Family Separation and the Church

Family Separation

What is happening at our country’s southern border is a human atrocity. Do not misunderstand that by what I’m about to say. It should not be happening. The future implications of what it could mean should frighten even the most apathetic among us into action, to call our representatives and say, “I will not stand for this.” To donate. To do something, anything.

But it’s also very triggering for many among us—for those of us who were told we were not good enough to parent our children because we were young, we were single, we were whores, we were less than. It’s triggering for those of who know the lifelong trauma associated with relinquishing a child, even if you know that child is well cared for and loved. It’s triggering for those of us who have read the studies that state what relinquishment can do to a brain; the trauma that permeates even the best of situations.

I want what is happening at the border to stop.

But for me, watching religious institutions come forward and state that “separating families is wrong” has been a hot poker in a sensitive place, one I usually keep hidden and protected.

One of the first I came across actually came the General Board of Church & Society, the International social justice and public policy agency of the United Methodist Church—which is my current chosen denomination and has been since returning to the church after my daughter’s birth, placement and shunning by a different denomination.

It reads: ‘I was a stranger and you ripped my child away from me’ …Wait a second.

I just sat and stared at it for awhile. Hashtag keep families together. Ouch.

It’s important for me to note that the UMC did not publicly shame me for being pregnant, for placing my daughter. Multiple UMC pastors in the years since I have returned to a tenuous faith walk have met me where I was in my healing process, being inclusive in their language on days like Mother’s Day. (Note: I no longer attend church on Mother’s Day. No way, no how.) But the UMC has been unkind to other birth parents and religious based agencies are, sadly, among some of the most deceptive and coercive in the adoption industry. Another denomination, an individual pastor, and the members of a congregation worked their shaming practices into my soul. A religious-based crisis pregnancy center of still another denomination provided me with adoption information but told me I would be wasting “good taxpayer money” if I applied for medical assistance, food stamps, or other financial assistance during my pregnancy; they refused to help me navigate that system and sent me on my way.

So as I read through this thread of religious entities speaking out against the separation of families, it struck me the same as it always does: What was so wrong with me that I wasn’t worthy enough to parent my daughter?

The capital C Church has a long history of shaming mothers and taking babies as much as we’d like to sweep that under the rug. The Baby Scoop Era showed resulted in the coercion and “separation of families” in numbers far beyond what we’re currently seeing. But churches and society justified these separations as the mothers were unwed, young, uneducated… except sometimes they weren’t. Stereotypes were easier to perpetuate than getting into the vastly different reasons a mother finds herself considering what may or may not be best for her child. (I was sick.) As adoption and society changed, religious based agencies really drove home the fact that the expectant mother could not provide a two-parent home, couldn’t provide all the extras of parenting.

Let me make this clear: I am not calling for the abolition of adoption. I know that because of certain reasons, adoption will always exist. Do I think we should counsel women and their families as to the far-reaching future implications relinquishment will have not only for the immediate people in their circle but for extended family members and ones not even born yet? Yes. Do I think we should counsel families on adoption trauma for birth families and adoptees? You bet. Do I think we should remove the financial gain any agency, religious institution, or government entity receives from the legal process? Absolutely. Do I want to sit with mothers considering adoption and tell them my story, the good, bad and ugly? Yes, and I have.

What I am calling for today—here, in this—is a careful understanding of those in religious “power” about the words they are currently using to discuss family separation. I don’t need a public apology from every denomination on the planet. But birth parents have been writing our stories for decades now. We, as birth mothers, have been sharing our truths on the web; I’ve won awards for my pieces on the topic. It’s not like people don’t know we exist. It’s not like we don’t understand that adoption separates families even as it creates another one. It’s a dichotomy, yes, and how we speak about it matters.

I am not even asking for anyone to divert their attention to our “cause” as I believe stopping what is happening at the border is of the utmost importance. It must be stopped. Now. Children must not be needlessly and cruelly separated from their families. We cannot willfully abuse children. We, as a nation, must not participate in the traumatization of children, mothers, fathers, and their families. We must not perpetuate the degradation of humanity.

But maybe, just maybe, when people who have a religious importance, whether they’re Glennon Doyle or the UMC Board or the pastor at your local church, speak about families and trauma and separation and the importance of keeping mothers and children together… maybe, just maybe, when we get past this horrific part of our history, we can sit with those who are still hurting, are still living a life without their child, their mother, their family, hold their hands, and let them feel whatever it is they need to feel, without telling them to get over it, to move on, to forget about it. Maybe we can allow families to heal while simultaneously offering a safe space for families facing uncertainty in the issues surrounding these decisions. Maybe we can work to remove the shame we cast on those in times of need, of understanding, or compassion. Maybe, as we’ve seen these families as deserving of our time and money and love, we can see families like mine as just as deserving.

