I Can See the Horizon 

Sleep found me easily and peacefully. I usually suffer from insomnia and will lay awake for hours praying that slumber will come upon me. A peace I’d never known before washed over me as all of my children were under my roof in the same place at the same time. The people I value and love the most in this world. The ONLY people whose opinions about me I care about. I felt complete and whole.

But sad. Sad for what could have been. Sad for the upcoming goodbye. Sad from what my choice had taken from all of my kids without their permission. There had always been a feeling that someone was missing and while she was here that feeling was gone. But it would soon be back. Nevertheless I tried to revel in how lucky I was to even have this moment, this time, at all.

I have three daughters and two sons. Of all of my children, she is the most like me in every way. It’s almost scary how similar we are. Many times people would comment “its like looking at you when you were her age!” Or “She’s JUST like you at that age!”

And she is.

She’s tenacious, she has no filter, she looks like me, she sounds like me, she has the same mannerisms as me. Admittedly she does have my husband’s nose.

Driving to Taco Bell one day we said the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. That happens within families all the time. Families that you share DNA with. “That’s never happened to me before,” she said with surprise. And it kept happening. My sisters and I are always speaking in stereo. It made me think how sad it would be to go through life without ever hearing someone who sounded like you.

And she’s just like her sisters. When a neighbor started up his motorcycle too closely they all screamed, shook, and started crying. All three of them. All at the same time. DNA is some powerful stuff.

But she’s herself too. It was lovely to hear her talk about the things she loves, the places she’s seen, the people in her life she cares about and how they’ve impacted her.

And still there was this thing hanging in the air. All the shared memories we had that she didn’t. My family is big on talking about “Remember when this happened…” and then proceeding to tell a funny or shocking story. So while she was like us in every way, and fit in perfectly, there was always the elephant in the room that reminded us that she had been gone.

So many mixed emotions. So much to untangle.

My husband was smitten. He reminded me of a new father doting over his infant daughter. Except we had already doted on her when she was born. I can read this man better than anyone and the looks on his face said, “I’m in love with this beautiful creature.” As he should be. She’s pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

And here is where I decided that this blog has served its purpose. For now, anyway.

When I was hurting it was here. When I needed to vent it was here. When I was scared, anxious, worried, happy, hopeful, suffering, it was here. You were here. Some of you lifted me with your thoughts and others pissed me off. And that’s okay. Because sometimes I just needed a good fight and you engaged me.

I know this journey is ever evolving and I’m not completely abandoning this space. There may be a time in the future where I need it regularly again. But this journey is no longer just my own. Now that our lives have come together again, and she is again a part of mine, our stories are intertwined and it’s not up to me what to share.

I have let adoption consume my life. That’s not an entirely bad thing. I’ve found sisterhood and courage in this community. I’ve found courage to stand up, stand out, and help make changes. I will always be an activist. Always. But I’m also a mother and wife. I can’t spread myself too thin so I’ve decided to focus my energy on certain endeavors that will allow me to balance things more equally. I lost my grandfather, who helped raise me, and a beloved pet who was my emotional support animal, this year. The wheels of time don’t stop turning for me to sit behind a computer.

So while I’ve already bowed out of this blogging thing pretty much, I thought I’d leave you all with a happy update. I’ll pop in once in a while. But it’s time to take back my life and focus on where I can really make a change, enjoy my family, and still remain a functional member of society.

 

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Legally Enforceable Open Adoption Contracts in the United States

*Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and nothing in this article should be substituted for legal advice. I highly suggest any expectant mother who is considering adoption to retain her own legal representation who understands adoption law in the state that the adoption will be finalized as well as the state she lives in. This is my interpretation of the laws and my opinion based on my own research and the stories I’ve heard from others who have open adoption contracts that are supposed to be legally enforceable.*

Legally enforceable open adoptions are a fairly new thing. There are lots of questions about them from adoptive parents, expectant parents, and birth parents. These “legally enforceable” post-adoption contracts can vary widely from state to state. When an expectant mother hears that she resides in a state that has legally enforceable open adoptions usually she has a sense of security in believing that the adoptive parents of her child will not be able to “trick” or “fool” her into relinquishing her child to them by making promises they don’t intend to keep. She may also feel that if the adoptive parents change their mind about the type of contact they want, she is legally protected. On the surface this is what it appears to be. I’d also assume that adoption agencies, attorneys that represent the prospective adoptive parents, and facilitators would not go into great detail about how exactly the law would work. I’d like to take the time to do that here.

