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.

#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.

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.

In Tact: Poem

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On “Mother’s Day”  a poem of mine appeared in the The Portland Press Herald.  I had submitted it in response to a call for a year long curated series of poems that address or grapple with the theme of “Deep Water” in some way. In my case the depth related to the grief connected to losing a child you are carrying.

This week is the anniversary of her leaving us, and moving on to other adventures, or so I like to think. I said goodbye to her on a little cove in late July with two dear friends while their daughter and Sammy were running and laughing in the sand at the water’s edge.

I remember holding myself through the shaking as I felt her spirit take off and race to the sea. At the last moment, I stood tall and tried to smile with one arm waving goodbye to her. I wanted her last image of me to be one of courage and joy for the gift her brief life was to me.

I was going in for my D & C (dilation and curettage) the next day.

She would be ten and a half today.  Marcel will be ten in October. I had found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day, 2006 coincidentally. Marcel was miraculously conceived on her due date in January. We believe that her brief appearance on this earth was to make way for his soul somehow. In more ways then one, Marcel and his sister Dixie are connected.

That Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, the poet laureate of Portland chose it to run on Mother’s Day was courageous and deeply important to many (myself included) I learned in the days and weeks following the poem’s appearance in the paper. When a poem allows your friend and his wife to openly grieve their own miscarriage together, something they hadn’t known figured out how to before, you feel that on your knees in the ground kind of gratitude for so many things.

You can find the poem here.

You can learn more about the series, and The Maine Publishers and Writers Alilance here.

Thank you for reading it, and holding us all here.

 

 

 

 

To Fade or Not to Fade

With less than a month until his visit to his family in Tacoma, Washington Sam is working on the desired look. Being in brown skin, raised in a very white state and in a white home I watch as he seems to absorb every morsel of what-is-Blackness he can from the world around him.

I attempt to witness and validate how he integrates this into his daily experience of self-in-the-making.

Marcel opted out of the fresh cut this time. He is growing his hair out, today. His exploration of his racial identity is something he has been less empowered to explore historically.

By that I mean I realized recently that I have had this attitude that he would be fine for the last several years.  Part of the journey we’re about to go on his about me waking up too. His path is just as important and deep as Sam’s.

Birth family and Donor Tour Update

Yesterday in an email to family and friends updating them on our upcoming birth family and donor tour at the end of August, I made them a promise.

The promise was to return to the blog, return to the medium I am so adept and comfortable in, as the next step in making certain this journey for the boys, and all of us can reach a much larger audience. We’ve missed our connect with our blog readers, and know that when this incredibly dynamic, layered, sometimes uncomfortable, and often surprising story of more love, always more love is ready to go to the publisher, it is here where it all began.

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I love this portrait. It is one part of the story. Those crazy moments of connect with Sam, and the feeling I imagine that Marcel has had at times, that he lingers out in the margins of the picture, curious where he fits in. So much of our story today, and over the past twelve years is about that very question; “Where do I fit in?”.  This pertains to them, Shrek, and even me. When a family can check blended, bonus (some say “step”) parent and siblings, adoption, donor conception, and multi-racial all at once on the invisible list we all carry around, it is not surprising that fitting in would  be a recurring theme.

Yes, yes you but what about the birth family tour? If you are eager to read all about it right now, you can go to this link, to get caught up. Or you can return to MamaCandtheBoys in the next days and weeks and follow the story in real time.

Either way, it is so lovely to reconnect with you.  The world aches for more ways to connect and share our stories. We are listening.