I have always loved to dance. As an adult adoptee, a bio mom, and an adoptive mom, I dance between love and loss regularly. I dance with joy over small victories and small signs of acceptance. I dance to escape pain and to avoid obvious rejection from my family(ies). Let me continue to dance with the pain, the understanding, the surrender, His plan, and not faint.

Posts tagged ‘birth mom’

Practicing Ekphrasis

 Practicing Ekphrasis

Reading My Birth Mom

For thirty-seven years of my life, I could only read who my birth mom was from a piece of paper with “Non-Identifying Information” on it.


Hair:  Light Brown

Eyes:  Blue

Height:  5’3”

Weight: 120

Nationality:  Polish

Hobby:  Dancing

I’ve been trying to define her, describe her, to find her essence, her form, to bring her to life.  My whole life.  As an adoptee from the era of closed records, I practiced ekphrasis (way before I knew what “ekphrasis” was) from this 8 ½ x 11 yellowed sheet of paper.  A representation of her.  In print.  Its edges and creases worn with years of wonder.  Memorized.

I hold on to her hobby.  I carry it on, still.  “My birthmom’s hobby was dancing,” I tell everyone.  Ballet (my favorite), tap, jazz, modern.  I earned toned and defined legs over my years of dance instruction.  Tendues, pirouettes, and pliés.  Pink ballet tights, pointe shoes.  My daughter dances too.  She carries it on.  “Dancing is in your blood,” I tell her.  Ballet, tap (her favorite) and modern.  She too, at age eleven has toned shapely legs.  She dances on stage, eyebrows lifted and engaged.  Easy grace.  Beautiful placement.  A natural turn out.

Dear birth mom, did you take dance lessons?  Did you walk to dance class or did your mom take you?  I’ve always felt connected to you because as a young girl I believed that my love for dance came from you.  I mean, that’s what the sheet of paper told me.  That’s pretty much all I had to go on until I found a yearbook picture of you when I was thirty-eight.

Reading This Print


This woman.  This print.  This representation.  She is not you.  She is Joanne Seltzer—daughter of Leo M. Seltzer, M.D.  She did take dance lessons and piano lessons in 1954.  I can follow the paper trail.

Check #1582 on 2/20/1954 for $90 to Mr. John Hiersoux for piano lessons.

Check #1846  on 10/26/1954 for $24 to the American Academy of Ballet for shoes.

Check #1914 on 12/14/1954 for $32 to the American Academy of Ballet.

Joanne Seltzer.  Pink parfait tutu—probably a poodle skirt.  Loose long and feminine hair.  But no sign of ballet in this print, no grande battements, arabesques, or pas de chats.  Instead, Joanne’s ghostly girly figure reaches see-through arms up, towards a partner’s neck, as if to hold on.  Did she learn ballroom instead of ballet?  Did she practice with her dad, Dr. Leo Seltzer, M.D.?

Dear birth mom, did you sometimes practice with your dad?  Did you dance with my birth dad?  I don’t like ballroom much, do you?

Reading the Backdrop

Dance lessons in 1954.  I imagine money for dance lessons was hard to come by in 1954.  But Joanne’s daddy was a doctor, and I (perhaps naively) assume the Seltzer family could afford dance and piano for their sweet daughter.  Still, in Joanne’s print—I read the backdrop of sacrifice in the backdrop of the checks her daddy wrote.

You sacrificed for me, didn’t you, birth mom?

In fact, that’s kind of the standard definition of adoption, isn’t it—the birth mom sacrifices raising her child to give the child a better opportunity in life.  My adoption story tells me my birth parents didn’t feel financially prepared to get married and raise a family.  They were both seniors in college at the University of Illinois—my birth mom in accounting and my birth dad in geography (going on to be a pilot).  They got pregnant in October 1969 of their senior year, and my birth mom dropped out of college. Her parents were befuddled and dismayed, I’ve learned; they never knew why and they took the mystery to their graves.  My birth parents never told anyone—not their parents, their siblings, no one in their family that I know of.   I can read the sacrifices.  My birth mom sacrificed finishing her college degree. She sacrificed her body for nine months and then more.  She sacrificed the joy of keeping and nurturing and nursing her first born child.  She sacrificed living in freedom and truth.