I heard one story of a first mom who lived in a state that had legally enforceable post-adoption contracts. This was just a fact. When she asked about it she was told, “Yes, our state has legally enforceable open adoptions.” However, she had no legal representation of her own and found out, after her open adoption was closed and she sought relief, that the law in her state required the open adoption contract to be entered with the final decree of adoption. Because she wasn’t part of the court hearing for finalization, she had no idea if this had happened. Because she had no legal representation, representing HER ALONE, she was unaware that the law was written this way. She did have a post-adoption contract that had been worked on between her, the agency, their attorney, and the prospective adoptive parents, it just wasn’t legally enforceable in her state because it never went before the court.

I heard another story about a mom who DID have her post-adoption contract entered correctly making it “legally binding.” When visits never happened and communication was cut off as soon as her child was relinquished, she pursued the legal channels put in place to enforce the contract. She put up a lot of money in attorney and court fees to be told, by the judge, that she relinquished all parental rights and if the adoptive parents didn’t feel it was in the best interest of their child to have visits then that was their right. The judge then rewrote the post-adoption contract, taking away all direct contact or communication with her child, and only enforced a yearly update.

There was another mother who lived in a “legally enforceable” state where visits and all communication had stopped after three years. When she sought to enforce her agreement she learned two things. 1) She didn’t have anything near the financial resources to even begin the process (as most first parents don’t) and 2) she couldn’t even start the process if she wanted to because she didn’t know where the adoptive parents now resided since their communication drop coincided with a move to a different state in which they didn’t disclose.

It’s important to remember that post-adoption contracts are a very new area of law and there aren’t a lot of cases to set precedent yet. Really it’s up to the judges or mediators involved to determine the outcome of a contested contract, if the first parent can come up with enough money to begin the process. It’s also important to remember that post-adoption contracts are not the same as “custody” or “visitation” agreements you’d see in traditional family law that involves two parents that are not together. You do not retain any parental rights once you have relinquished a child for adoption. They have been terminated. No amount of legally enforceable open adoption laws can change that. No amount of legislation to make more open adoptions stay open can change that. You will not be fighting in court for your “right” to visit your child. You will be fighting to have a contract enforced. This is contract law mixed with adoption law (like I said, new territory). Almost always, a judge has the right to alter the contract, change things using his best judgment, or void it altogether. So, while “legally enforceable,” they are also “legally voidable.” Since there are no parental rights intact, an adoptive parent could argue that they feel a continued open adoption would not be in the best interest of their child. They could argue they simply feel that the constant “hello” and “goodbye” is not something they feel their child is emotionally prepared for. They’d probably get contact stopped, or greatly reduced, just based on that alone. Their child, their call. If there has been an ongoing relationship between the child and the first parents for a number of years it may not be so easy as a relationship has been established and the courts may find it detrimental to sever that relationship altogether. However, it would have to be a well-established relationship with frequent visits and a solid relationship. A relationship like this is most likely facilitated by adoptive parents who are very open-minded, educated, and “get it.” Those adoptive parents who choose to facilitate an open adoption at that level are probably not likely to break an open adoption contract to begin with.

The majority of adoptive parents aren’t “evil” people who set out to break a first mom’s heart, but rather are ill-advised, ill-prepared, or uneducated. They also don’t care to change these things about themselves and only see adoption in the light they choose to.  The most vulnerable first moms/expectant moms, the ones most at risk of an adoption closing, are the ones in the first 5 years into their journey as a first parent. Relationships aren’t well-established yet.

Many states will require mediation before going to court to seek relief of a violation of your open adoption contract. This means that you (and any other party on the contract, such as a first father), and the adoptive parents will be required to sit through a series of “negotiation,” so to speak. A mediator will play “referee.” You will try to come to an understanding and agreement outside of the courts. Sometimes you’ll be required to pay a fee to the courts for the mediation – which is usually split evenly between both parties. Each state has its own individual laws, but usually after a series of about 3 sessions if no agreement can be settled on it will go to the courts and a judge will decide.

