[The 60th Women's Policy Forum] Reality of Unwed Mothers and Support for Self-Reliance
Feb 24, 2010
at Korean Women's Development Institute
The article from 'Counselling Services of Adoption Agency Experienced by Unwed Mothers'
Interviewees : Five Mothers Who Changed Their Minds and Brought Their Children Back from Adoption Agencies after Initially Giving Them up for Adoption
case4 Current Residence - Seoul | First Consultation with Adoption Agency - Four Months after Childbirth
Residence Shortly Before/After_Childbirth - Home | Birth Date of Child - July 18, 2008
Seeing You Again after a Huge Tidal Wave
I met the father of my child when I was stationed overseas for work in 2007. In mid-November, I was devastated to discover that I was one month pregnant. The father of the child, however, persuaded me to have the baby. His parents had passed away when he was young and he said that he would take care of my parents as if they were his own. He wanted to get married with the blessing of my parents and our relatives and suggested that we raise our child in the country in which we were residing, which was known for its outstanding education system. All his promises won me over and I agreed to marry him.
I decided to have the baby because of the promises he made, but his business plans did not work out. In fact, I had to take care of all our living expenses and other financial obligations. My mother strongly urged me to get an abortion, saying that I should not go through with the marriage I did not want because of a pregnancy. But I refused to do as my parents wished because I had faith in my boyfriend and sincerely wanted to have the baby. I spent every day in tears waiting for my parents to support my decision. In early January 2008―when I was four months into my pregnancy―I fought with my boyfriend and went to the hospital for an abortion. However, we made up before I met with the doctor and promised each other that we would do our best to provide a wonderful home for our child.
Unfortunately, my boyfriend's business continued to struggle and he became even more uncertain about receiving the approval of my parents. In late May 2008, he persuaded me to go back to Korea and wait for him. He told me that he would turn his business around in one month and receive my parents' approval so that we could start our family life with our child. I was seven months pregnant at the time. I did as he asked, but my boyfriend had not come to see me by the time I went into labor. He made one phone call and sent four text messages telling me how sorry he was for not being by my side. I attempted to give birth naturally but the despair and devastation of having to give birth alone deprived me of all my strength and I eventually ended up giving birth by cesarean section, which was carried out after my sister signed the consent form for surgery. At 21:07, I gave birth to my daughter.
I met my daughter for the first time in the surgery room and she was just as I had imagined her to be. The emotions of joy and wonder that I felt that day are something only a mother can understand. The nurse placed my daughter near me so that her mouth could touch my nipples, explaining that babies remember their first touch. This was when I promised my daughter, "I will do anything to keep you safe." The anesthesia then overwhelmed me and I fell asleep. The next day, tears flooded my eyes as I lay in the hospital bed listening to the sounds of early morning rain.
The father of my child severed all ties with me the day after I gave birth to my daughter. I tried to find him through acquaintances and, about one month after giving birth, I discovered the many lies he had told me. Although it was difficult for me to trust him, I felt that my child needed her father and so I began preparing for the day he would return. But the promise he had made―to provide me with childbirth and childcare fees as well as a place to live―was not fulfilled.
My parents opposed my marriage to the father of the child, citing his financial inability and tendency to disappear and cut off contact with me. They tried to persuade me to give my child up for adoption. In turn, I tried to persuade them that I could raise my child on my own as I had work experience and knew how to take care of myself. However, my parents told me that I should put my child up for adoption as I would never be able to sever ties with him if I kept the child. Each month, they would give me an ultimatum, telling me that "making a decision as soon as possible is best for the child.” "If you choose to keep your child, leave us and sever all ties with your family," they said. My mother fell into a severe depression after hearing that I had decided to raise my child. I felt a deep sense of guilt for the heartache my parents were experiencing. My father had told other members of my family not to hold the child because we did not know if we were to keep her.
