Friday, January 27, 2012

In Times Like These

Are you reading Dresden's "In Times Like These" series? You should be. She's compiling real people, telling real stories about their experiences with public assistance.
I'm sharing my perspective over there today.

This is one of those topics, kind of like miscarriage and loss (and I include the grief of infertility here), that people talk about in the abstract. It's easier that way. It's easier to paint in broad strokes when you aren't the one getting smothered by the brush. The more that I think about it, so many parallels can be drawn.

It comes down to this: Bad things can and do happen to good people. Through no fault of their own. And that is a very hard thing for most people to wrap their heads around. It's far easier to say, help yourself out of your mess. (in babyloss terms: Get over it. Move on. Why are you wallowing? There will be others.....) rather than extend a hand and some compassion.

I am always surprised when I get to know someone a little better, well enough to slip in a mention of our babies and maybe even this blog and boom, another shared story of infertility unfolds. But why? Why should I be? Just like infertility and loss, I am guessing the need for public assistance in some shape or form is a part of the realities of a lot of people that we know, that I know. I just don't know that piece of their story yet.

I love Dresden already. But projects like hers make my heart swell.

Words matter. And they can be used to do some amazing things. Like change minds. Widen perspectives. Offer solidarity. Invite hope.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting Social

I tread this fine line between most of you knowing me (as in, my real name) but not all of you. Some of my IRL friends and colleagues knowing this is my space, but most not. Between guarding my privacy here but letting a link to the real world slip out now and then (but usually not the other way round.) I love for you to know me here first, and then elsewhere. And I always do a private happy dance when one of you finds your way to my FB and friends me. But I'm not too keen on that becoming a reverse trend - others from other circles finding their way into here. Oohh look! It's a post about me! Oooh errr, ah, hmmm.

But I've been bugged about not using all of the tools that are available to me to share what I want to say. For the most part, I'm pretty proud of what I've written (and what I write) here and I wouldn't mind it having a larger audience. Especially when the conversations are important. So, I've finally done what most of you did ages ago - created a new FB page solely for the Maybe Baby blog, along with a shiny new twitter handle.

Ta da!!

If you are friends/followers with me on those spaces under different names, please stay! You'll miss my political rants, I know you will! This isn't an attempt to slice this chunk of my life away from there - it's an attempt to get myself a little more out there without completely revamping my existing spaces and cleaning out the lobbyists and the legislators and the work colleagues and the local peeps and everyone else that doesn't need to be up in this business.

So, please consider joining me in these new spaces. And if you'd like to link or list or favorite, please know you are welcome to do so. And thank you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sharing Truths - Part 2

Confession: I still have a few more blogs to go on the Found Book Tour, and I know more will be posted tomorrow, but I need to take a break. I'm exhausted. I'm not saying this isn't an important conversation to have - I'm saying it's very similar to the one I have in my head on a near-daily basis.

I've come across so much insight and so many thoughtful explanations of people's positions within the realm of adoption. I think the one that stands out most for me right now is this:

There is no place for the word "just" in this discussion. As in, why don't you just..... you all know how this sentence ends.

To assume that putting together a family from the remnants of another, or to plan to expand your family by bringing in someone else's genetics or womb into the mix, or to work through how and when a birth family will interact with your new assume that these things are easy or fast or simple decisions, ones done without nights awake and therapists or counselors on speed dial, simply discredits everyone involved. We should start a petition to ditch that word, at least from this conversation. Who's with me?

Things I think about every night:

Origin stories. How to answer the "where do I come from?" How to explain why mommy and daddy didn't just fall in love and have you in mommy's belly like every one to accurately and honestly respond to these future questions, along with ones of identity and belonging and who are my people, and are you my real mommy or not? How to ensure my own baggage doesn't get in the way of my future child's....

But what parent doesn't have baggage?
And why do I assume my future child will have baggage?

Why do I anticipate this primal wound even though I am really unclear as to where that theory fits in situations that aren't black and white. What if there were my genetics, but not my womb? What if my genetics were missing, yet I carried a child in my body? What if, as Esperanza notes, all parties are present and there is nothing but love surrounding a child when they greet the world? Now, how about this one: not my eggs, not my womb, but I've been present from conception? Wishing it so, willing it so? Where will I fit into this situation?

