Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Roots — by Juli Fraga

Before my mother adopted me in 1974, I came to her via letter, delivered by the postal service, along with a picture on a black and white Polaroid. My three month history was less than 500 words. I came to her as “Sun Ok Park,” but she named me “Juliann.” I traveled the ocean waters all the way from Seoul with a social worker to meet her, and was placed in her arms at the airport. She met me in Kansas City, Kansas. This was our beginning.

I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska right in the center of America. Omaha is a predominately white community, thus there weren’t many other Asian or Asian American children in my neighborhood let alone any other adoptees. My brother (also an adoptee, but not my biological brother) and I attended a small Catholic school where we were the only Asian American students, and not only that, we weren’t even Catholic and our mother was divorced. Talk about not fitting in.

My adopted parents are white. At an early age I recall my mother talking on the phone saying, “people always look at me when I go out with Juli because we look different.” As a small child I could not make cognitive sense of these words, but I felt what she was saying.

A well-known psychologist in the area of transracial adoption once talked about the concept of honorary white privilege — fitting in because one is the adopted child of white parents. Growing up, I did not feel anything honorary about this process. I felt invisible. I was envious of those who could say they had “their Mom’s eyes,” or “their Dad’s nose.” I’ve always felt like a branch without its tree. I’ve always wanted roots.


It is Saturday, December 15, 2007. I am getting ready for a friend’s birthday party, and am decorating gingerbread cookies. I notice that I feel nauseous. “I couldn’t possibly be pregnant, could I?” To ease my mind, I decide to take a quick pregnancy test. It is positive. I call my husband and say, “You have to come home because we are going to have a baby!” And so our journey begins.

I have a relatively smooth pregnancy. At 19 weeks we find out we are having a little girl and at 20 weeks I take a trip to Australia to see a close girlfriend. Realizing this is the last international trip for awhile, I enjoy every minute of it. Each night I read all sorts of magazines. I do a lot of eating, shopping and site seeing during the day.

I share the journey of pregnancy with close girlfriends. We exchange stories about pregnancy woes, preparing for our babies, and career and identity changes. In July, three of my closet friends throw me a wonderful shower. We make a special bracelet for the baby. My dear friend Susana travels from Hawai’i with her daughter, Josephine, and seeing her before the baby’s arrival feels complete. As someone who has no known biological family and no sister, Susana is an older sister to me and her daughter a niece.

Around week 36, I begin to feel very uncomfortable. As a petite woman I can feel the baby’s feet kicking the top of my rib cage. This is not a comfortable feeling. I go on maternity leave two weeks early and hope the baby arrives early. I go to acupuncture to try and induce labor. My due date comes and still no baby.

Stephen and I take long walks to try and induce labor. We also go out to a few of our favorite kid-unfriendly restaurants knowing we won’t be returning for awhile. It feels like cramming for finals — trying to get in all the adult freedom and fun before the big day.

It is August 23, 2008, my husband and I are at UCSF hospital in San Francisco. After over 36 hours of labor, two shots of morphine, pitocin, antibiotics for an infection in my amniotic fluid, she arrives via c-section on August 24 — 8 lbs, 6 oz. Lucy Park Fraga. This is our beginning.

Lucy is my first known biological relative. It’s the first time I can look at someone and see a physical resemblance to myself. I will take Lucy with me when I go to Korea. I will go to retrace my own geographical roots, and to fill in some of the gaps to my story.

From Juli Fraga of All About Cute.


Note from Design Mom: for the duration of my pregnancy, I'll be posting stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. You can find them all by clicking here. I'd love to hear your story, feel free to submit it to


add to kirtsy


Blogger Kelly C. said...


Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 12:01:00 AM EST  
Blogger Barbie said...

I love your candidness and the uniqueness of your story, Juli. It is endearing. Speaking as one who was not adopted but is an Asian American, it spawned memories of not belonging at some point or another. It's sad that we all have those in some way. Thanks for sharing. All my best to you when you journey to Korea with your little one one day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 12:09:00 AM EST  
Blogger {april kennedy} said...

I loved this pregnancy story. I have a dear friend who too was adopted from Korea into a white family. She just had her first baby, a little girl, and felt the exact same way you did. Looking into her daughter's eyes she finally had met someone that she was related to through blood.

You wrote it so beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 12:43:00 AM EST  
Blogger susan said...

Best one yet! Thank you for sharing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 1:07:00 AM EST  
Blogger kelli said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 1:48:00 AM EST  
Blogger MB said...

I'm a parent of a transracially adopted child. And, we hope to adopt many more children. Juli, do you have any advice for the adoptive parents out there to honor their children's birth culture/how to address needs and concerns of those who might look very different from their family?
mistyb (at) gmail (dot) com

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 10:02:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing!! you write so beautifully

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 10:27:00 AM EST  
Blogger Marcy said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. My little boy was also born Aug 24, 2008 in San Francisco by c-section.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 10:55:00 AM EST  
Blogger kelli said...

This is so well written and gives birth an entirely new perspective for me. Your daughter is beautiful.

I'm also curious about what you could say to those interested in international/transracial adoption.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 11:08:00 AM EST  
Blogger Cookie said...

