Christian and I have had so many feelings and thoughts swirling around in our heads since we learned about the corruption in Phu Tho, the province where Zoe was born. We feel conflicted because we are so happy to have her, but that happiness is inevitably at her birth family’s expense (whether there was corruption involved or not – that is the nature of adoption). She is our daughter and we truly believe that she is supposed to be with us, but we just wish we knew more about her history. We wish we knew for sure that the adoption that has brought us so much joy was not tainted by the corruption in her province.
In the back of my mind I always thought we would search for Zoe’s birth family at some point. Before we even started the process, I began reading blogs of adult adoptees and talking to some friends who are adult adoptees. Some of them had an intense desire to search for their birth families. Others had no desire at all. Because it is such a personal decision, many adoptees and adoptive parents argue that it should be the child that decides to initiate the search for birth parents. For this reason, I thought it was something we would do later, if Zoe was interested.
When we learned about what was going on in Phu Tho, it made the birth parent search seem more urgent. Since Zoe was abandoned (I still hate that word), the only real chance of finding out anything would be to interview the policeman who found her, and ask if he really knew more than he wrote in his report (sometimes police know to be looking for a baby at a certain time or place because the abandonment has been arranged).
We’ve contacted three searchers so far, but we have not been successful. The first did not respond at all. The second responded but said that there was not enough information. The third said there was probably not enough information, but that now would not be the time to initiate a search anyhow. With the current investigations in Phu Tho, officials are not welcoming any additional inquiries. This person did say, however, that we could discuss it again after some time has passed. At least the door is not closed.
The ironic part is that not having birth parent contact was one reason we were attracted to international adoption. It wasn’t the only reason, but it is certainly one we discussed. It’s amazing how your perspective can change. That feels so selfish now. We realize now that it’s not about us. It’s about Zoe.
It wasn’t necessarily that we didn’t want to know about our child’s birth family, it was just that we knew we would not have the same kinds of fears abut the birth family wanting her back as we might have in a domestic adoption. I now know that some of our fears about domestic adoption may have been unfounded, but we were terrified to invest emotion into a child and then lose him/ her. While we were in the process of Zoe’s adoption, a friend contacted us about a possible domestic adoption. A young woman in southern Indiana was not married and was five months along an unplanned pregnancy. It was a girl, and it would be her second child. The grandmother was already caring for the first child, and did not think she could handle another. We spent a few days discussing it and even talked to an attorney, but the birth mother changed her mind and decided not to place the child for adoption before we could meet her. Having that birth mother change her mind after a few days was hard, so we could not imagine what it would be like to have a birth mother change her mind after being in process for many months or after a child had been born.
Some people have told us that we just need to let it go, and that we “shouldn’t worry about it,” but I just cannot do that and feel right about it. Do not get me wrong; Zoe is our daughter and that will never change. I would not be remotely interested in searching if I ever thought that I was putting her relationship with us in danger. There is no legal precedent for returning a legally adopted child to a foreign country. And, if her birth family decided to mount a campaign to get her back, we would fight that with every resource available (and we would win – it is sad but true that we probably have more money and resources).
Some people say that we don’t ever need to tell her about our concerns, but I don’t think I could do that either. I just don’t think that is the right thing for us to do as adoptive parents. I’m not planning to tell her when she’s five that there are documented cases of baby-selling in her province or anything, but I do think we will share information with her as it is age-appropriate. The information is out there, and it is likely that she will hear about it when she is older. With so much available on the web today, it would be ignorant to think that there won’t be even more information available in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. I think we owe it to her to tell her ourselves, rather than letting her stumble across it later in life. I will never tell her that there was anything wrong with her adoption, because I do not know that to be the case, but I will eventually tell her about our concerns. That is why I think it is so important to attempt this birth family search. When we tell her about our concerns, we also want to be able to tell her that we tried to look into it. Even if we don’t find anything, we want to be able to tell her that we did everything we could.
Perhaps Zoe will never want to learn anything about her birth parents. Maybe she will be happy, well-adjusted, care free, and never think about the fact that she was an adopted child. That will be OK with us. However, it is also possible that she will want to know more about her birth family, her native culture, and her “roots.” We want her to know that that is OK with us too, so we will teach her what we can about Vietnam and try to expose her to the culture. We will go back to Vietnam to visit. We will try to stay in touch with other Vietnam adoptees and other families who have adopted from Phu Tho. We will help her try to search for her birth parents again if that’s what she wants to do.