I know this print is about Joanne, but I can’t stop thinking about you.

I would read every letter of every paper trail of yours 1000 times.


Reading Natalie

The Doner auditorium goes dark, and I light up the paper program with my iPhone.  My daughter’s ballet routine is next.  Budding 5th grade girls, budding ballerinas in light pink leotards and tights under soft blue light, light blue sashes made of see-through taffeta float from the girls’ wrists.  On stage, her hair pulled up in a bun, held in by bobby pins, my daughter wears a little blue eye shadow, a little blush, mascara, and a little red lipstick—just to keep her from getting washed out by the stage lights.  I read Natalie as a leader on the stage.  She tells me she is nervous, but she knows what she is doing.  And without trying or forcing or faking, she expresses the message of the composition to the audience.  I can tell and I know—she feels a fullness in her heart when she dances. Gentle grace in her eyes, her legs–curves of muscle that match mine and match the dancing training she has taken so far, her arms and fingers extended . . . soft billowy poise. She communicates with her eyes to the other dancers on stage, her friends, and she shares herself as she dances.

Natalie and I read each other well.  She sometimes says exactly what I’m thinking, and vice versa.  I wonder about my mom.  When she saw me on stage at dance recitals, what did she see?  My biological daughter gives me moments of self-recognition and self-awareness I never knew I was missing.  I recognize my hands when I see Natalie’s hands.  I recognize the shape of my legs and arms when I see Natalie’s figure.  I recognize the hugs I give and like to receive when I hug Natalie.  And I recognize the many personality traits of hers that are also mine.  She writes.  She talks.  (My dad always called me “windy” growing up.)  She likes to learn.  She likes to read.  She likes to dance.  She likes music.  I recognize what I see.

Dear birth mom, do you give good long hugs?  Do you like to learn?  What else do my daughter and I have that is also yours?


Reading my Birth Mom’s Picture

I found a picture of her in my thirty-eighth year of life.  It wasn’t easy.  I chased a paper trail which began with my adoption file:  her upside-down, written in cursive, complicated long Polish name on the folder of a file (which I am not supposed to see), to a computer that tracks births and deaths in the state of Illinois, to a Polish obituary that lists my birth mom as a survivor, to searching on the internet for recent addresses and such, to digs into the archives of libraries for yearbooks, to finally a friend’s mom who still had her yearbook from the University of Illinois and found your picture in a sorority composite photo from 1968.

Dear birth mom, you were beautiful.  Simple stylish dark hair.  Petite young woman.  A beautiful smile.

I tried to see myself in you.  Everyone who knew me tried.  We compared smiles and hair color and eyes and cheekbones and ears and eyebrows and noses and chins and expression.  We poured over your photo.  The joy of seeing you in print.  The joy of imagining you as a sweet, full of aspiration sophomore at the University of Illinois recently pledged to a sorority.  When I look at your picture, I see the hope of your future and the terror of an unplanned pregnancy around your corner.  I feel like I want to say sorry, but I don’t want to apologize for my life, really.  I love my life.  Could I say thank you?

Dear birth mom, did shame make you a pink ghost?  Were you vibrant and visible before you gave me up?  Did your dancing attract my birth dad’s attention in college?  Your dancer’s figure? And now, do you regret it?  Because now, you hide.  You hide from me.  I found you.  I wanted to know you.  But you say you don’t want to know me.  And so I research who you are, I find images of who you are, but I can really only imagine who you are.  I found you, but I still can’t make you surface. 

Stuck in ekphrasis.

Wiki on Ekphrasis:

“Socrates and Phaedrus:

The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive,
but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence.”

Your majestic silence breaks my heart.



Unexpected Experiences and Emotions Pt. 3

I drove.  I drove and I drove and I drove.  I drove laboriously from SD to IL, thru IN, to TN, to MS, back to IL, and then back to SD–all in about 6 days.  Part of the time, I labored alone.  Other parts of the trip, my oldest son joined me in the journey.