As a new mom to a beautiful son who was adopted, this story breaks my heart. Without the blessing of adoption, I would not be a mom. I would no know the incredible joys I've experienced in loving this amazing little son of ours. There were so many experiences we had that confirmed to me without question that he is meant to be part of our family. I hope and pray every day that he will know that as well. Even with that, I know there will still be hard times for him, and my heart aches for him.

I too would love to hear what things (looking back) might have helped you during those hard times?

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 11:09:00 AM EST  
Blogger Sara said...

This was heartbreaking to read but I appreciated your candor and how uplifting it the end. My husband and I will bring home our two babies from Ethiopia in January - a boy and a girl 10 months and 8 months old. They were abandoned, no known biological ties. No roots, trees without branches. I would like to think that their 5 and 6 year old brother and sister waiting here at home for them will be their roots and branches, that we will somehow be able to fill in some of their gaps, be able to smooth some of the edges that need smoothing. We are educated enough with the process of transracial adoption to know that we may never be enough to make up for the way they started their lives, but living here in the Bay Area, we will certainly fit in as a racially blended family better than other parts of the country.

Thank you so much for this - it was really beautiful.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 12:35:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On this beautiful fall day, as I take a break and eat hot soup while browsing my favorite blogs... I am touched. What a lovely story. You are a gifted writer and it was a pleasure to read.... All the best!

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 12:47:00 PM EST  
Anonymous nadia said...

what a beautiful story! this really was incredible story that has opened a side of life i barely understood. i am glad that someone has your eyes or hair but more so that they have such a lovely mother.

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 2:58:00 PM EST  
Blogger Alana said...

That little baby is OFFICIALLY the cutest I've ever seen in my life!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 3:24:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You took words right out of MY mouth. Funny though, I am a white child adopted to white parents (born in Omaha) - and I grew up in a small town. It wasn't until I left for college and finally met some people I didn't already know - and found that I could identify their eyes as their mother's or their nose as their father's -- that I realized that I didn't know anyone who looked like me!

No one else had my nose, or my eyes or even my finger nails. That's when I realized that might have had something to with forming my self identity and accepting my looks as a teenager.

I too, look forward to (God willing) giving birth one day and meeting someone who looks like me.

Funny, isn't it - that it isn't just race that factors in?

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 4:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

I thought I'd let you know that I too have a Lucy, born at UCSF, just 5 weeks before yours :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger jenn king said...

thanks juli, love your writing and your story. i am chinese (and hawaiian and white), born in the usa and adopted to white parents (who also adopted 9 other kids of varying backgrounds). so, i also do not know ANYONE who looks like me or has my same ethnic mixture. i have visited china and hawaii and am always evaluating the women there and comparing myself to them ("do i look like her?").

my advice to parents who are adopting interracially, especially when the child is coming from another country, is yes, find special ways to honor that child's culture, or at least always talk it up, brag about it, so the way that they feel "different" is in a good way ("special"). learn about that culture and share that with the child.

i would have appreciated that extra bit of culture growing up. i have to admit that i feel a bit jipped. of course i feel so lucky to live in this country. but i appreciate my unique ethnic background and wish that i had parents or grandparents who could share it with me. i want a chinese grandmother who can help me cook authentic potstickers, or a hawaiian mama to teach me to hula. so it has been up to me to seek out these things. a fun and interesting journey!

Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 11:46:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, like your candor and writing style. I can't imagine what it would be like not to have roots, but I couldn't help looking for a nod of appreciation toward your adoptive parents.

I live outside America right now, and an American acquaintance here volunteers at an understaffed orphanage. She calls it "heart-breaking." The workers won't let her pick up babies in cribs crying to be held. "If you hold them, then they're going to cry even more afterward," she was told. At age 18, the orphans are out on the street with little more than a blanket and a comb.

Another friend here made humanitarian contributions at 30 different institutions and tells similar tales.

It's sad not to have roots, not to fit in, but I think we all realize that some things are sadder.

(Please forgive my anonymity.)

Friday, November 13, 2009 at 12:56:00 AM EST  
Blogger Julie said...

I am a mom of two daughters from China. I spend endless hours thinking about how they don't look like us. Will they resent us for that? Will they have identity issues later in life? They are 6&7 now. They know that I love them. They know that I would walk the fires of hell for them. But in the end that might not be enough to help them through a very difficult acceptance of not being like their parents. I pray every day that I am strong enough to help them through that process and come out on the other side healthy and confident of who they are and who we are as a family.

You know the funny thing is I had the hardest time getting over the fact I would never have a child that looked like me. It was not that I needed to have a mini me. It was the fact that I look so much like my mother and wondered if my baby would look like me. In the end it still bothers me a little but I wouldn't want any other children. They are mine and I know that.

Thank you for sharing your story. Every little bit of information we adoptive parents have from adult adoptees helps us with our kids. And for that we are eternally grateful.

Friday, November 13, 2009 at 8:48:00 AM EST  
Blogger skt said...

That is a beautiful story. And so well written. I hope you find your roots!

Friday, November 13, 2009 at 8:40:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tikki said...

Beautifully written post, thank you for sharing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 at 9:28:00 PM EST  

Post a Comment

<< Home