A Safe Place to Land

A Safe Place to Land

School is over. Summer break is upon us. All is well in life.

While rifling through everything the boys brought home, I found BigBrother’s writing notebook. He saw me reading it and told me to keep on reading. I read a lot about Star Wars and Pokemon. I read a piece about his best friend.

And then I found a poem.

I see my sister
I hear my sister
I see dogs
I see a pool
I hear dogs
I feel warm and cozy
I smell dogs
I feel sad
I am leaving

I cried over the pierogies and kielbasa I was making. I sent a photo of the poem to Dee, to my husband. They responded in kind.

This is what parenting after placement looks like. It’s finding poetry dripping with love and loss. It’s holding little boys when they cry about missing their sister. It’s answering questions about adoption and permanency and sex and genetic while trying to pay attention to road signs.

We’ve never told the boys to keep their sister’s existence “hush hush.” When we stopped by BigBrother’s scrimmage during their visit out here in April, he introduced her to one of his best friends as his sister. I watched a moment of confusion cross the boy’s face, and then he offered he a cookie.

I’ve seen the look of confusion cross others’ faces. Last year, a family whom we were just getting to know, one who hadn’t been to our house yet, let the look briefly cross their brows when BigBrother announced we couldn’t come over because we were heading to his sister’s house. I don’t wear my “I’m a Birth Mother” pin to the school, on outings, to church, or really anywhere. I don’t own one.

I’m more than one title, one role.

But I do not hide my daughter. Her photo graces the family wall and hangs out in other rooms of our house. I talk of her on Twitter, Facebook, and here on this blog. My employers know her as simply one of my children; she just lives in another house. Each boy has written about her almost every year in their writing journals. She’s their sister. They love her. It’s their life.

I took the poem to BigBrother’s room that night and told him I really liked the way he expressed himself with words. He explained that his reading teacher taught them that technique. I asked permission to share it here on the blog, and he said, “Of course.” He told me to acknowledge his teacher; she really was an asset to his learning this year and I’m thankful she brought poetry into my life.

I’m also thankful he felt safe enough in reading class in public school to write something about his sister. It says something about the atmosphere of her classroom. It says something about the way my husband and I along with Denise and her husband have worked to make a safe place for these kids to discuss and share their feelings, whether they be about adoption or life in general.

I wish they didn’t need to endure the negative aspects that accompany adoption. But it’s their reality. I cannot shield or protect my sons from all the sadness and loss in the world. We’re coming on the second anniversary of my grandmother’s death. Loss and sadness—grief—we cannot escape this life completely unscathed. Yes, oh yes, I’d do anything to take the pain from all three of my children, but I cannot. I cannot do that any more than I can protect them from future loss.

All I can do for all three of my kids is be present. I can answer any and all questions posed of or at me. I can take the anger they feel at the situation which they did not choose and refuse to reflect it back at them. I can be patient. I can be honest. I can show them my own grief and how I process it.

I can be a safe place to land.

I can be a mother to them all.


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So Brave, So Courageous

“You were so brave to tell that story.”

“It was really courageous of you to do that.”

“Most young women choose abortion; you’re so brave.”

“I wouldn’t have the courage to tell a story like that.”

I heard it four times after the Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh show on Friday night. Four separate times from four separate, unrelated people. Four people I didn’t know.

I said, “Thank you.” Because manners.

The rest of the people said, “Congratulations,” and, “You made me cry so hard,” and, “That was so well-written,” and, “You delivered it so perfectly,” and, “I didn’t see that coming!” My own mother called it “eloquent,” which felt like a gift given specifically to heal certain parts of my heart. My husband, well, he knows my story because he’s lived it with me, and as someone pointed out, it’s also his story, but he told me he felt so proud of me. My friends who came hugged me and loved on me and cursed me a little for the tears and told me I did a great job.

My fellow cast mates hugged me. One woman told me that I single-handedly changed how she viewed adoption. We told each other how proud we were of one another, how amazing we all did on stage. Because we did. Every single woman took to that microphone and told her story.

Which is my problem with this brave and courageous talk.