We headed together to orientation at Ole Miss.  For an incoming freshman, orientation is mandatory, and it proved to be well worth the trip/cost/investment of time.  Part of the experience, I expected–the feelings of newness, excitement, the energy on a college campus, some frustration at not knowing our way.  Upon arriving, we struggled to find our exact destination due to construction and renovations happening at Ole Miss.  However, once we found the Welcoming area, we received smiles and welcomes from the orientation leaders, Ole Miss gear, handbooks to guide us further through the next 36ish hours, and we settled into our hotel room.

My son soon headed out for the evening to meet up with some other Ole Miss orientation attendees.  “Good for him,” I thought.  Facebook rocks, really.  Through Facebok/Twitter and probably other stuff I don’t even know about, he has already met several incoming freshman.  He went out in Oxford/on campus while I stayed back in the room.  Hmmm . . .

I am not an overly hovering mom.  I don’t think it’s my nature.  God gave me 5 kids to keep me from micro-managing them.  Partly because of the sheer numbers, our kids have to be pretty responsible for themselves and their belongings.  I just can’t keep track of it all.  So, aside from an emotional high school graduation week a little less than a month ago, I really have been doing just fine.  I am excited for my oldest son.  He has made a great choice, and I trust him as a young man.

“Have fun!” I’m sure I said as he headed out for the evening.

The next morning, as we waited for orientation to start, I felt something overwhelm me I’ve never before experienced.

I wanted to stop time.

I can still feel it.  I can close my eyes and feel that deep need to make it all stop.  I had a moment of dread, of panic, of fear.  I experienced the reality of my inability to control these moments–to control the progression of time.

“Nick,” I said.  “What if I want to opt out right now?  What if I just don’t want to go through with this . . . this whole you going to college thing?  I have this feeling of wanting to go backwards somehow, and we can’t.  You are going.  It’s time, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”  He smiled.  Exhale.

Once I said it, I was OK.  But my thoughts turned immediately to my birth mom for a few moments.  How must she have felt as my due date was approaching?  The time was nearing . . . .  I would be born and we would part.  She would leave me somewhere.  She would not be there to care for me anymore.  I would not be in her tummy.  I would be gone.

Did she want it all to stop?  Did she want to opt out of the moment . . . find a way to detour around it?

As labor began, I don’t know, but I have to believe an overwhelming feeling similar to my feelings about Nick must have come up in her.  The end of “us” was approaching, and there was nothing she could do.  We would have to part. Sadness must have come over her; we had been as one for almost 9 months.

In the moment, I allowed myself to feel the feeling about Nick, share it, breathe, and re-engage in what I know is best for him.  It is best for him to go to college.  OK.  I won’t try to keep him.  🙂  And for that, I know he is glad.

All went “as expected” again for quite a while.  In fact, in one of the parent sessions I won a gas card for having driven the furthest miles for orientation!  Wahoo!  Then later, another scheduled separation occurred.  I found myself walking down the hallway back into my room without my son.  That’s how it was supposed to go.  The orientation leaders had a fun evening planned for the students, and the parents could “take a break.”  So, I walked back to my room, alone.

The words of one of the speakers rang in my ears, “We understand here, at Ole Miss, that trusting your son or daughter with another family is not an easy thing to do.”  Yes, sir, you are right.  I am trusting my son with the Ole Miss family and the Ole Miss experience.  My thoughts turned unexpectedly again to my birth mother as I walked and turned the corner into my room.  She carried me, felt me grow stretch and hiccup in her tummy, labored to deliver me, and then  . . . left me “as scheduled,” and walked back to her life, without me.  Anymore.

I wonder if she could even allow her brain to think about who would raise me and care for me.  It might have been too scary.  Because I know my son, and have known him for 18 years and more, I have some trust not only in the Ole Miss family he has chosen, but also in Nick.  He has proven to be a good decision maker–a fun kid with a good head on his shoulders.

But my birth mom . . . she was trusting her newborn baby, first to a foster mom/home (I don’t know anything about this home still today.  The information and details about my 3 days there are sealed and hidden from me.), and then to a set of parents about whom she knew so little–who would raise me from day 7 through this very moment.  As a mom, thinking of my newborn babies, I picture that infant (me) as completely helpless.

