After almost seventeen years of wondering about them, we have met our oldest daughter’s birth family. When our daughter first found out that she would have the opportunity to meet them, the tears came steadily – tears of joy, tears of gratitude, and tears for their grief. I felt overwhelmed when I anticipated the privilege of being able to meet the people who gave my daughter life; the people who gave her life to me. I assumed that the actual meeting would be full of tears, grief and gratitude. When we prepared to leave for the Holt Children’s Services office in Seoul, I packed an extra package of tissue in my purse to make sure that we’d have enough to handle the onslaught of tears I anticipated. The initial meeting, my husband and I, our daughter and her birth parents, took us a bit by surprise and, while there were definitely a few tears and a few anguished cries of grief, they were short lived and the overwhelming feeling turned to joy as we exchanged gifts, looked at pictures and started putting together the pieces of our daughter’s birth story. In all we have met seventeen people in our daughter’s birth family – parents, siblings, a grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. We are thrilled to finally have the chance to thank them for the wonderful gift of our daughter; to let them know how much she means to us and to let them see what a wonderful young woman she has become. They seemed to be celebrating the gift of having her back in their lives, of being able to explain the circumstances that led to her adoption, of seeing her loved and happy.
While the two meetings we have had were joyful and interesting, they were not the “fireworks” that I had expected. There were a few tears, but the smiles definitely outnumbered the tears. There was a little grief, but the happiness far outweighed the grief. I have struggled to define my feelings about the two meetings we have had with her birth family. I had expected extreme emotions, intense feelings, but the more accurate description would be the ho-hum of “normal”. It felt normal to meet these people; it felt normal to watch our daughter interact with her siblings; it felt normal to say, ”Thank you,” and to receive back a thank you from them. I talked with a friend about this lack of fireworks and she pointed out that, for us, we’d had our emotional moments when we first found out that the meeting was actually going to happen; then, the meeting itself, became the obvious “normal” next step.
It’s true that this is a huge event in our daughter’s life; it’s an event that affects our entire family in one way or another, but it was a normal next step for her and for us. It is certainly the beginning of a new chapter in her life, but how salient that chapter becomes in her overall life story is yet to be seen. I do know that I am thrilled that she is on the bus heading home with us.