Iris Dager was adopted from Vietnam when she was just an infant. Now, at 31 years old, she dreams of finding and reconnecting with her birth mother.
Raised in Sweden, Dager has made three separate trips to Vietnam in search of her biological mother.
Dager, whose birth name was Nguyen Mai Thanh, spends each of these trips pedaling through Hanoi in search of information about her biological mother despite having few leads to her whereabouts.
All she knows is that her mother’s name is Ngo Thi Dung, she is from Hanoi’s Gia Lam District, she was likely born in 1974, and she gave birth at the Hanoi Obstetrics & Gynecology Hospital.
|Iris, or Mai Thanh, as an infant in a provided photo.
"Who am I?"
Dager was born on September 21, 1992 at the Hanoi Obstetrics & Gynecology Hospital.
At two months old, she was adopted by a Swedish-Icelandic couple.
Currently, she works as a consultant for the Icelandic police in a role that allows her to liaise with international police agencies.
Though Dager and her family took a trip to Vietnam when she was 10 years old, it wasn’t until she was 25 that her dream of finding her biological mother began to take shape.
|Iris Dager's adoptive father is Swedish and her adoptive mother is Icelandic. Her Vietnamese name is Nguyen Mai Thanh and she was born in the Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Hanoi. Iris provided this photo.
"I always wondered what my parents and family look like. Do my eyes resemble my mother's? What about my ears?" Dager told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
"Do I look like my father? Do I have any siblings? I If I do, are they similar to me?
"I always want to know: Who am I? Where did I come from? How does my birth mother look like? Why was I abandoned by her? Was it because she was too young to have a child or because she was too poor? Do my birth parents still live together?" she said
|Iris/Mai Thanh was adopted as an infant in a photo provided.
While Dager’s adoptive parents have shown her nothing but love, growing up as an Asian in a relatively homogenous white community made her keenly aware that she was different.
Other aspects of daily life, such as being asked about her family medical history at doctors’ appointments and not knowing the answer, only added to her feelings of “otherness.”
“I have so many questions, but no one can give me an answer,” she said.
"I hope my mother sees me in the news”
Dager’s most recent trip to Vietnam took place at the end of March. In the past, she has made the journey with her adoptive parents.
This time, however, she chose to travel on her own.
|Iris/Mai Thanh grew up with loving adoptive parents.
"I once had the strange thought that anyone I met along the way could be my mother or my relatives," Dager said while discussing her visits to the Hanoi Obstetrics & Gynecology Hospital (where she was born), the National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology (NHOG), the Gia Lam District Police Department, and the Gia Lam District People's Committee.
While these visits have turned up leads, all have been dead ends.
Still, she refuses to give up and takes inspiration from other adoptees who found their biological parents after more than 40 years of searching.
Currently, Dager is in contact with various groups and media organizations that specialize in helping adoptees find their relatives.
"I hope my story spreads and, one day, my mother sees me in the news," Dager said.