I wrote a thing! It got published!

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Since quietly moving my blog over to Egypt Titchenal, I have been trying my hand at writing pieces for publication by online magazines, and I’m proud to announce that yesterday I was published over on Mutha Magazine! Maybe head on over there and show me some love? I’m hoping to write more pieces like this in the future!

And while you’re at it, go ahead and follow my new blog!

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Honey Grey Eyes

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This kid, ya’ll. He’s pretty dang amazing. I love his personality, and watching him grow up, and laughing at his funny little ways of saying things. But my heart is so wistful from this weekend, when he was napping in the back seat of the car. The car was idling in the driveway, and I was reading my book, and when he woke up (scared), he just wanted a snuggle before going into the house.

In the clear afternoon light I got a real good look into this sweet boy’s face. And I was shocked. I’m sure I’d seen it before, but dismissed it until I was ready to face the truth. My baby no longer has blue eyes. He’ll be turning three, and while it might have been four or six or eight months that we’ve been living with this truth, I now cannot hide from the truth. He’s a honey grey green eyed boy (what, is that classified as hazel?).

They’re beautiful eyes. Clear and muddy at the same time. Speckled green and gray and seem to change in the light. But they aren’t blue, or blue-green like mine, and that’s where the wistfulness comes in. I knew it was inevitable. I knew that the blonde blue eyed baby that seemed miraculous odds against a dark hair dark eyed dominant gene pool. I have loved looking into a face that resembles my own so much, but this beautiful hard part about parenting is also letting him get to be the wonderful little boy that he is. And that means embracing the sweet honey grey green eyed toddler who says “pooperman” because he can’t pronounce superman.

Introverted Adoptee Parent

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I was sitting on the couch talking with Boof about my being an introvert, and how it effects me as a mother. And he said, “I can see it. I can see when he’s sleeping so close to you, touching you all the time, how it effects you, how it drains you.” We had been talking about our space bubbles, and how children don’t seem to have a space bubble, which he so beautifully described as:

This kid was just inside you a few years ago. He doesn’t have a concept of your own space, that you have your own space. He’s starting to have a concept that he has HIS own space, meaning there are times when he doesn’t want us in his space bubble, but it’s not going to be until he’s like…a pre-tween…when will realize that you or I have our own space, too. That we need to have our own space. For now, our space is his space, but his space isn’t always our space.

I loved that description, though it doesn’t make the physical nervous system overload that I experience as an introvert any easier. But there’s been something more than being an introverted biologically, and I was talking with Boof about how, now, as a mother, I am never alone. I know that this phenomenon isn’t uncommon to motherhood, this feeling like once you’ve born a child you are connected to them. The worry, and love, and thinking about their every little move. And I guess it bothers some women, and others not so much. Maybe it’s a neutral energy. But I was explaining to Boof that it feels like my soul, or psyche, is introverted, and that there is the lingering energy of Potamus that is within my psyche. I can’t escape this energy. And therefore, my soul is never alone. My soul is never alone, and that sometimes makes me feel agitated on an energetic level. I can’t escape. I feel agitated on the soul level, because my soul is not alone. 

My girlfriend Anne hypothesized that perhaps this feeling comes from being adopted. That since my connection to my biological mother happened so early on that my soul has felt alone since. That this connection to Potamus is one that is foreign to me, and it’s good, and beautiful, but unexpected and could feel agitating because I lived for 29 years without that feeling. Because I had talked to Boof about how my fear of adding another child into the family someday is not only due to the logistics of having another kid around, as an introverted parent might be afraid of that, but that my soul would then energetically be agitated by two soulish energies existing within my psyche. 

I was telling Anne that I feel this need to expand. I used this motion of pushing out a bubble from myself, that I wonder if I am able to expand my soul energy, to not be so close to my body (at least that’s the image in my mind), that I could maybe feel less agitation, that I would somehow be able to expand and find that I was big enough to hold not just one soul energy, but another as well. That the connection is okay, and good, albeit uncomfortable sometimes, and that I am big enough to handle it. 

You Wanna Know About My Stance on Adoption?

