Catelynn & Tyler of MTV’s Teen Mom – A Lesson in Reality

“Bethany was really supportive of me. They helped me answer any questions or any worries that I have, they taught me about grief and how to go through that; just kind of show me that I’m the person who makes my adoption plan. I’m the person that makes it look how I want it to look. They’ve just always been there. I could call them at four o’clock in the morning and they would talk to me and answer my questions.”
-Catelynn, PSA for Bethany Christian Services, April 9, 2014

Just a few short days ago the world looked on as MTV’s Teen Mom stars, Catelynn and Tyler Baltierra, received the news that they would not be getting a yearly visit with the daughter they relinquished to adoption, Carly.  The short video clip shows the Teen Mom stars meeting with their social worker, Dawn Baker, in what looks to be a cafe of sorts, so that she can deliver the bad news. Dawn has worked with the couple as an employee of Bethany Christian Services throughout the duration of Catelynn’s pregnancy, birth, post-birth, post-relinquishment.

In the clip, Dawn has come prepared with a folder of papers to remind Catelynn and Tyler what they agreed upon in their “open adoption contract.” Open adoption contracts are more common, nowadays, than not and usually stipulate what both parties agree to as far as openness after an adoption. However, even in states where open adoption contracts are “legally binding,” these contracts are mostly faith-based and cannot really be enforced. (See more about open adoption contracts here)  It is assumed that all parties will act ethically and hold up their end of the deal.  During part of the clip you get a glimpse at the contract that Catelynn and Tyler signed:

catelynntyler

If you read the paragraph under “communication” you’ll see phrases such as “the first 2 years” or “through the age of 5 years old” and “exchange of these items will take place through Bethany.” Having watched the show you may be wondering why there are age stipulations in this “open” adoption contract.  Surely Catleynn and Tyler have, and always did, want to be a part of Carly’s life for all of her life.

When Catelynn questions why Brandon and Teresa have not answered her texts about a visit, Dawn is quick to remind them what they agreed to in their “contract.”

“I wanna take you guys back to 2009 and I want to show you some things you signed with me. And I made a copy so you guys could have, so… This was the foundation of where you started, yeah you said ‘no’ to ongoing face to face and you could REQUEST visits with the adoptive family in the future to be initiated by Catelynn and Tyler, which is what you’ve been doing, and at the discretion of the adoptive family, as they determine what is in the best interest of Carly…”

Hold the phone.  They said “NO” to ongoing face to face visits? Hmm.  Has anyone watched the show? Can anyone think of any reason that they wouldn’t want to continue to see their daughter? Let me tell you what I think happened here based on my experience.

Catelynn and Tyler are “counseled” by Bethany.  Bethany tells them that the contract they are signing is just a bare bones deal.  They can still see Carly as long as Brendan and Teresa are okay with that, and why wouldn’t they be? As long as your relationship continues the way it has this shouldn’t even be an issue. We’ll just have the contract in writing with the bare minimum.  Yes they could choose to stop ongoing visits but that’s not likely to happen since this is what everyone wants. And, by the way, Bethany suggests that all gifts and letter get filtered through them and that updates three times a year should stop at age 2 and videos of birthdays should stop at age 5 because, ya know, birth parents just kinda start to forget and move on and it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Can you taste my sarcasm?

So Catelynn and Tyler agreed to this contract after being counseled by Dawn and Bethany Christian Services. They really did understand that at anytime their visits could be taken away.  Yes, they did.  But they were reassured that wasn’t likely to happen as long as everyone continued this great wonderful relationship that they were promised.  I would also go so far as to assume, because it happened to me, that Catelynn and Tyler didn’t even know they could say “nope, sorry.” Because, ya see, they make you fall “in love” with this adoptive couple.  They make you feel like these are THE people for my child.  If I ask for more they may back out.  And agencies have a great way of making you feel like maybe you WON’T find parents for your baby if you’re too picky.  So they agreed, because asking for any more may mean missing out on this ideal, “perfect” couple for their baby.  And they truly did want what was best for their baby.

