Reach

These two are pushing out into the world in such definitive and awe making ways. What occurs to me about parenting tweens is that as a parent you have to shift gears so quickly. Even if you are not prepared to do it. They are not interested in having relationship with a person who protected them from the world in the same way that they’re interested in having a relationship with people who open the door to the world.

#BeWhoYouWantToBe

Last week we had the honor of seeing Kinky Boots, and meeting several of the cast post- performance, including Jos N. Banks, pictured here who played Lola. This picture is about a few million things including the importance of representation in story, performing arts, and dance. It is about all the joy Marcel felt in being seen and being the seer. It’s about large scale celebration of everyone’s choices to follow their deepest calling to self realization.

#Metoo

Trigger warning: in this post I share in explicit detail my own #metoo story that chronicles my experience as a teenage rape victim and sexual assault survivor. The purpose of this post is to bring my fifteen year old self home now, safely.

This is not about identifying the rapist, or about the people who may have inadvertently protected him, or the systems that allowed him to go free. Thirty-five years later and many of those systems have or are changing. Many of those involved have made their amends to me in one way or another. Now I am making full amends to myself by holding the hand of the young woman this happened to and showing her, and the world that at no point in time should this horror have been hidden, or shamefully secreted away.

#Metoo

I was raped by a beloved and charming soccer coach in our community when I was fifteen. He presented this to me as an early “Sweet 16” birthday present. I was at his apartment where I would sometimes go before practice to grab a snack or get homework help. After the season had ended I would still come over there, because he would make me dinner, ask me about my day, and seemed genuinely curious about me. My parents were in the middle of a bitter and painful divorce, and my brothers had left home for college. I was off everyone’s radar, except for his. I was the best soccer player he had ever coached, and I was good enough to try out for a college scholarship in his opinion. We were going to be talking about potential colleges to invite to watch me play the following season that afternoon.

I would like to tell you that I sensed immediately when I walked in that something had changed in him. But how could I have known? As soon as I arrived he brought me into his room, a part of his home I had never seen. I remember realizing his roommate, who was always there, was not in the house. I recall feeling confused and awkward. What did he need to show me in his room? He sat me down and began to undress. Everything happened so quickly after that. He claimed losing my virginity to a sophisticated and seasoned lover rather than some young fool would be much better for me. Quickly it was evident that this was not a birthday gift I was going to be able to politely decline.

Although I have only a few splintered memories of what my mother would go on to refer to as “that shameful penetration” I know it was fast, painful, and terrifying. I know I ran to the door to escape when he went to the bathroom, but before I made it out he caught up behind me, slammed the door shut with one hand, and pressed my face against the door with the other. He told me that if I told anyone the shit would hit the fan. Then he opened the door and started laughing. I can still hear that laugh follow me down the hallway and out the door.

I ran several blocks, arriving eventually in a well lit McDonald’s to make sure he wasn’t following me. I recall later that night signing for the dozen black roses he had delivered to me at my father’s apartment building-and the card that said; “Now you are a woman with a woman’s secret to keep. Happy Early Birthday.”

I decided eight months after it happened to finally reveal the event itself and the continuing abuse when I witnessed on a bus ride back from a soccer game the cycle beginning all over again. I can see the inside of the bus like it was yesterday. I see him a few seats up in the dark put his arm around another girl, who reminds me so much of me. She is strong, glowing, caring, and naive. He is telling her a story and I’m sure to all those listening including her it feels innocent and friendly. I know firsthand where seemingly innocent and friendly attention can lead.

It was out of fear for her going through what I had and was- that led me to those in a position of power to remove the coach from the team, even at the risk of him following through on the retribution he promised.

He left the country at the insistence of those in charge. By doing so he would avoid prosecution and the organizers of the team dodged the unwanted attention. This agreement was made behind closed doors between the organization and my separated and soon to be divorced parents. I was not involved in the outcome. I was old enough to lose my virginity- but too young to be involved in a legal battle. Old enough to endure months of emotional abuse from him in the form of threats to my life if I told what happened, and being pulled from the game and forced to sit by him when we were losing to whisper threats or sexual innuendo to me while team mates begged for my return to the field.

Recently in a cleaning frenzy I came across the letter that he had mailed to me six months after the event, in a box of personal items taped shut for twenty years. The tone of the letter was conversational, expressing genuine fondness for me, and ended with a description of raping me that is sensual and glorified. In closing he boasts how he had suffered no serious consequences, forgave me for telling, and thought of me often.

I kept the letter all these years-to have evidence of what? Who would I ever need to prove this horrific event to? For at least a decade after I suffered from significant trauma as a result of the rape and ensuing abuse. I was not capable of entering into intimate relationships, suffered from debilitating migraines and profound episodic depression.

