My Huong Le was excited to be part of her family again. She created a bond with her mother and restored their relationship only to realize she was lying to her.
We often hear how adopted children yearn to know more about their biological parents. Some children even want to reach out and create some form of bond, just to understand where they came from. But it can be devastating if the person you looked forward to calling Mom or Dad, breaks your heart. Much like this woman who uncovered the devastating truth behind her birth mom, who she met decades after being put up for adoption.
My Huong Le was just five years old when she was adopted by a family in Australia, according to ABC News. The Vietnam War was on its last legs when she along with her three-year-old brother, was airlifted and planted in another country to begin a new life. The two were among the 3,000 children evacuated from Vietnam in a rescue effort known as Operation Babylift.
Overnight, the young girl was in a land foreign to her with her adoptive parents. "I couldn’t speak any English. Everything was so foreign to us," recalls the woman. Life was not easy for the little kids.
"When I got to Sydney, all I wanted was to be back in Vietnam with my mother. When you’re five, of course, that’s all you want. I used to cry myself to sleep every night until I was eight or nine years old," said Huong. When she insisted on seeing her mother, she was told that her birth mother was dead. It was when she turned 15 that Huong found that her birth mother was still alive.
Her adoptive mother had just passed. "After that, I was going through my adoptive father’s filing cabinet and I found some letters from my Vietnamese mother to him. So I decided to write her a letter and I got simple fax back, saying 'Mother still alive very happy to hear from you'," she said.
They started corresponding but Huong got overwhelmed. It was only years later that she used the address to go meet with her mother and family. In March 2004, the young lady left Australia and went back to her home village of Can Tho. Huong was afraid they would not remember her but as soon as she arrived, she spotted her mother.
"I knew it was her when I saw her. Bawling her eyes out, she looked just like she did when I left," said the woman who was overcome by emotions. Soon after meeting her mother, she met other people in the village and her relatives. They told her stories and shared memories with her. She was happy. After almost three decades, she was home with her mother by her side.
Huong decided to settle down in Vietnam and began a new life with her family. She supported them, brought a house in the country and settled down with her people.
But everything she thought was the truth changed 14 years later.
In February 2018, the woman received a text from an unknown number. Her mother, had called her three times but Huong didn’t answer — by then, their relationship had deteriorated and they weren’t on speaking terms.
“Then I get a text message, it’s a simple message — ‘Ho Thi Ich is your mother.’” Huong was confused. She knew something was not right and asked her cousin to speak on the call after receiving repeated phone calls from the unknown number. The events that followed broke Huong's heart forever.
Her cousin spoke on the phone and kept it down with a look of shock; and then told Huong "you’re not my cousin anymore," and "she is not your mother." It turned out that the woman, who she thought was her birth mother, wasn't her mother. The woman she had corresponded with while in Australia wasn't her birth mother at all.
“I felt many things. Betrayal, disbelief, confusion, a lot of pain. I cried for three days — not because she wasn’t my mother, but because of the lies and deception for 14 years. I was in shock, but I felt a sense of relief,” said the woman.
Soon, she came to know the big secret behind her birth. She found out that she was stolen from Ho Thi Ich, her birth mother, by her mother's friend who then pretended to be Huong's mother. On contacting her real mother, My Huong discovered the truths that were hidden from her for decades. “I didn’t give My Huong away, she was stolen,” said Ho Thi Ich.
Ho Thi Ich, the birth mother said she almost died giving birth to her daughter and had asked her best friend to look after her baby until she recovered. But by the time she became better, her baby was gone. Her friend had run away with the child and cut all ties. She was left completely in the dark, with no clue where her child was until a relative brought her the news that My Huong had been taken to Australia. “The only thing I could do was just accept it,” she says.
It was years later, when she came across Huong's documentary on finding her mother, that she came to know of her daughter's actual location. The old frail lady traveled to her friend's house and confronted her.
“I went to confront [my former friend] and she said to me, ‘we are not friends’ and ‘you gave that child to me, that child does not belong to you anymore’,” said the elderly woman. Eventually, the birth mother got hold of Huong's number. Ich feared her daughter would not accept her after all that happened, but Huong welcomed her real mother with open arms. “I sat next to her, this little frail woman, like ‘Oh my God, she’s so tiny and she looks so sick’. I was still in shock — this was day two!” said the 49-year-old woman.
She had finally met her real mother, the one she had been waiting for. After her experience, the woman went out to assist others who wanted to reunite with their families after being separated years ago. She started an organization called Vietnam Family Search and extended helping hands to people like her.