When Adoptive Parent Privilege Has A Stage

They called her name, and under my breath, I muttered, “Fuck off.”

Lisa leaned over quickly asking, “Do you need to leave? I’ll come with you. I don’t want to hear what she has to say.”

I shook my head violently. I was not going to be run out of that room. No, I’d done that too many times in my life.  I was going to stand my ground. Maybe, I told myself, she wouldn’t even read an adoption related piece. Maybe.

I knew I was lying to myself.  I know her message well. I stopped interacting with her because I got the distinct impression that she wasn’t here to learn but to tell me I was wrong. I like learning from others who have had a different experience than I have, especially in adoption, but sometimes, it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about doing right, and changing the conversation that monopolizes the adoption spotlight.

When I had signed up for the Listen To Your Mother Open Mic at BlogHer, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that someone would read an adoption piece, or that they’d read an adoption piece that would trigger me. When I had thoughtfully decided what I would read,(if I was picked) I avoided adoption because generally it leads to more questions or statements that I will usually answer with as much grace as I can muster, but  honestly, it’s just exhausting.  After bursting into tears at Pathfinder Day, when another attendee told me she’d read some of my posts during lunch and wanted me to know how important my story was and is, I was a little raw. It wasn’t my name on the screen during the opening conference video that read, I am a Birth Mother, I am BlogHer, but it hit me right in the heart for many reasons. Before Voices of The Year began, I had to explain that a birth mother was not someone who birthed babies for people who didn’t have any, that I was coerced to give my child away, and it wasn’t a happy ending for me, at all.  Even though being open about this stuff is new and important to me, it is still emotionally draining.

If I’m being honest, besides being fragile, I knew didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

The readers before her weren’t much of a distraction for me. I was too busy trying to build a wall to protect myself. I was too busy wondering if I could escape without creating too much commotion.  I was still trying to convince myself that she might not read anything about adoption.

But she did.  Because, of course.

I think she made it through the first paragraph of her piece before I was dry heaving. Through blinding tears, I heard someone tell me not to listen to a word she was saying. If I could have willed my ears shut at this point, I would have done it, but as she read, her words echoed in my head. I heard the women at my table ask what the point of the post was. I felt hands on my back, and words of comfort. I heard myself say, “Fuck you” multiple times. I felt my body shake, and I knew that the people behind me were wondering what the hell was going on.  I felt blindsided, and exposed. I felt so angry. I wanted to scream. Instead, I just continued to sob into my drink while those around me tried to be comforting.

I felt like someone had just kicked the shit out of me.

Afterward, a birth mother saw my face, she asked what happened. I told her, the tears still rapidly falling. She wrapped me into her arms and hugged me in a way that only someone who “gets it” could. We began discussing the issue with adoption parent privilege. Theprivilege kind that would tell someone that reading a piece like that would be a great idea. The kind that wants you to feel sorry for them, and think that they are the victim in the adoption process. The kind that wants you to ignore the hurt and pain of others. The kind that stands on a stage and spews that biological parents have a choice in the kind of baby they have, and that it’s no different than an adoptive parent choosing the sex, race, and age of their child. The kind that makes you wonder if anyone is listening to your side of the story.

Adoption parent privilege is a fucking mind trip. Especially when it’s on full display, not hidden by a computer screen and the ability to click that tiny X in the corner of your screen. Especially when you have been dealing with it personally. Mostly, it’s a mind trip because these people are hoarding the goddamn narrative. They get mainstream attention, while the rest of us fight to be heard and seen. For every comment they get telling them they are brave for speaking their “truth”, we birth mothers (and adoptees) get at least five telling us to sit down and shut up. They are the ones that shut down a contest because we dare discuss the uglier side of adoption. They get to be saints, and we get to be the miserable sinners. When negativity is sent their way, they are surrounded by an army of others who refuse to listen, because how dare we challenge their thinking?

Fuck that nonsense. Fuck it all the way to the bank.

