By: Guest Blogger, Amanda Okamoto
Our friend Amanda Okamoto is a Korean-American adoptee living in the United States. Amanda shared with us her personal "a-ha" moment in life, parenting, love, and loss.
When my daughter was a little over two weeks old, I sat in what had already become a familiar position on my couch, cradling her head in the bend of my elbow, watching her as she nursed. Her forehead wrinkled with the concentration of sucking and smoothed with the contentment of swallowing. My mother sat anchoring down the other side of the couch working on a crossword puzzle, but still paying attention to me--her youngest child, her baby--acting as a mother for the first time. Surrounded by a nest of pillows and cushions, I watched as the tiny muscles in my daughter's hands stretched out, flexed, relaxed, and the tiny baby wrinkles on her forehead settled smooth as she was soothed almost to sleep.
“After I’m done nursing, I’d like to go to the bathroom. Could you hold her?” I asked my mother in a quiet voice, without moving my eyes from my daughter’s face.
“Sure,” she said, moving the crossword and pen to the table at her side to free her arms and shift her attention fully to us.
Under my mother’s gaze, my daughter, with eyes still tightly closed, tensed and reached out with her tiny hand grabbing at my breast in what seemed like a possessive reflex. Both my mother and I laughed at the gesture, and how its timing seemed to be in response to our quiet conversation. Already, her personality was making itself known: being interrupted seemed to be one of her pet peeves.
“She knows that you’re plotting to give her away,” my mother said with her usual teasing humor.
I slowly lifted my head, breaking my mesmerized watch over my daughter, and turned my face away from my mother. Hot tears ran down my cheeks, converged under my chin, dripped into the collar of my shirt, and my hand never moved to wipe them away. I held my breath, frozen, afraid that I could not keep the ragged edge of it from being heard. The silence was so loud that my father, who had been eating a sandwich at the dining table with his back to the room called, “What’s going on over there?”
“Oh,” I heard my mother say, in a choked voice that I was surprised to hear. “I just put my foot in my mouth, again.” I turned to look at her and saw that tears were flowing down her face as well. We both let out a little shaky laughter as we looked at each other. “I’m sorry,” she said, and she shifted her seat closer to me and reached out with a hand to rub my shoulder.
“I know. I know you didn’t mean it that way,” I stuttered, surprised at how tight my voice still sounded. It must just be the baby hormones... I thought to myself.
I tried again to break the silence, “It’s just,” I stuttered, “It’s just... I don’t know how anyone could do it.”
And then I knew it wasn’t just the lingering hormones.
It was the wave of loss that would occasionally come back to me over my own adoption--a crashing wave, so strong, that it threatened to pull me under. And for the first time in my life, I finally knew what it felt like to be a parent, and just what my birth parents had to give away.
Amanda Okamoto is a Korean adoptee, raised in a Caucasian family, married to a Japanese immigrant, and a full-time mother of one child and with another on the way. As the daughter of a mother who has worked in the parenting education field for 30 years, she is grateful to have grown up and grown into a mother who is aware of the importance of compassionate, educational, and supportive parenting and parenting resources and networks. Amanda is an active community volunteer. She loves to cook, read, write, and re-explore all of the creative pursuits of childhood with her active and inspiring six-year-old daughter.