Ahh, but Bethany has a history.  They even wrote a book.  It’s called “A Case For Adoption.”

The original description from their website stated:

“This manual is written for those who counsel women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. Its purpose is to show how adoption can be presented as a positive, life-giving choice. 

bethany

Basically, Bethany wrote a manual in 1985 about how to convince women to give their children up for adoption.  And this manual is still being used today.

Where were we? Oh yes.  Dawn presents “legal” documents to remind Catelynn and Tyler that they aren’t fitting into the perfect little birth parent box they were supposed to stay in. When Catelynn expresses frustration that Carly’s adoptive parents would not answer her directly when she asks about a visit Dawn is quick to “counsel” them with this answer:

“If the conversation is kinda shut down about the visit, let’s move on to another converstaion…”

Catelynn again expresses frustration, “I hate not having an answer.”

Dawn, being the great counselor that she is to help them through this difficult time replies with, “I know you do but you’re not getting it right now, you’re not getting an answer right now. I know this is hard you guys.”

Here’s what I heard – I know you don’t like it but tough shit.  You aren’t getting what you want so move the fuck on.  I’m only hear to make Bethany look good.  I’m only here because Brandon and Teresa were too chicken shit to tell you themselves.  I really don’t give a shit about how you feel. I get my paycheck regardless and I have you and all the other hundreds of girls just like you, to thank for that.

That’s what I heard.  Not what she said, but what I heard.

And then my favorite part.  Catelynn’s response.

“No its just fucking frustrating because I was fucking 16 years old when I made these decisions.”  And there it is. Almost like an epiphany.  How can a coup of sixteen year olds be expected to understand the depth and magnitude of what they are doing? How can anyone, really? Unless you’ve lived it you have no idea. Unless you have had the door slammed shut in your face, you DON’T KNOW. You CAN’T know.  You believe everything the counselors tell you.  You believe that you will doom your child to a lifetime of pain and unhappiness.  You believe you aren’t good enough.  And I’m here to tell you, it’s all lies. The people telling you this are the people who profit from your loss.

Bethany Christian Services paid almost 5.5 MILLION dollars in employee salaries and wages in 2014 – the year Catelynn and Tyler recorded that PSA for them. Their total net assets were over 34 MILLION dollars.  Their total liabilities and net assets were almost 45 MILLION dollars. William Blacquere, CEO and President of Bethany Christian Services in 2014 had a salary of $210,812,  Over TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS a year as a salary for being the President of an adoption agency.  A “non profit” one at that.

I’m the person who makes my adoption plan. I’m the person that makes it look how I want it to look.”

“No its just fucking frustrating because I was fucking 16 years old when I made these decisions.”

I really really feel for Catelynn and Tyler.  They are in the public eye which means every misstep is recorded for all to see. Yes, they made a choice to be in the public eye, but there will never be any going back for them in that decision as well.  As far as their views on adoption and how they feel about being denied their yearly visit, well, as all of us first parents know, any vocalization against the adoptive parents of our kids or adoption as an institute puts us at grave risk of being totally cut off from our children – until they are of age to decide for themselves. I can see it in their faces when I watch the show.  The fear. One wrong move and it all crumbles down and how are we supposed to continue living life if that happens?

Tyler seems more outspoken, but he still can’t say what he wants, if he wants.

But Catelynn, Tyler, they do grow up.  They do have minds of their own. And sometimes they do come calling.  And sometimes they’re FUCKING PISSED about what’s happened. I’m learning this first hand.

I don’t care if you smoke pot.  I don’t care if you’re depressed because having another baby made you realize the enormity of what you lost.  I don’t care if you have a beer now and again.  You aren’t unsafe for your daughter to visit once a year.  There is absolutely no excuse for it. None.  You may not be able to say it, but I will. Carly loves you, she’s had a relationship with you, and now it has been, at the least, interrupted.  At the most, ended. How will they explain that to her? How will that hurt her? Has anyone stopped to think about that?

Family preservation. It has been my only life line. It is what helps me heal.  Catelynn, Tyler, please reach out. Even if under an alias. There’s a whole community waiting for you.

