14 years ago I got “the call”

On his birthday last week Tea (Sammy’s birthmom) texted to let me know she’d reached Sam to wish him a happy birthday. She said he told her he was “skating w/ a bunch of white ppl. Lol.”

I wrote back; Wait did he tell you that was his idea?! 😜 Going to a movie with a bunch of not white ppl later tonight.

She texted back; 😂😂😂 Bumblebee was good. See y’all soon!

I replied; Can’t wait!

Everything about our exchange makes me happy:

  • Her and I are texting about him on his birthday.
  • He’s telling her like it is.
  • She’s telling me about it, and offering her own insights.
  • We are headed to see her and the family next month and everyone is talking about it with excitement.

Co-parenting across the country open adoption style.

Fourteen years ago this week I received the call that the baby who would become Samuel was born. Both his birth mother and the son I would raise and love on were healthy and resting. “And there’s more great news,” the adoption agency placement director said. “She wants you to call her. Do you have a pen?” It was 5:40AM and everything was spinning; “Wait? What?”

You see for the months leading up to this day I was told she was not interested in an open adoption and did not want to be asked to talk about it again. While I was disappointed I could not imagine the experience she was going through and fully respected her choice. Learning I was who she wanted to parent her son (because like her I would be a single mother and at the time I was a teacher which she aspired to becoming) was enough. I wasn’t going to say no because of her lack of interest in open adoption. Maybe in time she would change her mind?

Gazing down at the hospital phone number and instructions for handling the hospital paperwork I hung up the phone with the agency and proceded to run around the apartment screaming my awe and joy to the ceilings. The suitcase was packed, the car seat was by the door. I had plane tickets to buy, and family and friends to contact…

But first I had to call her. Doubt came crashing into the kitchen, and sat on my lap nearly tipping me over. What if when I called her she changed her mind? What if when I arrived she and I didn’t connect? What if I wasn’t really up to this after all? Was I going to be a good enough parent? How could I presume to know how to parent a Black boy as a white woman?

I’m sure I reached for the phone 16 times. When I finally had the courage to enter into this new miraculous life I had worked so hard for it unfolded with care and quiet ease (at first). The hospital room phone was ringing.

I don’t even remember my awkward introduction. But I’ll never forget her first description of him;

“He’s the biggest boy in the nursery. I call him Fatso. He’s scaring all the other babies cuz he’s so big.”

I asked after her. Did she need anything?

“I need you to get here. And he needs a name.”

Oh right. The name.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you are wrestling with doubts about your family’s open adoption journey, or are looking for some additional support navigating any part of your 20th Century Family story I’m available for individual coaching. Learn more here.

Finding Our Jingle & Jam Again

Divorce has not been a fa-la-la- friendly event in Mama C ville. To be honest I was sort of hoping we could just quietly tip toe past most of December without anyone noticing.

That box of ornaments in the attic that I hastily separated into ours and no longer ours last summer felt like it belonged to Pandora’s past and not mine. I was overcome with grief. Alexa was banned from all holiday music, and just get to January was my mantra.

And the boys?

Right.

Mama C and the boys.

Having survived my own parents’ painful divorce as an adolescent I knew the treacherous potential of this terrain. It can be confusing and lonely to hold your own sadness, anger, or loss if you see your parent struggling. How do you get your own needs met?

So as is often the case with my chaos with consistency life- action is the only way through; “Alexa play holiday music, damn it!”

And she did.

I brought the boys together over a breakfast fit for the magi and laid it out; “Before I met Shrek this time of year was so spectacular for the three of us. I took so much pleasure in creating magic with you both. This season is about celebrating family, welcoming winter, making our own traditions while honoring the ways those around us celebrate too.” I paused. I could feel relief creeping in with caution.

“Does that mean we are getting a tree?”

The hope and trepidation in my son’s voice was everything I feared and needed to hear.

I showed them pictures from holidays past. Talked about the things we used to love to do when we were little like dancing in the kitchen to holiday music, playing holiday hide and seek, making ornaments and crafts, and being surrounded by family and friends. The rest is history.

Of course took I took great delight in reminding them that in a few weeks when Sammy turns 14 it is the anniversary of me becoming a mother, the greatest gift of all.

So the tree is up, and new ornaments have been added to the old ones. We are holding what we have lost with care, while reminding ourselves together that at this moment we are OK. “Life is full of heart break boys,” I told them as eyes rolled, and the can you not looks kicked in, “and how I love you two is all that I ever need to trust that love always wins!”

My audience was fully over it.

“Can we eat the cookies now?”

“I get the biggest one!”

Alexa play; “Little Drummer Boy.”