Her reading did allow for others to get a glimpse into my world. It did allow for me to have further discussions about why her post was problematic. I’m glad I was able to have those discussions, because they are so important.  However, it didn’t solve the biggest issue: adoptive parent privilege is alive and well. Even if I’ve isolated myself with adoptive parents who get it, there are still some that don’t get it at all.

Unfortunately.

(I’m not posting a link to the post because I don’t want to give her a bigger platform, or traffic).

 

 

 

 

 

 

BlogHer ’14 Recap (The Post With Eleventy Billion Links)

“Are you looking forward to your trip?” my husband asked sleepily as we turned in for the night.

I paused.

“No, not really,” I answered.

I wish I could say that I was excited about my trip to BlogHer ’14 in San Jose, but the truth is, I just wasn’t. A combination of a wretched year full of rejection writing wise, and my own insecurities, played heavily into this. Of course, the fact that I was/am in the middle of a depressive episode doesn’t help. Going to the grocery store is a chore. Interacting for five days with other people, constantly? Fuck me.

But, I went, even if I was kicking and screaming internally.

This story, if you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, has a happy ending.

1. Pathfinder Day Killed It (in a good way) 

During the afternoon session we were given 30 minutes to write our stories, and then we discussed how to use them to ignite change.

During the afternoon session we were given 30 minutes to write our stories, and then we discussed how to use them to ignite change.

It was awesome. I know some didn’t have the experience I did, but it was the highlight of the conference. It wasn’t even the fact that the woman beside me worked for Planned Parenthood and told me that I needed to work with them after she heard bits and pieces of my experience with teen pregnancy.

The panelists guiding the session were thorough, prepared, and they complemented each other beautifully. Dannielle of Everyone  is Gay and Rae of Diva Living With Aids had a plethora of fantastic advice and experiences to share, but their own advocacy is impressive on it’s own.  Please check them both out, they are worth every second of your time.

2. Yeah, I’m Fat. But I’m Also Fucking Awesome. 

Any social event causes me to begin internally assaulting myself with a barrage of insults regarding how I look. In my mind, there is no way people aren’t looking at me and thinking, “My God, she is so fat.” I mean, I do it every single damn morning, so why wouldn’t these seemingly perfect looking women do the same?

That’s what we call projection, my friends. Instead of crawling into the den of self-loathing, I walked out, with my fatness, and decided, “Fuck anyone who wants to judge me for how I look”. So that’s what I did. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have moments (I did), but I figured, if I saw everyone for who they were and not what they looked like, I could and should expect the same.

It worked, and now I just need to find a way to apply this to my every day life. (Ashley Garrett of Baddest Mother Ever sums up the mirror and conference self-doubt beautifully).

3. When You Plan For What You Want To Learn, You Find What You Need

Last year, I floated, unsure of what I was looking for.  This year, I knew what I wanted to learn. Every session I attended gave me a piece of my own writing puzzle. One session told me I needed to find an agent for a book deal, how long my novel should be, and how long my proposal should be – I needed that.  The Writing Lab with Whit Honea made me realize that I need to put my experiences into fiction form rather than memoir, and that I just need to write (obvious you’d think). Liz Henry sat me down at breakfast and said, “What are you doing to get your writing elsewhere? How can I help you?”

Every time there was a chance for me to learn from someone’s experience, I sopped it right up like a biscuit accompanying soup.

4. Canadians Are Fucking Awesome 

I think this can stand alone.