Not only did I face strong opposition from my family but I also faced considerable financial woes. I had used up all of my savings and pension funds and did not have enough money to buy clothes or baby formula for my child. I decided that I needed to achieve the minimum economic ability to raise a child to win the support of my parents. However, after months of job searching, I hadn't even been offered a job interview. It was wonderful to watch my daughter grow, but my sense of guilt was also growing and harsh reality was overwhelming.
In November 2008, when my child was four months old, I finally found the job opening that I had been searching for. Because I was living in Busan, I had to have someone babysit my child while I went to Seoul to take job entrance exams. My family had continuously begged me to get counseling about adoption, and I finally decided to contact an adoption agency for information about child-rearing. I contacted an agency, stated that I wanted to raise my child on my own, and inquired about maternity facilities in Busan that looked after children while the mother went to work. The counselor told me that although there was one facility that provided childcare services during the day, I did not qualify as the service was limited to mothers who were currently employed. Furthermore, there was a long waiting list to receive services at that facility. I contacted another adoption agency to learn about adoption options and made an appointment to visit the agency on November 21, 2008.
But with just one day left until the deadline for submitting my application for the job opening, I became anxious. At noon on November 18, which was a Tuesday, I pledged that I would get the job and persuade my parents of my ability to raise my daughter once and for all. I found an adoption agency that was just one bus stop away, and it seemed trustworthy enough to leave my child there during the job application period; I requested an appointment on the same day. A social worker visited my home at 3 p.m. that day and collected information such as personal information about me and the child's father, our preferences, family relations, and current situation. She then had me fill out an adoption agreement form and memorandum for termination of parental rights. It took approximately one hour to complete the counseling and fill out the forms. The social worker also requested that I write on the back of the memorandum that the birth mother would assume all liability if a dispute over parental rights of the child arose, given that there was no written consent for adoption from the child's father. She asked for me to sign the paper and I did as I was asked. I then went to the municipal office to get a number of auxiliary documents required for the adoption process. The entire process to this point had only taken around an hour and a half. Everything had taken place in such a short period of time.
The counselor told me that it could take some time for my child to be adopted as she was already four months old and not a newborn. All I had in my mind was to get a job as soon as possible so that I could persuade my parents and bring my child home. When I sent my child to the social worker, I asked her to contact me if the agency found someone interested in adopting my baby. Then, I headed to Seoul. The very next day I submitted my job application and prepared for the job entrance exam. On November 21, 2008, which was a Friday, I called the social worker who had provided counseling for my child's adoption process and asked how my daughter was doing. She said that my child was doing well at the foster family home and that she was receiving a lot of love and attention from the foster family. The social worker verified which vaccinations my daughter had received under my care and informed me of the additional vaccinations she had received.
Ten days later, on November 28, 2008, while I was preparing for the second stage of the job entrance exam, I received a text message that my child had been adopted. The social worker in charge had been out of the office on a different case when a couple had dropped by the agency. They took a look at my child and adopted her on the spot without taking time to deliberate their decision. My heart dropped as soon as I read the message. I immediately contacted the adoption agency and stated that I wanted to take back my child. The social worker, who knew my situation all too well, including the fact that I was currently unemployed, told me that the legal process for adoption had been completed and there was nothing I could do to revoke the adoption. She noted that there were no procedural issues that could be raised against the adoption and questioned what I could do for the child as a mother. Feeling despair, I asked the adoption agency to reconsider, complained, and pleaded for their sympathy.
The reality seemed bleak but I did not give up hope that I would be able to bring my baby home. To contact the adoptive parents, I asked the social worker if I could send my child a gift. She seemed to feel bad for me and said that she would ask the adoptive parents after some time passed. She explained that the adoptive parents might feel uncomfortable with my request. In mid-December 2008, the agency contacted me to tell me that the adoptive parents would like to receive photos of my child when she was very young. I asked if I could see recent photos of my child. In early January 2009, I received a number of photos of my daughter from the adoptive parents. Meanwhile, I had finally succeeded in winning support from my older sister and her husband and had submitted a petition to the Ministry of Health and Welfare to recover my child. I also searched for people who had undergone a similar experience. During this process, I was able to find a job at my old workplace.