Sending love and ease to all of you, with particular grace and compassion to those of you for whom the season holds a heavy heart at times. Sammy suggests finding something to drum on if you want to feel better quickly. It has always worked for him.

Are you considering adoption? Wondering if open adoption is something you will know how to navigate? Looking for support as a single parent or with post divorce parenting? My coaching practice covers all of these areas and more. Contact me today to schedule our first free call.

The Black Girl in Maine Podcast has arrived

The podcast has dropped! In it you will hear MamaC speak from the heart as you would expect.

I first met Shay Stewart-Bouley aka Black Girl in Maine through her writing, and presentations on antiracism and decentering whiteness. We have been on panels and symposiums together and share our stories of raising Black children in Maine, the whitest state in the country.

Shay and I get raw and real on transracial open adoption, impacts of daily racism and microagressions on the boys, unpacking whiteness, and why I left my 9-5 as a newly divorced single parent. The episode explores if and why I’m qualified to do my work as an equity and inclusion facilitator in schools, and as a 20th centurty family formation coach working with individual clients.

This podcast marks the true arrival of me knowing what I do best, and how I choose to share my unique and valuable experience with the world.

Please consider making a contribution to support more podcasts from Black Girl in Maine Media if you like what you hear. It was indeed an honor to be invited to participate on this nationally and internationally recognized platform. I look forward to hearing your impressions after you give a listen.

Keep questioning how your beliefs are serving you, and hold your littles and your loved-ones close.

Fresh new look for Mama C

Introducing a new fresh look for MamaCandtheBoys. I love how aligned it feels with the new direction my life has taken. It is hard for me to express all the gratitude I feel for the many opportunities I am being invited to explore for my work in the world around race, equity, supporting 20th century families and our schools. So naturally I decided it was time for a little line up and a fresh coat of paint!

Did you know there are over 1000 MamaC subscribers? I am so thankful for this growing audience each time I send out a new post. To celebrate I am running a special Premium Coaching Package for anyone who signs up by December 15th, 2018 for 2019 Coaching. I wanted my subscribers and long time readers to know about it first because the slots will go quickly.

To learn more about what my coaching practice is about and the special offer please go here. The recent opportunies to work with clients has been the most exhilarating shift. It’s like my blog coming to life through deep listening, personalized support, and sharing.

I asked one of my newer clients Emily if she could explain what it’s been like working with me. In her own words; “Working with Catherine has been an incredibly supportive experience. Catherine will skillfully guide you to uncover your own answers to some of the toughest questions surrounding trans racial adoption, race, birth family relationships and more, by guiding you deep into your own heart. Catherine is thoughtful and efficient in her work as a coach, drawing from her skills in guidance, deep listening, and her own experiences, she will help you to not only feel supported in this new adventure, but challenged in beautiful and meaningful ways.”

Bonus: for the first three new clients I register I will include a fifth session free! Imagine that.

Take great care and continue to hold each other close.

Here to help you

I am delighted to call your attention to very exciting news: my coaching and facilitation practice is now my full-time work in the world. I am here to help in real time too.

A month ago I made a massive leap of faith to leave my secure and treasured position as a director of community engagement and education at a national arts organization to launch my own coaching and facilitation practice. I have never looked back. I am my own plan B! I have new clients and contracts presenting themselves at the perfect pace. The validation I feel for my choice is immensely gratifying.

In addition to being able to be here when the boys (now 11 and practically 14 as Sam likes to say) arrive home and need me the most; I am living into my truest calling of the work I am meant to do.

Having 15 plus years experience as a single adoptive, and biological -via a known donor- transracial parent (that’s a mouthful) I have a perspective to share. As a reader you already know that I’ve got knowledge. I bring my experience in cultivating open adoption, navigating racial awareness and whiteness, and advocating for children at all stages developmentally to my work with individual clients and groups.

Are you exploring if single parenting is right for you? Have you been wrestling with the ethics of transracial adoption? Are you considering a known donor conception? Are you already parenting, and needing a check-in on some new concerns about your child’s current or future educational setting? Are you and your partner having trouble talking to those closest to you about the unique needs your twentieth century family has in today’s world? Whatever you may be wondering- if I can I am here to help.

Our first conversation is free. So reach out now and let’s explore how I can help you discover what your next step will be. Please go to my “Coaching and Consulting” tab to learn how to book our first conversation.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Elizabeth Greason of Maine Intercultural Communication Consultants recently shared;

I have known Catherine for nearly 20 years, as a fellow educator, then mom, and now as a fellow woman creating a heart-centered business committed to social change and growth. You’ll experience her expertise around cross-racial adoption, family formation and equity—based in deep personal and professional knowledge—with passion and compassion. I have recommended her and her writing time and again to friends and colleagues seeking to more deeply understand how to advocate for their children and to navigate thriving in a multiracial family. Hiring Catherine will give you skills and understanding that will help you transform the way you parent and educate.