My friends are often surprised that someone like me (aka a ‘successful’ adoption story) is anti adoption. Especially since I worked with foster youth, and fucked up families in crisis, and at-risk teenagers gettin’ knocked up with their meth-head boyfriends (maybe a tad exaggerated there). And so I usually bumble along in my explanation, but then I came across this piece and thought “holy shit, yeah” and so I’m just going to quote the whole damn thing, or you can click over and read it in it’s entirety on their site…

Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement:
The surprising next frontier in reproductive justice

For a long time, Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy thought of herself as an adoption success story. Pregnant at 18 from an affair with her boss, she denied the pregnancy until her coworkers began to notice. Too far along to get an abortion, she looked up an adoption agency in the Yellow Pages and found herself agreeing to move to Boston and live with a host family until she gave birth. Her son, who she calls Max (his adoptive parents gave him a different name), was born in November of 1987 and handed over to a couple Corrigan D’Arcy had only seen in photos. And that was that.

She told herself she’d done the smart thing. She’d given her son a two-parent family of means. It wasn’t until more than a decade later that Corrigan D’Arcy, by then married and the mother of three more children, began to rethink what had happened.

 By having her move to a new state while pregnant, she felt the agency was purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing,” she told me recently.

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

The past decade has seen the rise of a broad and loose coalition of activists out to change the way adoption works in America. This coalition makes bedfellows of people who would ordinarily have nothing to do with each other: Mormon and fundamentalist women who feel they were pressured by their churches, progressives who believe adoption is a classist institution that takes the children of the young and poor and gives them to the wealthier and better-educated, and adoptive parents who have had traumatic experiences with corrupt adoption agencies.

Some women, like Corrigan D’Arcy, blog their stories. They run message boards with names like “First Mother Forum” and “Pound Pup Legacy,” full of tales of bitterly regretted adoptions. They hold retreats for birthmothers and adoptees. They’ve formed several grassroots activist organizations, including Parents for Ethical Adoption ReformOrigins-USA, and Concerned United Birthparents. Some call themselves adoption reformers. Others prefer terms such as “adoption truth advocate.” A few will come straight out and say they’re anti-adoption.

They want, among other things, a ban on adoption agencies offering monetary support to pregnant women. They want to see laws put in place guaranteeing that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. They want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. These activists have become increasingly loud of late, holding prominent rallies, organizing online, and winning several recent legislative victories.

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. But these adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies.

Adoption in America has changed vastly since the end of the so-called “Baby Scoop Era” in the early 1970s, when many pregnant young women were “sent away” and their babies offered up for adoption as a matter of course. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. All in all, there are about 14,000 domestic infant adoptions a year, comprising only about 15 percent of U.S. adoptions. (The rest are from the foster care system, or are international.)

But for young women who do find themselves pregnant and unmarried, the pressure to choose adoption is still present. Much of this pressure still comes from organized religion. Andrea Mills, 38, has placed four of her children for adoption through the Mormon Church’s LDS Family Services program over the past 13 years. Mormonism forbids abortion, considers premarital sex taboo, and frowns upon single parenthood. When Mills initially voiced uncertainty about adoption, the counselor handling her case insisted it was her best option, saying “This is what God wanted.” The nation’s4,000-odd “crisis pregnancy centers,” anti-choice organizations, are often affiliated with evangelical Christian maternity homes and Christian adoption agencies. “Pregnant? Scared?” their ads ask on billboards and in bar bathroom posters; “We can help.”

Even non-religious adoption agencies practice what some say is subtle coercion. Agencies offer pregnant women financial assistance—for rent, groceries, medical bills, maternity clothes, even cellphones. Some even offer college scholarships for women who go through with adoptions. Agencies frequently warn women about a “post-abortion syndrome” of lasting depression and guilt, though mainstream medical organizations dismissed these warnings. (Adoption, on the other hand, is known to cause “a sense of loss that is all-encompassing,” says the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.) Adoption counselors are frequently adoptive parents themselves, which puts them in a less-than-neutral position.

While the ubiquity of open adoption—today 95 percent of all adoptions include some kind of contact between birthparents and children—is universally seen as a step forward, it can present its own challenges. Pregnant women, encouraged to choose and bond with an adoptive couple before the baby is born, often get the impression that they and the couple are going to be “kind of co-parents,” says Kathryn Joyce, the author of The Child Catchers, an expose on corruption in the adoption industry. But then, when the baby is born and relinquished, the couple closes ranks, wanting—understandably enough—to cocoon as a family. The birthmother is left feeling like, in Joyce’s words, “’you were all over me when I was pregnant, but now that you have the baby you don’t want anything to do with me.’”

Responding to all this, adoption reformers have been lobbying state governments for a number of specific changes.

