Between Kylie Jenner winning the Super Bowl with her video debut announcement and This Is Us stealing my heart and making me cry a new ocean, I felt that it was really appropriate and inspiring to write a post about unconditional love and my story. Firstly, kudos to Kylie’s family and friends for respecting her wishes and keeping the official news of her pregnancy a secret for 9 months. That’s some real love and loyalty right there. Extra kudos to Jack Pearson for doing everything and anything he could for his family, even if it cost him his life. Rest in peace. And to Randall and Beth who inspired their daughter to help the lives of young kids by finding them loving homes.
Before starting my post, I wanted to give a special shout out to Tictail Market for introducing me to the Unconditional Love brand. @john_bigmun and his family created this Unconditional Love crewneck I’m wearing as well as their other pieces in honor of those with Lupus. The best part of this brand is that 100% of the proceeds go straight to the Lupus Research Alliance to provide support in finding a cure.
Today’s post is diving into #LayersofJenn because I wanted to share with you the root of my life story and my feelings. For those of you who don’t know, I was adopted. And yes, this explains the not so Asian last name: Hanft.
I was adopted from birth by my lovely parents on May 30th in Taipei, Taiwan. My mom, Taiwanese, and my dad, American (mix of Polish/German?), brought me back to New York where I was raised my entire life. My mom was not blessed with the ability to have children, so I have a unique family in that each of my siblings (older sister and younger brother) are adopted as well; all from Taiwan, but none of us related by blood.
Discovering The Truth
I don’t remember this, but when I was younger I had asked my mom where babies come from while she was giving me a bath. She explained to me that they come from mommy’s tummies and then she proceeded to tell me that I didn’t come from her belly, but another woman’s belly. I didn’t take that news very well and obviously cried saying that I wanted to have come from her belly. Oh, what a child doesn’t understand.
When I was a little older, the subject came up again and when my mom told me, I understood and took it much better. I understood the fact that she couldn’t have kids and that although I was not from her specifically, she was still my mommy and it didn’t make her love me any less. At this point, I thought it was ground-breaking news, so of course I ran to tell my younger brother my newly found secret: we’re adopted. He didn’t take it very well. To the point where he told my dad that he wasn’t going to watch sports with him because he’s not his father. I didn’t realize that my brother was too young at the time to truly understand, so I just opened a can of worms by accident…oops.
I was told at a young age that my being adopted was a family secret and it was family business. I wasn’t really allowed to tell anyone, so I kind of just kept it to myself. I didn’t think much of it as important anyway because my parents loved me unconditionally. It was a little hard to wrap my head around when it came to school cause everyone knew my mom was asian and my dad was white.
I remember once in elementary school, the asian kids were telling the teacher that they would be out for Chinese New Year and teased me that I didn’t get to enjoy the same luxury because “I’m not fully asian if I have a white dad.” Ever since then, I fully immersed myself in having white friends because I was never welcome by the asians. At some point, I no longer associated myself with being asian and it wasn’t until seventh grade where I started embracing that part of myself again. And even when I embraced being asian, I still got received mean comments of people saying they “liked me better when I was white.”
There were plenty of times where my race came into question because I couldn’t exactly explain that I wasn’t mixed. I would say that I’m Taiwanese, but I wasn’t sure because the uncertainty was so real. I do want to take one of those DNA tests someday cause so many people have mistaken me for Filipino, Hawaiin, Korean, and even Blasian.
Internally, I did have a diverse upbringing. My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic so I ended up celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas, which was awesome as a kid hah! I also celebrated Jewish holidays, like Passover and Yom Kippur, as well as Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday. To spice up the mix, we also had Chinese New Year. I really appreciate being able to learn about and experience all of these things.
Thoughts On Being Adopted
Once I hit high school, I really started embracing that being adopted is part of my story and instead of trying to hide it like a dirty secret, I would blatantly speak about it. I often used it as a fun fact.
Nine out of ten times when I tell someone I’m adopted, they usually say it’s “cool” and then proceed to ask me how I feel about it. I learned that my birth mother had me out of wedlock around age 20 and since she was so young with no other support, she thought it was best that she let me go to a family who could provide 110% for me. While I’ll always wonder what life would be like if she kept me, or if she ever thinks of me, or how she’s doing at this very moment, I’ll always know that what my parents have for me is unconditional love. That they are my parents, no matter what. That blood does not define family. That I am completely blessed to have this life and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I know that giving up your child is never an easy choice. And for a while, I was really hurt that she did that to me, but if it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have met my mom and dad. I don’t know what life would be like if she kept me. I think time to time about the struggles we’d face and bring myself back to believing that she made the right choice.
And for the second question I usually get: would you ever want to meet her? Of course I do. I’ve tried googling her name and looking in any database I could, but never had any luck.
I want to see what she looks like and see what features I have that are hers. I want to get to know her and my true story of coming to be. I want to know more about my birth father, even though it was entirely crappy for him to leave her with a child. I want to know that she’s doing okay. I want to know if she thinks about me. If she regrets anything. My adoption was a closed adoption, so I have no way of contacting her or vice versa. I’d like to ask her why she never tried to find me or if she did, why didn’t it work out? And then I want to find her, but I fear that she wouldn’t want to see me. That maybe my “interference” with her new life might ruin it (since a child out of wedlock is sinful). And for health reasons, I want to know if I have anything to worry about.
I think the biggest fear for my parents is that I’d meet my birth mom and want to leave with her. Once I brought up that I wanted to find her to my mom and she got really upset, but she was still supportive in doing what she can to help me find her if that’s what I’d like. We never got the chance to go to Taiwan to that and plus I wouldn’t even know where to start since we heard that she moved out of the country a long time ago. But rest assured, it would be nice to get answers and that closure, but she would be a complete stranger to me. Seeing my birth mother once won’t erase or match up to the 23 years I’ve been raised and loved by my parents.
I do wish that she’s doing well and that hopefully she knows that I think of her too. That I’m not mad, angry or hurt by what she had to do. That she knows that she placed her faith in two amazing human beings that gave me the best life I could have and all the love in the world. That maybe one day our paths will cross and the only tears we’ll shed will be happy ones.
This is my story. I know that everyone’s circumstances are different. I am so thankful that I am fortunate enough to be adopted by my parents. They have given me an abundant life of laughter and health. Most importantly, showed me what it means to love and be loved unconditionally. What it means to be chosen.