Keeping them safe (Part I)

When something happens to your kid every cell goes on alert. This is the basic rewiring of parenthood. It happens before birth, before you ever meet them.

The strartle, the call to action, the profound need to be with them to comfort, to soothe, to protect, to make right is a drive that builds daily and there is nothing that takes that ferocity of maternal (in my case) caring away from you.

I would like to tell you it is the same feeling for every child, and does not discriminate between biological or adopted offspring. But to me that is not necessarily true. With Sammy, I have an extra super hero power and drive-as I am not only answering to God or myself when responding to a situation. I am answering to all of his family, past and present. In addition as a white woman I am carrying generations of historical oppression into the story as well. The very oppression that causes adoption to need to take place at all in this culture. All of these layers are at play.

I am not raising him in the religious tradition, and a million other ways he would’ve been had he been raised by his mother and family. This is a huge loss for him, and them. And while he and I spend time with them each year it is not the same, and never enough.

So as an adoptive parent my vigilance for keeping him safe, and holding those accountable who intentionally or otherwise harm him is thus deeply magnified. This is not to say I’m not AS driven to protect Marcel. It’s more about the consequences and aftermath. It is also of course magnified 1000 times because I am not Black, and so far neither is the person (or institution) causing the harm. This is hugely impactful in my assigning meaning to events that transpire around both my sons.

In a subsequent post I will share a few examples of what holding others accountable looks like from here, and how it has evolved for me over time. So much so that recently when I asked Sam; “How did I handle that?” He said; “Great. I can tell you things again. Not like when I was in 5th grade. You were out of control.” More on that, and how accurate Sam’s observation is next time.

In the meantime, let’s keep doing EVERYTHING we can to keep them all safe, all the time, and not just while they’re sleeping.

Mama C Calls It Forth

Recently I went away to one of my favorite places in the world (so far) for a weekend with a single-mama friend to meditate, write, swim, laugh, and listen to God.

I connect to my visionary spirit, and my soul in this healing spot that I’ve been coming to since I was seven. When I get quiet, and a respite from my parenting modality I return in a palpable way to what I know to be true.

This time that truth cleary took shape in three distinct areas:

  • First is a deepening commitment to my sons feeling celebrated and accepted for exactly WHO THEY ARE today. (Middle school requires ferverent monitoring. Who are you-vs. who do you begin to believe your peers/teachers/ society or family says you SHOULD be.) This demands my being fully present, compassionate and flexible.
  • Second I heard that I will return to my dream of creating a one woman performative event (monologue/story telling+poetry) celebrating and exposing my first fifty years on the planet, and the events and people who shaped it.
  • Third, a new direction calls for my fifteen years as a transracial adoptive, biological, single and partnered parent. I will be unveilling this in more detail soon, but for the time-being it is already thrilling to announce it simply as a “Coming soon: Mama C Coaching and Consulting”. How can you help? If a particular post, conversation, article, or anything “Mama C” has been of help to you on your transracial/adoptive single or partnered/parenting/blending/ donor or other journey will you consider leaving me a comment I could use on my promotional materials?

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope everyone can create a little quiet space for themselves in the near future.

Neptune & Poseidon

Summers in Maine are as magical as they are brief. We are so blessed to live thirty minutes from many beaches with multiple personalaties. On several occasions the boys are “convinced” (forced family fun) to join me on an early afternoon excursion. Earlier this week we stayed for several hours. The fog lifted and the sun was triumphant. The highlight for me was body surfing together with them for almost an hour! Well and the fact that they allowed PHOTOGRAPHS. They were willing, and the light was a generous co-conspirator for some miraculous captures.

We’ve spent a very private summer overall. On my own, and as a family we have been invited to look very closely at the inner landscapes of who we are. This has been some of the hardest and most revealing work for all of us individually.

Fortunately we have been growing deeply in the process, amd learning to see each other in our our messiness, grief, struggle, joy and strength. At times you may choose to be a Greek or Roman diety to help you embrace all that you know you are.

I’m looking forward to returning to the blog soon on a more regular basis to share some of these explorations. In addition we had our third birth family and donor reunion tour in early July, which is packed with stories and ah-ha’s to come.

In the meantime may you all experience the gifts of love, joy, and kindness in both expected and surprising ways.

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!!!!

$10.00

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!

$10.00