“Adoption isn’t always forever.” That’s the experience of Joy Lieberthal Rho. “One mother never replaced the other mother.” This is her story of being adopted from Korea.Joy’s birth mother found her again when Joy was 24. “One mother is the person I was born from. We have the same complexion, shoe size, fingers, nose, and chin. She lost me at age three to a man who promised he would let her visit, but in a year’s time, she would have no idea where I was. After months of chasing down last known guardians, she arrived at the orphanage too late: I had been adopted, and no one had known that my mother was trying to find me all that time.” Although still in contact with her birth mother, Joy says it feels to late to ask her to be her Mum but she misses the shared remembering, the shared family stories.
She has a shared history with her adoptive mother, but they split when Joy was 19. “One mother is the person who claimed me when others believed me to be without a mother. This mother disappeared with a click of the phone, when a truth she couldn’t handle severed our relationship. At the time, I said, Okay, Mom, I will wait to hear from you—that was the last time I said the word “Mom.” To this day, I wonder, if I just didn’t say it, if I didn’t make it known, would I still have a mother?”
Joy ponders on whether she needs a mother. Not for day-to-day living, she says, but “sometimes there are moments when you just long for a person who is obligated to be in your corner.” She is a mother herself and this has led her to ponder on the nature of motherhood. Ninety nine per cent of the time she says she is fine, the other 1%, the tough days, she wishes she had a mother to call.
Read Joy’s written account of her story in Catapult magazine.
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