Chapter One: The Gift of Letting GoSarah Neal

Deep breath. Adoption.

I knew this wouldn’t be an easy subject to write about, even though it’s Chapter One of my story. The subject is bittersweet, poignant and if over-examined, can become a sappy made-for-TV movie titled, “I Love Family Long Time!” (Brace yourself for some tongue-in-cheek ethnic humor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my culture and have taken a few jabs for it. I also feel I’ve earned the right to ask a Chinese girl at LAX why her outfit looks like it was rescued from a pile of debris, yet she’s carrying this season’s $2,000 Gucci handbag.)

But I digress…

Adoption is a difficult subject to write about because of its complex duality—its joy is rooted in another’s loss. It’s a story that begins with another’s end, and whether it’s domestic or international adoption, the central character is the child who is given love through two conflicting actions: letting go and taking hold. See? Tricky. I believe to really understand adoption, one has to be a character in its plot.


Can I stop a second to tell you how much I love this photo of Katherine Heigl and her daughter Naleigh? It reduces me to a puddle of blubbering, happy tears EVERY SINGLE TIME.So, my Chapter One, abridged: I was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1978. My birthmother was single, destitute and without family support. According to my adoption papers, her only wish/blessing/request was, “Please make sure she has a sweet home.” I can sense how helpless and alone she must have felt. My heart aches deeply as I imagine her making the final decision to leave the hospital with empty arms.

From there, I was sent to a Korean orphanage where I spent the first few months of my life. Soon after, I was adopted, sent to America and landed in the smack-dab middle of the map, the Midwest, where the term “smack-dab middle” is used A LOT.


This is the very first photo my parents received of me before I arrived. My birth name is Hyo Bee Im, which translated means “Modest Queen.” However, I’m pretty sure the more accurate translation is “Sriracha Sarah.”
My “sweet home.” AKA, Lovely Mom and Dashing Dad.

Here’s me, adjusting poorly to my Javier Bardem, “No Country for Old Men” unibangs. Long live the torrid ‘80s.

So I grew up in a small city in the Smack-Dab Middle and was part of the 0.000005% Asian population in my town. I think there were others. I’m not sure. Maybe I kept seeing the same one. Sadly, we never connected or formed an Asian gang.

Truly, I am very proud and honored to be adopted. When I think of those I lived with in the orphanage who remained there, well, I just can’t go there. Also, I don’t think adopted kids are more special than anyone else. They just took a longer route to get home.

This post is the beginning. Others will follow. I want to write to parents who have adopted children (or are thinking about adopting), and those of you out there who are adopted. I’m currently in the process of doing an in-depth search to locate my birth mom in Korea. Hopefully I’ll have some updates next time we meet.

So, consider this post a first date. Let’s do this again soon, yes? I’ll call you. Promise.

Thank you for tuning in, HelloGigglers, and for following me on this journey.

Photo via istock.com
Photo via posh24.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/dawn.stone.714 Dawn Stone

    Trying very hard not to weep as I read this, sat on a coach heading home to by parents, adopted younger bro (who I like far far far more than biological brother!) and baby foster sister – I love my crazy, multi cultural, unique family. One of the most frustrating things people have said though, in regards to my younger brother is “So he’s not really yours?” – WOW. Talk about rude! I always reply he’s one hundred percent ours, he loves all the same foods I do and sleeps EXACTLY like my dad does, and is loved so fiercely; genetics schmnetics. He was destined for us.

    • Sarah Neal

      LOVE what you said here, Dawn! Give your family a big hug for me!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.szabo Gary Szabo

    Hey there, Sarah — I’ve been spontaneously snickering about the “Javier Bardem unibangs” since yesterday! Can’t wait for the next installment!

    • Sarah Neal

      Thank you, Mr. Szabo! Give Miss P a big hug for me today!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jess.horton Jessica Horton

    I have a family friend who was adopted, and she always says, “I don’t feel bad about being adopted, because instead of them just happening to give birth to me, I was chosen to be a part of their family.”

    Lovely post, looking forward to reading more in the near future :)

    • Sarah Neal

      Oh, I LOVED what your friend said, Jessica. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/emily.dillinger Emily Dillinger

    this is such a sweet post- but you’re right- to truly understand it- I think you have to be a character in it’s plot. it’s built of love and loss- adoption is a 2nd choice, but a blessed one- for both sides, usually. i was adopted & it’s nice to see someone write about it. I hope throughout the posts here you’re honest- as it’s not as glitzy as some would make it seem (but oh- I’m so blessed to have been adopted!). and, p.s. I used to ask how much it cost to get me as well. hah- brats, weren’t we? :)

    • Sarah Neal

      I’m so glad a fellow brat understands! ;-) Yes, I totally agree–adoption is real. It’s emotional. It’s wonderful. It’s challenging at times. It’s such an amazing subject, and is difficult to convey through words. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tori.pelham.3 Tori Pelham

    As a 24 year old who gave up a child for adoption 5 years ago, I’m excited to gain perspective from the other side. I’ve spent a huge amount of time pondering whether or not she’ll appreciate or resent my decision. I’ve honestly been waiting for something like this to exist for a long time, so…thank you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tonya.ashworth.3 Tonya Ashworth

      Hi Tori,
      I am 34, and was adopted as an infant. I just wanted to agree with Sarah. You are amazing! When I think of my birthmother (or imagine her, as we’ve never met), I feel nothing but gratitude. Giving a child life and a home through adoption is truly one of the most self-less, sacrificial, loving things a human being could ever do. Don’t think for a moment that she will ever resent you. I am certain that she won’t.

