It’s been awhile!
I’ve admittedly put blogging on the back burner the past couple of months because to be honest, I just didn’t have the emotional capacity to unpack what I was feeling in yet another format.
It felt like everywhere I turned I was needing to confront some form of personal or vicarious trauma: my adoption, horrific hate crimes against the Asian community, continued police brutality towards Black and brown people, awaiting the verdict of the Chauvin trial —it’s been a really heavy time.
While writing and blogging is indeed an outlet for me, sometimes it is really emotionally draining. I found myself processing in other ways the past several weeks by focusing on getting ready for the Boulder Story Slam (“We The People: True Stories About Race”), reading a lot, and launching the podcast, Seoul Conversations, with my friend, Benny.
But now I’m back! At least briefly, before I take another writing hiatus to adjust to motherhood after baby comes any day now.
Admittedly, my brain is still pretty scattered, and my head has been really full regarding a lot of things–so this entry is a bit of a brain dump. Nevertheless, here it goes!
Today is May 1st, and boy do I feel like May is a loaded month–this year in particular.
May is Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month (APAHM). It is also Jewish American Heritage Month. May 9th is Mother’s Day. And this May is the month I will give birth to my first child.
Not surprisingly, all of the above things are really blending and meshing together into one very complicated, mixed up ball of emotions.
APAHM is always interesting because it’s a time when AAPI pride and history come to the forefront of public spaces. Instagram is flooded with posts about influential and famous Asian and Pacific Islanders and the hashtag #APAHM is trending.
I love seeing these things because as someone who grew up experiencing the erasure of AAPI history in school while also being largely divorced from my Korean heritage, APAHM allows me to see myself reflected in multiple spaces. But sometimes it also feels really overwhelming because it forces me to yet again confront the fact that I oftentimes feel largely separated from the AAPI community as an adoptee. It’s difficult to not feel shame or embarrassment around not knowing certain historical figures or movements. It increases my imposter syndrome when I then feel like I need to go and read even more books in an attempt to “catch up” to the information and knowledge that seemingly so many others already know.
This year especially, I feel a little bit more pressure because I have been thinking about Korean and AAPI history through the lens of raising my daughter. Realizing that I still have so many voids and black holes regarding not only Korean but other AAPI heritages makes me feel almost inadequate and sad because I fear that my lack of knowledge robs her of rich experiences she should have growing up.
Conversely, I know way more about Jewish culture and heritage. And this makes me really happy because as a family, we have decided to raise her with exposure to Jewish culture and traditions. Even though my husband hasn’t been active in a congregation since he was a child, he very much feels it’s important that our daughter know and participate in the main Jewish holidays and traditions while also knowing about Jewish history. We have not fully committed to whether or not she will have a Bat Mitzvah or whether or not we will join a congregation (for two main reasons: 1) it’s not something my husband feels particularly called to do and 2) we are struggling to find a congregation that has any hint of racial diversity), but it’s exciting to me that she will have strong ties to this part of her identity. And yet, it still makes me a little bit bummed that she will have support for the parts of her that aren’t mine.
Benny and I just finished recording a Mother’s Day episode of Seoul Conversations (releasing on Mother’s Day). It was so wonderful to sit down with our two guests, both Korean adoptees who are biological moms to their children, and talk about not only Mother’s Day but motherhood as an adoptee.
In the past, Mother’s Day wasn’t a holiday that I ever felt much about. Growing up, my dad and I would always get flowers and a card for my mom, and sometimes we’d make her breakfast or go out to eat with both her and my maternal grandmother. It was always a nice day, but nothing that was overstated. I also never really thought about my birthmother or more specifically, my lack of connection to my birthmother on that day.
Now, having found my birthmom in the last year, I feel a little differently. I don’t feel guilty about loving and celebrating my adoptive mom, nor do I consciously mourn the relationship I missed out on with my birthmother. However, I do acknowledge that finding my birthmom pushed her into my consciousness for Mother’s Day–and I feel guilty about that. I feel guilty that I never gave her, her pain, or her sacrifice any thought on days like Mother’s Day until recently.
You know, we see all the posts about having sympathy and holding space for women who’ve lost children, who want to be mothers but are struggling with infertility, who have strained relationships with their children or their own mothers…and birthmothers fit into all of those categories, but they are noticeably absent from the Mother’s Day narrative. And that’s something that’s been occupying a lot of space in my mind lately.
I expect that after the birth of our daughter, my feelings around Mother’s Day will only become even more complex. I think that I will be over the moon to be celebrated and undoubtedly proud to be her mom, but I also think that experiencing the first moment when the L&D nurse puts her on my chest will understandably make me think about the fact that my own birthmother also experienced that crucial, tender, moment, and then had me ripped away. I think my moments of mourning will come, and probably when I least expect them. And therein lies the complexity. I’ll be learning to hold space for both the joy and sorrow of being a mother and having lost a mother at the same time.
So May is quite the month!
Despite all of the internal conflicts and the emotional rollercoaster, I am finally looking forward to the birth of our daughter! It took awhile for me to get here to be honest. Up until maybe a week ago, I felt like I was putting on a show for everyone who expressed sentiments of happiness and who asked, “Aren’t you so excited?!” because while I was definitely glad to be expecting–excitement was not the dominating emotion for a lot of my pregnancy.
Internally, I felt a lot of melancholy. And especially after the Atlanta shooting, I felt a lot of fear and frustration.
But I didn’t really talk about it because I felt like it went against the narrative that everyone likes to hear about pregnancy and new motherhood. People want to talk about cute outfits and squishy cheeks; they don’t want to have conversations about feeling guilty for not adopting, struggling with the realization that I am going to be the only racial mirror for my child in the entire family, wanting to protect my child from racism, or feeling like motherhood is going to be yet again, another life experience I will need to largely navigate alone when it comes to emotions and trauma regarding being an adoptee.
All of those thoughts and feelings are still there. Sometimes they’re stronger than others, and sometimes I am able to sit with them and compartmentalize better than others. But what’s different is that now I am finally starting to also look forward to the squishy cheeks and the more joyous moments of motherhood. I am excited. I can’t wait to meet our daughter and to hold this little person who has been enthusiastically pummeling my insides for the last three months or more. I feel like I already know her and her personality, and it completely blows my mind that we haven’t even really “met” yet.
So while May is definitely a month full of musings, I think from this May forward, it will become my favorite month of the year.