What are the consequences for adoptive parents who violate an open adoption contract? No state says an adoption can be reversed or nullified if the post-adoption agreement is not followed. This means that you cannot challenge an adoption because the “legally enforceable” post-adoption contract has been violated. I can find no codes that specifically state any consequences, punitive or otherwise, for adoptive parents that have been ordered, by a judge, to resume the post-adoption contract as it was entered.

28 states currently have “legally enforceable open adoption contracts.” Many of those are only for in-family adoptions and relate only to grandparents.

For a review of each state’s post-adoption contract laws please CLICK HERE.

If you take the time to read some of these laws, you will see that all of them allow for a judge to use his discretion when it comes to enforcement or challenging the original contract.

There are many things to consider when considering adoption for your child. Regardless of your state’s laws any number of things can arise. Even in states with legally enforceable open adoption laws, the jury is still out, so to speak. There are so many things that have not even been addressed. For instance, what if your child is re-homed? While rare, in domestic infant adoption cases, it can happen. Will your legally enforceable contract be upheld in a court of law if your child is put up for adoption by the original adopting parents? Most likely, not. If you are relying on a legally enforceable open adoption as the terms of being able to go through with relinquishment are you prepared to fight the adoptive parents if they violate the contract? Do you have the financial means to do so?

In review, as stated in the disclaimer, I advise any expectant mother who is thinking of an adoption plan to seek independent representation.  This advice is not limited to post-adoption contracts, but for everything surrounding the legalities of adoption. Don’t rely solely on an adoption agency, attorney representing the prospective adoptive parents, a facilitator, or charitable organization to fully inform you. This is something you must actively seek to do on your own.

Adoption Is Exhausting

I’ve immersed myself in the world of adoption for the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t an active participant, but rather a (mostly) silent observer. Sometimes things were so enraging that I couldn’t help but comment. I looked at post after post in a couple of “Birthmom Support Groups” of several expectant mothers talking about how much adoption was going to hurt them but how they have to put those hurt feelings aside so their child can have a “better life” than what they can provide. I don’t even try anymore, sadly. The same old argument.

I watched one mother who desperately wanted her baby struggle to find a way to make that happen. I watched her reach out for help, when her parents wouldn’t let her come home with her baby, only for her friend to send her to a pastor who is also an adoptive father for “help.” The friend, who originally reached out for help realizing she was being coerced out of her baby by way of threats to be homeless, informed us that this mother would be “placing” after speaking with the adoptive father.

I watched a first mom talk about how she didn’t want her baby because he was the product of rape and if her adult child should ever want to know who his father was she had a “back up friend” willing to pretend for her so he didn’t get hurt.

I watched an adoptive mother who also had a biological child express her frustration that her adoptive son’s birthmother sends gifts and it’s not fair to her biological child. She wanted to split a recent monetary gift between the two kids because that would be “fair.”

I watched prospective adoptive parents in droves ask for money to fund their adoption, ask for ways to raise money, and then become offended when it’s suggested that they fundraise to help keep families together.

I watched adoptees who are hurting lash out at all birthmothers and a few even refusing to accept that many first moms truly had no choice. Even though they signed the papers, they had no way out.

I have watched and read and immersed myself in this world the past couple of weeks, and I’ve come to a few realizations.

The general public has no vested interest in caring about the trauma of family separation. They only see what they care to see. The picture that has been painted for them in movies and ads adoption agencies put out there. For the most part, the general public doesn’t even distinguish between domestic infant adoption and foster to adopt. It’s all the same to them. Google “adoption” and sift through pages and pages of pro-adoption websites that are, in one way or another, funded by agencies, adoptive parents, or anyone else that will financially benefit from adoption (such as facilitators or attorneys).

Adoptive parents are still focusing their energy on their insecurities, even if subconsciously, instead of what is truly healthy for the child. There are some adoptive parents that make a huge effort to put those insecurities aside, on a daily basis, but most still view their adopted children as their possessions and see birth parents as a threat.

Adoptees and first families are deeply hurt. They lash out at each other in a vicious cycle. Adoptee is hurt that mom gave them up, adoptee expresses anger towards birth parents, birth parents see anger and get hurt, birth parents express anger. The fact is, adoptees can never understand the situation that birth parents were put in. Birth parents can never understand that primal wound that has been inflicted. Adoption just sucks.

