"You were left on the steps of a police station in Seoul". . ."Found in a box with nothing but a blanket". . ."Given away by a woman who loved you so very much". . ."Loved you so much that she made the ultimate sacrifice". . ."Wanting for you a better life than the one she could give.". . ."All of this done in the name of love."
As a child, I wore the backdrop of my story as a badge of honor. You think you're so special? Well, let me tell you somethin' - I was loved so much that my own mother gave me away. Top that! At the time those words sounded so convincing - that I was somehow this special, chosen child because of the dramatic way in which I left and entered my Korean and American families. My ego only continued to blossom as each person in my life invariably corroborated my story. "Of course she loved you. She gave you up for adoption, didn't she?". . . "You are so very lucky to have had a mother who loved you enough to give you what she could not."
Looking back, I know that on the surface I accepted this story as fact. I have no doubt that my fragile and vulnerable spirit had to accept and embrace this as fact as a means of survival. My God, who could blame me for wanting to believe that my Korean mom loved me? Of course I wanted to believe that, and believe it I did.
Except when I didn't. Which was pretty much all the time. Not that I was always conscious of the fact that I doubted my Korean mother loved me, but the feeling was always there. Like a poisonous gas that lurked below the surface undetected, the feeling of doubt that she ever loved me at all encapsulated me. And that doubt of her love for me manifested itself into a self-loathing that I cannot begin to describe. My MO was fueled by insecurity. Think about it. If today your partner came to you and said "Honey, I'm just not sure that I love you anymore", what would that do to your world? At least you had the acknowledgment that the love did indeed exist. I had neither the confirmation or even traces of evidence to support that a love for me was ever present. But I had to believe on some level that she loved me. The alternative was not an option.
Except when the alternative was all that occupied my thoughts and actions, even though I didn't recognize it on a conscious level at the time. I know now that my inability to love myself for so many, many years of my life was because I held so firmly onto the belief that I was not good enough. Because dammit, if I was, my Korean mother would have moved heaven and earth to keep me - because THAT is love. Who gives away their child in the name of love? What am I supposed to do with that and how I do even begin to reconcile something so preposterous? And so it was not illogical for me to at least entertain the possibility that love was not a feeling she possessed for me.
I think about how brave and mature I must have sounded as I would wax poetic about how my Korean mother was a hero to have done her very best in spite of the extraordinary circumstances and burdens that befell her. And how loved saved us both, but especially me. But of course I don't know and most likely will never know the real story. I can temper my deepest desires my inserting measured doses of reality and skepticism, but the truth is, as her daughter, I so desperately want to believe that she loved me.
I truly believe that it's not about whether my mom or dad did the right thing by telling me what they did. The exact same narrative applies to so many adoptees of my generation and it's a sentiment that I hear almost on a daily basis when people talk about my son who is also adopted. It's the not knowing that can be hell. I think that most everyone wants to know where they came from and who loved them first. When you cannot say with even a modicum of certainty that the person who brought you into this world did indeed love you, it can mess with your mind in unimaginable ways and greatly impede your ability to feel worthy enough to love yourself.
I love me, I love me not.