Hopefully, we'll see.

All of this to say, as one of the other book reviewers already have, The Primal Wound is simply way too simplistic of a concept to be helpful. I want a new theory.

I also want to take this space to elaborate on some of the comments and questions that emerged from my responses to the book. I thought about continuing this conversation in the comments, because there is such a robust discussion there, but I'm terrified that blogger will zonk out on me mid-sentence, as it is want to do. So if I stop making sense, go there, read that first, then come on back.

Like Jennifer Lauck, adoption is not a path we have chosen to explore. Not yet. Unlike her, I can't say that we won't, because I've muttered those words about surrogacy. Things change. It is very very hard to say it's not a path you would pick for yourself if it becomes the only path that is available to the one thing you want and desire more than anything in the world - to be a mother.

I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement: " I equate being adopted to being a slave." Because all children, in one way or another, are "forced to perform for the emotional needs of our keepers." It is quite an enlightened parent that has no emotional need for their child, that doesn't rely on them to fill or complete something within them. As much as you want your child to be his or her own person, you also want them to want you, to love you, to need you on some levels. This is not slavery. This defines just about every human relationship that I know. We all have needs and we all strive to be the ones that fill those needs for others.

And speaking of relationships, here is something that has struck me:

Where is the father in this conversation? Why have we given no credence to the birth father? The adopted father?

In my personal experience, my birth father was rendered just as helpless, perhaps moreso, than my birth mother. He had no say over my fate. He was forbidden to see her, or me. He could have easily forgotten about this "phase" in his young life. But he was the one that marked my birthday on his calendar for 35 years. He is the one that wept uncontrollably at our reunion. He is the one, not my birth mother, that yearned to reconnect. Desperately. And I think his place in this story should be respected and recognized, and I think he has suffered immensely throughout his life because it never was.

I cannot imagine he is alone.

I'm signing off for today using Heather's words. And she has no idea how timely the second piece of it is since M and I were just debating if it is really ok to dislike a child and think they are an asshole (my opinion: yes. We can all blog about that one later). But here's how Heather sums things up:
I think both adoptive and biological families have an equal likelihood of being fucked up, and the level of fucked-upedness very much depends on how open and honest everyone is with each other. And even with complete open-ness and honesty, some people, even kids, can just be assholes and there isn't anything you can do to stop it.
Can I get an Amen?

Thank you ALL for your respectful input into this conversation that I know is going to continue, as it should.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sharing Truths - Found: A Memior, part of the AdoptLit Book Tour

Whoa. I didn't mean to write a novella. I really didn't. But I've been sitting on this for a while. This morning, it all came out.

Let me back up and tell you what I'm talking about: this morning, I'm taking part on the AdoptLit Book Tour hosted by the ever-lovely Lori. The selection is: Found: A Memoir

And my bit is below.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner. I am really looking forward to hearing the varied perspectives here.


Time and time again as I was reading passages in Jennifer Lauck’s latest book Found: A Memoir, I had to put the book down, step away, breathe. At times because I felt so diametrically opposed to what the narrator was saying. Angry. Hurt. At times because the familiarity was too much to bear. On too many levels.

It is so hard to assess or critique a memoir. Harder than any piece of fiction or third party account. This is someone’s truth. How do you separate someone’s truth from the story being told and how the narration flows? How do you deduct style points from words so connected to someone’s life and essence? Can you?

In this particular instance, I can’t. So, what you’ll find here is me attempting to make sense of the myriad of emotions and reactions I felt (as a fellow adult adoptee from a closed adoption, mother of two dead children, and someone actively pursuing a family through surrogacy and donor eggs) reading and reflecting on Found: A Memoir.

Luckily, I have some questions to guide me. And I’ll get to those in just a bit.

The first 70 pages of Found were a struggle for me. I felt detached from the narrator, purposefully pushed away. And I was annoyed. Until I recognized the tactic.

The passive voice, the absence of emotion, speaking almost nonchalantly about life-changing events…this was my m.o. after we lost our daughters. It’s how I functioned when I was forced to function. “Life had been brutal to me and I’d go ahead and be brutal in return.” (28) It is that gray area between going for shock value and simply attempting to cope.

