I’ve committed to being the mother to my children that my birth mother was not to me. I have always wanted to have children. I yearned for someone to share my DNA and show even a slight resemblance to me. When I was younger, I used to play Mother. I never called it that, but it seems to be the most appropriate name for what I was doing. I had three children (each with different fathers, for some now-perplexing reason) and loved them. I dressed them, fed them, and played with them. I’m sure it is a common game for children. I’m not sure most children have the same reasons for playing it.
I’ve been crying on and off my whole life about my birth mother. I know nothing about her. I know nothing about why she is not in my life and why I am not in hers. I don’t know what she named me, if she named me. I don’t know how I was conceived, how much I weighed at birth, when my first tooth popped up, if I was a calm or fussy baby. I don’t know if I look like an uncle or a grandmother.
While other adoptees I know are making connections to birth family members after a lifetime of searching (and I’m SO happy for them), I live with the bitter certainty that it is just not an option for me. There is no possibility of finding out more information. There is no paper trail and no lead to run with. Total dead end.
My history is a mystery, and there are very few breadcrumbs to follow back to the beginning.
Here is what I know: I was about a year and a half and malnourished. I was found in a market in the large port city of Pusan, South Korea. Maybe not coincidentally, I hate the smell and taste of fish and seafood and almost never eat it. I was turned over to the police. I had no family come to claim me and lived in more than one orphanage. I was flown to the U.S. about a year later. I was almost adopted twice in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. Both families wanted me but ultimately decided they couldn’t keep me. Hold on while I wipe back tears.
So, third time’s the charm, right? I was raised by a loving, attentive family comprised of mother, father, sister, and brother in the well-known college town of Winona, in the southeast corner of Minnesota. I felt safe. I felt accepted, most of the time. Kids can be cruel, and contrary to popular belief, being a minority with a funny-sounding Lithuanian last name does not make anything easier.
Most boys didn’t want to “go with” me, and I couldn’t help but think it was because of the color of my skin, the shape of my eyes, and the absolutely Asianness of me. I looked nothing like my blond, blue-eyed girlfriends whom boys mooned over. But for the most part, I had an idyllic childhood from roughly three and a half years old and beyond. Memories before kindergarten are nonexistent or tucked so far back in my mental files that I would probably need heavy-duty hypnotism (or drugs?) to unlock them. And there they will remain, archived for life.
As I navigate the rough and beautiful waters of being a mother myself, which is a lifelong wish finally come true just over six years ago by hilarious and adorable twin boys, I think of my birth mother from time to time. I wonder how she mothered me, who else she might have mothered, how she would be as a grandmother.
It was during a pivotal point in my life and during an appointment with an insightful and nurturing reflexologist (an adoptee herself!) that I accepted the idea that my birth mother loved me. That she loved me and that her love for me was the reason she abandoned me to be found by someone else. She loved me enough to let someone else, someone better equipped, someone who wanted to mother me, take the reins.
Because of my missing mother link, I found my own path to motherhood. It would not have happened any other way.