The final set of questions you’ve asked Lauren J Sharkey were about the relationship with birth family. It’s clear from some of her answers that the support services aren’t good enough for adoptees. There need to be big changes across the board in terms of the records kept about birth families, regardless of whether the child is adopted from another country or not, as well as on the ground help, advice and support for adoptees that is quick and easy to access.
I hope you’ve found this series as useful as I have in terms of highlighting the issues adoptees face as they grow up. We need to have conversations like these and get the issues out in the open so that change can happen. Thank you once again to Lauren for being so open and honest in answering the questions.
Were you curious about your birth family when you were growing up?
Growing up, I felt like I had so many questions – why was I relinquished, where is my birth mother, does she have regrets? I also felt like the answers, or the quest to obtain answers, defined me. As an adult, I feel like I am at peace with all I’ll never know. I also feel that as I’ve learned more about adoption, its effects on adoptees, and the trauma of infant separation, I’ve been able to get on the path to healing and acceptance.
If the information had been readily available to you, do you think that would have helped you?
It’s hard to say since I don’t know what that information may have been or how it would have affected me. I think the question is a testament to the need for transparency, standards, and open records on an international level for adoptees. We have a right to know about where and who we come from, and unfortunately not all of us have what we need to acquire that understanding.
Did your parents encourage you to find out about your birth history?
My parents were always open to having conversations about my adoption and my birth parents. I believe if I had wanted to search, they would have been 100% supportive. However, when you’re constantly told from a young age how lucky you are to be adopted and reminded of the sacrifice your adoptive parents made, you develop an obligatory gratitude. I felt very strongly that I didn’t want to hurt them by asking questions about my biological parents, and so a lot of the questions I did have went unasked.
How has not knowing about your birth history affected you?
Not knowing about my birth history has affected me in so many ways – probably another book’s worth lol. But I’ll only cover a few here:
Simple things like going to the doctor’s office and having to explain I have no access to my family medical history is like reliving all I’ve lost all over again. Each time the nurse or doctor goes down the line of questions and fails to register that I don’t have access to that information, I am re-traumatized.
Now that I am faced with the question of whether or not I will be a mother, there’s an added stress of not knowing what I may or may not pass down to my child. Even as I grow older, not knowing if I’m predisposed to developing certain medical conditions is always hovering over me.
Do you think you’ll want to find out about them in the future?
At this time, I do not have any desire to enter reunion.
If you decide you want to, do you think the help and support you’ll need is easily available to you? If not, how can it be improved?
As I stated previously, international standards of transparency and standards is lacking. I know many adoptees who have attempted to search and found their documents were falsified or that there was no information at all. There is still such a stigma associated with single motherhood in Korea.
On an international level, we need legislation passed to standardize the documentation (and information included in that documentation) for relinquishment, transparency, and so much more.
If you had a magical power, what would it be and how would you use it to help adoptees?
This is a tough one because I feel like I already have a superpower lol. I think my superpower is the ability to listen, and I’m using that power to educate myself and to listen to and support all members of the adoption constellation.