Monday, February 8, 2016

It's all about awareness

Well it's done. The opening of Silent Voices happened and I survived it. Of course I was a nervous wreck for a little while but still I was pleased with how everything turned out.




This was the gallery space before the reception. I was thrilled with how well everything came together. The paintings fit the space beautifully and hanging didn't take very long at all. The poetry worked along side the artwork.

There was a lot going on in Macon Friday night so the turn out for the reception was not what I had hoped it would be. The people who did come were genuinely interested in the story behind the work, they took the time to read about each piece and asked me questions about the adoption industry. Several people were shocked by what they learned.

I spent quite a bit of time with one couple who were curious about the topic because friends of theirs were considering adopting. They had gone to agency websites and were appalled at the prices they saw there. They wanted to know what was behind it so they got an earful and a new understanding of the industry.

There were two points I wanted to get across with the exhibit. 1. Explain what the BSE was and how pregnant women were treated. 2. How and why the industry has morphed into what it is today. Maybe I only got to speak to a handful of people but if those few learned something about the other side of adoption then it was a success and well worth doing the show. It's all about awareness.

These 2 pieces were the last ones I painted. I couldn't get a good picture because of where they were hanging- there was a post in the way. These are called Adoption Situation, referring to the listings on adoption agency websites where babies are listed along with a price.



Scared and alone she reached out.
Come with us they said.
I’m in a situation.
We’ll take good care of you they said.
I can’t afford a baby.
We know people who can they said.
I don’t know what to do.
We’ll help you make a “plan” they said.
My family doesn’t understand.
We do. We can take care of that situation they said.
I don’t know if I can do this.
You’ll be brave and selfless they said.
This looks like a nice couple.
The couple in the brochure is better than you they said.
I’ll miss my baby.
You love him so much you’ll let someone else raise him they said.
I want time with my baby first.
But they need to bond with him they said.
I can’t do this. I want my baby back.
Too late, the check has been cashed they said.



Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's really getting personal

Hi ya'll. Last year I talked about doing an exhibit with my Silent Voices series in Macon GA in April of '16. (Yikes, it's been that long since writing here!) Well, turns out it was on the schedule for February! So...... this week I'm delivering 15 canvases to the 567 Center for Renewal in downtown Macon. For the folks who might be in the area, the opening reception is Friday the 5th at 6pm.

Because the exhibition is happening sooner than I had planned I'm not able to add all the pieces I had hoped to- namely the ones with the stories shared by you. I hope to continue working on and adding to this series as time goes on so I do still plan on adding your stories as another element to the show. For now I'm doing well to finish painting the last canvas along with doing the other bits and pieces required for such an event.


Here you can see bits and pieces of 4 of the canvases. 15 of these 48x36 paintings take up some space in my house!

So why am I doing this? This isn't a selling show. I do portrait commissions, teach art classes and paint landscapes that sell through galleries. What's the point of borrowing a vehicle and hauling these things to another state and then a few weeks later going back to pick them up again. The point is the heart. It's a labor of love. The point is opening minds. The point is having a voice when for the majority of time mother's voices are not only overlooked but intentionally shut down- and sometimes not in a very nice way. We're just bitter and angry old ladies after all.

For the most part though, I think people just don't know. They don't understand what infant adoption means because they've been so filled with the industry propaganda of rainbows and unicorns- adoption is beautiful don't you know? I saw a meme on Facebook today that struck me as appropriate when thinking about doing this exhibit....


The timing for that was perfect. Yesterday I was having a mini panic attack at the thought of putting these paintings out there. They are very personal and I've never shared them anywhere except here where I'm not face to face with anyone. It's easy to share on the internet. It's harder when you're looking a stranger in the eye and having to explain what the work means. I've been working on these canvases for a few years because I have to do these in between the projects that pay the bills so doing this show is a big deal for me. It's the culmination of a lot of time, tears, thought and therapy.

Another bit of timing that was perfect..... remember I said these canvases take up a lot of space? In the process of preparing I had to move things around the studio and office. The earlier canvases have been stored in front of a bookcase in my office for quite a while. Well, you know how the domino effect works. Once I moved them out of the way I had to clean out the bookcase- because I could. While I was sorting things I came across an old notebook. Only the first page had been written on.

It said....
"My roommate Lanny and I went to the drugstore down the street and bought a pregnancy test. My heart was pounding, she was trying to be supportive but all I could feel was the screaming fear pulsing in my veins. The only words going through my head were- can't be, can't be, can't be, can't be happening to me. I'm just stressed, that's why I'm late. Other little voice saying- but you've never been late before. The 'can't be' chanting continued in my head all the way back to the apartment, the hot Ft. Lauderdale sun beating me down block after block."

