I have never shared this publicly, and have only shared it personally with a very small handful of people, but with the recent events at the U.S-Mexico border, I feel compelled to share.
The day J was born, I got to see him for a brief moment and shortly after, the nurse whisked him away to the nursery for routine checks. Young went with the baby and I was told I would remain in the delivery room to "recover". But "recovery" was not what was on my mind. I was left by myself, in pain and disillusion, yearning to just be with my child. They said baby would join me later in my hospital room so I waited in anticipation.
But things didn't turn out that way. During routine checks, they heard some fluid in his lungs that was affecting his breathing. They reassured us that he would be fine but the staff wanted to keep him overnight to monitor him.
I was separated from him for his first day in this world.
I cried. No, I bawled.
I just wanted to hold him, be with him.
I knew he just needed me. But I was being told otherwise.
I had Young call the staff multiple times, asking, pleading to bring J up to our room but they insisted he needed to stay and be monitored.
This was done, with what I believe was, the best of intentions, for the sake of my child's health. But to me, his mother, I was left feeling grieved, confused, ridden with guilt and shame, because I knew in my gut, that the baby just needed me. That I was what was best for him.
In the grand scheme of things, it was one day. Some may even say it was just one day. J was brought up to our room the following morning and I haven't been apart from him since. But if I'm honest with myself, this experience left a scar on my heart.
What is happening right now at the border of America and Mexico is NOT with the best of intentions for these families. It's not for their sake. It's not even being done with a semblance of care for them. Separating families, ripping children apart from their parents is inhumane, cruel, despicable. And it's going to have lasting effects on the parents and children alike.
I know it will. Because ever since I was in the eighth grade, my family has lived apart, separated not by border patrol officers, but by oceans and land. Though it was by "choice", it was never easy.
After I entered middle school, my father returned to Korea after decades of living the immigrant life in America - both my parents working menial jobs to support our family as my dad served in ministry and completed his studies. And since, our family has not lived together.
Memories of my teenage years consist of the long fifty-minute car ride to Rodeo Plaza in Palisades Park, New Jersey where we would say our goodbyes to my dad as he stepped into the Asiana Airlines airport shuttle with heavy steps. My brother and I would try with all our might to not shed tears only to crack and our car ride back, without dad, was filled with muffled sobs and sniffles.
For as long as I remember, I prayed to God, "Why, Lord? Why does our family have to live this way? Why can't we all be together?" And for as long as I remember, and to this day, my dad often says,
This isn't simply a campaign slogan to me. It was our life. It's written in our story.
My heart is still so raw when I think back to those years, years we can never return to.
And now, as a mom myself, I'm really not sure how my parents did it - living apart from each other. I'm not sure how my mom did it - living in a foreign country, without her husband's presence. I'm not sure how my dad did it - living apart from his wife and kids. I am still prone to tears at the thought of how, for so many years, my dad came home to an empty apartment, the countless meals he ate by himself, the soccer/field hockey/lacrosse/tennis games my brother and I played without our parents there to cheer for us, not because they didn't want to be there but because they couldn't.
It still hurts even after decades.
This is why my heart aches and breaks at what the Trump administration is doing, has done.
This is why my heart grieves reading about the children that have been ripped apart from their parents. And for what? For the sake of immigration policies? Because people are seeking asylum? These families are not simply seeking "better opportunities". They are escaping the very real threat of death.
This is why my heart burns for Korea.
This is why my heart breaks for this land, the land of my grandparents and my parents, the land where I was born, the land where my son was born. A land that was cut in half, leaving families separated, its people torn.
This is why my heart yearns for a reunified Korea.
This land knows too well wounds and scars that run deep, bloodshed and tears shed lead to an inheritance of sadness passed down across generations.
This is why families belong together.