I didn’t want this post to see so dismal but it does. I just don’t understand why the industry voice is the loudest, the most important. They have the most money (off the backs of the babies they are profiting from) and most certainly use it to make sure the image of adoption that resides in the public’s head is a positive one.

There is hope, however. Adoptees grow, the Internet and technology make the world grow smaller, our voices become louder, and no one should ever underestimate the power of a grassroots effort by those who have been wronged on such a huge level. Even those with massive amounts of money.

Did you ever wonder why, during the baby scoop era, African American babies weren’t given up for adoption? For one, because of obvious racial motivation, black babies weren’t in demand by wealthy white couples looking to adopt. But even more important than that, because of slavery and the practice of separating children and babies from their families against their will, African American culture seriously frowned on adoption and, to an extent, the same holds true today.

Adoption is like slavery. A baby is forcefully taken from its parents. Yes, by force. Even if she says this is what she wants, even if she willingly signs, it is forced. Forced by circumstances, forced by the lies she has been fed about the guaranteed beautiful life, forced by a boyfriend or parent….pick one. The child’s heritage is legally erased, money is exchanged, and they are raised to feel indebted and grateful to their adoptive parents. Loyalty should always remain with their “real” parents, the ones who adopted them. For the rest of this child’s life, this is the struggle they will have. “Will I hurt my parents who raised me if I acknowledge my need to know my heritage?” They become an emotional hostage. Certainly not all adoptees will want to know their heritage and not all adoptive parents will raise their children to feel like this, but the majority do and will.

Why has this become so socially acceptable?

I’ll leave you with a screen shot of the cost break down from an adoption facilitator to purchase adopt a baby he is pimping advertising. You be the judge.

babysell.jpg

 

Mary, Did You Know?

While sitting around playing games on my phone the other day, my youngest daughter started to talk about her upcoming choir concert for school. She was excited to perform the songs they had learned and gave me a sneak peek of the upcoming show. When the preview was over she sighed and said, “Do you know what my favorite Christmas song is?” I didn’t so I told her so. She replied, “Mary, Did You Know?”

This surprised me a bit as it really isn’t a traditional Christmas song that a 13 year-old would like so much for it to be her favorite Christmas song.

Because of the upcoming Christmas holiday, I would like to incorporate this song into the message I am giving.

If this is not a song you are familiar with, you can listen to it HERE.

The lyrics (provided by Metro Lyrics) are:

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know.. Mary did you know

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?

Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

I understand that not everyone is a believer, and that’s okay. Since God’s name is invoked so often in the world of adoption, even non-believers would benefit from reading this post.

The historical story of the birth of Jesus Christ gives many clues as to the status of Mary and Joseph, in regards to society and financial means. While it is never stated that they are “poor,” there are a couple of verses that we can use to establish this. Every male that was born at that time had to be consecrated to the Lord. In order for this to happen, Mosiac law said that the mother of every newborn male would have to purchase and sacrifice a young lamb as a burnt offering and a turtle dove as a sin offering. Remember, this was before Jesus Christ had died on the cross making sacrifices like this unnecessary to wash away sin. This particular consecration was to wash away the sin and blood of childbirth.

Families that were too poor to purchase the lamb, were allowed to substitute the sacrifice with two turtle doves  or two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:8). When Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem to consecrate Jesus to the Lord, as the law required, it was with two turtle doves which implies that they were too poor to purchase the young lamb.

Before you point out that the three wise man brought gifts to Jesus of great value, I’ll just point out that there is nothing in the bible suggesting this poor, modest, family kept these gifts. In tradition with the way Jesus led his life, according to the Bible, I would go out on a limb and say it’s unlikely they did and would have been more likely to give these gifts away to those who were in need more than they were.

“It was God’s plan. The baby will have a better life.”