I’ve already made my peace with the fact that people who don’t know me, don’t know my story, don’t know adoption as intimately as our family and those others who know adoption because they live adoption, view birth parents either as saints or sinners. I get it. Since I put a name and a face to the title of birth mother up on that stage, they didn’t view me as the sinner. I wasn’t scary. I didn’t talk about stealing babies back like Lifetime movies. I didn’t talk of drug or alcohol addiction. I was a brunette with medium-long hair in a green dress and silver shoes. I totally sank the boat of a stereotype they held, and so they switched to the other.

If I wasn’t a sinner, I was a saint.

I’m not. I’m human. Like you. Like us all.

So no, I didn’t take offense at the whole brave, courageous stereotype either. I’m not really brave and courageous. I have moments of brave. I have moments of courage. The young, sick mother who made a choice to place her daughter for adoption did the best she could with the information she had at the time. I was scared out of my mind, not brave. That’s the best truth I can offer. I felt scared out of my mind. I didn’t know what kind of mother I might be, didn’t know what mothering meant despite putting my life on the line to bring that little girl into this world.

What gave me pause about the comments offered to me was that not all the mothers who spoke on Friday evening were offered the same “brave and courageous” comment. Every single mama who stepped up to that microphone was brave. Courageous. The embodiment of those words. Whether she spoke of mental illness or transplants or rare genetic abnormalities or just being fucking done with parenting for the day, every mother was brave.

So Brave, So Courageous -stopdropandblog.com

It’s hard enough to parent, to be as present as possible with your children day in and day out. Then to write out what you want to say about motherhood on any given day—about clowns or the girl next door or pool noodles—takes a moment of your time, takes a piece of your heart as you put it down on paper, or rather, up on a screen. Then! To drive into the city and wait outside a hotel conference room and walk in and say hello and hi and give three women your written piece and stand in front of them and read it out loud? That takes all the courage in the world. You don’t know those three women. You don’t know their preconceived notions about adoption, about mental illness, about what’s funny and what’s not, about what motherhood should or could or does look like. You know nothing other than your own truth, and you’re willing to share it.

So you do.

And things being what they are, when you’re accepted into a show like Listen to Your Mother, the audition then becomes the easy part. Because you then have to stand in front of an audience and say those words, recite your truth, lay it all out on the line. You sit in your chair waiting your turn, counting it down. I was third, so I didn’t have to count long, but I counted all the same. Three, two, it’s me. It’s me in front of a room full of people I knew and didn’t know. To those who knew me, they saw me as I am, as I was: a mother with three children, telling a part of her story as part of a show. To those who didn’t know me, I threw them for a hard shift when I mentioned my daughter’s soon-to-be parents.

Wait, what?

But I felt the same thing with every other mother’s piece. You bought a sex chair. Wait, what? Your baby needed a heart transplant. Wait, what? Oh my God, I’ve never even thought of rain that way. Wait, what? Yeah, I was kind of an asshole, too. Wait, what? True.

In each story, I saw myself. In each story, I saw motherhood. In each story, I saw courage and bravery. In each story, I saw little bits of what we don’t always say when we’re talking about mothering on social media, on blogs, anywhere in the media. I saw mothers get real. Talk about what it’s like to be born without a uterus. What it’s like to date again after 22 years. What it’s like to witness your children fear your mental illness. I witnessed the epitome of the Instagram #honestmotherhood hashtag with less white and beauty and more grit and shades of gray.

I witnessed the definition of bravery, of courage.

When I finished my audition, one of our amazing directors and producers said, “You know, if we had 20 stories about potty training, we could only take one.”

Later, after our first rehearsal, I asked one of them, “How many birth mothers did you have up in there telling their story?”

“Just you.”

I accept your mentions and notions of courage and bravery as long as you recognize the courage and bravery involved in telling stories in general. Yes, I’m a birth mother who openly speaks about what it feels like to have placed a child for adoption, what it feels like to parent other children who feel big feelings about the choice you made before you knew they would exist. But every mother who walked to the podium on Friday night was brave. She had a story to tell. She told it.

I am so proud to be a part of such a movement, of mothers telling their truths. I am so proud to be my daughter’s mother, my sons’ mother, my daughter’s mom’s friend, part of this family unit we have created all on our own with no help from any book or agency. And I’m proud of each mother for living her story, her truth, for making her way in a world that does not come with an instruction manual.

We are all so brave, so courageous.