I have no idea when or why I wrote that. Maybe it was the very beginning of the notion that sharing would be a good idea. It just seemed to me to be the voice of my 19 year old self showing up just in time to remind me to keep going, to put on my big girl panties and deal with sharing these paintings- in person.

See you in Georgia.






Friday, April 24, 2015

An opportunity to be heard


A while ago I asked mothers of adoption loss if they would like to be included in this painting. I added their names and the birthdays of their lost children. Since then I've done a number of other paintings, written narrative poetry to go with the pieces and did a book called Silent Voices.

Now I have a wonderful opportunity to continue this series of work about adoption and share it with the public in an upcoming exhibit at the 567 Center for Renewal art center in Macon GA. The exhibit will be in April 2016. My plan for the exhibit includes 14 large paintings (13 of them are done, the birthday candle painting will be included), a series of collages and a display of boxes. My plan for the collage work is to include handwritten stories from other natural mothers and also have some sheets of paper that are blank so people visiting the exhibit can add their own voices to the display.

My dear mom friends out there.... would you be willing to add your voice to this exhibit? This is a chance to have our voices heard. Showing at an art center with an exhibit that focuses solely on adoption loss from the mother's point of view is a rare thing indeed. I'd love to include as many of you as possible. Let's share our stories. Too many people have no idea what infant adoption does to the original family.

If you would like to participate, let me know in the comments. You can leave your story in the comments too and I'll write it out on paper but I would love to have your hand, your touch on that paper and then I'll make it part of the collage. You don't have to write a long thing- a paragraph or two would be perfect. You could write about any aspect of adoption. How did losing a child to adoption impact your life? How has it affected the rest of your family? What were the circumstances around the adoption? Were you able to hold your baby before relinquishing? Was it a closed or open adoption? Did you have to keep the adoption secret? These are just a few ideas.....

We can get in touch through email or you can message me on FB and thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope you'll consider adding your words. It would make the exhibit so much more powerful!






Saturday, March 21, 2015

Childhood


Childhood 
48x36

Hand print ghosts in blue and green
fingers curl around colors
brows furrowed in concentration
making pictures never to be seen
ABC's
watercolor strokes
tulips and bees
orange suns and lollipop trees
 adorn the fridge
footsteps pitter patter
paint splatters
childhood goes on in another universe
locked away from the dreaming heart

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Speaking for us again





You know..... I see articles like this and I go through such a range of emotions. I want to scream, I want to cry, I want to punch somebody, I want to laugh, I just smh. Once again an adopter is speaking for us. Once again an adopter thinks she knows what we think, what we feel and what she thinks we should do - such as "move on" from our grief.

First of all, I wish they would stop calling us "birthmothers". They are mothers, I am a mother. Period. She writes of a mother's experience after giving birth....

"They may feel a surge of connection to him, as well as pride, sadness, and grief."

May feel? Ya think? Yeah, maybe she'll be sad that she's losing her first born child. Maybe, just maybe, she'll feel connected to this little person she just grew in her womb. The child she shares cells with, a child who carries her DNA, a child she's nurtured and loved within her body for the last 9 months. It's utterly baffling to me how people can make such statements. 

"Adoptive parents who experienced the grief of infertility may use that experience to empathize with their baby’s birth mother. One mother told her child’s birth mother at the delivery, “I am sorry you are going through so much pain. I wish I could go through labor for you.”

I've talked about this before and some people may not like what I have to say but.... gonna say it anyway. When grieving infertility the grief is real, it hurts, I get that and I'm not trying to minimize it but it's grieving what could have been- what will not happen. It's grieving an imaginary child, the child that will never be. When a mother is grieving the loss of her baby to adoption she is grieving the loss of an actual child- a living, breathing human being. They are both grief, they are both real but they are completely different. I don't know what it feels like to feel the grief of the infertile and I won't pretend to. An adopter who is infertile has no idea the level of grief a mother deals with. She can't grasp what it is to carry a child and feel that child kicking and moving within. She can't grasp the sacred connection a mother has to her own flesh and blood. She can try to empathize but she will never know. I appreciate an effort to empathize but not when she still feels entitled to take the baby from his mother.

"I wish I could go through labor for you"?  She says she cares so much about the mother that she wishes she could go through the labor for her. BS! If she cared so much about the mother she would ask that mother what she could do for her to clear whatever obstacles are in the way of that mother taking care of her own baby! But of course that won't happen. That would interfere with her being able to take that child from the mother. She says things like this so she can show concern but still she thinks she's entitled to take the baby home and raise him as her own.

