Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Guitar Lesson

A couple weeks ago, I had planned to go over to Kate's to write and her husband, Steve, had offered to give me a guitar lesson first.

I have been on and off with learning guitar for years. I've wanted to learn from the moment when I was 18 that I found out my birthmother was a musician and that her main instrument was guitar. I hoped to unlock an unknown talent in myself and to have something that linked me together with my birthmother.

It's been 25 years since we've met, and I haven't gotten to be "good" at the guitar yet. I can do a little, very little.

Kate's tried to show me some things. At one point many years ago I asked her to give me lessons but despite a few attempts, it didn't quite work. Maybe there was too much weighing on the lesson - the burden of what I'd lost from adoption and what Kate had lost in me wrapped up in music. The loss in the room was much louder than the music.

But, with Steve it's different. He makes it easy, fun, utterly unintimidating. He put the guitar in my hand, said, "do this," and I watched him and then followed along. Kate was there, making dinner, listening along. Being part of it, but a step removed. And I didn't have to think about loss and the heaviness of music for me because I was too busy trying to keep up with the lesson.

Steve has been a support to us since before he and Kate were together. He's always been rooting for us and doing what he can to help us along. From his perspective, there is just love, and he wants to do what he can to break down the blocks.

Then again, he would push a guitar into anyone's hands and tell them, "do this," and have them following along. That's one of the things I love about him.

Sometimes with reunion we may need something from the other person that we can't get due to emotional roadblocks that get in the way. But maybe we can still get what we need if we approach it from a different angle and get help from those supporting us through it. "Do this," they may say, and all we have to do is follow along.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Who is the Mother?

A few weeks ago, I watched The Giver, (some spoilers below) the teen fantasy movie with Meryl Streep and William Hurt. In the story, there are birthmothers whose purpose is to do exactly that - their job is to give birth to babies and give them to others to raise.

When I hear the term, "birthmother," that imagery is what is brought to my mind. A women who becomes pregnant, births the baby, and relinquishes it to a different family. Given the baby scoop era, the term probably more poignantly reveals society's point of view than we are apt to realize.

"Birthmother" as the term for the mother who relinquishes a child to adoption is rife with issues. It takes away the complexity of the relationship, reducing it a single moment. The word erases the child's lineage, demeans the humanity of the mother, and denies the connection between the first mother and the child.

So I understand when a mother who has relinquished a child, takes offense at the term.

That said, I am going to use "birthmother" for the rest of this post just as a point of simplicity. You know who I mean when I say, "birthmother." It doesn't make it right, but it makes it clear to the reader. So, as I analyze it, while acknowledging it's problems, I will continue to use if for this post.

In one way, I think it is a signal of a shift in the culture surrounding adoption that at least we do finally have a singular term. For most of my life, it was a bouncy ball of terms, "natural mother," "real mother" (always used by others, never the adoptee), "biological mother," and so on. At least we are discussing adoption and birthmothers enough for society to recognize the relationship (though spelling - birthmother vs. birth-mother - is still in debate).

Kate and I often discuss the term and what to use and the issues with all of them. We've written about it before - Kate feels the noun of "mother" is the truth and I feel the action of "mother" is more true. And, while I believe I am in opposition to other adoptees on this point, I feel strongly that I have only one mother. I am not willing to share that naming with anyone other than the mother who raised me.

The adoptee that I am wonders if the choice of word should lie with the adoptee. The adoptee has had no choice, no control over their relinquishment and adoption. Giving the name to a relationship grants them one minor decision in the vast chaos of their story.

The feminist that I am wonders if the choice should be in the hands of the birthmothers themselves. As it was their choice, their story, should they be the ones to name what the relationship is in their point of view?

Regardless, of who owns the naming, I do believe in the power of words. That's why I write. And I don't want to use words that are inauthentic or that hide truth or mask prejudice. 

So if "mother" is not an option and "birthmother" is fatally flawed, what then? 

Natural Mother implies that the adoptive mother is unnatural, which is also demeaning, if somewhat true.  
First Mother is gaining in popularity but it doesn't work for me. From my perspective, it implies that my relationship with Kate is the same as my relationship with my adoptive mom, but they're just handing off the baton and taking turns.  
The one term I think I like is "Original Mother." I'm not even sure whether it's a term that's being bandied about. But to me that seems closest. Unlike "First Mother," it separates the "Original Mother," and the "Adoptive Mother." It is seated with "origin," which gives reference to the heredity and lineage. It also gives weight to not only the relationship of mother and child but to the burden of the relinquishment. The original mother was the first mother in wholeness, but chose not to mother. It even has some poetic reference to original sin, though I don't have that worked out fully, it just whispers the reference. 

Because I read so much adoption-related media, I can't remember exactly where I read a post recently that pointed out that "adoptive mother" should be as much of a term in the adoption story as "birth mother," but I see that should be just as much a part of this conversation. It IS ironic that the adoptive mother gets to be called simply "mother," when that does not capture the truth of the relationship any more than "mother" does for the birthmother. We need to have both terms because by having two separate words, it becomes apparent what is missing - the one simple word, "mother." The adoptee doesn't have one. They have an adoptive mother and they have a birthmother, but they don't have just a "mother."


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An Adoptee Perspective on Rosie O'Donnell and Chelsea

Chelsea, left, with adoptive mom Rosie O'Donnell

Last week, on internet news, I came across the story of Rosie O'Donnell's adopted daughter, Chelsea, going to live with her birthmother. Only it wasn't really a story. It was more a statement:
Rosie O’Donnell’s adopted daughter Chelsea, who went missing earlier this month, turned 18 this week and left home once again, this time to go live with her birth mother.

There is a lot written in between the lines.
"Chelsea...turned 18 this week...  Chelsea's birth mother (picked Chelsea up), the day she turned 18 and is legally an adult... 
At 18, you're an adult. It's the first time you're legally allowed to figure out your family connections to your bithfamilies without the adoptive family's consent.  

"Chelsea, who went missing earlier this month...left home once again..." 
The implication is that Chelsea must not be happy in her adoptive home, she must be searching for something her adoptive family can't give her.
But is that so wrong?


My birth sister Abby, my birthmother Kate and myself at 18

I sought out my birth family when I turned 18. I'm not the only adoptee I know who did the same.

Eighteen is a magical number for adoptees, especially those of us from closed adoptions. It's the age you're allowed to find out your identity. That's what I thought anyway. It turned out, that you're not magically endowed with all the knowledge of who you are and who your parents are and what that all means once you're 18. Instead, at 18, you're given the key to unlock the door. At 18, you have legal authority over your own life. No one gets to tell you what to do anymore. No one gets to tell you what to think. No one can control you.

So if you were an adoptee and turned 18, what would you do?

Of course you would go live with your birthmother. I did. I was 22, and I had just graduated from college and my birthmother invited me to stay with her. How could I resist? You get to see who you could have been. You get to live the life you would have had. You get to understand  more of who you are.

The biggest difference is not that Chelsea is famous whereas I am not. No, what separates us is that my adoptive parents supported me. They supported me emotionally and financially during that time I went to live with my birthmother. It was my safety rope. If I fell, they would catch me.

The internet news says that Rosie cut Chelsea off. It seems such an amazing act of spite. To me, 18 is like Bambi getting his feet under him for the first time, wobbly but determined. You want to find your bearing, but you haven't built up the strength yet. That's why you need the strength of your adoptive parents to support you. Living with your birthparents, understanding who you are and where you come from is not a betrayal. It's an act of trying to stand on your own legs. And it's hard to do that if you don't know what you are, who you come from, where you belong.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!