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Dear Hoping to Adopt

I’m sure, by now, I’m loathed by most who have found themselves in my corner of the world wide Web via an innocent Google search about how to adopt a baby. That’s okay. I get it. My writing is blunt and I don’t mince words. I’d like to take some time, however, to speak directly to the aforementioned.

Dear Hoping to Adopt,

For you, achieving motherhood is not an easy row to hoe. For you, perhaps, attaining motherhood, in the traditional sense, is quite literally impossible. I can only imagine the heartbreak of learning that all of your dreams, that were most likely fostered from the time you were able to snuggle with your first baby doll, are now slipping from your grasp and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.

The countless negative pregnancy tests, maybe the loss of your children before they even had a chance to be a part of this world, the fertility treatments, the worry, the hope, the anxiety, the tears – I understand. I get it. I’m not heartless. I empathize, maybe sometimes too much, with the millions of hardships that we, as human beings, must face.

I think about the hurt you must face every time a friend or relative announces they are expecting or the pain you must feel watching others care for their little ones. I do understand that it must be lonely feeling like the odd man out while others have, what feels like, an exclusive club that only women who are mothers can join. We are women. Most of us, not all, are wired with a natural instinct and yearning to be a mother. I truly understand and empathize.

When you read through my writing you may not think it’s possible for me to empathize with you. But I do. It’s not that hard because I know what it feels like.

I know how deeply it hurts to dream of a child that will never be yours. I know how gut-wrenching it is to grieve a lost child. I have felt lonely as well – lonely when no one else could understand how much pain I was in – lonely when they were praising me for how selfless I was – lonely when I was told that I had given someone a beautiful gift and that I did the right thing. And for the rest of my life I will feel as though I don’t belong with all the other mommies. I surrendered my motherhood to my child and that’s something most don’t truly understand and most are certainly way off base about what that ultimately means.

I empathize because my loss is huge. There was no one there to help me or support me. No one to tell me that I could do it. I was told that adoption was the right choice which, to me, meant I was not the right choice. I was not good for my baby is the message I received and I will forever belong to that lonely club.

Loss is subjective. Some may say the loss of a pregnancy is the same as the loss of a child through adoption. I will always disagree. The path I walk in life, as a first mother, has many layers. I’m sure those who have suffered a miscarriage know what it’s like to blame themselves. The fact is, though, that really there was nothing you willfully did to cause the loss of your unborn baby. As a first mom, however, a good portion of society, as I’m reminded of more and more often, continues to act as if surrendering my child, the loss of my child, was a willful act. Yes, I signed relinquishment papers but there was nothing willful about it. My circumstances forced that hand just as your physical circumstances have forced yours in your journey through infertility.

See, we aren’t all that much different, you and I. We’ve both suffered. We’ve both lost. We’ve both grieved and we’ve both gone through trauma and emotional anguish.

If you ever find yourself asking, “Why is she so angry and bitter?” please think back to everything you’ve gone though in your journey to achieve motherhood. Then ask yourself how you’d feel if the whole of society celebrated it and asked you to be grateful for it, asked you to accept others purposely facilitating it. This is what that feels like to me.

Yes, I have empathy for you, but my empathy stops where your willful ignorance begins. My empathy stops when there are hundreds and thousands of children truly in need of a family but you insist on getting a brand new baby. My empathy stops when I see you begging others for donations to take another mother’s child when the donations that you have rolling in would enable that mother to keep her baby. My empathy ends there. I simply cannot do it anymore. To me, it’s the equivalent of you asking for donations to assure the loss of pregnancy in another woman because, for some odd reason, that’s the only way to ensure your own motherhood.

Facilitating the loss of another’s motherhood so that you may attain your own is where my empathy ends.

It is only a few thousand dollars, usually, to give a home to a child genuinely in need of a family, to become a mother. You seem great at fundraising and that money could be used to help another mother be saved from this life of pain.

I empathize with your loss. Will you empathize with mine? Or will you refuse to because my loss stands in the way of your selfish desires? Look at yourself in the mirror. What does that make you?

