to be sincere and true as we may never meet face to face, but our futures are inextricably linked through this child for the rest of his or her life, and therefore we wish to assure you of these three things: we are thankful for you, your name will always be respected in our home, and your sacrifice will be honored.
TRUTH 1: WE ARE, IN FACT, SO GRATEFUL FOR HER.
The cultural climate in Korea is Confucian to its core, and therefore, so much of the identity of her people is based on family legacy. Mothers who have children out of wedlock are considered dishonorable to their families and therefore often ostracized or disowned. It is not uncommon for these women to lose their jobs or positions in a school or university. A portion of their living stipend will also be taken away, so really the options for single mothers are severely limited in Korea at this time. It is for this reason that Korea has one of the highest abortion rates of all civilized countries. It is also one of the reasons that women in Korea often choose to abandon their babies in the streets to avoid having to register their child with the Korean government. The Korean government is taking huge strides to correct this issue for women, but at the same time, the Korean culture is slow to accept these changes and it may take generations for these new implementations bear fruit.
Children who are abandoned in the streets or who are not registered under their mother or father’s name are not adoptable internationally. They can be adopted domestically, but adoption is taboo for most Confucian societies so the chances of an abandoned child being adopted are slim to none. Therefore, while we know very little of our birthmother, we do know two things. One, she decided not to terminate the pregnancy. This shows that she values the child enough to give it life. Even against societal norms, she chose life. Secondly, we know that at great cost to herself, she registered the child under her name, which she knew would provide the greatest opportunity for the child to be adopted and to have a chance at a family, even if the family might be across the world from her.
This shows us that she is loving, sacrificial, bold, brave, and selfless. We do not resent her for her decision to give her child up for adoption. This is a decision I could never imagine myself ever having to make, and I thank God for that. If there is a single warning I can give about international adoption, it’s that it forces you to see the conditions of the world you would be content to live blind to for the rest of your life. We are grateful this woman chose life and hope for our child.
TRUTH 2: HER NAME WILL ALWAYS BE RESPECTED IN OUR HOME.
We are living under no façade that our child will wonder about his or her birthmother each and every day. We are born with a deep yearning and desire to seek and find our identity, and often the first place we look is to our parents. Our child’s story will be the same as any child’s in the fact that he or she will be loved, cared for, and provided for, yet his story will be different in the fact that he was born 7,220 miles away to a woman he will likely never meet. A huge piece of him was lost at infancy, and as hard as we will fight to heal these wounds and build up his identity as our son, there will be deeply rooted grief that may follow him his entire life. He may never know the story behind his Korean name, what ultimately led his mother to choose adoption, what diseases he may be predisposed to in the future, what traits or characteristics he shares with his biological parents, grandparents, or siblings, or whether he has any biological siblings. Our child will always wonder about her and we will always protect both his heart and his birthmother even if it causes us pain in the process. We cannot ultimately speak for how our child will picture his birthmother, but we will do our best to shape her into a strong, loving, selfless woman who made a decision of sacrifice rather than abandonment.
TRUTH 3: HER SACRIFICE WILL BE HONORED.
We do not think lightly of her decision to give up her child. She is handing her role as parent over to Matt and me in faith that we will give the child every opportunity she ever dreamed of when she signed her child over for adoption. We will never meet, but we are sharing the role of motherhood for the rest of our child’s life, and for that reason, we are inextricably linked. Matt and I are already so in love with this child that we cannot imagine ever giving him anything less than our best, but her willingness to hand her child to a couple across the world with no hope of ever seeing him again makes this adoption not just a ministry to this child’s life, but a ministry to this mother’s hope. We will pray for her throughout the child’s life that she may find peace again, and that her sacrifice and decision to provide hope for her child would bring blessings to her life that will embolden her through the unfortunate consequences of her decision. We will pray with our child as well so that he may have this small connection of prayer with his birthmother that it may bring him peace in the hard moments.
I do not know when or if this letter will ever reach our birthmother, but I find such peace that we were given the opportunity to share a glimpse of the couple who will raise her child to the woman who gave our child life. And as I dropped the envelope into the FedEx bin, I felt reassurance that God would deliver it to her in his sovereign timing. Until then, it will lie in a stack of lifeless documents, forms, and certificates—a glimmer of life, hope and heart reminding us all that adoption is not a process, rather it is something much more which I pray I may never lose sight of as we continue to fight to bring this precious one home.