Category Archives: Music

Pig On Her Head

When Thomas and I were dating about a gazillion years ago, we spent many a vacation day attending the concerts of our favorite band. Over the years we made our way — when our work and school schedules could accomodate the band’s tour schedule — from Pennsylvania to Maine and back, enjoying the music, the camaradarie and adventure of exploring various locales along the East Coast. Some of the shows were two-day events at huge venues like retired military bases. It didn’t take long for the empty, bland tarmac to fill with fans and morph into a colorful patchwork of tents as far as the eye could see.

I’ve said here many times before that music is big in our home — there’s always something playing in the background. Since Maeve’s arrival, of course, the repertoire has grown to include more child-centric selections. Among them is Laurie Berkner — someone we actually enjoy listening too as well. (It’s not uncommon for me to be nearing the office in the morning when I realize the CD has been playing since I left Maeve at daycare — and I’ve missed an opportunity to put my own music on.)

So, given our “Got Music? We’ll Travel” history, it’s not that entirely unthinkable that last Sunday morning Thomas and I found ourselves piling into the car with Maeve and heading out of Dodge. (Well, New Jersey.)

And before we knew it, we were through New York and arriving in Connecticut. Hartford, to be exact. And here’s why:

laurieberkner.jpg

Yes, that’s the beloved Laurie Berkner — or as she’s known in our house, Loor-eee-berk-a-ner. Let’s just say this: When we woke Maeve up that morning (that’s how early we needed to leave), she rolled over, still groggy, she rubbed her eyes and looked up at me. “Loooor-eeeee?” she asked. She’d remembered where we were going that day. So I asked her if she wanted to go see Laurie Berkner sing and dance, she sat up in bed and said, “Of course!”

A phrase I’ve never heard her use.

As we traversed one of the highways along our route, she perked up, pointed to a rooftop we were approaching and declared it “Laurie’s house!” As we continued on our way, she declared from the backseat: “You missed it! Turn ’round! Turn ’round!” (It had never occurred to me she would assume we would be going to Laurie’s house to visit.)

From Laurie’s Buzz Buzz and Walk Along the River to Pig On Her Head and I’m Gonna Catch You (as well as two new songs from the upcoming album), we had a great time singing and dancing along. And there were a couple times when Thomas and I caught each other’s eye and exchanged a smile. After all, this was surreal indeed. We were “on tour” with another band, and as parents.

Funny how life changes … yet stays the same.

maeveandmamalaurieberkner.jpg

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Filed under Adoption, Love, Maeve, Music, Parenting

Faces of First Moms

Nicole over at paragraphein is compiling photos of first moms and has begun crafting a most powerful slide show with a most simple purpose — showing how birth mothers aren’t any different than anyone else. Surely a fact that shouldn’t need explaining or proving. Sadly, though, it does.

She’s continuing to add photographs as she gets them, so if you or someone you know might be interested, please be sure to consider contributing to her powerful statement.

Now, go have a look for yourself. (And if you get all melty when you hear Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” — I have for years — be warned. Between the subject and the music, it packs a one-two punch.)

The Faces of First Moms

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Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Birth parents, Children, Discussing Adoption, Love, Making a difference, Music, NaBloPoMo, Parental surrenders, Parenting

Adoption’s Doors

maevetomsmile1.jpg 

 The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round,
round and round, all … day … long.

The doors on the bus go open and shut, open and shut,
open and shut, all … day … long.

Since Maeve was about a year old, her love of music and her animated participation in singing this, or any song for that matter, has made for delightful moments. Since music is a constant in our home, she’s becoming accustomed to its myriad forms, including children’s sing-a-longs, classical, rock, folk, blues, jazz and reggae.

Wheels on the Bus is on the set list for our morning carride cabaret. And whether it’s the bus driver’s order to “move on back” or horns going “beep, beep, beep,” her chunky little hands and sweet segmented baby arms are in full musical orchestration from her carseat podium in the backseat.

