Saturday, June 5, 2010

Post Reunion Awkwardness

I've been debating with myself about this post because I don't want to seem whiny or like I'm complaining. I know a lot of adoptees are searching for their birth parents and are unable to find them... and I've been very lucky in how easy it's been for me to find and reunite with my birth family. However, I know I relied on blogs to learn more about Korea and birth family reunions, and there are some adoptees who read this blog. So, I think it's important to show both positives and negatives of life post-reunion. In addition, I'm also kind of hoping that someone reading this will be able to offer a different perspective or some advice...

I saw Birth Mother again last weekend with SangKwun and Emily. I'm not going to go into specific details of what happened, but let's just say this visit consisted of a nice dinner followed by an extremely awkward sleepover with massive communication barriers.

Here we are at dinner.



My relationship with my birth mother is more difficult than the one with my birth father. While we had a few cultural mishaps, my birth father mostly understood that I grew up in another culture and let our relationship build slowly. He mostly just tried to make sure we were fed and tried to show us different things around Korea. As I spent more time around him (albeit without much communication), I began feeling more comfortable just sitting and hanging out with him.

My birth mother, on the other hand, has bulldozed her way into this relationship and it's kind of repelling me. The first time I saw her, I was a tiny bit uncomfortable, but thought it was sweet that she was constantly trying to hold my hand and touch me. But every subsequent meeting has been more of the same. Her favorite position to take when I'm sitting in a chair is on the floor at my feet, while she continues to hold my hand or rub me while speaking to me repeatedly in Korean. It's just too much. I'm not an overly affectionate person, especially with people I don't know well.

I know Koreans are really into physical affection and when I see mothers and daughters out, they're always holding hands or rubbing each other's arms. But that's not my culture anymore and I don't really know her very well, much less see her as my mom.

I've been trying to look at it from her point of view... she carried me for 9 months and cared for me for about a year... so she probably feels those same maternal instincts toward me. Additionally, she can't communicate with me, so probably sees this as the only way to show affection. It's really pretty sad for her... she remembers me and wants to show love for me, whereas she's a virtual stranger to me. I can completely sympathize with her. But at the same time, I'm feeling really uncomfortable around her and (I hate to say this), but dreading our next visit...

Does anyone have any advice about how to deal with this situation? I don't want to push her or her hand away... because that could be taken the entirely wrong way. But I don't want to feel awkward every time I'm around her, either... I'm hoping once I can communicate with her in Korean, she will express herself though words instead of actions... but until then???


Julia said...

oh, kimmie. I have no good advice for you at all---I'm sorry it's so weird with your birth mom!

As a mom myself now, I can say that you are totally right in your assumption that she loves you SO much, she probably doesn't know what to even do to show you that love. And then you throw in a cultural difference with showing affection and you have a recipe for a lot of touching, I guess! :) Hang in there....I'm sure it will get easier with time.

Mica said...

I guess I'm not in "post reunion" stage yet, but I feel like I know exactly what you're saying. I was completely thrown for a loop when I found out that my birth mom wanted to have a sleepover with me, and I actually dreaded it. It was only because I knew that this was a rare opportunity that I got up the courage to go through with it. I was so afraid that she would try to touch me too much or do weird, motherly things. And I think we're really similar in that we're not super affectionate people, and I know that I don't like to be touched very much at all, ESPECIALLY by people I don't know.

When I stayed with my birth mom, it really felt strange when she'd rub my arm or put her arm around me. I wish I had some good idea to work through this.

I think my plan to deal with post-reunion awkwardness (when it comes) is to talk to GOAL and maybe INKAS. GOAL has helped so many adoptees reunite with their parents, and they seem really knowledgeable and open to giving advice or just lending an empathetic ear. Have you thought about getting in touch with them? They might have some good suggestions for dealing with this cultural and linguistic barrier so that you feel more comfortable around your birth mom.

Sorry that that's my only piece of advice. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to vent. I'm really glad that we connected via blogland. I'm sure that knowing each other will be so helpful and reassuring as we start to reconnect with all of these people in our lives.

(Also, "hi" to Mark!)

Frank said...


It sounds like a touchy situation for you. Here's what I think: Give it time. It's very early in your relationship with her. Think long term and how you want this relationship to progress. If the 'touchy/feely' thing (for lack of a better term right now) is something that you can't bear in the short term, convey your feelings honestly to her, I'm assuming someone can pass the message along with you, along with the message that you don't want how you feel to interfere with getting to know her better. Sometimes you just have to confront things. That's my quick take for now. Good luck.

You loving FIL.

Mia_h_n said...

Hi Kim,

I'm completely new to your blog but felled compelled to comment anyway.
I'm hoping you can use my two cents even though I'm "only" in pre-reunion. Your issues are spot on for what I'm worrying about should I ever find myself in post. You shouldn't feel bad (if that is indeed what you do) about dreading something very uncomfortable and of course that's how it would feel to a lot of people if a stranger started touching them all the time. It's an invasion of your personal space.

Anyway, that was just what I wanted to say for myself, but since you asked I want to tip you about
An adult adoptee, Melissa, reunited last year and has also had rollercoaster of emotions since then. She's open, honest, compassionate and I'm sure she won't mind you writing her if you have any questions or want to chat with someone who can relate. It's from her blog, so she's not gonna mind me announcing her email address ;)

Good luck with life in post-reunion. I'll keep following your blog for useful personal experienced advice :)


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