If searching for your family was a game show, it would be called ‘How much do you really want this?’
It would be a round robin game where endurance and dedication to the cause win out. Along the way, you’d get thrown obstacles that you have to navigate. The last adoptee standing would get to meet their family.
To describe the search for your first family as a game show isn’t really far from the truth. Game shows rely on at least some element of luck, and when it comes to adoptees finding their family, luck is sometimes the only thing that leads to success.
Unfortunately, luck hasn’t been on my side, and I wonder how much I’m willing to keep working towards something that I so desperately want, but that might never happen.
I was 16 when I made the first tentative steps toward searching for my birth mother. Like a lot of teenagers, I was struggling with my identity and I had grown up in a very white environment. My mum cooked sausages, mashed potato, peas and carrots most nights. On Sunday we had a baked dinner.
My brother, also adopted from Korea, and I were the only Asian kids in the entire school until about year 10, when a handful of other Asian kids began coming to my school.
I felt so white I once caught my reflection in a window and was momentarily shocked to see my Asian face. Who was this strange person with Asian features staring back at me?
So at 16 I did a web search where I found an English site for my Korean adoption agency. I sent them an email asking if they knew anything about my family.
“Your mother ran away after you were born,” they replied.
I was mortified. I became plagued with this image of my mother giving birth to me, looking at me and being so disgusted she hot-footed it out of the hospital.
I’ve now lived in Korea for over a year and understand the wider context of how and why adoption happens in this country. But at the time, I didn’t know any of that and the only explanation I could come up with was how disgusting I must have been.
I decided not to pursue it any further until I was 25 and started a more formal search.
I looked at the documents my parents were given, which mainly contained details about my time with my foster mother, who looked after me before I was adopted to Australia.
“Laughs if her cheek is touched by others.”