"Following a period of emotional chaos and grief, most birth mothers reach a level of acceptance in their lives. As your child’s birth mother becomes more at peace with her decision, she may gain renewed energy for her current life, and more clarity about her role as a birth parent and her relationship to you."

Reach a level of acceptance? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. How does she know what most mothers do? Mothers don't reach acceptance, they learn to hide the grief, they learn to hold in the tears and let them go when no one is watching, they learn to function so they can go to work everyday. In an open adoption they learn to cover up and keep silent so the adopters don't see it and decide she shouldn't have contact with her child anymore. She learns to be the good girl so she can, if she's lucky, stay in the adopters good graces because they hold all the power.

"While each contact may reawaken some of her feelings of loss, most birth mothers report that these contacts help them to move on from the sadness and be more productive in their lives."

The loss isn't reawakened, it's always awake. Every minute of every day for the rest of a mother's life. That doesn't mean a mother doesn't have a productive and fulfilling life, even a happy one. It just means that the loss is always with her. The lost child is not replaced with the birth of more children or a fabulous career or anything else the mother might do. There is no getting around that and reunion doesn't fix it. You don't just "move on" from the loss of a child. 

And why do they feel the need to tell us to move on? Did they just move on from the loss of their fertility? Did they say- "well it wasn't meant to be that I have children so maybe I should focus on volunteering or fostering children"? No. They jump through hoops, pay a lot of money to the industry, have business cards made that they can hand out to pregnant women who aren't wearing wedding rings, hire people to design slick full color brochures advertising themselves as better than mothers who are poor, in a bad situation or are just unsure of themselves, place ads on Craigslist and use crowd funding to get other people to help them buy a baby. 

Adopters, please stop. Stop telling us to move on. Stop telling other adopters how to help mothers leave their children.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Am I a hero?

This post got me thinking.... am I a hero?

What does a hero look like? Does it look like a woman who is pregnant, young and not at all sure about what comes next? Does it look like someone who surrendered to pressure because she didn't have the finances or the strength to back her up? Does it look like someone who surrendered to the pressure of family and church because those people believed that having a child outside of "wedlock" was morally wrong and the child is then illegitimate and doesn't deserve to be included in the family? Does it look like someone who didn't have anywhere else to turn? Does that make me a hero?

According to the woman who wrote that post, we- meaning the mothers who bore children and were unable to keep those children-, we are heroes. What's wrong with that picture?

Not having choices does not make anyone a hero. It makes them simply choiceless. It makes them people who are doing what they have to do to survive. It makes them people who have to carry on in the face of grief that they're expected to live with regardless of how other people view the situation or how horrendous that grief is. It makes them people who carry on even though they want to just curl up in a ball and die.

Like the woman who wrote that post, the woman who adopted my daughter thanked me one day for giving her the gift of my daughter. I replied with- "she wasn't a gift, I didn't give her willingly. I was forced" There was silence on the other end of the phone. The subject was quickly changed.

Adopters are saviors and first mothers are heroes. This is what the adoption industry would have us believe. This is what they bank on. This is what keeps the bottom line healthy.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

This means war?!


Imbalance of Power


I haven't been here in a while. You know how it is.... life gets in the way. There are things like survival- trying to make ends meet as a self-employed artist. It's more than a full time job. Sometimes when in survival mode that's all you can deal with. That doesn't mean I don't think about adoption and how things are going in the adoption reform movement. Oh how I wish I could be more involved. I still share articles on Facebook and comment when I can. I still read and follow what's happening. Of course there's been much more of that recently because of National Adoption Awareness Month- that dreaded month that we write about, focus on and try to use to make a difference.

If you've read here before you may know that I'm not only a first mother who lost a daughter to the adoption machine but I'm also a late discovery step-parent adoptee and I'm very proud to be associated with the Lost Daughters. Although I think and write more from the first mother perspective, my sisters there have welcomed me with open arms. I'm so very proud of my adoptee sisters and the #flipthescript campaign and the Flip the Script video that has been the talk of #NAAM. If you haven't seen it yet you must check it out.

So what got me fired up and back on the blog? The push back on #flipthescript. I just read a gem of a post by an adoptive mother. To begin, she calls the post "the war on National Adoption Month". Really? We're at war? If an adoptee talks about her experience as an adult adoptee and it doesn't conform to the industry standard of adoption propaganda, apparently thems' fightin' words. If a person who was/is adopted, talks about what it was like for her to be adopted and how complex that experience is and was for her, she's waging a war. The simple act of telling her story means she's at war? That's a bit extreme isn't it? According to the industry and it's proponents- adoption is beautiful and don't you dare say anything to the contrary. Don't you know that? Because apparently, if you talk about your own personal experience, you're making some other folks mighty uncomfortable. So uncomfortable in fact that they see it as an attack.