    • Sarah Neal

      Tori, Thank YOU. Words cannot express what an amazing woman I think you are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RachaelBerkey Rachael Berkey

    Um I totally had that haircut. And that sweatshirt. And I’m looking forward to reading more!

    • Sarah Neal

      I’m glad I’m not alone! Thanks, Rachael!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1227350962 Angela C Liu

    My husband and I are having a very difficult time conceiving and are looking into adoption. I had a rough childhood and have always felt in my heart that I would love to provide a child or children with a loving home through adoption. I look forward to hearing more about your perspective and story. Thank you for sharing!

    • Sarah Neal

      Thank you so, so much for sharing this Angela. Yes! I can’t wait for you to read the next article. I’ll definitely write it with you in mind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michelle.c.plain Michelle Cervoni Plain

    I too am an adoptee from Seoul Korea and I might need to duel it our with you on who is the most math-inept Asian LOL. I would love to have a discussion outside of the comments section of your article :) You can find me on FB and shoot me a message if you have the time. Good luck on your search!

    • Sarah Neal

      Michelle! So glad we could connect! *math-inept Asian high five*

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivan.remtoula Ivan Remtoula

    Sorry for the typo, I meant to say “I’m looking forward to your next chapters”

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrala Andra Shannon

    Yay, love this! One of my besties was adopted from India, so it’s great to read another perspective, too… I look forward to more!

    • Sarah Neal

      Wonderful! That was one of my goals. It’s easy to understand adoption when you’ve lived it, but I wanted others who haven’t to see a glimpse of that perspective. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamiemhull Jamie Hull

    Beautiful first chapter. I look forward to reading further.

    • Sarah Neal

      Thank you, Jamie!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivan.remtoula Ivan Remtoula

    Excellent post! We all can relate to that because of one of our family members has been adopted (for me, it was my sister).

    I’m looking for your next chapters. You are an amazing writer (and a person as well) and people like you inspire me. Thank you so much :-)

    • Sarah Neal

      Oh, Ivan! Thank you so much for the kind words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=736065600 Lucy Forsdike

    Love the Javier Bardem bangs!

    • Sarah Neal

      Ha! Thanks, Lucy. I think we all have disastrous ’80s-hair stories to share!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cathy.gawthrop Cathy Ferrell Gawthrop

    to post a comment

    • Sarah Neal

      Cathy, your comment on Fb brought me to tears. Really. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/StarLaird Star Laird

    I honestly hope you find what you are looking for.

    • Sarah Neal

      That’s so sweet of you to say. Thank you, Star!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=731200297 Rebekah Bryan

    I loved this post, and I can’t wait to read future installments. I’ve always been interested in adopting, and my sister-in-law was adopted from Thailand. She actually just got to meet her birth mom last year! Best of luck finding yours!

    • Sarah Neal

      I love that you’re interested in adopting! Keep your eye out for my next article. I think it will resonate with you. Thanks for sharing your sister-in-law’s adoption story!

  • http://www.facebook.com/xkadlyx Karla Diane

    I bet that you will locate her. I’m with the others: “This was beautiful and I can’t wait for the next chapter” too. My best wishes for you!

    • Sarah Neal

      Thank you so much for the kind words and support, Karla!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lesliesmithson Leslie Smithson

    It’s never too late to form an Asian gang ;) Love this Sarah, excited to hear what happens!

    • Sarah Neal

      Thank you, Leslie!

  • http://www.facebook.com/melissalacour Melissa LaCour

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing! I too am adopted and it’s always refreshing to hear the stories of other adoptees. Good luck in your search for your birthmother! Also, it’s never too late to start an Asian gang!

    • Sarah Neal

      Thank you, Melissa! I think I will start that Asian gang: The Spicy Wontons. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=57003612 Sarah Melton Lewis

    Amazing write-up! I was raised by foster parents (who chose not to adopt me only because of the financial help I received for college from being a ward of the court as they call us foster kids and who now currently have an adopted daughter, also named Sarah, who is from The Dominican Republic) , they are the reason I am who I am today. They were kind and generous enough to open their home, lives, and love to a small scared little girl who desperately needed them. God bless everyone who adopts and/or fosters. <3

    • Sarah Neal

      Yes! I’ve always felt adoption is born from the heart. It’s something you want to do; something you’re called to do. Thank you for sharing your story with us!

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