I am the eldest of four children; my brother and I are adopted from Korea. (My mother gave birth to my two sisters later.) She always told us that she “loved all of us the same,” regardless of whether we were her adopted or biological children.
I mostly believed her.
I didn’t think about the difference too much when I was young. It was when I got older that I began thinking about my mysterious blood relatives. I also wondered if parents could truly love their adopted children as much as their biological children. Was there a real difference?
For starters, I have no known family medical history, and short of an ancestral fairy knocking on my door and offering me answers to all of my deepest and darkest questions, I’ll never know. I used to consider it liberating, not being bound to family medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes. But the fact is, I could be a ticking time bomb and not know it.
When I look at a family photo, there are no physical resemblances tying me to my parents or siblings. Regardless, people often remark that my brother and I look alike because we are both Korean, even though we are not biologically related. I liken it to when you tell someone you’re from [a major metropolitan area] and they say, “Oh, do you know so-and-so?” But why, OF COURSE! Because there are only about a million or so people in the city. But hell, there’s a good chance I might know your Aunt Edna. I think we took a spinning class together.
It’s a bit naive, but I thought that being a parent just came naturally with the whole act of giving birth. I wondered if there was some sort of instant love that came upon you when the baby was born, like a sprinkling of fairy dust, or the heavens opening up and shining that God Light (cue angelic chorus) down upon you. Because that is what I’d seen, on television, in the movies, heard in stories from my friends, most of which started to have children in their mid-twenties, and over the years I’ve watched them grow into little mini-me copies of their parents. It amazed me, the way their children were unmistakably THEM. I had never experienced that for myself. I was jealous yet baffled by the whole idea.
And to be honest, I had serious doubts whether I’d ever be a parent at all. The maternal instinct that so many of my friends displayed seemed to elude me. This idea that one would produce a child that was a physical product of two people was completely foreign to me, foreign because it was never a part of my personal landscape. Of course, I knew deep down that there was much more to parenting than popping out a kid, but it wasn’t until after she was born that I really understood the commitment of parenting and the love that went along with it. I’m not sure which comes first (the chicken or the egg?), but I do know that I am deeply committed to and love my daughter, not simply because she and I share the same biology, but because she’s this amazing little person that I am so thrilled to know, to be able to watch and help her grow, to pass along what I know and hopefully be a positive influence in her life. I can’t help but love her.
I will admit that having a child who shares some of your physical traits is bizarre and cool at the same time, and I sure hope she inherits some of my better qualities. And don’t get me wrong: I would never trade her birth experience, and it will always be one of the most important and memorable days of my life. But I know now that it’s not the sole reason that I’m a parent, and the love and commitment I have for my daughter is not dependent on whether she came to me via delivery room or a set of legal documents.
And now that I’m a parent, I finally understand what my mother was saying to us all those years.