On January 23, 2009, to make my decision to raise my child official, I sent an email to the social worker describing why I had originally contacted the adoption agency and the content of the counseling I had received. I also called the social worker and expressed my determination to find my child, stating that I would rather die than live without her, and requested that the adoptive parents be informed of my position. I phoned or sent an email to the agency almost every day and demanded that the letter I had written be forwarded to the adoptive parents. However, the agency compared the environment I could provide for my child with that of the adoptive parents and refused to carry out my wishes. I asked why the agency had taken so lightly my request to be contacted before my child was sent to an adoptive family, but the only reply I received was that there was nothing wrong with the adoption process.
The agency told me to give up my endeavors to find my daughter as she was already officially registered as the daughter of the adoptive parents and she was growing up with much love from parents who could provide her with a good living environment. The agency also noted that information about the adoptive parents was confidential and that the adopted parents had declined contact with me.
I spent my days fighting the adoption agency, wondering if indeed I would be able to see my baby's face again. Then one day, I dreamed that I was sitting on a sandy beach with a friend when a beautiful blue tidal wave came rushing toward me. My friend ran away in fear but I stood still in awe of the wave's beauty. I was overwhelmed by the wave but I felt no fear or intimidation. Rather, I felt a sense of serenity. The tidal wave broke, but I did not even get wet. Feeling refreshed and invigorated, I woke from the dream. After the dream, I felt confident that my baby would return home to me.
On February 13, 2009, I once again sent an email to the social worker who had been in charge of my case. The email described my strong desire to find my child as well as the details of the counseling I had been provided by the adoption agency. I also recorded my testimony concerning the counseling I had received from the agency's counselor and made written records. I continuously requested that the adoption agency make my position clear to the adoptive parents and emphasized in my letters (to the adoptive parents) that I had asked the agency to contact me before my child was adopted and that I had signed the adoption papers so I could leave my child in the care of the adoption agency for a short period. I was later able to contact the director of the adoption agency who had initiated my child's adoption. The director informed me on February 16 that, although my letters were not delivered to the adoptive parents, the director had contacted them via telephone and been told that they no longer wanted me to contact them. They were only willing to let me see my child when she was all grown up, and only if she was willing to meet me. I continued to plead with the director of the adoption agency and was promised that during her next visit she would try to explain my wishes once again to the adoptive parents.
On February 24, 2009, the director visited the adoptive family and told the parents that I wanted my child back. After returning from the visit, the director notified me that the adoptive parents asked if I had any plans to get back together with the father of the child. They were not willing to let the child go back to a family if the father wasn't present. I told the director that there was a possibility that we would be reunited. On February 27, 2009, I heard from the director that the adoptive mother was now inclined to return the child to me. But it was still unclear whether the adoptive father and other family members would agree. Finally, on March 5, 2009, I received notice that the adoptive parents had considered my position and strong determination to find my child and decided to send her back to me. On March 6, 2009, I finally saw my baby girl again.
It took three months for me to get my child back. I was able to see her again only by persuading the adoptive parents through the adoption agency. Looking back, I feel that if I had been told of facilities that look after children of unwed mothers regardless of their employment status or been provided information on childcare support during the counseling session, I would never have been separated from my daughter. Also, if the social worker I asked to contact me had shared that information with other social workers and if the person who provided counseling to me was the same person who processed the adoption, my baby and I would never have undergone the pain of separation. I hope that sufficient information on childcare support services can be provided to mothers who want to raise their children despite challenging circumstances. Also, I hope that unwed mothers do not make hasty decisions about putting their children up for adoption based on pressure they receive from those around them. Adoption of your child is one of life's most important decisions for you and your child. Therefore, it is imperative that you take enough time to think the matter through before you make your decision. I hope that other mothers do not have to undergo the heartbreaking experience I underwent.