I found myself being pulled further into the story as Jenny reads through the non-identifying information of her birth parents for the first time (77). The dizziness, the room spinning, your reality completely altered but not really. Assurances, suspicions confirmed, new information revealed. Oh yes. I get that. In fact, I wrote about it here.

But just as I would develop a connection with the narrator, I would be pushed away again.

As someone who does not have living children, I felt a little dissed by the author's assertions that being a mother brings clarity that is otherwise impossible to have. Did others read this the same way? Do you agree? Disagree?

(I wonder if it’s cheating to answer your own question? I’m so eager to read how others respond to this.)

For me, the author’s voice shifts dramatically any time she is near her own children. And she states more than once that it wasn’t until she became a mother herself that she realized the loss of her own mother and need to reconnect. It’s true, my own search began after the birth of our daughters. My rationale was different:
Why are you choosing to search? I know what it is like to lose a daughter and to live with that loss every day. I would like to bring some peace and some closure to my birth parents, if I am able.
In my mind, I wasn’t the one who lost out.

The author holds motherhood, specifically to one’s own genetically linked children, as sacred. I wonder for someone who has experienced so much loss and deprivation if she realizes what a place of privilege she is speaking from? At these points in the book I read the tone as condescending (if I were a mother, I’d understand…) and felt my loss and inability to be a mother acutely. It stung. And made me resentful. These were the times I had to remind myself over and over again: this is not MY story. This is not my truth. It is hers.

And this is where discussing a memoir is so damn tough. Because just as I decide, “that’s it. I’m done,” I read a passage like the one on page 105 when Jenny’s adopted friend simply can’t understand why she wouldn’t want to search for her birth mom too:
“I bet your mother is waiting for you too.”
“What if she’s not?”
Yes, what if she’s not?

If a first mother is not willing to have contact with her child or adoptive family, is it prudent to attempt to compel the first mother into an open relationship?

It’s hard to read Jenny’s birth mom here – her intentions, her emotions. All we can see is what Jenny wants her to be. How the narrator perceives these things. It’s the only filter we have. Did Catherine really want a reunion or was she coerced into it? Guilted into it? Or is she far more complex than outward appearances? We can only wonder, just as the narrator does.

My truth is that my birth mother would rather not see me. She knows I’m looking. She’s spoken with the agency social worker and said, yeah, um, no thanks. Her rationale? I was told she’s a counselor and knows “reunions are never what either party wants them to be. They can never meet expectations. I would rather know she’s ok and leave it at that.” That’s what I was told.

Again, just like Jenny’s mom, who knows what else lurks beneath the surface. Shame? A desire to forget? Regret? Simply not wanting a life to be disrupted? I don’t, I can’t know.

My birth father, who was overjoyed to meet me, can’t understand why I’m not furious. I can’t explain it. I get it. In fact, I kind of like her more? Because it feels like something I would do. God, what an asshole.

In fact, the more stories I hear about her, the photos I see, the things I pick up from her once lover, my birth father, convince me that we are probably 100% alike.

And would probably annoy the shit out of each other. Because we’re like that. (I think)

Back to the question: I don’t think anyone should be compelled into a relationship they don’t want. What is the value? Beginning with a tone of obligation? Compliance? These are emotions I hate most in any family dynamic. I would never want to be the source of them. Here’s what I think is non-negotiable: non-identifying information, health records, a name – your name, the one you had when you were born.

As to reunions, man they are hard. No matter how you slice them. There is the initial honeymoon, that moment you have been looking for your entire life , almost immediately followed by a shitload of questions and existential angst, and then, alas, the dénouement aka, the let down.

While my birth mom said no thanks, my birth father said oh yes please and let’s be best friends and you can come over, right? It was all a little much. There was no time spent “building bridges of trust” (202) no caution taken. (did I mention the time he pointed out the park he and my BM used to have some fun, heh heh heh? Cringe.) But we’re getting past that now.

The centerpiece of a reunion isn’t necessarily the people whose loins you’ve passed through. For me, it was getting to know my birth aunt. For Jenny, it seems as if that connection was made with her sister. There is a knowing. “This is the way my people are” (212) that just might make it worth it.

The detachment, anger and loss I read in the author's voice at times made me question my own pursuit of a child that will not be genetically linked to me. For others who have or may be pursuing parenthood through adoption or third party reproduction, did anything in the book give you pause? Make you question how your family has come together?