5.  I’m Really Not A Brand Blogger, and I’m (still) Okay With It

The Expo was fun, but I didn’t hand out a single business card. I did participate in the picture contests, but later that night, I took most of them down. I didn’t even take much of the beloved “swag”.  I wasn’t interested because that’s not why I went to BlogHer. The highlight of the expo were these moments:

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L to R: Life With Roozle, Stop, Drop And Blog, SassyMonkey, So Tabulous and myself

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Jenna from Stop, Drop and Blog

6.The People Are Amazing,

Yes, there are cliques. You won’t be BFF’s with a blogger you love and there will be some disappointment. But, maybe you’ll walk up to someone and tell them you love their resting bitch face and click, just like that. Maybe you’ll just sit at a table with someone and find you need to know more about them. Maybe you’ll sneak out of the lunch keynote to charge your phone and end up having a wonderful conversation about how you share your story without sharing someone else’s at the same time. Maybe you’ll wind up at a table with popular bloggers, and discuss how to handle the uglier side of the internet. Maybe someone you’ve admired for a long time will tell you your bangs are adorable and deem you “the cute bang girl”. Maybe you’ll awkwardly tell someone how you didn’t introduce yourself to them last year because you were scared.   Maybe you’ll awkwardly correct a blogger who you think said your name wrong, only to find out that she was saying her own, but then when you ask her a question about writing a book, she’ll give you her number and tell you to text her (and she meant it).

And, if you are super lucky, you’ll find a group of women that just get you, accept you and don’t mind if you say fuck too much.

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Image Courtesy of Neil Kramer

7. Blogging Is NOT Dead

There are people who have been screaming that blogging is on it’s way out. That it’s not cool, or relevant. Is it changing? Yes, but that’s the nature of these things. We should expect evolution. We should expect that our platforms might change, and look different than they did even just two years ago. This does not equate death.

Bloggers are writers, and we will find a way to write, even if the environment changes. Stop trying to put us in an early grave, ya’ll.

8.  When I Grow Up, I Want To Be…

All weekend, I kept recalling that eight year old girl who filled an entire notebook with chapter after chapter for her Language Arts assignment. With no pictures.  I remember how she poured herself into those pages, her scratchy eight year old printing filling each line. I remember when that same girl won a Remembrance Day poetry contest for the county. Writing saved her.

Writing still saves me. I still want to be her. I want to fill the world with writing. I want to share my writing, and I want you to share yours. The community that is created because we bravely share our stories is one I don’t think I’ll ever tire of. BlogHer 2014 reestablished, after a year of asking myself, “Am I done with this?” that in fact, I am not. And I doubt I ever will be.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thank you to Lisa Stone, Jory DesJardins, and Elisa Camahort-Page for giving us this platform. Thank you to all of the employees behind the scenes of this conference. Your hard work, love and devotion was displayed beautifully.

I’m Going To BlogHer and You Should Know This About Me

Last year, when BlogHer came around, I was this bundle of nerves. I spent  too much time wandering around my house practicing what I would say when people talked to me. I practiced being witty, and funny, and interesting. My outfits were planned, and executed with much thought and deliberation. There may have been daydreaming that included making so many BFF’s and being recognized as the oh-so popular blogger I am (I’m not). It was exhausting, and I spent so much of the time when I was there not being myself because I was terrified of being judged, of not being liked, and I took some things far too personally.

I learned a lot about myself at that conference, as well as the amazing things I learned regarding what I wanted as a writer.

This year, while my nature is to plan, plan, plan, I’m not overdoing it. I’ve made lists. I’ve thought about the lists. I’ve crossed off the items on the list. There has been no pre-conference conversation planning, or worrying about not being noticed by certain people. In short, I’m not being neurotic this time.

Okay, maybe I am, just a little but I swear, it’s much better this year. This year, I’m going to just be me. No apologies. Unless I trip over you, or spill on you, because I’m a klutz.

If we meet at BlogHer,  here’s a couple of things you should know about me. I should come with a warning. In fact, I think everyone should. I think it’d make everyone a little more user friendly.

 

1. I Suffer From Resting Bitch Face

My roommate was talking to someone. I felt awkward, so I wandered away and took selfies instead. Because.

My roommate was talking to someone. I felt awkward, so I wandered away and took selfies instead. Because.

