Blood Ties and Acts of Love
- December 4, 2007, 6:05 pm
Blood Ties and Acts of Love
By Hollee McGinnis
As I look at my ever-growing and protruding belly, I find myself
fascinated by the biological processes at play: sperm, egg, and a
baby being made. I imagine that any woman experiencing this process
for the first time would find it, as I do, an exciting but
mystifying and often uncomfortable journey. In my own first three
months I wondered, Why does anyone go through this?
As an adopted person my context for the way babies come into the
world is through adoption, not birth. Of course I understand birth,
but that is not the way I came into my family. I did not grow up
knowing the people who gave birth to me. But I do not doubt the
labor my adoptive parents went through to get me. It consisted of
mounds of paperwork and home studies that stretched over two years.
I thank God pregnancy is just 9 months.
In anticipating the birth of my child, I feel like an explorer
getting ready to delve into a foreign land that is also somehow
familiar. I did not grow up in the culture of blood; I grew up in
the culture of adoption. The ties that bind me to my family are not
based in biology. They are based in relationship.
But for the first time, I and my husband - who happens to also be
adopted from South Korea - will, through our child, know what it is
to be connected with someone who also shares our genes. And I must
admit there is something delicious about finally being a part of the
But it could get complicated. Like when we have to make a family
tree. And have to explain how our little Korean child came from
Irish, German, English and Italian ancestry. Although our child will
look at our faces and will see familiar curves and lines, the
extended family will not look as familiar. And so we will have to
explain our adoption so our child can understand why grandma has
blond hair and grandpa has blue eyes and we don't.
Part of the legacy we will also give our child is the loss of
genetic ancestry. We will have to explain why mommy and daddy did
not grow up with the parents who gave birth to them and why we got
new families. And even though I have met my birth family, I do not
know the family history. And knowing the history is not just knowing
one's genes, it's knowing the stories going back generations.
Even though I hope to someday bring our child to Korea to meet
extended biological kin, my husband and I cannot provide all of the
skills needed to be effective in that culture. We don't speak Korean
in the home; nor do we cook Korean food regularly. Although we have
become very knowledgeable about Korean culture and have connections
to the Korean-American community, I wonder about our ability to
nurture our child's racial and cultural identity.
I am relieved, though, that my child will not have to answer the
question "Why were you born?" the way I had to answer the
question, "Why were you adopted?" I am glad that my child will not
be told by well-meaning strangers he or she is "lucky" to have been
born. And I certainly won't tell my child to be grateful because I
brought them into the world. And if my child feels any gratitude
toward me I hope it is because I earned it.
It will be important to remind ourselves that it is because of our
own needs, not theirs, that we bring children into our lives to
parent. Being able to have the gift of a child born to me allows me
to reconnect to that which I had lost as a consequence of adoption.
But I also know that to also have the gift of a child adopted by me
would allow me to continue the culture I most understand the
culture of adoption.
I anticipate that generations and generations after me will slowly
erase my history. They will most likely forget that their great-
great-great grandmother had to learn to be Korean. That she came to
America at 3 and a half years old in a little red pant suit and
vest, and white sweater trimmed in red. That she cried to return to
her motherland. And that the mothershe loved had blond hair and the
father she loved was an Irishman. Ultimately I want generations
after me to know this about the culture of blood and the culture of
adoption: That blood is thicker than water, but love can be thicker