Again, disclaimer, I’m answering my own question. For me, the answer is hell yes. I grew really tired of hearing about the Primal Loss and irreparable damage. As my non-adopted husband constantly reminds me, “we’re all damaged, babe.”

Issues around identity, origin, connectedness – I think about this shit nonstop, as I am sure many, many people who have built families through nontraditional means do. I believe there is a balance between recognizing and honoring origins and finding a space of love and acceptance in a family that is not genetically yours. These things can co-exist. I believe this. I HAVE to believe this.

A passage that gave me chills was when Jenny and Catherine are looking at one of Jenny’s baby photo – one where she’s “stiff-arming” her adopted mom. (195) Holy shit. This is something I do even now. Try to hug me when I’m not down with it, you’ll feel my entire body go rigid. My jaws clench. Uninvited physical contact = shudder. Step off homey, you don’t know me like that. But wait, are you saying this is because I’m adopted? That I’ve been trained to do this from day one? I’m a little incredulous at that assumption. I think I just don’t like other people touching on me.

But still, the stiff arm. It is a monumental fear. Hell, I’ve even dreamt about it.

It’s the constant wonder – what if I don’t pass the test?

If there were any doubts left about how the author really feels about adoption, she lays it out in the Endnote. Is this a full on condemnation of adoption? Is there no scenario in which an adopted child grows up totally normal? Are you telling me I was screwed the moment the docs plucked me? Are my non-genetically linked future maybe children destined to the same fate?

I can’t, I won’t, believe it.

Found: A Memoir is Jenny Lauck’s truth. I can honor her story and her expression of it. I can also share with you a little bit of mine.

Thank you, Jenny, for being open to this conversation.

Almost Ready....

Good morning, early risers!

If you've tuned in to check out my portion of the AdoptLit Book Tour for Found, A Memoir, it's almost ready. Post coming shortly. Promise.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's 2012 and I Have Presents for You!

Ok, don't get excited. That title may be a little misleading. I mean, yes, it IS 2012. That part is true. I don't really have physical presents that I'm handing out to each of you. I'm just in a great mood this morning and I've got some stuff I'd like to share:

1.) The 2011 Creme de la Creme is up and over 200 posts deep. Holy shmoly. My iPad and quiet Sunday afternoons were made for this. This may take me more than one weekend to get through. And yes my submission is a little corny, but I liked it at the time.

2.) You can get a free cookbook from Earthbound Farms today. Like, today only.

3.) Speaking of salads, there are some over at Oh She Glows that make my mouth water every time I look at them. I cannot wait to make them. I wanted to share this link with you in case "eat healthier" or "eat less meat" or "eat more veggies" or anything like that just happened to be on your list of resolutions this morning.

4.) And speaking of vegan, I tried two new recipes this weekend and both of them rocked my world. Want them?

I've tried a handful of falafel recipes and this is truly the first one that has NOT resulted in a crumbly, greasy chickpea mess. Sure you can buy the mix in the box, but this is cheaper, and better. Warning: it makes a ton, so unless you're crazy about pitas, you may want to cut the recipe in half.

We kicked off 2012 this morning with some fresh coffee, OJ and the most delicious french toast I've ever made. I should probably note that I've never made french toast before, but I've eaten it plenty. This gem comes from Alicia Simpson's Quick & Easy Vegan Comfort Foods and it took all of 10 minutes to throw the whole thing together. Here it is (with my two cents in parens):

1 cup plain soy milk (any non-dairy milk works. We use rice milk)
1/4 chickpea flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
canola oil
6 slices whole grain bread (honestly, whatever you've got works. It's french toast)

(I'm paraphrasing the directions)
In a shallow dish, whisk together the milk and flour. Then add the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat (my vote is actually medium high) and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan (I would use a little less if you like your toast to have some crunchy brown edges).
Dredge each slice of bread in the milk mixture and add to the pan. Cook until each side is golden brown. About 2-3 minutes each side.
Serve with maple syrup or whatever you like to drizzle on your morning shtuff.

5.) And last, but not least, here is a link to one of my new favorite websites. If you're looking to fill your new eReader, notebook or whatever with some quality content, go here for links to free eBooks, free movies, free's simply an amazing collection. For free.

And there you are.