I do. It’s how my BFF in high school and I became fast friends. We both thought we hated each other. We didn’t, and both admitted almost in unison that most people think we’re snobs because we like watching people. We really liked each other, in fact, we really liked each other’s handwriting. So if you see me sitting at a table and I look like I’m planning to kill someone, I’m not. Likely, I’m thinking about whether or not I should go get another muffin, if that person over there is who I think it is, or if I remembered to put on deodorant.  Just don’t tell me to smile, then I’ll actually be suffering from WTF Did You Just Say Face?

2. When I’m Nervous, I Ramble And Say Incredibly Stupid Things

This also causes me to look like a bitch too. Mainly, because I’ll just sit and observe. Meanwhile, my mind is going a mile a minute trying to think of something to add to the conversation. When I finally get it, sometimes I have enough decency to check if the conversation is still on that topic, sometimes I don’t. And that’s when things get incredibly awkward. So I start fumbling to make up for the fact that I’m lagging worse than a dial-up connection.

3.  When I Say Something Funny, I’m Super Proud of Myself 

If I say something that makes you laugh, don’t be surprised if I look like a child on Christmas. It’s not that I’m not funny; I am. When you are married to a guy who loves the spotlight and is known as the “funny person” in your relationship, you don’t always get a chance to shine. And I love making people laugh.

(I should add, I have a bizarre sense of humor. Sometimes, it’s dark. Sometimes, it’s punny. Sometimes, it’s quick and clever. Mostly though, I find things funny. Like calling my best friend a stupid whore for being able to lose a million pounds and still eat copious amounts of chocolate. I hate her. But not really. Not at all, actually). 

4. I’m A Crier

Sometimes I tear up in regular conversation because something you said or did really made me have all the feels. I cry during commercials. I cry when my kids do sweet things for me. I cry when my husband remembers my favorite wine and surprises me with it. I cry when I read, and when I watch movies. In fact, tomorrow, when I’m flying out, I’ll probably cry because I’m leaving my kids, and OMGI’MGOINGTOBEALONE.  If we’re talking and I cry, don’t worry, I’m fine. Just tell me if my mascara is running, please.

5.  I Don’t Like Talking About Myself

Huh, why would you go to a blogging conference where you pretty much have to talk about yourself? Because I’m a bit of a sadist, I guess. If you ask me questions, I’ll answer, as fast as I can, and then ask you something. Then,  I’ll ask more, and more. Until, you catch on (if you do) and then, I’ll  feign innocence. I find other people fascinating, and I feel like I’m not as interesting as you are. Maybe I am, and maybe I’m not. So, if you like to talk about yourself, I’m your gal.

6. Hmm, I Also Have No Filter

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And sometimes I IG my lack of filter, for your enjoyment.

Even though I want to talk to you about you, don’t talk about yourself too much, because I will tell you that you do. In a nice way, because I’m not really an asshole. I’ll make a joke about it, and redirect the conversation. If that doesn’t work, I’ll move on. Did you sit with me during the Lean In circles last year? I think I pissed a couple of people off, including my roommate. I don’t know why I stayed. Even a year later, I’m still annoyed that I skipped a session I really wanted to go to so I could participate in those damn circles. If it’s not clear, I hated the circles. I found them elementary. Pedantic. And gross. I felt like they were insipid, and manipulative. Ahem.  I could go on, but you get the point. I have no filter. I could have, and probably should have just stood up and left. I didn’t because I had some cohorts at the table who were sharing in my distaste, and it was fun to be snarky.

If you already follow me on Twitter, you already know what I’m talking about when it comes to my filter. Two glasses of wine, and it’s almost gone entirely. I’m sorry. I try not to be mean, because I’m not Mean Girls (though, OMG, I love that movie and really wish that Lindsay Lohan would go back to being that version of herself. Did you watch Oprah’s documentary on her? She’s a hot mess, seriously).  Wait. Where was I? Lindsay Lohan. Cocaine? No. Oh, I’m not mean. Nope. I’m not. I swear.