The Sun and the Ghost

The following is a chapter from the book I am writing, “Whispers of Grace.”

The months following the relinquishment of IKL I had the same nightmare frequently. I still have this nightmare once in a great while. Most of the nightmares I have now are different but revolve around the same theme, saving my baby. This particular dream incorporates childhood trauma from abuse endured at the hands of my stepfather.

The Sun and the Ghost

I awaken on a table in the kitchen of my childhood home. The overhead light is swinging and the brightness radiating from it is making it difficult for me to orientate myself. I scramble off the table and squint my eyes to assess my surroundings. How did I get here? What is going on? Everything is stark and dusty as if life had not seen this place in many, many years. There are no pictures hanging on the walls, no rugs on the floor. There are no dishes in the sink or magnets on the refrigerator. There are no plants and this doesn’t surprise me as I cannot fathom how anything that is alive could sustain itself in this place. Everything is bare and the only furnishings are that of tables, chairs and a couch. Cobwebs hang in long strands from every corner. The walls look grey instead of the radiant cherry wood that I had remembered.

I suddenly hear a newborn baby crying in the distance. It sounds far away but I immediately recognize the cry as Grace’s. In response to her cry I hear thundering footsteps pounding above my head. Someone or something was chasing her! I began to run to prevent whatever stood behind those footsteps from getting her. My first instinct was to head up the staircase. As I reached the top I dropped to my knees at the sight before my eyes. I was no longer in my childhood home but in a maze of stairs like that in M.C. Escher’s “Relativity.” I could not give up, though. I had to find my baby. She was scared and something was trying to get her. As I headed up another round of stairs I turned the corner and saw the back of my stepfather’s head. He did not see that I was looking at him. As he turned his head, I could see a look of malevolence finished off with a wicked grin that showcased how much pleasure he was getting from the hunt. I could feel my heart drop into my stomach as I realized that this was the monster chasing my baby. He intended to do her great harm and I had to stop him. For one moment I hesitated and the fear that had been instilled in me since a very young age tried to take hold. It only lasted for a second. I remembered that I was not a child anymore. This man had no power over me and I would die before I let him find Grace.

I charged him. The evil grin became one of a businessman who was about to close the sale. His eyes lightened and he said, “Julia! How have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages!” I knew it was best to pretend that I wasn’t onto him so I managed small talk while creeping around to the other side of him. This only worked for a few seconds. When he realized my intentions he took pursuit of me and I ran. Suddenly I was outside of my body and watching myself as if this was a movie. Everything was in slow motion. My dark curly hair was bouncing in time to every step I took. My mouth hung open and my brow furrowed as I looked back and realized he was getting closer. He just kept smiling as if he knew it was inevitable that he would catch me. And all the while the baby keeps crying. It’s getting louder so I know I must be getting closer. I take staircase upon staircase and finally I see a door. There is a radiant white light coming from the space underneath it. Somehow I know if I can open this door then the monster will have to go away. The light is too dangerous for him to be in.

I grab the doorknob and pull. I immediately feel the warmth of the sun and hear the crashing of ocean waves. Grace’s crying is getting louder and as I look out into the distance I can see a tiny house floating hundreds of feet from the shore. I know that’s where she is and I know I have to save her. I run for the water and just as I submerge my head in my dive, I see sharks begin to tear the tiny house apart. I swim with all my might. The sharks are relentless and manage to turn the structure into a piece of driftwood and the only thing left is Grace on top of it. Instantaneously I am within arm’s reach of Grace and as I extend my hand she disappears. I panic and start screaming her name. As if in answer to this I can hear her crying from back on the shore. I look back and all I see is the beach, Grace and a door, standing alone. I think to myself, “That must be the door I came through.” Grace continues to wail as I make my way back to the shore. I have some peace in knowing she won’t drown but the urgency is still there. I just need to get to her as quick as possible. I keep swimming. It starts to get darker. As I look to the sky I see the beginning of a solar eclipse. Dread starts to build within me as I realize the only thing that kept my stepfather from going through that door was the sun. I quickly check the door and see it shaking. He is pounding on it and pretty soon he will be able to get through it. The sun is fading behind the moon. I swim faster. Saltwater goes inside my nose and burns. I cough, I swim. I made it back to shore just as the eclipse is complete and the door swings open. My stepfather’s eyes are now glowing red. We both run for Grace. I make it to her first. As soon as I swoop her up my stepfather turns to dust. The relief was immediate and I begin to move her blanket around searching for her face. I cannot seem to find any of her body within this nursery blanket. A new panic sets in as I realize she has also stopped crying. In desperation I start to flail the blanket about and then I realize that Grace is gone. I drop to my knees and sob.

