Doing Right By My Son

When adoptee Cat Stubbs becomes a mom for the first time, she wonders how she will share her adoption story with her son — and if it will be enough for him. But then she thinks of her own late father, and has an ah-ha moment that brings her peace.

I never thought I would be a mom. Not because I was adopted, but because I never had that particular dream. As a little girl I never played house or pretended my baby dolls were real. But one day, I met my husband, and everything changed. For the first time, I saw a future greater than just myself — and I wanted that future filled with the laughter and happiness that only a family could provide.

In March 2017, I finally learned I was pregnant. I remember being overwhelmed with emotions. Such joy and such fear! Why did I have these conflicting emotions? Was I the only one who had ever felt this way? But finally – it was going to HAPPEN and we were excited.

Our families were so excited for us, but especially my parents. They had adopted me because they wanted a child, and as much as they wanted a grandchild, they knew their daughter didn’t seem to want children of her own. They had nearly given up hope, but now they’d get their wish.  They weren’t just excited… they were elated!

Cat says her dad kept this family photo in his wallet.

Sadly, the very next month my father fell ill, and a few long months later, he passed away. Fortunately, I was able to share with him that his grandchild would be a boy and that we were going to name his grandson “John” after him. I’ll always remember the smile on his face as I told him the good news.

The passing of my father was very difficult. I grieved not only for my father, but also my son’s grandfather. Losing him made me wonder, “How do we teach our loved ones of those they never knew, but who they need to know about?” The thought weighed on me. With so many happy memories of my father, I cried that my son would not be able to meet a man with so much love in his heart. I still do.

On November 4th — six months after I lost my father — I met my son, John Douglas. Seeing and holding him for the first time was the most amazing experience of my life. Watching his father light up when they were together made me feel so lucky. And when my mother held him for the first time, I saw the love of both her and my father embrace him.

Cat’s mom holds her grandson for the first time. “The best thing about that photo is the ring you see on her finger is my father’s wedding band,” Cat says. “She had it cut down so she could wear it and remember him by.”

Although I never dreamed of being a mom, witnessing JD in the first days of his life made me feel I was born to be one. The fear I had of not being a good mother washed further away with each moment. I daydreamed about his future, and one day while talking with the doctors and nurses, I dreamed about his own future medical conversations. As an adoptee, I don’t know anything about my biological family or medical history. I wondered what I *could* share with him.

What I do know is this: I was born in Busan, South Korea and turned over to Holt when I was only a few days old. During my time as a Holt orphan, I was placed in foster care and a generous family raised me until I was adopted to my parents in the United States at 3 months old.

Cat as a baby in Korea, before she came home to her parents. This was the first photo they saw of their daughter.

While this story has always been enough for me, I wondered if it would be enough for my son. I wondered, “Would he ever want to know more? If so, what would I tell him?” An anxiety began to play into my mind.

And then I had an ah-ha moment. Teaching JD about his Korean background, I realized, would be no different from teaching him about the grandfather he’ll never get to meet. I’m only able to teach what I know, and as long as I do that with integrity I will do right by him.

So far, I feel like I’ve been able to meet this commitment. From taking JD to Korean restaurants to celebrating his Baek-il, I try to honor our Korean heritage by making it a part of our family’s culture. My hope is that by regularly exposing him to Korean culture, he’ll have a general sense of our shared background.

JD right after Cat and her husband brought him home.

When he does ask me about my personal story, I hope that we are able to explore that subject together. If I don’t have the answers he looks for, then I want him to know I support him in learning more — however he needs to.  But no matter what, I want him to know that I love him and that he has a strong heritage to be proud of — both Korean and American.

Cat Stubbs | Holt Adoptee

Holt supports adoptees and their families throughout their lives. To learn more about our post-adoption services, visit holtinternational.org/pas.

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