I pulled into my work parking lot around 7 a.m., coffee in one hand and a recorder in the other. Coordinating an interview across time zones left Darren and me with limited options, but we were determined to find time to talk about his recent song, “My Home,” which is the only song I’ve ever heard that examines the rawness of being adopted. Because I’m an adoptee myself, it struck a lot of chords, and I couldn’t wait to hear about the history and emotions that lay the foundation of such a powerful song.
Adoption.com: Darren, thanks so much for talking to me today. I must admit, I’ve never heard a song that touches on adoption like this. Could you tell me a bit about your background?
Darren: I was given up at birth. From what I was told, basically it was adoption or abortion or she was kicked out of the house. Thankfully she decided against abortion. She handed me over to the nurse right after I was born, and I stayed in the nursery until I was put into foster care. About three months later, I was brought home with my adoptive parents.
Adoption.com: I mention your age because, in your song, you talk about crying yourself to sleep, and I wasn’t sure if that was about your time in foster care or at an orphanage or growing up with your adoptive parents.
Darren: Kind of both. As a baby, I would cry and scream for my mom when I was in foster care and even after being adopted. I’m currently finishing my Ph.D., and most of my writing is on adoption, and one of the things I’ve read is as an adopted child, the separation starts from birth, and the babies will often cry out for their mom even when they are around their adoptive mom because they didn’t get nurtured. I was like a dog at a shelter when I was in foster care. You get held and fed and then put back down in a crib for long periods of time. I remember having screaming fits. I’d call out “Mom! Mom! Mom!” for hours even when my adoptive mom was standing right there, which is weird because at that point I didn’t even know I was adopted. There were moments when I would cry myself to sleep because I didn’t know what else to do or I would wake myself up crying. It was really bad.
Adoption.com: How old were you when it stopped?
Darren: It never really stopped. It goes in ebbs and flows.
Adoption.com: You said when you were younger you didn’t know you were adopted. How did you find out?
Darren: A friend from school overheard our mothers talking about my adoption, so she came to school and told me, “Hey, guess what? You’re adopted!” She didn’t really know what that meant. It was like the Truman show—everyone around me knew but me. So, the day I found out, the school called my parents, and my parents came to my preschool. My teacher and parents read me some books and talked to me about it. But, I don’t think it really hit me until I was 12 or 13, and I was snooping around my parents’ file cabinets. I found something that said, “Darren’s adoption.” After that day in school, I had always asked them about my adoption, and they told me they didn’t know anything because it was a closed adoption. But when I started looking at the files, it had the basic information about how old my biological parents were and why they put me up for adoption and the check to pay for me.
Adoption.com: Oh, that’s horrible, but sadly what happens to a lot of adoptees. What did you do?
Darren: I got really mad. Right after I found that, I had to go to my doctor’s appointment with my mom, and I was fuming. I yelled at her for lying to me. She responded by asking me why I was snooping in the house. That’s not the conversation I thought we were going to have. She said she was trying to protect me. I look back now, and I realize what they were trying to do. I was too young to understand that we are a different breed of people—adoptees, that is. I think that was the moment I understood things are different.
Adoption.com: Have you been able to contact your biological mother since you found the file?
Darren: I did. I found her five years ago by going through Catholic Family Services and filling out all the paperwork. My adoptive mom always supported me finding my biological parents as she knew as a mother how important it is for a child to do this. I even paid for a private investigator through Catholic Family Services and was told it could take weeks or months or longer. Four days later, I got a phone call, and it turned out my biological mother lived 10 minutes away from me. My adoptive mom had an “I’m getting replaced; I’m going to lose you” moment. My adoptive mother has always been my rock. She’s the true definition of a mom. She was there for me the most, and I wouldn’t be who I am without her. So, we talked for hours so that I could reassure her that she’s not replaceable, but I’m just expanding my family.
My biological mother didn’t believe me when I first made contact. She thought it was a joke. After that it initially went well, and then it’s been a roller coaster. She’ll love me and then she’ll hate me. It’s exactly what my priest friend said it would be like. It doesn’t matter that I found her, as I still have a lot of baggage I’m sorting through.
Luckily, I have a good relationship with my biological dad and that side of the family.
Adoption.com: Has your biological mom heard your song?
Darren: Probably not. Then again, she might. She’s kind of one of those people who knows everything from afar.
Adoption.com: In your song, you want someone to tell you it will be okay. Who is that someone?
Darren: That’s a good question. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes it’s family; sometimes it’s society. I’ve always gone through life feeling like I must prove something. I don’t know what that is. It’s a struggle I still go through today.
Adoption.com: Another lyric is about the pain that doesn’t go away. Over time do you find it’s lessened?
Darren: Sometimes. My biological mother rejected me as a child, and now she is rejecting me again as an adult. It can get easier, but I feel the weight of the world. I have a lot of trust issues because in the back of my mind I wonder if I will find out something more from someone about something.
Adoption.com: The title of your song is “My Home.” What would it take for you to find your home?
Darren: I feel like I never really belonged to anything. I was just there. I was never 100% anyone’s. My adoptive parents didn’t give birth to me, and my biological parents gave me up (they were in high school when they had me). It was a stigma when other family members would address me as the adopted one. I guess my home is figuring out who I really am and where I belong. I’m 36 and still trying to figure that out.
Adoption.com: What do you hope people will take from your song?
Darren: My message is in the chorus: look at me. Look at who I’ve become. If you push yourself, you will become something. At the end of the day, you have to make yourself proud. There are kids in foster care relying on themselves. There is a community of us, and even though you feel alone, you’re not alone. Set a dream and go for it. It’s a song about accepting who I am and to help people get through the struggle of being adopted.
Adoption.com: Have people reached out to you about your song?
Darren: I have friends who just adopted, and they said it was a different perspective. I’m really proud of this song because it’s very honest. I didn’t filter like I do with my other songs. It’s kind of intense, in-your-face real. People have said they understand my pain, and it made them cry. And it helped them get my story.
Adoption.com: Well, I think your song was a success for so many reasons. You talk about feeling alone, but by sharing this song, you are alleviating people of that burden. I think it’s great that you are putting your emotional well-being first. As adoptive kids, we bear that burden and stigma associated with adoption, and it takes a lot to accept the way things are and learn from it.