* * * * * * * * * *

Please come say hi. I promise, I am awesome. I’m really nice, I don’t bite, and I’ll probably buy you a drink if you make me laugh until I cry (I also do this version of crying).  I probably won’t say hi first, unless I’m really feeling brave or have accepted that knot in my stomach. Just be nice if I say something really dumb. Or drop the f-bomb and I’ll know you are my people.

 

Broken Promises

lonelyroadSomewhere between then and now, I stopped taking care of myself. It started out slowly, because life got busy, and I do this thing where I avoid myself and care for others in the same way I wish I cared for myself. Get me alone, and mostly, I’d rather talk about you. Talking about me means feeling things, and digging deep, and admitting that most of the time, I’m just a goddamn mess.

I’d rather not discuss any of that over wine. I don’t want to be the one to drag the conversation down in the depths of Dark & Twisty. Yes, yes, let’s talk about you, because I’m just fine. 

There was always an excuse for why I wasn’t taking care of myself. I needed to be strong for my daughter. I needed to keep it together for the family. I needed to bite my tongue so I didn’t disturb the dysfunctional but kind of working relationship with my parents.  I needed to grit and bear the busy season for my husband’s work. Then I needed to get through the holidays. I needed to get through the anniversary of the adoption closing, The list, it doesn’t stop there. I’ve tumbled from one obstacle to the next, always in survivor mode. Always numbing myself, and powering through, ignoring the thoughts that rage like fire through my brain during a bout of insomnia.

There is no time, I tell myself. Sure, the hours in a day are never enough, but do I really truly believe that I cannot possibly make time for myself, especially when things are stressful? Especially, when someone like me, someone with an illness requires self-regulation and care, needs to make that time.

I haven’t taken my medication for over six months. For someone with Bipolar Disorder, that’s a terrible, no good, horrible idea.

I haven’t seen a therapist in at least three years, probably more.

I haven’t been executing the so-called tools that I’ve collected over the years, because, I just don’t care to.

I haven’t cried since Christmas (maybe I’ve cried over television or a book). When my toe was ripped to hell in the garden, internally, I kept telling myself, “Don’t you dare even cry. Don’t you dare.” On The Kiddo’s birthday, I didn’t feel a thing and I tried. I wanted to, but I’m so far into removing myself from myself, that I just can’t even feel when it’s appropriate to feel. This is my thing, my go to, the outlet I used as a child when my abusive home just became too much. Back then, I’d prompt myself to stop feeling, to repress the memories, meditating them deep into my soul.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. Sound familiar? Except I don’t have magical ice powers or Idina Menzel’s amazing voice. I want to say that it’s easier to be this sort of emotional zombie. I’ve put myself in a sensory deprivation chamber and I have no idea how to get out of it….Do I want to get out of it?

Sometimes, before I got to bed, and because I hate the telephone, I promise myself that I will, absolutely, without a doubt make a phone call for a doctor or a therapist. Sometimes, I’ve even done the research and have the numbers ready. I promise myself over and over again until sleep finds me. I’ve broken this promise so many times that I don’t think, even when I repeat myself, and have the best intentions, that I really mean it anymore.

Or maybe, it’s just that I don’t care.

Who cares if I can barely get out of bed because the crushing weight of depression arrests me in the fetal position? Who cares if I don’t take care of me? Who cares that I regard myself with such little respect and love? Because, lately, it feels like not very many people do care.  And, I know, it’s not because they don’t. It’s simply, I’ve drawn myself into the comfortable isolation that is repressing all of my feelings, which means I don’t even feel or see reality. It means when my husband tells me he loves me, I roll my eyes. It means when he tries to hug me, I pull away. That all feels foreign, and wrong.

Maybe tonight, I’ll make another promise, and in the morning, we’ll see if I can coerce my fingers to dial a number. Maybe I’ll speak the brave words of asking to make an appointment. Maybe I’ll write it down and actually go to it. Maybe I’ll feel relieved, and riddled with anxiety all at once.

Maybe.