Then, in my early twenties I came across the book; Where I Stopped Remembering A Childhood Rape, and read it cover to cover in one weekend not leaving my Lower East Side Manhattan apartment once. From there began a three year journey back to that moment in that apartment (which I had all but erased from memory) and back to the family and community that had in some cases effectively dismissed my experience as something I had obviously asked for, or should have seen coming. I returned to rewrite the story from what happened to me, not what happened because of me. In the process, like in the book I interviewed everyone who was involved, and insisted on all of us holding a shared reality of the shaming, the secrecy, and the colossal dismissal of my childhood in the process.

In the decades that followed, and with the help of therapy, writing, poetry, incredible friendships, and faith I healed myself, and paved the way for many others to do the same. My body, my spirit, and my deepest understanding of trust and sexual intimacy were restored and set free with courageous joy. Eventually I would choose to parent on my own, and later to marry a deeply trustworthy man with a willing and welcoming heart.

I turn fifty in a few weeks. In writing this post, I have returned my birthday to me, free of the secrets that a woman keeps. I dedicated this post to all of the women who have held, and continue to hold a hand over their mouths in fear of retribution or worse. I hope that you can at the very least wrap your arms around that younger version of yourself and tell her that she is safe now.

Reflection

Being in a moment of expansion and contraction simultaneously is a complicated and thoughtful space to be.  I find myself turning to the camera to capture and chronicle our world- even if I always see  it as clearly as I may appear to from the photographic capture I share with you here.

With tenacity and fervor I have been writing more and more poetry with greater ease and clarity as well as submitting often to journals, contests and the like. I participated in my first public poetry reading this week. After the poem, a woman in the audience came up to me, tearful. “I am a birth-mother, ” she said. “I placed my daughter for adoption when I was 17. Your poem gave voice to my experience with a truth I have never heard in a poem before.”

I left the reading, racing home, tearful too and in the dark reminded that art heals, enlightens, bridges, sustains, and connects all at once.

Post Successful Reunion Wrap Part 1

Just your everyday family vacation snapshots…when your family is ALL THIS and MORE

We arrived back in Maine around 10:00AM yesterday after the red-eye from Washington State Monday night. Leaving Sam’s family was all kinds of hard, for so many reasons. For me the hard was because my own visit with them was so short compared to last year. I dropped so easily back into flow with his mom, his grandmother and his sibs that I felt cheated from the brevity of the one and a half day visit this time.

I also wanted every opportunity to see Sammy in his new flow with them with me there. Of course it is going to be immediately different once I show up, as evidenced by the “Instagram Live” broadcast from inside the car with his brothers and cousins on their way to shoot hoops  mid week. (Talk about being allowed insight into a world you are not part of!) Finally, due to the dramatically declining health of his grandfather, there was a layer to this the leaving that felt very very hard. Not only is he very ill, but the care-taking demands on his Nahnah were exhaustive. I so wanted to be there to help her in ways that I am equipped and able to do.

When I asked Sam if he was sad about leaving he said that he was fine. When pushed a little bit, he said that he got what he needed from the trip. I could go on and on about what I think that means, but that is not my place. Sammy gets to take that one out and unpack it in his memoir one day. What I can tell you is that he stayed up till 4:00am every night in a room with three boys who claim him as their own. He never opened the new toothbrush I put in his back pack. As in still in the packaging!

Leaving California was another kind of hard. Until I have had more time to integrate that into my experience of being back on the East Coast I need to hold off on saying too much here. I will say that being grounded and supported where I was staying by my dearest friend and Sam’s namesake Samantha was critical to my ability to stay healthy, focused, and in my body for the duration of the journey. From mediation, to long foggy walks, to laying on the bed and laughing and crying to eating home made soup I felt totally held.

So when Marcel’s donor and family came to pick him up for their adventuring the day after we landed they came in and stayed at Samantha’s for an hour for coffee and bagels and ease. This was normalizing and perfect for everyone.  Kids coming and going, many conversations happening at once. Samantha and Tree have known of each other for a decade, so their meeting was so important too. Marcel found his footing with his new one year old brother (pictured above, and yes there is some kind of resemblance) and his feels-like-a-half-brother as well.  I felt as if I had known Tree’s wife (who we will just call “Gorgeous” here) for a lifetime within six seconds. It was Gorgeous who said; “this visit is energizing for all of our souls.”  Indeed. Sending them all off for the day and a half was like sending your child to the favorite uncle and auntie for an overnight. Clearly we are sill trying to find the language for all of these new relationships. More on that soon.

Leaving California was not immediately hard on Marcel, as he really missed his big brother, and was eager to meet Sam’s family too. (And as you can see above, he was quite a hit!) But clearly figuring out how to stay in deeper connect with all of the love he discovered is hugely important. That Marcel came back from his time with them, and his half day alone with Tree more eager than ever for the world to know him as a young Black man is important to mention. He is so deeply curious about how people see him and know him right now.