In the meantime, if you are struggling with the constant mentions of family separation, know this: It is absolutely okay to mute words on your social media platforms, to check out, to let those who can fight this battle fight it for you. You don’t have to save the world today. You can save yourself. You can practice good self-care. You can take a nap. You can take a walk. You can turn off the TV or turn on a movie or just check out. Do what you need to do. I will be here for you on the other side, when we know that these children are safely reunited with their families—please, Lord—and we still must live a life separate from our children.

Your healing matters. You matter.

2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon Race Recap

2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Better late than never, right?

This is a hard race recap to write. Not because I had a horrible race at the Pittsburgh half marathon as I had quite the opposite. No, it’s hard to write because I usually follow along with my Runkeeper route and pace information to remember certain details.

But the app crashed just after mile 5 and threw me off pace wise, mentally and “racing” wise. Logic says I should have written my post right away, while the run was fresh in my head, but I’ve been enjoying my salty feeling. In fact, the mid-race crash was the straw that broke this camel’s back, causing me to ditch Runkeeper for good. I’ve been falling in love with Strava since race day.

But let’s talk about the Pittsburgh Marathon, shall we?

Pre-Race

I didn’t miss a training run. I also didn’t speed up as much during this training cycle as I would have liked. My original plan was to set a new PR on the half marathon course in Pittsburgh as my previous half in my home city went poorly. As we came down into the final weeks of training, I knew that beating my pace would be pretty hard, but I also had a little bit of hope.

My 12 mile run went well—for 10 miles. Then the sun came out, I ran out of water, and I struggled for the final two miles. But it happened, so there’s that. I tapered very well, which is the first time I’ve ever written that sentence. I came into the final week with strong legs. I went to a heated (not hot) yoga class for some stretching that week. I walked a lot, keeping my running miles low according to the plan. I felt really strong as race day approached.

The Expo

I need to write an entire post on Running As a Mom at another point in time, but this will be a short snippet. I put the boys on the bus on Friday morning, got ready, and left for the Expo alone. We live two hours, door to door, from Pittsburgh—without traffic. It was darn near three hours total when I got parked and walked to the Convention Center from my car which was parked in Barbados.

I went into the Expo with an open mind, despite having some reservations about how things had been handled thus far. I picked up my bib. Thankfully I noticed that there was a box of pins (to pin your bib on to your shirt) sitting on the counter. No one said to me, “Hey! We didn’t get pins put in your bag, so be sure to grab four.” I grabbed four. Thankfully. I then picked up my shirt and cup and followed the flow out into the middle of the Expo floor… trying to balance a bib, a cup box, a shirt and my purse… with no bag in sight. Once again, they placed the bags clear at the opposite end of the Expo floor. This is not handy. I cannot shop while trying to balance all the things. So I hoofed it clear across the room, got my bag, and threw my things in it.

2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

I then shopped! I love a good Expo. I got to try on the shoe that Mizuno used to replace the Wave Sayonara. I did not purchase the new shoe, the Wave Shadow, while at the Expo, but I do think I will be purchasing it in June to replace my now nearly worn out last pair of Sayonaras. I bought a tank top with the risky intent of wearing it on race day and a casual 13.1 shirt from the official store. I stopped at a few more booths and talked with some great people, including one woman who became my favorite when she didn’t believe that I had just turned 37.

I then walked back to Barbados, had lunch with a friend, and yep, drove all the way home. Our younger son had a baseball game that night. And the next morning, when everyone else running the race was heading into the city, was Opening Day of baseball for Little League. Our oldest son’s game wasn’t until 3:30, didn’t start until nearly 4, and didn’t end until nearly 6. Thankfully we had canceled our hotel earlier in the week when we realized our schedule wasn’t going to allow us to go home from baseball, pack up everything and the dogs, drive to my parents’ house in Beaver County, drop the kids and dogs off, and then get to the city… and actually sleep. So we arrived on The Farm around 7:30, ate some appetizers my dad made, had a drink, and went to bed.

Race Day

The alarm went off at 3:00 in the morning. If you’ve followed my racing history, you know that I missed entrance into the city for a race once due to them closing off a ramp five minutes early. I wasn’t doing it this time. We left the house at 3:35. Let’s say that the best time in the world to drive into downtown Pittsburgh, even on Race Day, is 4:00 AM. No one was on the road. It was glorious. We parked on the North Shore and my husband slept in the car for awhile as I listened to music and tweeted.

We walked across the bridge around 6 AM, hit a porta potty and stood outside of D Corral until it was time to part. I cried walking into the Corral. I hadn’t raced in two years at that point, the last time being in Pittsburgh in 2016 for the Marathon Relay. An injury and a year of some self-loathing separated the two starting lines. So I sniffled my way to spot and stood quietly while the festivities kicked off.

