My Forever Family

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When I was in Korea, I had this fantasy where upon taking custody of my son we don’t return to America. Instead, we stay and live in Korea. In this perfect world my son gets to visit his foster mother anytime he likes and is able to retain his language and culture. I become fluent in Korean, travel to Jeju Island, and together we eat copious amounts of kimchi and mandu. I know this fantasy is partly created from experiencing reverse culture shock, but mostly because I want to protect him from the inevitable grief and losses he will experience because of his adoption.

It’s been only two short months since I’ve become a parent, but what I’ve quickly learned is that parenting is hard, really hard work. I also know that parenting can reveal my best and worst self.  My worst self was truly evident the second week upon arriving home. My son was experiencing intense separation anxiety where he was completely inconsolable if I walked into the next room without him. There were days when the constant whining felt like a permanent soundtrack  and all I wanted to do was shut the door and cry. On these particular days I realized my only choice was to survive, wake up, and do it all over again.

Now after being home for nearly seven weeks, parenting has become a little kinder. I’m learning how to better predict the rhythms and patterns of my son. He appears to be bonding well and has begun to form a healthy attachment towards me. Unlike before, he can now look at his foster mother’s picture without crying omma and running to the door. He trusts me more each day by letting me leave the room without him. He is starting to understand that when I leave-I will always return. This is permanent. He is my forever family.

Stubborn Gladness

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During the time when I was struggling with my infertility, I also had to come to terms with the fact that even if we adopted, this would be my only child. I remember feeling unleashed with anxious nagging thoughts like, “Doesn’t he need a sibling to play with?” “Will he feel lonely?” “What will happen when I die and he has to face the burden of caring for me alone?” I know that these thoughts are based entirely on my own fears and assumptions of what I expected my family would look like. Even though, I can’t seem to shake my periodic pangs of regret.

I think family planning can be a life changing decision. I envy the parents who have the luxury to decide how many children will be in their family. In my case, life’s circumstances chose for me. Maybe I’m still struggling with the loss that I will have only one child. Isn’t that enough? Why don’t I feel more grateful? Shouldn’t I feel overwhelmed with joy that at least I get to be a parent?

One of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, introduced me to the concept of holding on to the “stubborn gladness.” The idea was born from her favorite poem A Brief for the Defense written by Jack Gilbert. In one part of the poem he beautifully writes:

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight.

Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our

gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.

I love how this poem compels me to find a quiet space in the center of my disappointment and loss and to take hold of the wonder and the joy-the “stubborn gladness.”