First, there’s the matter of timing. In some states, such as Utah, a woman can sign papers irrevocably terminating her parental rights 24 hours after giving birth. At this point, a woman is still in the hospital, exhausted and possibly under the influence of painkillers. In more than half of all states, irrevocable termination of parental rights can be established in fewer than four days. “We believe that this is by no means a sufficient time period to make an irreversible, life-altering decision with consequences for many people,” says Concerned United Birthparents, an adoption reform group, which would like to extend the period to 30 days.

But public opinion tends to favor shorter waiting times, sympathetic to the pain of adoptive parents who have babies taken away after a birthmother changes her mind. (A reality show on Logo TV called “The Baby Wait” focuses on this limbo period, its allegiances clearly lying with the prospective adoptive couples.) In April, Kansas eliminated its 30-day post-birth waiting period, allowing adoptions to be finalized within the first 24 hours. This act was generally reported as an uncontroversial good.

There has been a bit more progress on open adoption. Fewer than half of U.S. states regulate open adoption agreements. In the rest, openness depends on the whim of the adoptive parents, many of whom soon tire of feeling they’re sharing their child. In Mills’s case, a supposedly open adoption became “don’t call us, we’ll call you,” she says. Georgia enacted a law in May that makes open adoption contracts legally binding, meaning birthparents are guaranteed access to their children as often as their agreed-upon contracts specify. Utah passed a similar measure earlier this year, but only for children adopted from state custody.

In August, the Adoptee Rights Coalition rallied around the issue of access to birth certificates. Currently, only a handful of states allow unrestricted access to original birth certificates. But the recent phenomenon of adoptees searching for, and sometimes finding, their birthparents via Facebook has highlighted the need for action. Though people imagine that birth mothers want their privacy, Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, says that only a tiny minority actually want to withhold their identifying details from their children permanently. In May, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a new law giving some, but not all, adoptees access to their original birth certificates, a partial win for reformers that left many unhappy. Pennsylvania’s legislature will likely vote on a similar bill this fall, as will Ohio’s, after numerous failed attempts by adoption reform groups in both states to pass such legislation. Another bill was passed by the New Jersey legislature, but conditionally vetoed by Governor Chris Christie in 2011.

Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. It’s a difficult, life-changing decision with ramifications that last a lifetime. As such, it needs to be treated with the utmost transparency and a much higher degree of ethical oversight, legal and otherwise.

“I would rather see us live in a society where we say to struggling pregnant women, ‘OK you have a problem, we should try to fix the whole situation,’” says Corrigan D’Arcy, “rather than remove the child and leave the mother in crisis.” One of the most important events of her recent life was locating her now-teenage son via MySpace. “Every portion of finding him, whether it was just finding that he was alive or finding where he is, I felt one step lighter, one step closer to being who I was really supposed to be.”

Image via Shutterstock.

Emily Matchar has written for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Salon. She’s the author of Homeward Bound (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

I’d be interested to hear what you think of this article…

The Difficulty in Attunement- or- I suck at Boundaries

Apparently, I learned in therapy this week, that I really suck at boundaries. Don’t worry, my therapist didn’t actually say that, but the realization that I actually do suck at putting up boundaries, especially with family, was evident by the conversation I was having with her. Somewhere along the line I started to attune to the world around me. And in order to get my needs met, I began to change and shift and mold myself based on the signals I was reading.

Yes, I blame adoption.

But I know that it’s probably much more complicated than living with genetic strangers who didn’t have an “automatic” attunement or attachment to me (or I to them) like I’ve experienced with Potamus. And who knows if my natural attunement toward him is even real or just going to screw him up just as much.

But somewhere later along the line I obviously made an almost-conscious decision to be everything to everybody. And I really think that the things that set the ball in motion for my current angst was the decision to spend our honeymoon travelling to various family member’s houses for Christmas. I was still hemorrhaging from my vagina and I was doing the dishes, with Boof, while our son was passed around like a football. I had failed to set a good boundary. Sure I tried before he was born, but once I was in the moment, like many times, I’ve gritted my teeth and bore it until much time and reflection later I realized: I’m really freaking tired and annoyed.

Next week “the holidays” start. I love Thanksgiving. but imaging the drive over Snoqualmie Pass with my son and our dog in our Subaru to battle other Thanksgiving traffic to spend two days with my family seems exhausting. And yet I also feel obligated. It’s their year after all…we’ve put it off long enough. But Christmas only a month later I know that I am really stretching myself, again, and all I want to do is sleep.

See, we got married on December 20th. Where most people would just leave right away on their honeymoon, we spent three nights away, and then drove to Eastern Washington and then to Idaho on a family Christmas ‘road trip’ to spend the holidays with our respective families. Because we hadn’t ever spent a holiday with each set of our families, even while engaged, we though it’d be “fun” to do. And it was. I enjoyed the time, getting to really mesh with our new in-laws and also get to spend time with my family for my own lovely traditions.