A woman turned to me and said, “I’m nervous. Are you nervous?”
“Kind of,” I replied.

She sized me up before she admitted, “I mean, I’m even crying. What’s that about?”
“I literally just tweeted as I walked into the corral, crying. Now I’m crying again. But I mean, I cry at coffee commercials.”
“Me too!”

So Megan and I became start line buddies.

2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

It was Megan’s first half marathon. She asked some questions about the start, the green bibs (those were the full marathon bibs) and more. It was nice to have someone to talk to while we counted down the minutes.

Miles 1-5

As I previously mentioned, my running app crashed shortly after Mile 5, so I have no actual pace information to share with you. I will say that I started out too fast, as in over a minute faster than my fastest training paces. Whoops? Here’s the thing though: I maintained 15-20 seconds better than my pace during my 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon throughout those five miles. Without pain. Without extreme effort. Without even thinking about it. I took the hills with ease. I passed people, even on the hills. I felt so strong. I found myself internally praising the taper for the first time ever. My legs were so fresh!

One thing I noted was the lack of spectators after the start and the lack of bands in general. This continued throughout the 13.1 save for the West End lower street, a couple of sections in the South Side, and the finish. It was disappointing.

But I ran strong and happy, until I heard a noise from my watch. I looked down and my app wasn’t open. I fiddled with it and found the app had crashed. I restarted it and nearly burst into tears as I realized all of my stats were gone. Then I realized my run wouldn’t be a 13.1 run in my app. Then I realized I had no idea what my overall pace was going to be without those first five miles.

I was so mad.

Miles 6-7

As all of this information was dawning on me, I accidentally sped up a little bit. I actually saw Uncle Crappy at his water station for my first Pittsburgh event EVER, hugged him, grabbed water, and was on my way. AND THEN I CHOKED ON THE WATER. I can’t make this stuff up. But I still finished that mile 10 seconds over my 2016 average.

This ends up being not good.

The end of that mile takes you up and over the West End bridge. It’s a middle rate doozy. But I kept running. Up and over and down into the West End… which then heads up a hill. Okay. I got this. Small stride, on the toe, just keep going. Because I knew at the top of the hill came a downhill, a left turn, and I figured some spectators cheering. There were people cheering!

And then another hill. I started to slow. But I kept running.

Miles 8-9

These are the miles that always reach out and smack me. There were some spectators cheering in Station Square, but there was also congestion due to the Relay exchange. Then comes the hill out of Station Square up and over into the South Side. Right as the incline started was a woman holding a sign with Mr. Rogers. It was my favorite sign… and I ran that incline the whole way without walking, which was a huge improvement from 2015 as that’s when I imploded.

Instead, I imploded just after. Oops.

I walked a number of times in Mile 9. I got down on myself. The negative talk was pretty bad. I took advantage of the water stops and drank both Gatorade and water…. and then as the “flattest mile in the race” (10) started, I found my second wind.

Miles 10-12

I ran through the South Side quite well. I was glad I was running the half when the full marathoners split off, that’s for sure. But even the spectators who were there were… quiet. A lady running in front of me had to ring her OWN cowbell to get people on the streets to start making noise again. I know we were back of the packers, but come on, keep cheering.

Then came the Birmingham Bridge, which is always a jagoff. I walked two .05 portions… and then just kept running. I came up and over and down… only to come to the last incline of the race. I ran realllllly slow on that incline. I also, sadly, saw a Relay runner who made a wrong turn. She eventually realized her error (she was probably two car lengths in front of me when I saw her) and she found Race Staff to help her. But I kept running.

Mile 13

There’s something about the last mile of a race. I remembered seeing Amanda during my full… and then shortly after, seeing my husband who lied and told me the finish line was only a half mile ahead. I cried. I did. It had been so long since I had accomplished a finish… and I was going to do it. I was going to finish the race, and strong.

As we made the last turn and the finish line came into sight, I turned it on. I didn’t hear my husband yelling for me. I just ran. I ran because I could. I ran because I needed to. I ran because it’s part of who I am; I lost that part for a little bit, and I don’t want to ever again.

I crossed the finish line and accomplished my 5th half marathon in one piece.

2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Post Race

I got my medal. I got a banana and a Smiley Cookie. I found my husband. I enjoyed a beer at the Sierra Nevada tent with Mindy and the Murder Dog. Then we walked back to the car. My husband drove us to The Farm. I showered and not-napped. My mom and brother made me a steak dinner. I spent time with my family, including my super cute nephews.

And then we drove back to Ohio.