Top 5 Things Not To Say To A Birthmother

Here we go again. Another blog post about what NOT to say to a birth/first/natural mother. Right? Wrong. I’ve seen them done a few times. The lists. What not to say to an adoptive mother. What not to say to a birthmother. What not to say to an adoptee. I can’t speak for others in the adoption community, but I can speak from a personal place as a first mom. While some things on these lists ring true with me, there just wasn’t one that truly felt all-encompassing or “complete.” Some even had things included that just grossed me out. So, in true Letterman style, here is my top FIVE list of things NOT to say or do to a first mom.

Avoiding Talking About the Child She Has Lost to Adoption Altogether.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t what not to say but it sure is what not to do. Some people truly don’t know how to approach the subject and don’t want to say the wrong thing. Instead they choose to not say anything at all. Even though we have been through a tremendous loss, we still want you to acknowledge our child. We want you to ask questions about them. Even if we have no information, whatsoever, we want to be asked. “Have you received any new pictures of [insert child’s name here]? How are you doing this time of the year without [insert child’s name here]? What do you think [insert child’s name here] looks like now?” It’s really quite simple. Living in a world where you are the only one who acknowledges your child’s existence can be miserable and lonely. Just because they are out of sight does not mean they are out of mind. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s an ambiguous loss for us. There really is no closure. By asking us questions about our child, you acknowledge our pain, acknowledge our child, and open the door for further conversation if we feel up to it. If you don’t know what to say, just say so! “I’m not really sure what to say, but I was wondering if you wanted to talk about [insert child’s name here].” Even if the answer is, “I’m not really ready to talk about that” we will be over the moon that you asked. Really, we will. When people bring up our children in casual conversation it affirms to us that they do exist. They are real. We didn’t dream it up. Sometimes those are the only things that get us through the night.  Furthermore, for some women, it was a shameful thing to have a baby that was then lost to adoption. Many were ridiculed, sent away to be hidden and give birth, and chastised. Talking about their child, as a normal, positive, everyday thing, helps them to break those barriers they have battled their whole lives. It helps them to see themselves through a different set of eyes. Not the eyes that passed judgement and condemnation. Yes, talk about our children. Please do.

Don’t Withhold Personal Stories of Grief For Fear of Making Her Feel Bad

No one likes to be tiptoed around. Sometimes people can be super aware of the “adoption situation” and feel bad sharing their own loss stories. Sometimes their personal loss, they think, can pale in comparison to the first mom’s loss. This may be true sometimes but, as human beings, one thing we are great at is empathizing with each other. Sharing stories of personal loss with one another will sometimes find you at the beginning of a road called “healing.” Sometimes others are further in their journey and can offer some great advice or encouraging words. And sometimes being able to be the one to offer the encouraging words assists in your own personal journey of healing. Don’t be afraid of her grief (shoot, don’t be afraid of yours). Know it is a normal part of life when there is a loss. Know that tremendous learning can be gained from it as well as compassion, empathy, kindness, and understanding. Don’t rob each other of these opportunities. Open the door of grief together. Explore what’s inside and walk with each other on that path.

Avoid the Cliche Comments

“You can always have more children.”

“It was part of God’s plan.”

“What you did was brave and selfless.”

