Adoption Stories from Adopted the Movie - A Feature Film by Barb Lee

January 1, 2008

Adoptee finds the missing piece of her puzzle – her twin sister

Filed under: Adoptee Articles,Adoptees,Korean Adoption — Tags: , , — Catherine @ 11:16 pm

From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

For five minutes, Emily Saunders was alone.

Then her twin sister was born.

Their mother, a poor South Korean woman who was not expecting twins
and gave birth out of wedlock, made a fateful decision. She would give
one girl up. That was Emily, who was adopted when she was 4 months old
by Jackie and Eric Saunders of Wyoming, Minn.

For 21 years, neither Emily nor her twin, Eunjin, had a clue the other
one existed. Their families did not tell them until this year. On
Thursday, Emily will fly to South Korea to meet her mirror image and
try to stitch her past with her present. She hopes meeting her sister
can fill a void that has contributed to turmoil in her life.

The days leading up to the trip are a mixture of excitement and
nervousness. She’s packing a lifetime of photos to share with her
sister. She also has a long list of questions for her birth mother,
who has colon cancer and told Emily she wanted to meet her before she
dies. At the top of Emily’s list, not surprisingly, is “Why?”
When the Saunderses chose to adopt Emily, they knew she was a twin.
But Jackie Saunders says the adoption agency told them the other
sister “must have died” because as a matter of policy, they did not
separate twins.

Those words, “must have,” gnawed at Jackie Saunders, who kept after
the agency. Soon they learned the truth: Eunjin was alive and living
with her mother. The Saunderses asked the agency to contact them
immediately if the twins’ birth mother ever released Eunjin so they
could adopt her, too.

Years passed, and the Saunderses did not tell Emily that she had a twin sister.

“Don’t tell her. Not now, not ever,” advised a woman who worked at the
Korean orphanage where she had cared for Emily when she was a baby.
The woman came to Minnesota for a visit. “Culturally, that’s not how
we do things,” she said.

Back in South Korea, Eunjin’s mother kept quiet, too.

Jackie Saunders, principal of North Lakes Academy, a charter school in
Forest Lake, says she and her husband wanted to tell Emily about her
sister, but all of the adoption experts suggested that they wait until
she got older. “She won’t understand, and it could mess up the bonding
process,” Jackie Saunders remembers being advised. “The books and
advisers all say that you should follow the child’s lead. If the child
asks questions about their birth information, of course, tell them.
But don’t push it on them.”

There were times when she wanted to blurt it out.

Like when Emily discovered Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and became
obsessed. She’d watch all the shows, talk about them constantly, and
want to play “Olsen Twins” with her friends. She even wrote to them.

Some nights, Jackie Saunders and her husband would sit up in bed and
ask each other: “Do you think it means something? Should we tell her?”

Ultimately, they’d shrug it off and say, “It is what it is.”

Meanwhile, Emily was growing up. Her teenage years were turbulent
ones. Her best friend died of cancer, as did a grandmother. Emily
developed an eating disorder and attempted suicide. She struggled in
school, but eventually graduated from Chisago Lakes High School. She
says her mother told her that during that dark period, her parents
feared that she was too fragile to handle anything else.

Jackie Saunders says they debated what the right thing to do was, but
ultimately, stuck with the advice to let Emily’s interest in learning
more about her birth family guide them.

The missing piece

Last May, in a therapist’s office, the truth finally came out.

Emily, now 21, asked her mother to tell her everything. Jackie
Saunders didn’t hesitate. “Yold
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