Something

The question slammed into the front of my mind as we all sat and chatted. When there was a break in the conversation, a lull of sorts, I asked the two adoptees sitting in front of me,

“What would you do in my situation?” I paused for a second, reframing the question,

“What would you want me to do if I was your birthmother?”

* * * * * * * * * *

The meeting took place in the corner of the hosts quiet wrap around deck, out in the country, far enough away from the noise of the city. The summer breeze rustled through our hair, and gave a reprieve from the stale humidity that we’d been facing in this area over the last week. There we were, two adoptees, three birthmothers, gathered together to talk about the one thing that connected us: adoption.

Each of us shared our stories, tears escaping our eyes, frustration lining our faces as we spoke of the obstacles we’d each come upon: adoptive parents who weren’t supportive of the search, parents who didn’t ask enough questions, lies we were told in the hospital, birth parents who refused contact, hope or the lack of, open adoption, and the greatest barrier of all: time we’d never get back.

All similar, all different.

As I shared my story, I remembered the last time I’d done it like this.

In the air-conditioned room of the local LDSFS agency, surrounded by prospective adoptive parents, all of whom were hanging on my every word, like I was the gatekeeper to finding a baby. That was the last time I’d worked with LDSFS, months before the fantasy world I’d created about my adoption nothingcame crashing down.

I wasn’t met with eager questions like I was in that room. The eyes on me now were filled with compassion, and an ugly understanding of all the words I was speaking. They didn’t want anything from me, and they didn’t look at me like I was a mythical creature. I was just another version of themselves, or of the woman they knew in their own stories.

Carefully, I shared my own story. When I was done, gently, one of the adoptees, commented that when I had shared how I was dealing with the current state of my adoption, she had felt as though it was punch in the gut. As she expressed that she felt like my rejection of any letters or pictures from my son’s adoptive parents would calculate in the mind of my son as a rejection from me, I felt a similar gut punch.

He’ll feel I’m rejecting him because I rejected them. Punch. He’ll fear more rejection. Punch. My rejection of the adoptive parents could be twisted into me not wanting to really know him. Punch.

Feeling a little defensive, I dug into my own wound, and made it a little more gaping so I could explain my actions, maybe helping them to see it wasn’t that simple.

It’s not as easy as allowing them to send pictures. Not after they told me that my voice and opinions in how to handle this adoption didn’t matter. Not after they screamed through emails that this was all in my son’s hands, but contradicted that position by telling me that they would do things on their terms, because they are his parents. Not after they threatened me with the thing I fear most: that he’ll never want to know me.

“It’s about control, power, and insecurity, at this point…I think,” I explained.  “There is no air of regret for any of their actions, and they simply refuse to admit that they could have possibly hurt me. An apology from them to me seems to be like I’m asking them to cut off their limbs.”

I’ve felt justified by my actions for a variety of reasons. I’m hurt, obviously. They are hurt, too. We’re all hurt. But as I finished this sentence, I felt some air remove itself from my lungs. I sounded petty, and insolent. I felt silly.

Instead of focusing on him, we’re focusing on the bullshit between the three of us. We’re all licking our wounds, and compiling lists of the way we’ve been hurt. We’re both, myself included, not even really listening to each other anymore. We are both stamping our feet, throwing a petulant tantrum, demanding that we get our way, instead of realizing just how selfish we’re all being.

I did myself a favor; I heard my own selfishness. I am too angry about the things they refuse to acknowledge they’ve done, that I’ve lost sight of what this adoption is supposed to be about; Him. My son. Our son.  I am, even if I don’t mean to, even if I say it’s to protect myself, rejecting him indirectly. They are without meaning to (I assume) alienating his biological family from his life.

The toxicity between his parents and I have nothing to do with him. We’re the grown ups. We should be better than this, bigger than it all.

And yet.

The conversation veered into other territory, and I silently sighed, relieved, grateful that I could just listen now.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Their message was exactly the same, even if it was delivered differently. Something is better than nothing. Nothing meant rejection, even if it didn’t really mean rejection. Something, even the smallest something, would have meant the world to them as children, even as adults.

He and I, together, we both have nothing right now, but something, I was told, would mean the world to him.

And that alone, would mean everything to me.

BlogHer ’14: Path to Change Agent – In Tweets

When I was choosing between the available paths on Pathfinder Day at BlogHer 2014, I debated between Change Agent and Published Author. I chose, in the end, Change Agent because I felt like my voice is sort of unfocused when it comes to the issues I want to bring awareness to. I wanted to figure how others had used their blogs and social media as platforms to ignite change. I wanted to see if it was something I could do, even when all I have to offer is my story.