What I keep telling Marcel is how important it is that he know himself first. Pretty much we checked that box as a big YES for  all of us in the last week. One of my favorite parts of all of this, is that now is when we all get to really reap the benefits that this trip could begin to mean for  all of us.

The journey has just begun.

Birth-family Reunion Travel Fund

We have just completed our cross country trip, and still hopeful to raise the expense of the airfare through crowd sourcing. We are only $200.00 away from that attainable $2100.00 reach! Will you please consider a $10.00 contribution? Each donation adds up and truly helps. Thank you!!!!

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Mama C and the Boys Patronage

Love what you read here? Are you a first time reader, or a long time fan? Do you look forward to opening the email announcing a new post? Has your own understanding of Open Adoption, transracial parenting, or known donor family connection shifted in a helpful way? If so will you please consider showing your support with a ten dollar fandom contribution? This allows me to be "paid" here, instead of needing to farm the stories out elsewhere. This will also help me keep Mama C add free and content full all year round! Bisous!

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An end, a beginning

Adoption is very often a story of disappearance and erasure. To not hold this truth from the very beginning of the adopted child’s journey can contribute to a harmful fantasy that may impact that child’s identity formation.

In open adoption, a child may temporarily disappear from one family, and then reappear “magically” in another. But what happens when the child returns? How they are welcomed back and how space is created for them is something both families co-create.

What will happen when they steps into a space that belongs to them, but that their family, extended family and community of origin did not know existed?

The child could then experience invisibility in the very space they thought or fantasized that they would always belong. This could be an extremely painful realization. Integration of themselves at that moment is deeply layered and will take lots of time and facilitation.

I am reunited with both my sons. We stayed the night in a little Airbnb with a view of that mountain. We have all shifted and measurable ways. We are all going to leave a part of ourselves on the West Coast when we return home tonight.

I have so many thoughts to share here. But I wanted to get this out as perhaps a placeholder to return to. I am still Gathering a great deal of information about everything that’s happened in the last few days. It will probably take weeks and months if not years.

In my next post I will include a series of pictures that I receive permission to share here.

Thank you for all your love, prayers, consideration, messages, and support. Every moment of it has been felt.

When fear takes the mic

I was whole heartedly NOT prepared for what I experienced yesterday: an implosion of fear that I was losing Sam.

His communication style is minimalist to be generous. (Mine is megaAF.) So when almost 24 hours passed with not much more than a “Hey” text, and “I’m fine Mom. I have to go..” call I started to fill in the blanks with crazy making fear based story.

I started to believe what some have asked me; “Do you worry he won’t want to come back?” And “Could his family offer for him to stay longer? Like for the school year? Or..” And when my most gruesome gut twisting heart shredding gremlin made it to the mic all I could hear was; “Sammy thinks you WANTED him out.. He’s already forgotten you. Ha! Ha! Ha!!” (Insert vile glaring dragon bulging eyes here). It was a very, very long day.

Then last night two miracles happened. First you all circled in tight and reminded me that this moment was courageous and necessary. You reminded me that for all MY feelings there were 10,000 accompanying feelings happening across the country. Sammy was completing the circle.. Everyone was shifting, a family system was reconfiguring itself. Exoansion. Give him time. This is LOVE in action.

Then his mom texted with a question about video games. ‘Did I allow him to… ” Within moments (and drenched in tears) I get the text; “teamwork”. We navigated together how to hold Sam accountable to both of us, and to himself. #mamasdontplay was our hashtag.

Did I ever hear from Sam? Yes. But for that you’ll have to wait because in ten minutes Marcel and I get on the plane. And his JOY is palpable and requires all of me too.

He’s off!

I’ve been up since 1:30 am. My heart is both squeezing with an ache that is unfamiliar and cracking open with all of the expansion this journey necessitates.

Putting my son on a plane to go be with his West Coast family, his first family, his birth family, his biological family, his other family, his all -these -things- and -more- family was challenging to my mama heart.

I’ve opened the door wide open and said; “this is a path only you have access to. This is a journey that you are equipped to make alone.” At the same time I reassured him that I’m with him all the time, and will be elated to be with him soon.

What was once my understanding of the parameter of love has now been broken wide open. This I would argue is not simply a result of of parenting,but a deeply necessary component of adoptive parenting.

I feel so thankful to Shrek and Marcel for the six hour hour Airport drop off. It was so important for Sam to know that his entire family was holding him at this moment. That his entire East Coast family will miss him deeply and look so forward to having him home.

Thank you all for reading, praying, sending your kind words, and just holding everyone. It is so appreciated.