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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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. 

Alcohol as Mindfulness?

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When I met my biological mom, she was wearing a bathing suit and a skirt. It was 10am and she was clearly drunk and had a beer in her purse. I had been warned that she was an alcoholic, couldn’t function without it in her system, and hadn’t held down a job forever because of the detoxing seizures and her inability to drive.

Last year my biological dad got a DUI, and felt shitty about it because I had recently told him that I was so glad that he was a ‘normal’ grandparent for Brewer. His daily drinking of a few beers was more on par with a blue collar norm than a ‘problem,’ though maybe there’s some justification going on…because anyone can have a problem once and not have an overall disease. But, I digress.

They say alcoholism is genetic.

I didn’t drink until I was 21 because of my ultra religious upbringing and my fear of the adoption unknown. I actually remember telling someone when I was younger that the reason I wouldn’t do drugs or alcohol is because I think I would like it too much. That’s deep for a tween, ya know?

All across time and space, people have been using substances to alter their experience. Beer has been around since cavemen, and has its place historically in so many ways. Little kids spin around and get dizzy, altering their experience, and we daydream or smoke pot or take peyote or chew chat or sniff poppies (yes, I know that’s not exactly how it works) to alter our experience.

And then there’s mindfulness. Meditation. To alter our experience of the moment, our relationship to the future and the past and our thoughts. It’s a mind altering way of being in the world. And one that I really intend to embrace in my life.

But can I be honest here? It’s busy season in the accounting world, and I haven’t seen my husband for close to 8 weeks because of it. He leaves at 6:30 and gets home at 8, except on Saturdays when he’s home by 6. I’m exhausted. And with only 1 kid, and a full-time(ish) job, I am often one straw away from the camel’s back breaking and crumbling all over itself.

The other day, Boof was teasing me about all the mimosas I’ve been drinking. And I got butthurt. Because it’s a sore spot for me. When I started drinking in college I had zero tolerance and would get blackout drunk. But I hated the feeling and so it only happened a handful of times. It’s been years trying to figure out how much is enough to just have a buzz and not obsess about wanting more and more and more.

His comment hit a nerve. I don’t like that I am excited to pour the OJ and champagne on a Friday morning with Potamus. I know enough about mental illness and alcoholism to know that I should be careful. And I am. I think. The nervousness and monitoring of my level of tolerance, desire, defensiveness as a coping mechanism are healthy. But it’s hard. Because alcohol is like mindfulness. There’s that sweet spot, when I haven’t overindulged, and I can focus on the present moment. I tell my students about the ‘beer goggle’ effect, and how more suicides and other issues happen under the influence, because we don’t have the ability to long-range think. But honestly, that’s kinda what I’m going for. Because I don’t want to sit on my couch watching another episode of toddler TV and think “3 more weeks of this.” That’s so fucking overwhelming to me. The fact that he was running 45 minutes late last night was so fucking overwhelming to me.

And mindfulness is good and all, but honestly, alcohol is quicker. Maybe someday I’ll be a mindful yogi who doesn’t have a glass of wine, or a few beers, at night to try and hang on for the next few hours until bedtime and daddy’s home. I know I’ve been there before. I know this is a difficult time for us as a family.

Drinking is a hot topic among the parenting community. Do you imbibe? Know others who do? What influences your decisions to drink or not?

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…

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?

Is Being Adopted Shaping my Career?

My psychologist is kicking my butt. She basically accused me of thinking too much and not letting myself feel (totally true. totally nailed it in session #4 people!), but I don’t really know HOW to feel. I do know how to think, how to over-think, and how to think some more. I also know how to catastrophize like nobody’s business.

At any rate, in an attempt to avoid feeling all the feelings about that early trauma of separation from my safe place (mom) and being raised by genetic strangers, I decided to think about my job. And it made me wonder…I am working with 16-20 year old “at-risk youth” in a community college setting. I am teaching them skills to succeed at school. And my biological mother was 16 when she got pregnant, and my biological dad was 20 when I was born. My biological mom did not finish high school, but did complete her GED, and my dad completed HS but had a 3.9 GPA and NOBODY suggested he go to college. And, my maternal half siblings did not finish high school (and my half bro got his GED…I think). I guess my question is….am I trying to work with my biological family?

Am I throwing myself into a situation, a passion, in some sort of karmic attempt at rescuing my parents? Do I see these vulnerable young ones and want to spark a fire for education in their life, to empower them toward greatness, so they don’t end up in a situation where they have to give their firstborn away as atonement for their “sins”? Am I somehow trying to connect with my family in this choice of career?

Or (or maybe an) am I trying to distance myself from my family? Do I like sitting on the other side of the desk, seeing that I have “made it,” that I am “not like them,” as if my life is somehow a proof that my biological parents made the right decision in letting me be raised by strangers. Because, see, I am not like them anymore. I am educated. I am in the middle-class. I am…fill in the blank.

Or, do I do it to prove something to my adoptive family? To protect myself from further abandonment by both excelling in education and also working in a compassion field to show my humility?

Could all of those reasons be true? Or not true? And does it matter? Does the motivations, or the impetus, or the reason that I end up in a job really matter? Or is what matters that I feel like I fit here, that I belong, that I was actually made for this type of work? Does me trying to work out my own identity or story take away from the “goodness” of doing this type work?

And how can I just let myself feel, instead of always just thinking about things?

Both Sides Now- Joni Mitchell is a birthmother

Sometimes my emotions run so deep that words, written, or said verbally, cannot even begin to touch the depth. And in those moments I turn to music, and have been known to listen to the same song (or set of songs) again-and again-and again, until something changes or I cannot cry anymore.

I can’t write more about it. My heart is hurting too much, so I’m sharing my go-to song to express the depth of emotions that I am feeling at the news of a sweet 4 year old being ripped from her tribe, her daddy, her sister and extended family, and thrust into the confusing world of being raised by genetic strangers with a reality that doesn’t match the reality that you know in your heart.

This is a song I grew up with. My dad sang it to me as a little girl, because I loved the imagery of bows and flows of angels hair. I listened to it a thousand times before I knew that Joni Mitchell was a birthmother in reunion with her daughter. And while we may dicker about whether it was really written with adoption or reunion in mind, I’ll say that it cuts to my very soul and makes me feel the complexity of life and confusion seeing the world from the perspective of innocence, and the eyes of the ‘old soul’ who has witnessed far too much in such a short amount of time.

And so, this song is for Veronica.

Both Sides Now
-Joni Mitchell
Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that wayBut now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my wayI’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

Oh but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

What music can you listen to repeatedly? Any mood music (sad/happy/angry/depressed) that is your go to?