Thinking of my mother’s plight, whether or not it was as bad or upsetting as only I can imagine, made our group’s visit to an Unwed Mothers’ Shelter even more meaningful.
A few days later (after Dongdaemun) we made a quick stop to the shelter. I wasn’t feeling well to begin with and as everyone walked through the home to see where these women lived I was trying hard to just keep down my breakfast. But it is an amazing facility and support group. A home where women can go and live and raise their child in a safe and secure environment. They can finish their schooling and learn some skills here and there so eventually they can seek independence, with their child.
It was humbling to meet these incredibly courageous women and some of their children at lunch down the street. We began introductions with a song the women had been practicing and when they performed for us we were all of course touched and moved. And then we were informed that they created a gift for us and we all teared up as they personally handed them to each of us. But then each mother got up to introduce herself and say a few words. One woman is breaking down barriers and studying in college to be a social worker. One woman sang an amazing, haunting, and beautiful rendition of You Raise Me Up. And then one mother told us “I’m so happy you are here visiting your mother’s country. I love you all so much, you are all loved.” At that point we were all sobbing.
I can’t speak for the other adoptees but I can tell you what in that moment made me break. I could not help but see my own mother in them. I could not help but think if more shelters were funded and supported in Korea would I still be with her? I could not help but wonder if she had stayed at a facility like this, if she still would have died in 1996 and I would still have ended up orphaned.
There was so much love in that room from those mothers, the adoptees’ mothers on the trip, my own mother, and my birth mother, that I couldn’t help but sob. Mothers are so damn important. And every mother to me is brave and beautiful. But these mothers, well they understood those “what ifs”. And although I was crying, I was actually really happy. Because to me their little families mean progress and that means as a society there are less “what ifs” when it comes to the future of its children.