You know, all the things you’ll see pouring out of rainbow-colored lips on every “feel-good” adoption story you’ll ever read online. But here’s the deal. 1) Some women can’t always have more children. It’s called secondary infertility and it’s prominent among first moms. Even if she can have more, it doesn’t take away the pain of the one she lost. 2) You aren’t God and you don’t know His plan. And even if it was part of His plan (which I wholeheartedly believe 99% of domestic infant adoptions, done the way they are in America, are not) does that make her pain less? 3) It’s really not that brave when you have no other choice. Imagine standing at the edge of a cliff. The drop is 200 feet. Someone pushes you. You survive the fall. Someone tells you that you were brave to choose to jump off that cliff. Huh? You didn’t choose to jump, you had no choice, someone pushed you. That’s kind of how adoption works. Anyone who truly had any choice, at all, would have parented their child. No one wants to give away their child and go through this grief. They had NO CHOICE. And selfless? Well, it’s a horse a piece. It can’t be selfless because that means parenting a baby is selfish. Still….does this make her grief go away? Do not invalidate a mother’s grief from her adoption loss by throwing out the cliché statements that run a muck in the adoption world. It doesn’t help. Instead say, “I’m sorry you are hurting. No one will ever be able to replace [insert child’s name here] and I am sorry for that. Your circumstances were really crappy and that really sucks.” Validate their grief. Give them permission to have these feelings by affirming it to them. It DOES suck. It WAS crappy. And you ARE sorry they are hurting, right?

Who?

This one probably irks me the most. “Who?” When you openly say something about your child such as, “[Insert child’s name here] started horseback riding lessons last month! He’s doing really well!” If a first mom is talking to you in this context, about her child, it is going to be assumed that you know of the child she is talking about. Your response of, “Who?” says to her that you don’t care enough to remember her child’s name just because she isn’t parenting them. This will also make her less likely to openly discuss her child with you in the future (see my first list entry). Whenever I get this response I have to then say, “you know, the child I gave up for adoption.” Saying those words cuts like a knife. Usually it’s the only way I can make people understand who I’m talking about. Then I become a little angry at them. Come on, really? You don’t care enough to know who I’m talking about? I know I don’t bring her up much, but how long have we known each other? Please….at least remember her child’s name.

You Gave Him/Her a Better Life

You don’t know that. No one knows that unless they own a crystal ball or can time travel. The outcome of one’s life compared to the potential outcome of a potentially different life is something we, as mere humans, are not privy to. Even if that weren’t true, would you like me to tell you that you should have given your children up for adoption so they would have had a better life than what you’re giving them? Maybe they would have been better off with someone making $200,000 a year instead of the measly $70,000 you’re pulling in. Are you divorced? Your children would have been better off if you had given them up for adoption. Then they would have had a two-parent household. Oh! I know! It’s never too late! You should give your children up for adoption so they can have a better life. Do you see how asinine that sounds? Saying “You gave your child a better life” is probably the most cruel things you can say to a first mom. It reaffirms, to her, all the things the industry told her. She wasn’t good enough and her child is better off without her. In most situations, this simply isn’t true. Instead of saying, “You gave your child a better life” how about just not saying anything at all.

#ShoutYourAdoption

Chasing Myself

Sometimes it feels as if adoption swallows EVERY. SINGLE. PART. OF. MY. LIFE. While I love what I do, the people I help, the people I educate, the people who help me, the people who educate me, sometimes I find myself shutting down in the adoption world as it all becomes extremely overwhelming at times. Since this is a personal journey, for me, like so many others, it is often hard to separate all the pain that I feel with what I’m trying to do. I still find that I am at a place where I am forever playing tug of war with acceptance and denial. Intellectually I know that I carried my daughter for nine months, gave birth to her after almost a full day of labor, nurtured her in her first days, and got to know her in her first weeks….and then said goodbye. While I was lucky to have been able to see her on two separate occasions during the first 2 years of her life, I had wanted so much more. The expectations that I had in my heart for how this whole journey would play out have been a let down, to put it mildly.