Her first paragraph.... and I'll answer her here since it's not likely that my comments will make it past moderation on her blog.

"Adoptees are “flipping the script” during National Adoption Month, sharing the other, unattractive side of adoption. It’s their right. I’m not an adoptee and can’t speak for them, but part of me doesn’t like seeing this opportunity of beauty turned into something that’s looked down upon."

"I'm not an adoptee and can't speak for them" Isn't that the point of flipping the damned script?? Adoptive parents and the industry professionals have had the floor for decades. It's about time the other people who live and breath adoption- the adoptees and the natural mothers- have a say. No, you're not an adoptee so you have no idea what an adoptee feels about adoption. You have hearsay, you have anecdotes by others, you have stories you've heard, you have your experience with your child who is not yet an adult with adult views. There is no triad in adoption. There are 4 sides and only 2 of them have had the country's ear until now- the adoption industry and the adoptive parents.

"Why is it beautiful? Because I can separate what my children went through, their abuse, neglect, and trauma, from their adoption. What they went through before foster care, I would compare with hell, what they went through while visiting their bio parents while in foster care wasn’t much better, but now we see new lives, new people emerging. Beauty."

What you see as beauty, your adopted child may see differently. This is beautiful for you. Maybe you can separate it but can your child? This is your child's history. For one thing... why are you sharing such personal details of your child's history with the world? This is his story, his to share when he is ready. If he's ready at all, ever. It's not up to you. It's not your life. When he is an adult, his view of adoption may be vastly different than yours and that's ok.

"That’s why “flipping the script” on adoption day is so painful. The world is taking what is often a positive event and turning the tables, focusing on those who don’t feel it was a good thing for them."

No, they're focusing on the voices of adopted people, period. That's the point. Whether that person's story is happy, sad, angry, or a mix of all of those, the point of flip the script is to give them the opportunity to use their voice and be heard- be heard without being interrupted by the people in the equation who are the beneficiaries of a corrupt and unethical system.

"Those who are "flipping the script" aren't adoptees who are happy and content with their adoption experience, they're the ones who are angered, feel like something was done to them. The ones who feel they were ripped from their first family, from their country, are hurt by positive adoption language."

Every adoption begins with loss and pain no matter how you slice it or how much positive adoption language you want to throw at it. That PAL was developed by the adoption industry and put into place for a reason- to separate mothers from their babies. That is the sole function of the new words -  to describe what is a tragedy in more palatable terms. 

The "angry adoptee". This is the most common argument thrown at adoptees (and mothers of loss). "You're just angry and bitter". Damn straight I'm angry. Does that mean I'm an angry person? No. My life is just fine but that doesn't mean I shouldn't talk about the experiences I've had and how they've affected me. And, under the circumstances, anger is a perfectly normal reaction to experiences that were beyond our control. We take back our control now by using that anger in a positive and constructive way. 

ALL adoptees have been taken from their original families in one way or another, whether taken forcefully because of abuse or taken from a new mother through coercion or by the courts legally severing all connection with the family through sealed birth records. As an adoptive parent you feel adoption is beautiful. That's great for you but don't diminish or dismiss what adopted people have to say about their life experience. 

"The adoptees who aren't speaking out (and far outnumber those who are calling out adoption) are the ones who are satisfied in life, the ones who accept their adoptive family as their own, ones who've found their birth family and either have a good relationship with them or have decided to let it be."

And here I just have to say- IMO- you're wrong. The vast majority of adoptees I know who are speaking out, are simply trying to make a difference for future adoptees. They ARE satisfied in life. They just want people to understand that adoption is far more complex than what the industry wants the public to believe. They're trying to balance out the narrative so it can be understood that there is more to the story than the story of the happy adoptive parents and the well payed adoption professionals.

"I don't want to belittle anyones experience, after all, it's their own. I can't speak as an adoptee. Maybe there should be separate months, one for National Adoption Month and a month for adoptees to share their feelings, like an Adoptee Awareness Month."

You want to give adoptees a month to speak? How generous. Why should we separated? Haven't we had enough separation as it is??? Hasn't the mic been monopolized by the most powerful voices already? I also deal with this idea as a mother of loss. We have "Birthmother's Day" which I refuse to acknowledge. I celebrate my motherhood on Mother's Day along with all the other mothers. I was still a mother after my daughter was taken from me and I'm still an adoptee the other 11 months of the year. Don't tell me when I can speak.