How?  How do you turn over a little one who knows nothing at all about life, . . . ?  So much could happen and will happen in life.  I have had the privilege of parenting my son Nick for 18 years and putting my own fingerprints all over his heart, soul, and mind (the good, the bad, and the ugly ones–ish).  But my birth mom . . . that was it.  She would offer me no parenting, no life skills, no “be careful of . . . ” from her own life experiences and beliefs.

I recognized as I was separating from my son, a little at a time, worries of “did I teach him enough about . . . ,” and “should I remind him of . . . ” crept into my heart and mind.  I wonder what my birth mom was thinking as we were separated.  She would have no opportunity to teach me anything of her own.

I know from some of her words spoken only through a confidential intermediary she believed God was with her during that time.  My birth dad allegedly was with her during labor.  Surely she leaned on those sources as she handed me over . . . and I thank God for the family and life He planned for me before I was even in her womb and for the Scriptures assuring me of this truth and of His hand.

Psalm 139: 13,16

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. . . .

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I’m growing older (mom of a college student . . . !).  Am I growing wiser?

Unexpected Experiences

I told her.  “Put me at the top of your list, girl.  I wanna be the first one you call if you go into labor and need a ride to the hospital.”  I love babies, and I love her (my sweet friend).

Sure enough.  I got “the” phone call at 2:30ish a.m. a few nights later.  Her water broke.  ??  I hopped out of bed, pulled myself together (kind of) and picked her up.  She, herself, had only that very night packed her own hospital stay bag–just in case she went early.  And she did–two weeks early even.

So, I’ve given birth to four sweet babies prior and pursued and waited for our daughter from Haiti over a ten month period of time; and, I’m not unnerved by this situation.  Interestingly, she doesn’t seem to be either (too much, at least).  I have my own reasons why I believe she is taking this in stride.  My friend’s childhood into adulthood process, barring any strange or unexpected happenings during delivery, really was probably more difficult to handle than what she is about to face now.  And that’s a whole separate story; in fact, that’s her story to tell.  I”ll just tell mine.

We arrive at the emergency room close to 3:30 a.m.  I feel fatigue throughout my body.  She is focused and excited.  I’m wondering how she is feeling/if she is feeling pain due to contractions, as she shows no signs of such.

I think back to my first pregnancy.  The contractions woke me up.  My husband and I played cards until I was uncomfortable enough to know this was the real deal.  24 hoursish later–with a terribly painful and dreadful labor and two hours of pushing–our first boy was born via c-section.  Yes.  These thoughts go through my mind for this sweet young new mom friend of mine.  But, I keep them to myself.  🙂  She and her man have their own journey, and it is unfolding now for them.

We move from the emergency room to a kind of “testing?” room; the nurses there check her over–make sure that her water has truly broken (duh :)) and that she shows sign of labor.  As I sit alongside her–very Not pregnant, I recognize my role.  I am standing alongside her while her body and her baby do their thing.  This is my first time to stand alongside a pregnant woman about to deliver.

I think back to my birth parents.  How in the world did that all go down??  How in the world did she go into labor?  Where did she live?  Did she live with him?  Did she live with a friend or by herself?  Did her water break?  Or did she have contractions first like me?  Is the story of him being with her when I was born true?  Was he by her side as I am by my friend’s side right now?  I don’t know.  I don’t really have time to think about it much, and if I do think about it too much I will no longer be of much use to my dear friend who needs me.  Hmmm . . . .  What thoughts/feelings did my birthdad have to shut down and refuse to think about in order to be supportive to my birth mom and her baby as they did their thing?  Was he supportive?  How?

We move to the “Family Suite” where her baby will be born.  The place?  The same portion of the hospital where I visited (only a few years ago) my dear friends and their newly adopted little baby boy M.  My eyes and heart are flooded with images.