It’s so easy to push it all aside, try to forget about the whole thing and live your life day by day the best you know how. To think about it makes it real and sometimes my reality is too much to bear. As a middle-aged woman, I cannot fathom what in the world would have made me actually give my child to other people to raise, people who were pretty much strangers, only vetted by an adoption agency. Even if they were not criminals, or had no history of anything questionable, did I really give my child to people I didn’t know? How could I possibly know if they would be a good fit for her after just a few meetings and phone calls? The knowledge and wisdom that only years of living has given me makes me sick to my stomach at times. It’s just all too much to comprehend, to analyze, to think about, to read between the lines. Every time I monitor a support group, write a blog post, share stories to help institute change, read about another reunion gone wrong, I am reminded of all of this. I am reminded that no matter how much my daughter feels like my daughter, no different from my other children, she does not look at me as her mother, the same as her other mother. I am reminded that I cannot give her all the “things” that they have given her. Not even close. I am reminded that she may not care either way if I am a part of her life and I will have to accept that and move on. I am reminded that to accept that possible fate is the same as accepting a bullet wound in my heart, because that is what it will feel like.

This is the part of me that puts my feelings above others. The part that longs for my child, the part that longs for all the years lost. This is the part of me that doesn’t think about how she feels or anyone else for that matter. Obviously I DO care how my children feel, more than myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to feel it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have hurt. And sometimes that hurt is so monumental, so breathtaking, so extravagant, that I need to shut down, to go into hibernation. I need to pretend an adoption didn’t happen. I will go to a happy place or a place of distraction. I will focus on the kids I am parenting, getting that closet cleaned out, perfecting that paper I’m working on for school, cleaning out the garage or binge watching episodes of Desperate Housewives, The Walking Dead, or Grey’s Anatomy. I will do anything to escape being a “birthmother.” A woman who has lost the most precious thing any woman can be given, her child.

When I go into hibernation mode from adoption-land I will avoid, avoid, and avoid some more. I don’t want to hear about anything adoption, I don’t want to read about anything adoption and I don’t want to be reminded that adoption exists. Ironically, however, this is where I will become obsessed with my daughter. I will check my e-mail incessantly to see if her parents have decided to give me an update, I will have nightmares about her, and I will look through her pictures over and over. I will put myself into denial, she still exists but there was never a time that I wasn’t her mother. I am always playing tug of war.

I have also found that when I am totally immersed in all things adoption activism, most of the time I am using that to avoid my own feelings about my personal story. The more I write about injustices happening to other people, the easier it is to forget about my loss. Until it isn’t easier, until the two worlds merge, for just a moment, and I need to shut down again. It’s like the two things are totally separate entities, chasing each other, until one catches the other and the cycle starts again. Except, they aren’t separate, they are one in the same. My brain, my heart, my soul, still cannot accept that. Every cell in my body is screaming that there is no way that a loss so profound could have happened to me, to my family.

It is at times like these that I think about how easy it was for me to slip into “the fog.” That happy place of denial where all adoption was great and I was a hero and my daughter would come to me one day and tell me how awesome I was for giving her away to rich people who could buy her things and then we would ride off into the sunset as mother and daughter. I know how easy it is to slip back into that place. It was warm and cozy and there was no tug of war. Except there was. What my mind was denying, my soul was trying to work out. Because of my suppression of these things, my life, I’m absolutely positive, was sabotaged. The things I could have achieved took way longer and I found other ways of dealing with the pain I was denying I had. Most of this took form in the way of a hefty addiction to food, and it has and is taking me a lot of hard work to overcome it. Purging my soul, doing what I do, has helped tremendously.

Sometimes I have to go into hibernation mode for survival. If I didn’t then I just can’t imagine ever truly surviving adoption. Maybe one day I will get to a place of TRUE peace. No chasing, no tug of war, no regrets. I don’t really ever think that’s possible, though. I do know this, however. No matter how many “breaks” I need, I will never stop fighting, never stop speaking out, and never stop trying to spare others from this pain. For now I just have to try to find a happy medium, because there is no escape. It’s a mental prison, and I’ll be trapped in it forever. May as well make due with what I have.