Shadow&Soul PhoBLOGraphy » photos by rhs.

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    Thank you for checking in on Shadow&Soul Photography! I am currently based out of Bloomfield Hills, MI, and I specialize in on-location lifestyle, still life, and portrait photography for adults, children, and families. Here you can view some of my latest photos and follow along as I document my everyday adventures. If you are interested in viewing my work in a more organized fashion, you may wish to view my client and art portfolios using the buttons above.

    Please kick back and enjoy the images, and drop me a line or leave a few notes on any of my posts if you like what you see. It's a pleasure having you here! - rhs :)

An open (but still very personal) letter to my Birth Mother, written and sent a few years ago. It was not my original intent to share this with any one but her, but as outlined in my previous post, perhaps this method will get to her faster than the original, currently sitting in my birth file at Holt in Korea.
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 January 29th, 2013

Dear Omoni,

It has been a while since I wrote last. As with my other letters, I know that this may never get to you. However, I wanted to write again to tell you some news: a few days ago I found out that I am pregnant with my first child. And I am so very happy.

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The last few years have been a complete blur. I graduated law school and am now practicing as an attorney in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I work for a firm that is recognized as the top product liability firm in the country. I have traveled to Japan, California, Alabama, Kentucky and many other places this past year for work. I love my coworkers and I am appreciated for my hard work. At the same time, I am very involved in my family life. My husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last year in December– Daniel is the kindest and most generous person I have ever known.  My parents and sister are also doing very well — they are all a constant source of support and love. I could not ask for a happier life.

In my most peaceful moments though, my thoughts still turn to you. Today, I am thinking about how you must have felt in your first few days of finding out that you were pregnant. I am sure you were scared. I am terrified. But perhaps not in the same way you may have been. Even with all the successes I have had in my life so far, I am very afraid that I will not be a good enough mother to my child. I worry that one day he or she will grow up to resent me, or that he or she will wish that I was never their mother. I admit that over my lifetime I have felt these things about you. At times, I hated you for putting me through the feelings of guilt and abandonment that I have felt. But now, as a mother-to-be, I am suddenly filled with a better understanding of how very complicated your situation must have been. I now see how a mother can love a baby with every ounce of her being and still be conflicted, sad, and afraid about being able to raise her. I see how that fear can become paralyzing, but still without diminishing the love for the child. In the best of cases, that fear only makes our love fiercer, and our desire to provide and protect becomes all the stronger. And then we are forced to show bravery, whether or not we are ready.

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At some point in my life, I started to realize the truth about you: you may be the bravest person ever to have touched my life. I may never have the chance to know you, but on this day yours is the life that I celebrate, even if only privately. You carried me for 9 months, and then you were strong enough in the end to let me go– to let me have a chance to have beautiful life. It was my job to live it, but you were the one who made it possible by saying, “goodbye” at the hardest of times. I will never know the thoughts that went through your mind the day you left me at the clinic. Or whether you came back for me, or even missed me. In any case, thank you for letting me go. In my 18 years of searching for you, I have never felt closer to you than I do right now. And I will continue to honor your life in the only way I know how: to grow and to be happy in the life I have made here in America.

Omoni, please do not worry about me. We both have more years to live and I do not want you to ever regret the choice you made. Although at times I have thought about how life would have been with you in Korea, I do not wish for a different life. I am proud of the work I have done, and I very much hope you are proud of me, too.

Of the things I wish most, it is that you have lived a happy and fulfilling life. I wish to meet you, but not more than how much I wish that you have found love and support in family and in your community.

I cannot wait to meet my little one. And I could not be more thankful for these blessings. Perhaps one day we’ll meet again. Until then, be well.

Sa-rang-hae.

-Rachel (Shin Hye Rim)

KAS Profile – English
KAS Profile – Korean

Disclaimer: I cannot and do not claim to speak on behalf of all adopted persons, or to suggest my ways of handling the very complicated intricacies of the adoptee experience are correct or universally applicable. My actions and thoughts are my own. Thank you for being respectful.
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Disclaimer: There has been a lot of online discussion recently about the KAD/adoptee experience that I believe is fantastic for purposes of dialogue and raising awareness. I had written this post prior to the release of the most recent NYTimes article, so this post should not be viewed as a response to it. This topic is different, but relevant as an aside.  To be clear, I cannot and do not claim to speak on behalf of KADs/adopted persons, or to suggest my ways of handling the very complicated adoptee experience is correct and universally applicable. My thoughts are my own and I thank you for being respectful.  -rhs

Dear Friends,

I do not intend to overwhelm my photoblog followers with frequent posts on this topic. However, as with any potentially life-changing event, I felt it might be helpful to outline my thoughts for those who have inquired. This topic is not photo-related nor photo-heavy as of now… we shall see how this works out over the next few years.