I wasn’t expecting to be ushered into that same place now.  I wasn’t expecting a phone call tonight.  I’m Not Expecting.  But we are now walking through hallways I once walked through with my dear friends (adoptive parents), a birth grandma, a sweet new baby in intensive care, extended family members and visitors, and a tucked away and hidden birth mom somewhere . . .  I wasn’t expecting to go there that night physically or emotionally.

I think back, in fact I can’t help from thinking back because the memories are flashing through my eyes, of my friend (little baby boy M’s adoptive mom) with red patches of stress on her neck.  Of her restrained (?) excitement over this precious new boy to add to their family as their first.  Of her feelings that she must dance (in front of others who are watching!) so carefully between loving on her boy and being thankful/respectful of his birth mom.  Of never having done this before–how to do it?  How to do it well?  Is there a manual for any of them?

Whoosh.  Focus.  I am here to help my pregnant and soon-to-deliver friend.

We get settled in the “Family Suite.”  She is in a much more comfortable bed according to her, and I am lying on the couch–hoping to catch a few zzzz’s before her man arrives and I exit the scene.  Interestingly, as the not Expecting one in the room, I can see signs of what is to come all around her bed–things she need not see.  All manner of contraptions exist under that comfy bed to assist in labor and delivery–things I did not know existed until just NOW even after delivering four babies.  That’s OK.  She is happy, her giggly self yet subdued, mostly unaware of her contractions, hungry, and tired.  I do not know what the next hours hold for her.  And again, I keep my mouth shut.  No need to share any stories of mine or anyone else’s labor and delivery experiences at this point; she is about to have her own.

Tests done.  Gown on.  Strap around the belly strapped.  Monitor on baby and on mama’s finger.  We are tired.  We both agree we would like to close our eyes and rest.  I try to and so does she.

I close my eyes, and now I have flashes of my birth dad (especially) and my birth mom in this very similar layout. My birth dad alongside my birth mom–perhaps tired, trying not to be selfish and talk about feeling tired, anticipating the birth of the baby, and nervous about how it will all happen.  I can’t really sleep yet.  My mind is whirring around what it must have been like to go through each step, knowing, at the end,  . . .

😦  the baby must stay.  The baby must stay.  The baby must stay here . . . .  We must move on . . .  The baby must . . .

“M . . . ” I mutter to my friend my lingering thoughts–about my birth parents, my parents, my friends who have three precious children through adoption . . . and my unexpected feelings surrounding this experience.  She understands.  🙂  She suggests I go if it is too much for me–making me too sad.  Sweet of her.  I’m fine.

I am not Expecting in the expecting room for the first time.  I watch the Expecting through different eyes.  Ghosts of my unknown labor and delivery and unknown feelings and voices of my birth parents keep me from resting; sharing my thoughts with my friend out loud, however, chases my ghosts away, and we both rest for a while.  🙂

Happy news–easy delivery, sweet baby, challenges ahead (as with any earth-bound soul),  . . .



I don’t know

I don’t know

There is so much that I don’t know.

I am just hanging and hovering today.

To be honest, I just wish that my birthmom, birthdad, biosiblings, birth aunts, birth grandparents etc. . . . were people who I could just call and chit chat with (or !! people who would call me?! even), or send funny/inspirational/encouragement/ask questions/whatever stuff to.  Why must there be this strange strange huge scary barrier between us?  Why can’t we be friends on facebook, know each other, be friends . . . ?  We are biologically related.  Does it make sense that (assuming I don’t want anything from them except to know them and vice versa, and assuming that none of us have malicious intent . . . which I don’t and never have) people who are biologically related are then separated for life?   I just don’t think so.

Although, as I reread what I just typed, I am aware more today than I was even three months ago that just because I have arrived at a place where I want to know them, care about them, and include them in our family does not mean that they have arrived at a similar place.  I don’t know.  Maybe they never will.  Perhaps I  represent such a difficult time in my birthparents’ lives, they may never be able to separate who I am today from the little baby that “caused” them so much anguish.  And, perhaps my reappearance and my choices along my journey to reach out to my biological connections was so foreign to them that they may never be able to separate how they view me from a distance from who I really am.  I don’t know.