Recently, her favorite stanza details the bus doors that “open and shut, open and shut,” while her arms stretch to their widest limits, then quickly, and with as much force as she can muster, her hands slap together — clap — with precision.

Open and shut. Open and shut. Open and shut.

On this morning, though, those words rattled in my mind long after the song’s end. Not just as juvenile lyrics about mass transportation, but as concepts, as realities.

Both are realities in adoption; both are realities in my world:

After all, I am mother to an 18-month-old girl in an open adoption.

I am wife to a man whose adoption remains tightly shut by the laws in his Ohio birthstate.

A stark contrast between the two, to be sure:

***

I have never set eyes on the woman who brought my husband into the world.

Not only have I met the woman that brought my daughter into the world,
I have hugged her — long and hard.

*** 

I have never heard my husband’s birth mother speak.
I know not whether his voice and its intonations echo hers.

Not only have I heard the voice of my daughter’s birth mother, we’ve spoken —
sharing conversations, sentiments, moments.

*** 

When I gaze into my husband’s distinct eyes
or admire the dark, loose curls upon his head,
I have no point of reference from which to travel, branch-to-branch,
along a family tree of physical attributes.

Yet I can trace the rosy hue and heart-shaped curves of my daughter’s lips,
even the contour of her jaw and chin, directly to her birth mother’s siblings.
Because we met them and I saw the similarities for myself.
And on that warm summer day, we sat, on a blanket in a park
and played with the baby that connects us all.

***

In a moment of medical crisis, there would be no family history on which
my husband could rely. No way to shed light in a time of darkness. 

Yet, for our daughter, there are forms completed by her birth mother
that reference three generations of medical matters. More than that,
if our daughter’s health were in peril, her birth mother could be reached.

***

Based on decades-old recollection from my husband’s adoptive family,
two possible names for his birth mother and one for the hospital
are scrawled on a sheet of looseleaf paper.
Although agency records cite such specifics, they are black-lined to him.

I don’t rely on recollection for fundamental facts about my daughter’s story.
Her birth mother’s name is Known. Written. Spoken.
Photographs of her birth mother are in our home, within our daughter’s grasp.
The hospital where our daughter took her first breath? We were called to it.

***

For my husband, there are questions that remain unanswered.

For my daughter, there are stories to share, memories to make,
friendships to forge, milestones to mark.

***

Open and shut. Open and shut. Open and shut.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Family, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Making a difference, Music, Open Adoption, Parenting, Promises, Relationships

Adoption and shadow-chasing

Zara Phillips is an adoptee, musician and author of Chasing Away the Shadows: An Adoptee’s Journey to Motherhood.

Last night I met her and I heard her story. Let’s just say, she tells it like it is.

It was frank, honest, stark, poignant, sad, angry, raw, real. And as an adoptive parent, it was very hard to hear.

zaraphillips.jpgGuest speaker for a local adoption group, Phillips shared with attendees her experiences as an adoptee in a family that swept adoption — even simply the mention of it — under the rug.

Growing up in England as one of two adopted children in her family, Phillips had a plethora of questions. Why was she “given away”? Did her birth mother not love her? Was she not pretty enough? Did she do something wrong?

Questions that, I imagine, in some shape or form enter the mind of many an adoptee. Problem is, she never felt safe in asking the tough questions or even in admitting there were answers she needed.

She discussed how, as a child, she desperately wanted her parents to broach the subject, to offer explanations, and when there might be none, to simply talk about it. She’d plead in her mind for her parents to realize what she was thinking. She’d ask herself: Why can’t they hear what I’m thinking? Why don’t they see what I need? Why don’t they just know?

Phillips explained that when she would finally muster enough courage to ask her mother about her adoption, it was usually while she rode in the car. After all, it was easier that way. No eye contact.

She shared a conversation she’d had with her mother when finally, it seemed, she might have an ally, perhaps even headed toward some answers. At the very least, someone with whom to share her burden.