The day was run (brilliantly) by Dannielle Owen-Reid from Everyone is Gay, and Rae Lewis-Thorton from Diva Living With Aids. Before they told us their stories, they wanted us to share a snippet of ours, and within moments, I was humbled by the incredible women that sat in the room with me.

 

 

Rae spoke vividly about hiding in the shadows when she was diagnosed with HIV:

 

This was what  told me I’d made the right choice in this session, because #truth.

 

And then we spoke about making money through our advocacy (forgive spelling errors):

 

But, Dannielle points out that not every demographic responds to ads;

 

After a lengthy discussion on monetization, the panelists dropped the mic with these important tidbits that I think many bloggers should think about:

 

Then we discussed how to get our message out there:

 

MochaMomma would later drive this point home during the closing keynote panel, in a different way:

 

Stop, collaborate (with other bloggers) and (get people to) listen:

 

Rae couldn’t stress how important it was for us to be genuine in our advocacy:

 

During the question period, I asked about how they have both dealt with negative comments, trolls, how they’ve let it go, and what wisdom they could impart on us, because sharing our stories is so incredibly personal and sometimes sacred.

 

But then, Rae took the negativity issue to a profoundly new level:

 

The lovely Grace Sandra asked how to respond to those in your real life who expect you to constantly be miserable because you talk about hard stuff:

 

In the afternoon session, we were given 30 minutes to write our stories in a journal. Then we were asked to answer a series of questions related to our stories (if anyone can get their hands on an agenda for this day, I’d love to add these questions). The only one I tweeted about was why my story, personally, is important.

 

 

In an act of respect, we were asked to limit what we shared on social media during this point of the session. Everyone wanted to create an environment that was safe for those of us who chose to share:

 

We spoke of ways to network our advocacy, and how to use social media for the greater good:

 

I’d gone into the session believing that each aspect of my experience has separate and therefore I had to just focus on one piece of it in order to be a proper advocate. This piece of advice hit me straight in the heart, and I feel it accurately sums up the whole point of Path to Change Agent:

 

 

A huge shoutout had to go to Rae and Dannielle. They prepared this panel incredibly well and in the end, I think everyone who attended benefited greatly from their experience and wisdom.

 

Did you attend the Path to Change Agent at BlogHer 2014? Share your tweets in the comments so I can link them in this post, or post the link where you recapped the session. Sharing is caring! I think everyone, even those who aren’t on the path to making change could benefit from the profound wisdom that was shared by both the panelists and those in attendance. 

Like, Literally.

Still in my post BlogHer ’14 haze, I led my family through the grocery store to pick up some necessities. It wasn’t much different than any other trip; I was pulling the cart from the front, directing my husband as I weaved expertly in and out of the aisles, only talking over my shoulder to ask if we had this or that. Normally, I’d go on my own, but since I hadn’t been home for a few days, I needed my husband’s assistance. Girlie  was snug and tight in the cart seat because she likes to run around and touch all of the things. Potato was wandering behind us, looking for things he could present to us and ask, “Can I get this?”  He knew the answer was usually no, but it never stopped him from trying.

After much debate in the freezer aisle, I finally just grabbed the vanilla ice cream and said we’d find some toppings. I was met with a chorus of “Awwww” and “BUT! I wanted that one!” Ignoring the protests, I directed the cart back toward the end of the aisle, when I heard Potato ask,

“Are those huge cans of iced tea, Mama?!” He was both incredulous and unsure. If he could subsist on iced tea alone, he would.

“Yes, they are. Now come on, we need to go…”

“Mama. You just blew my head off!”

I paused, and then I turned around to face my family.

“Did you hear what he said?” I asked my husband.

He shook his head no, he’d been discussing the toppings Girlie could have because she was distraught over the fact that there had been no strawberry ice cream.

“Potato, what did you say?”

“YOU BLEW MY HEAD OFF!” His brown eyes danced mischievously, proudly. He was dead serious. In his mind he’d just executed a sentence that he’d heard my husband or myself use before. Both the kids were starting to repeat common sentences in our household, a reminder to both my husband and I that we needed to watch our mouths.

In the middle of WalMart, holding onto the end of that cart, I bent over and began laughing, hysterically.

“Do you….ahem…mean blew your mind?” I asked, laughing tears falling out of the corners of my eyes.

“Oh no way, Mama. It like, literally, blew my head off.”

Now my husband was laughing too.

“Literally?”

“Yes, literally.”

We managed to calm ourselves, and continue our shopping trip, but not before Girlie looked at us with all the annoyance she could,

“You guys is so weird.”

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Image Credit: Cheryl VanStane

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. Thebellhooks 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.