The “Experiment” (Or My Kids Went Crazy so I Took Away Technology)

My kids went insane in June, guys. It was so bad, I can’t even openly admit how much wine I consumed to dull the pain by the end of the day. It was “The guy at the liquor store knows me by name and I wish I was kidding, but I’m not” bad.

MessFirst, it was The Not Listening. My husband would come home at the end of the day, and without fail, I’d say, “I’m tapping out. I can’t even with them today.”  Before long, he began calling before he came home, I’m assuming so he could spend the commute home, preparing for the chaos he was about to walk in on. And it was utter chaos. Picture me with frazzled unwashed hair, crazy eyes, while clutching a glass of wine that I may have poured the minute it became 5pm.

Nothing in our so-called parenting tool box was working for us. We tried everything; More outside time, more quiet time, grounding from certain privileges, bribing with ice cream, ignoring it, joining on it…Nothing was helping.When they weren’t behaving as though they’d never been socialized at all,  they were melting down over everything. Turn the television volume down? Tantrum. Apologize to your friend for throwing their ball at their face? Tantrum. Water not cold enough? Tantrum. Water not in specific cup? Definite tantrum. Have a bath because you were pretty much rolling in dirt today? Epic tantrum.

I won’t lie, I may have had a tantrum or two myself that included a slammed door and a trip to a parking lot just to sit in the car, and listen to loud music. Because, my god, it was awful. There is nothing like your kids behaving like mine were to make you feel like you are the world’s worst mother.

Then, I snapped. I don’t even remember what it was specifically, but I was finished. Done. It was not happening anymore. One night at dinner, we sternly told them that all of the shenanigans were over. We discussed listening, not pouring water all over your bedroom because fun, (do not even ask ) and respect in general. They nodded, and added in their own points, expressing some of their own frustration, and ideas.

Since I suspected that we may have a case of Technology Overdose, we gave the kids two options: They could have 30 minutes a day on whatever device they wished, or they could go without any Monday through Friday, and basically have a free for all on the weekend, given we weren’t doing anything, and that they didn’t kick up a fuss when we asked them to turn it off.*  Both of kids decided on the free for all weekend. For good measure, we warned them if they didn’t start respecting their room, we would separate them, and some of the toys would make it into the dreaded storage room.

They had a week to get it together.

Two days later, because maybe they didn’t quite believe us, we started to move them into separate rooms.

The room switching was a lot of work, but the no technology bit? That was hard. There was negotiations, and a lot of asking when the weekend was. There were tantrums over the lack of television, which only solidified my belief that we were doing the right thing. There was a disgruntled husband who didn’t love the idea that the television needed to stay off until the kids were in bed, and possibly a couple of heated words about having each others back in the thick of this mess.

But then!

Suddenly, my kids started playing outside more. They started playing together more. They started talking to each other, instead of at each other. We weren’t always yelling, or fighting about the volume on the television, or which mess belonged to who. We were riding bikes, and playing at parks, willingly. They were asking to read books and do work in their workbooks. There wasn’t any tantrums over a simple request to turn the television off, because it wasn’t even on, and at some point, they stopped asking about it. They began to eagerly clean their rooms before bed, and the messes in each respective room did not look like an atomic bomb had detonated.

It worked. It actually worked.

Let me confess: Technology, be it the television, iPod, or XBox, had become a crutch for me. I was the one offering it in the morning just so I could get a moment of peace with my coffee. I was the one using it as a reward.  Somewhere along the line, I allowed these pieces of entertainment to actually become entities in our lives. Before we instituted this experiment, I truly believed I couldn’t parent without these devices. It had gotten that bad, and I’m so happy to say that once I relinquished my hold on the idea that I needed them, it became easier.

Maybe technology wasn’t to blame for the entire crazy situation we happened upon, but I cannot ignore the fact that over a month into this “experiment”, something absolutely switched in my kids, and in this family.  I have my kids back, and confidence that parenting can be done without all the extra gadgets.

*I can’t take credit for this idea or set up. Jenna @ Stop, Drop and Blog wrote about her experience going tech free including the setup of it.