But.

But.

As we’re closely approaching our fifth wedding anniversary, I look back and think how pivotal that decision was to our overall experience relating to our families. While it was fun, and it solidified our experience of the traditions, it also created a dynamic where we knew what it was like to not miss out…nobody had to give anything up…though, to be honest, the rushed dither from here to there and back across the state was exhausting. And it felt like in both places we were really only giving 80%. Instead of saying ‘this year it’s my family, 100%’ it was sorta like we were half-assing everything.

And then Potamus was born….on our anniversary. And now suddenly we’re in this dilemma of celebrating his birthday, our anniversary (my birthday a week before our anniversary) AND Christmas…with both families. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. I’m also exhausted remembering cooking “Christmas dinner” three days postpartum while my parents bickered over who had gotten more time holding the wee one.

So, tell me people, how do you put your and your immediate (children) family first and set boundaries with in-laws and extended family….especially when you also have the “I don’t want to miss out” mentality, too.

Genetic Mirroring

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Potamus with pigtails?

I am pre-occupied with looks, specifically the looks of my child in relation to my own and my husband’s. When Potamus was born, everyone was shocked by his blonde hair and blue eyes. At almost two his eyes have turned hazel, but he’s still blonde as the day he was born. But most people think that he looks like Boof, which is hard for me…and I think it all goes back to being adopted, and being raised in a family where my looks weren’t reflected back and nobody said “oh, she looks like great aunt millie.”

I think my son actually looks quite a bit like me. His personality is quite a bit like my own, with his little mischievous side, but his sweetness is reminiscent of stories I’ve heard about Boof as a child. Every once in awhile Potamus will give a look, make an expression, that makes me think of his dad, but for the most part, when I look at my sweet child I see myself as a baby looking back. So why am I so surprised or frustrated when people don’t notice the way he resembles me?

When I can’t be there…

903894_10151566658399467_305534970_oYesterday my Monday blues lingered until I hopped in my car to drive to the daycare to pick up Potamus. I was so excited to see his chubby cheeks and get to snuggle him up into his carseat and hear him babble about his day. There are many days where I really want to be at work, and then there are days, like yesterday, when I just want to scoop up my little one and hold his tiny hand and go for a walk.

I walked quickly back to his classroom, it already dark outside (thanks a lot Daylight Savings) and saw him run toward me in his too-short-pants indicating that he had peed through his clothes at naptime again. And his face was red. Had he been crying?

“He sat in front of your picture and cried all day today. I had to move him, and then he’d come back and sit in front of your picture, saying ‘mama,’ and crying.” his teacher said.

Gulp.

She said it in a “isn’t that sweet?” sort of tone, but all I heard was: my kid said mama and reached out to a picture for comfort and comfort didn’t come and so he cried.

I felt like shit.

Whose bright idea is it to have the kid’s All About Me’s plastered at eye height in the reading nook of the daycare? Seriously, there at the age that ‘out of sight out of mind’ is best, especially for my sweetly sensitive peanut. I felt overwhelmed with grief, that I had sent him to school hopped up on tylenol for a runny nose and he was sad and spent the day crying and wanting me, and I didn’t come.

But I did come, eventually, and all was right with the world. And when I talked to his regular teacher, she said that he hadn’t cried all day, but he had been sad at some points, and seeing my picture made him more sad instead of being comforted. Today they’re taking the picture down so as not to bother him more.

I kept thinking about my own childhood, though, from that experience. How I’d look at the very few photos of my birthmom and wonder what she was like…and did I actually miss her? I remember looking at pictures of my friends and family while i lived in India, and crying, from homesickness when I saw their smiling faces. There’s something both comforting and heartbreaking about holding a picture when all you want is a hug.

And it’s amazing how quickly kids move on. I’m still thinking about it twenty four hours later…after talking about it to my friend, and my mom, and Boof, and my therapist. Potamus had moved on as soon as he saw me. All lingering thoughts were gone to the wayside and all was right with the world. He didn’t hold a grudge when I left again at night for therapy. In fact he blew kisses and snuggled up with dad on the couch. But the feeling of not being able to be there for him, when he needed me, is lingering. I know it’s a fine balance, of independence and letting children experience the hardships and heartaches of the world, and being able to provide a safe and comforting bosom for them to come back to.

The feeling is lingering. How do I move forward?