Generational impacts of adoption

Being transracially adopted meant that everyone else was in on the
"secret." As in, there’s no way any of us could deny that I was not
biologically connected to my parents.

I sometimes wonder how many other kids in my school were adopted,
but because they were the same race as their adoptive parents, no one
knew. I wonder how they felt about doing "family tree" projects in

I’m not the only one affected by my adoption. I don’t think my
parents ever thought of the impact it would also have on their

When my daughter was in fourth grade, she was assigned to complete a
family tree. Most of the kids had two main "branches," but we had three
– one for her father’s biological family, one for my adoptive family,
and one for my unknown biological family. While this meant my daughter
had to explain to her class that her mom was adopted, it also meant
that she has a greater understanding of what it means to both of us to
not know my birth family’s history.

Sometimes, I think my unknown medical history is the most damaging feature of being adopted.

For example, when I was pregnant with my daughter, my ob/gyn asked
if I’d had the chicken pox. Having chicken pox while pregnant is very
high risk to a fetus. I knew I hadn’t had chicken pox in the twenty
years I’d been in the United States, but I didn’t know if I’d had them
as a baby.

I called my mother and she confirmed that I’d never had chicken pox,
and added that my medical records from Korea never mentioned that I’d
had them before either. My ob/gyn suggested I have a blood test to see
if I had antibodies for chicken pox, and if the blood test showed no
antibodies, she wanted to have me immunized.

Turns out, I had the antibodies. Years later, when I "found" my file
with all my orphanage records, there was no mention of chicken pox.
That means somehow, before I turned 14 months (the age I was
abandoned), I must have had them.

But of even greater concern is that I don’t know if I’m at risk for
cardiac problems, diabetes, cancer, or mental health disorders.

This means also, that my children will also be unable
to fill out the [√] on standard medical history forms, as we recently
experienced when my kids had their yearly checkups.

Again, not knowing doesn’t just affect me. It also affects my children.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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