I don’t know what brought on this little funk/dip.  I have processed and counseled through a good part of my search for reunion, and  do know that  I do not hang and hover forever . . . just sometimes for a day or two.  Or even, sometimes it only lasts a half of a day.

This weekend was my second spring dance recital.  It was an amazing experience–exhausting, required much energy and time.  My husband was gone for the weekend, and so my kids were just great at being OK with me being at rehearsal, dress rehearsal, the performance, etc.  They came to the performance also.  It was a beautiful production . . . moving emotionally to me and to others.  Perhaps this experience placed me at this funk/dip today . . . :

*intense focused effort (similar to intensely seeking to find my birthfamily members)
*emotional performances (meeting/not meeting/connecting with special birth relatives)
*an end to a season (a parting of ways with the sweet students/instructors . . . a parting of ways with people I love instinctually)
*watching some of the dancers graduate and move on, knowing that this is their/our “last”
*and now it’s over.

I don’t know.   I’m just not good at “last” and “over.”

Can you imagine what my birthmom must have been feeling when she gave birth to me, and then it was “over?”  How was her July 11th, 1970 (the day after I was born)?  Did she feel empty?  She had to have felt that something had ended, didn’t she?  How did she cope with her sadness?  Was she sad?  Did she say goodbye?  I don’t know.

I’m OK.  There’s just so much that I don’t know.  And, someone once told me that emotions are like a beach ball in the water.  If you try to push them down, they will bounce back up and bonk you in the chin.  So, what I do know is that today, I will not try to push the beach ball down . . . I will just roll with it and let it slow me down to feel some sadness today.

Birth Mother, First Mother Forum: Oprah’s mother didn’t die when her secret daughter was revealed




Then Why Won’t You Pray

I got an answer (if only a partial answer) this weekend.

I watched part of the movie Then She Found Me. In the movie, the protagonist, Helen Hunt, stands on the threshold of planting a fertilized egg inside her uterus in hopes of carrying a full-term pregnancy. She stands in the procedure room with her birthmom (Helen Hunt’s parents have both passed away). She is thirty-nine years old, she has never had children, and she has only recently found her birthmom. In the little time that they have known each other, her birthmom (Bette Midler) observes that her birthdaughter’s faith is an integral part of her life.

Bette Midler asks Helen Hunt, “Well, aren’t you going to pray?” shortly before the process of implanting the egg begins. Helen Hunt responds that “no”–she doesn’t want to pray. The two women argue over this and even fight a little–pushing/shoving/restraining each others’ hands. Bette Midler (birthmom) finally says to Helen, “Well, maybe you don’t want it badly enough.”

Helen Hunt responds in tears: “You have no idea . . . how badly I want this. . . . I’m not going to hand this wish over to some–whatever It is, whoever It is–Who’s supposed to be loving, Who I had faith in . . . I thought God was good.”

Ah ha. I have been talking to God since I was a child, and studying His word since I was nineteen. I have gone to Him in prayer–giving Him thanks, asking for His wisdom, His will. But, . . . you have no idea. When the time came that I had found my birthparents/birthsiblings, and one by one they came into my life and then exited–refusing to acknowledge me as a biological relative/someone worth knowing, my pain overwhelmed my faith.

Helen Hunt (in the movie) has been through the loss of her parents, a divorce, a miscarriage, a failed relationship, and a reunion with her birthmom which includes lies and rocky encounters. Helen’s pain overwhelmed her faith . . . and now, when she really really wants something–more than any of the other things which she had trusted Him for–she is afraid to pray/talk to Him about it. She doesn’t trust that He will “handle” her most precious wish the way she wants Him too.

I recognize this as being my own experience. I have Godly people around me encouraging me to pray, to go to God with all of this, people who pray for me and for my birthfamily (including my daughter :)). Yet, I still struggle to talk to Him about it–afraid to “hand this wish over to” Him.

I know better. I know that His plan is best, that He has plans of hope and good for me–not plans of harm. I know that His ways are best. I know that He loves me and my family unconditionally.

Helen Hunt does pray before the procedure. I will, again, honor His Sovereignty in this matter, too.

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