the photo of my birth mother

I finally framed the picture of my birth mother, the only photo I have of her, which was given to me by my sisters in Taiwan. It was one of the first things they gifted to me at the airport upon my arrival to Taipei. It’s a 5×7 black and white photo. My sisters had the photo carefully laminated to prevent any damage. Such a thoughtful gesture. Her name was Shiow-Jean Lu according to my original adoption contract, which my adoptive parents hid from me.

My initial thought was that my birth mother looked so solemn. She’s wearing a black mandarin collared jacket or shirt. Her hair is short and neat in the style of older women. Her eyes are downturned slightly at the outer corners. I thought she appeared sad, as though she had seen many sorrows in her lifetime. She is not quite smiling, and I often wonder what she was thinking when the photo was taken. I never asked my sisters how old she was at the time. I think that I was so overwhelmed with joy to have her picture. Well, that and I didn’t want to ask too many questions, although I had many. My guess is she was somewhere in her fifties. My sisters told me that I look very much like our mother in her younger years. Unfortunately, there are no photos left of her when she was a young woman, as they were burned according to my sisters by our mother in a time of conflict. I don’t know much more about it, but I’m so curious.

It’s a really odd feeling knowing that I was born to two people who I will never have an opportunity to meet, partly a sense of numb, emptiness. The story of why and how I was placed for adoption is nearly unbearable of think about. Yet my sisters believe and told me more than once that my adoptive parents were angels and are very happy and thankful that I had the opportunity to be raised in the U.S. I understand why it happened the way it did. My birthfamily was impoverished, per my adoption contract, and I’m certain that life for my birth parents was not easy. I have benefited from white privilege due to my adoption, yet often feel conflicted by this. My adoptive parents loved me, yet there were numerous challenges, especially when I was a teen. My parents were ill-prepared to parent an adoptee with identity issues, and I feared my adoptive mother because of her instability, emotionally and psychologically. Her mood could change in a split second, and when she was angry, it struck terror in me.

I am happy that my sisters and family wanted to reunify. They have very big, kind, and generous hearts. The picture of my birth mother is now sitting in a place where I see it every morning. Framed, she appears happier, if only in my imagination. Sometimes I’m pained to look at the photo. Other times, I’m filled with such curiosity. I wish that I knew more about her, and I wonder what she was like, what she enjoyed, if she was happy, how she managed when I was relinquished unknowingly by my birth father…did she ever think about me? There is nothing that I can do but wonder…

5 thoughts on “the photo of my birth mother

  1. Sofia // Papaya Pieces

    What a beautiful post, and what a lovely gift that you received the picture of your biological mother. It’s a lovely how your sisters believe that being adopted meant that you probably had a better life in many other senses… I can agree that piano is important 😉 Have a great week xx

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  2. Morgan Ev (@MorganinAsia)

    Lovely post. We have several photos of our son’s birth mother–some of her holding him in the hospital, and even one of me with her (I met her when our son was a few months old). We have a couple that I took of his half-sister as well. Right now they’re in an album that we look at together whenever he wants, but if he ever wants them in a more prominent place, we can do that as well. It’s such a gift to have photographic evidence of her place in his life.

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