Phillips’ mother told her that if she ever wanted more information, wanted to search for the answers, she would help her.

But her mother ended the offer with this sentiment: But if you choose to do that, it would devastate me.

And so Phillips remained quiet.

She noted her parents were advised at the time of her adoption there was no reason to discuss it further, that the adoption was done, and that was that, end of story. Nothing left to say.

And that is how it was. In fact, according to Phillips, her father — an attorney and later a judge — still, to this day, has never used the word “adoption” with her.

It’s not that her parents didn’t love her, she explained. Her parents gave her the best in education, private schools and more. They had good intentions, despite all the debris piling up under  the rug. Now, years later, she thinks they did what they could with what they knew. 

As Phillips’ story continued, she explained that her own behavior, like her brother’s, would eventually turn destructive: drugs, promiscuous sex, hurting herself. It was after finally becoming sober Phillips realized many of her problems inevitably returned to the same theme: her adoption and its secrets.

Within a year, she’d found her birth mother. She passionately described the moments before she met her, the panic outside the door.

Now in reunion more than 20 years, Phillips poignantly talked about how she’d hoped meeting her birth mother would “fix” her. And she believes her birth mother had hoped the same for herself: that meeting the child she had placed decades earlier would “fix” what she needed fixing too.

She’s frank about the fact that although reunion didn’t mend everything, it gave her pieces to the puzzle. Pieces long missing, swept into darkness.

At first Phillips didn’t tell her adoptive parents that she’d begun a search for her birth mother for fear they’d want nothing more to do with her. When she did finally share the news, she mentioned she had learned that her birth father was Italian.

Her mother told her they’d already known that. Phillips described that realization as a “kick in the stomach.” After all, a piece of her puzzle had been so close, yet so hidden.

zaraphillipssings.jpgLater in the evening, Phillips performed several  songs from her CD, “When the Rain Stops.”

She played song after song, the audience asking for more. Some weren’t adoption related, some were. Her acoustic presentation of one such song, “Secrets,” was among my favorites.

My husband, an adoptive father in an open adoption and himself an adoptee in a closed adoption, asked for Phillips’ thoughts on today’s prevalence of open adoptions.

In answering, she reminded us that young children love freely and don’t inherently decide one person should be loved while another shouldn’t. She advised: Don’t fear talking to your children about their adoption and sharing what you know. Your child’s need for the pieces of their puzzle doesn’t mean they love you any less. The completed puzzle is their story, a “fundamental” part of who they are. I’m sure that in that moment I was nodding my head in relief and agreement.

The unsettled feeling I’d had earlier as she detailed her pain began to unseat itself from deep in my gut. Yes, I thought, relieved, this is precisely what I’ve believed and expressed myself. And Phillips, with her firsthand experience, has come out the other side proclaiming the same. In speaking with her afterwards, she and I discussed openness in adoption; she asked what it was like for us and our daughter to visit with her birth mother at our agency’s annual picnic.There were a variety of questions posed last night by audience members diverse in their makeup — birth parents, adoptees, adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents.

Some seemed to identify with Phillips while others hinted at a simpler journey. One attendee asked whether gender plays a role in how one’s adoption is processed. That is an interesting notion, after all: If women, as child-bearers, generally have an innate need to nurture — would a female adoptee have a harder time reconciling the fact she was placed for adoption?

Phillips also touched on questions that arose during her own pregnancies, things she hadn’t thought of or realized until she herself was about to become a mother.

At times dark, Phillips’ story also was, simultaneously, hopeful. Echoing her lyrics and the lesson to be learned from her journey, the message I took away from Phillips’ talk was simple enough:

Stop the secrets. Let in the light.

To learn more about Zara Phillips, visit zaramusic.com.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Family, Husbands, Love, Making a difference, Music, Open Adoption, Parenting, Relationships, Someone else said, Still learning