So, if God’s plan is for babies who were born out of wedlock, as Jesus was, to be put with family’s that have more financial means (meaning more opportunities for financial success later in life) then may I ask why Jesus was raised by Mary and Joseph? We’ve already established that they were a poor family and that Jesus was conceived while Mary and Joseph were not married. (I’m not arguing the virgin birth, just the fact that there were two unmarried parents). Did God mess up? Did he put the wrong baby in the wrong womb? Should Jesus have been placed in a more established woman’s womb who was married and able to afford the sacrificial young lamb that Mary could not? If He didn’t mess up, then was the plan for Jesus to be adopted by a wealthier family? No? Why is that? Is it possible that God’s perfect plan (not man’s) was that Jesus be born to and raised by the person who did give birth to him? Of course it was. Everything that followed the birth of Jesus – the miracles He performed, the people He helped, the charity He showed, the sacrifice He made for all of our souls – this was all a direct result of his upbringing. God knew that Mary was the perfect person to be Jesus’ mother. He knew that, with Mary, the prophecy would be fulfilled and it would be done. This poor craftsman, Joseph, and his wife, Mary, would raise Jesus in poverty to be The One who saved mankind from his own sins. It was with purpose, it was with careful planning, that God chose Mary.

In today’s world, Mary would have been encouraged to give Jesus up for adoption to a more financially stable two-parent home that could provide him with a college education (instead of a trade, most likely that of a blue-collar carpenter), fancy clothes (instead of meek cloths), the newest cell phone (instead of, well, I don’t know on that one), and a huge house with a meticulously landscaped yard (instead of a small hut with a desert for the backyard).  In fact, Nazareth, where Jesus was raised, was really on the “bad side” of town. It was one of the poorer communities of those days. Please picture the Savior, Himself, growing up in today’s world of luxuries and opportunities – not in Nazareth. We could call Him, Jesus of Beverly Hills. Think on that a second.

There is a parable in the Bible. It’s Jesus and the Rich Man.

Mark 10:17-31

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Rich Man

17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’[a]

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard[b] to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.[c]

  1. 10:19 Exod 20:12-16; Deut 5:16-20.
  2. 10:24 Some manuscripts read very hard for those who trust in riches.
  3. 10:31 Greek But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

If Jesus had been Jesus of Beverly Hills instead of Jesus of Nazareth, it’s very likely this parable would never exist. The point of this parable is that, according to Jesus, being well-off, financially, really doesn’t mean much except a harder time getting into heaven. Yet, we have “Christians” preaching that adoption is God’s plan because a more “financially stable” family can provide a “better” life for a child. Which is it? It doesn’t go both ways.

Jesus, to me, proves that a life of humility, poverty, and love is the better life, eternally speaking.

Surely we don’t want children in abusive households or in homes where they would be subjected to neglect. This is not what I’m saying. What I am implying is that when financial reasons are the cause for a mother to sacrifice the motherhood to her child, my advice to those wishing to take advantage of her poor financial situation is that they should – “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Mary, did you know? Did you know that your baby boy, the one who would be raised in your small home, with little financial means, no college education, on the wrong side of town, would be the Savior of the world? Did you know that it is because of these things that this prophecy would come to be fulfilled? Did you know that God did not put the wrong baby in the wrong belly, that it was all part of his divine plan? Mary, did you know that, in today’s world, his name would be invoked to cause pain and suffering for mother’s being separated from their children for the very reasons that He chose you to be the mother of the Savior? Mary, do you weep?

You – do you know? Do you know what your child was intended to be? Do you know what the Lord has planned for him or her? Do you dare to question the motives of God? Did He make a mistake? Was your baby intended for another? Why did God not put that baby in the womb of that woman? Did God want you to suffer the loss of your child? No. This is man’s plan, not God’s plan.

Have you ever read the Bible, you who claims that it is God’s plan for you to adopt someone else’s child, at birth, because they are in a financial hardship? Have you seen chapter upon chapter of so-and-so begot so-and-so? It’s very obvious that biology, heritage, and ancestry was extremely important to God. Why else is this all in the Bible? And Moses, the great example always given for adoption, was not “gifted” to any particular couple. He was sent downstream by a terrified mother who wanted to save his life. And, in God’s infinite wisdom, Moses’ mother became his wet nurse and the person who cared for him. It was Moses who destroyed the people (think his adoptive people) who suppressed his true people, his biological roots, his family. And then he returned home. This is the true story of Moses. A baby “adopted” only because his life would have ended if he hadn’t been. A man who returned home to his people, when all was said and done. God’s infinitely wise plan.

Did you know?

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.