Recovery

My worst recovery from a long run this training cycle was after my nine mile run. I don’t know why, but it wrecked me. The recovery from this half was nothing compared to that. I was sore, especially in my hips, but nothing that actually hurt. I ran three miles on Wednesday, Friday, and early on Sunday morning before we left to head back to Pittsburgh for the Pirates game for my husband’s birthday. I ran again this morning, and I feel like I’m ready to start running long again this weekend. I’m already researching future races.

Pittsburgh will always be my home race, even though I now live in Ohio. I hope to run it again next year (though I fear we might have a scheduling conflict). Maybe my speed will have made a reappearance by then, but if not, I’ll just run with my heart—and hopefully, an app that works properly.

Fundraising to #ENDALZ

As you know, I ran my half marathon in honor of Mamaw, my husband’s grandmother who is living with Alzheimer’s. To date, I’ve raised $745 for the Pittsburgh ALZ All Stars. You can donate until May 31 if you feel so inclined. If I can run next year, I will likely run with the same charity due to how much it is affecting our lives. Thank you to all of you who have donated… something special coming your way sometime soon!

36 Things I Liked or Loved About Being 36

Not in 100% chronological order. Also not in order of importance. Just 36 things I liked or loved about being 36.

1. I spent some time as a blonde! And with purple hair! And I got it cut off! And I started growing it again! And now I’m a brunette again. Hey, fun!

2. I kinda almost mostly overcame my insomnia. Yep. That means I sleep at night now save for dogs scratching and pulling muscles in my neck and kids puking and rain blowing from the wrong direction and phones ringing. I’ll take it!

3. I bought grown up sheets with a crazy high thread count. That seems related to #2 but I actually purchased them after I started sleeping again.

4. Alexa came into our lives and brings us great joy. And Jeopardy! questions.

5. I submitted my writing even when I felt self-conscious about the topic or the location.

6. I made a lot of good food for my family this year. I really love to cook. Food remains my love language.

7. iPhone X.

8. During our vacation to Emerald Isle, we got to go up on the observation deck of the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. We’ve been to the museum a half a dozen times and have never been able to go up on the deck before, so it was a true joy.

9. Creme Brulee. Lobster. Islands. Time alone with my husband on a cruise. Also drinks and pizza and sunshine.

10. Our oldest son got a gold medal at camp.

11. I went to Disneyland!

12. I yogaed. And I un-yogaed due to the scheduling issues surrounding caregiving. And then discovered an at home yoga practice. And then got back to yogaing in a class setting. I also discovered that all stops on that journey were valid and important.

13. I gained weight. I lost weight. I found peace with both.

14. I read a lot of books!

15. No cavities at either dentist appointment.

16. My husband and I stepped up and did what was required of us to care for his grandmother (and grandfather). It wasn’t easy. It’s not easy. But we’ve learned a lot. I’ve also learned a lot about ALZ in the process.

17. My parents got a puppy. Now, this might not seem like a good thing for me, but I was involved. And omg, Chai is so good for us all.

18. My sons turned 12 and 10 and had a lovely birthday party.

19. I started and finished the Winter Runstreak (40 days of at least 1 mile per day), thus jumpstarting my running again. I did it for some initial superficial reasoning, but it really helped me relocate my love of running.

20. Our Christmas was great and our tree was super fat.

21. My ice lashes get their own entry.

22. My great-grandmother turned 95. My husband’s maternal grandmother turned 93. His paternal grandmother turned 81. His grandfather turned 84. We are so very lucky to have them all in our lives.

23. Apple Watch!

24. 15 Snow Days. Now hear me out. Some of them were not that great. Like 8-11. But others involved lots of fun for us as a family. Yes, it extended our school year. True, it caused some scheduling issues for teachers and for us as well. But I’m choosing to put them in the good category. Because sometimes you just have to put things in the good category.

25. We found a new church.

26. The basketball hoop! I can even make a few baskets now… though we’ve had it since Christmas and I only started trying very recently. I’m not good. But it’s still a lot of fun. Who knew?

27. My training for the Pittsburgh Marathon has been going very well. If you’re interested in donating to my fundraiser for the PGH ALZ All Stars, you can read more here.

28. Spring is showing up. Slowly.

29. I got a new job!

30. My friends have made all the difference in this year. Many things have been challenging this year, but their support has made all the difference.

31. My dogs!

32. My husband. Really. He’s super cute, true, but he’s also my main support, my best friend, and my rock.

33. Spotify.

34. The new water line they’re installing in our neighborhood. It’s a pain in my butt right now, but not having the waterline break once or twice per month sounds fantastic.

35. IN.STANT.POT.

36. The happiness and peace I’ve found. There’s more to this, but for now, know that yes, it’s all good.