After a very long hiatus, I have decided to re-embark on my search for my birth family. This is a journey that many adoptees in the community have taken with results as varied as the people themselves.  For my part, my previous attempts to search have been nothing short of painful. DNA tests, letters written, and tears shed over dead ends led me to a fairly dark place of rejection and loss that festered within me, albeit privately, for most of my young adult life. I did not speak of those thoughts frequently or openly, not even with my adopted family. However, the feelings never left. It was only after having passed the bar and having welcomed a joyful new family member that my perspective on the situation truly changed.  And now, after having been kicked to the curb several times, and after an extended recovery period, I am ready to to stand up and start anew.

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Those who know me well may ask why things are different this time, and the answer is simple: this time my goal is not to meet my birth family. This time, the goal is simply to make myself available and approachable for my birth family to find me.

There were many flaws from my search before, and for me, the most notable was attitude. At the very beginning I felt so entitled to the information about my birth mother, the circumstances leading to my relinquishment, and my medical history, that recovering anything less than 100% of the information was unacceptable. After 10 years of searching, my 20-year-old eyes saw only that my birth mother owed me an explanation for everything; that I deserved an answer for why I felt so lost.  I was blind to the feelings of shame and loss that perhaps my birth mother was feeling at the time of my birth – and where I was not blind, I simply did not care. All that mattered in the beginning was me, my feelings, and my desire to place the blame for my pain somewhere. And all of that was, to say the least, short-sighted and selfish.

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I have been toying with this thought for a while now that, despite how badly I wish my birth mother and family to be a part of my life, I do not need that relationship to feel complete. I no longer desire to have a close-knit maternal relationship with my birth mother – merely, I want for her to have found happiness in her own life. As badly as I want to have questions answered, I do not need those questions answered to know that my future will be bright, and that my world will be full of love.  As I mentioned in my 30th b-day post, I am more whole than I have ever been, and I know that those around me will love me and be there, even if my birth family cannot be there.

For me, this journey is not about forgiveness for my birth mother’s absence as much as it is about my own thankfulness for where I am today.  Mind you, I am not talking about the guilt-ridden “all adoptess should be grateful” rhetoric asserted by misinformed family members and random members of the public. Indeed, only adoptees truly understand the complicated nature of what it means to be grateful regarding adoption. Not loving every part of our adoption experience does not mean we are ungrateful for that which makes us feel alive and driven.  I have hated Korea for hosting a society that frowned upon children of unwed mothers, and that put pressure on those mothers to relinquish those children. I have hated the USA for hosting a society that did not appear ready to address the issues of race, rejection, gender, loss and other issues international adoptees often face – a society that appeared to view adoption as a charitable act.  And, sadly, I have hated my birth mother for putting me in this position, leaving me to battle these demons alone. But even in those moments of despair and disappointment, I have also been lucky enough to always have someone who loves me pull me close and help me remember that I have much in this world still worth fighting for. Adoptees can be grateful for our families and our successes and simultaneously be at odds with those who proclaim “we are better off” now than we were and who demand we just “move on.”  When I speak of thankfulness, I mean thankfulness for the whole package – for where I am now, and for how difficult it was to get here.

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Of course, not every adoptee feels this way – we all experience pain, love, loss, happiness, confusion, and anger differently.  But for me, I am at peace with my decision to start slow and to search in a way that puts the ball in my birth family’s court in the end.  No private investigators, no sneaky tactics that might cause more harm than good. I cannot in good conscience demand of my birth mother her most private and personal information and expect to give nothing in return – we are beyond that now. I am at a point in my life where I can be the brave one and step into the spotlight: I can travel to Korea, try to be on TV, put ads in the paper, share my story via social media, and so forth.   It is my turn to control that narrative; I can put myself out there and be vulnerable, and make the space between us safe and welcoming for my birth mother and her family to enter. Yes, it is a bit intimidating to open myself up to rejection again – to expose those feelings I had tried to keep private for so long. But today, I know myself better and I know I can take it.   I shall allow myself the openness that will allow her to find me someday, if that is her wish.

I have been blessed by the love of my adoptive family, my husband, my son and my long-time friends. If my birth family wishes to be a part of this life in some way, they are welcome … if not, “gwaenchanhayo.”

Thank you all for joining me on this journey and for your support over the years. I look forward to what the future may bring.

xo, rhs

KAS Profile – English
KAS Profile – Korean
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