Dear Mitt Romney, Here’s My 47% Story

In 2003, I was unexpectedly pregnant. But, oh, I was in love with my child.

I began working at a low-paying job, at all kinds of stupid hours, so I could provide for my child, for myself. I did sign up for Medical Assistance through state assistance because my employer did not offer (affordable) insurance, but I didn’t sign up for Food Stamps or Cash Assistance through the state of Pennsylvania because certain groups of people made that a shameful action. I believed I was stronger and better than people who needed such things. I was going to Make It in the world, without help, without assistance.

Ah, how pride cometh before the fall.

At 18 weeks pregnant, I was at work when I started to feel a little woozy. My back hurt horribly, and not in an “I’m Pregnant and Achy All Over Way.” I wasn’t even showing yet, so it wasn’t even an “I Gained Too Much Weight Already And My Back Hurts.” I knew it was different. I felt whiny, but I left work early, ate a sandwich, and took a nap in my modest, self-funded apartment. I woke up with a fever of 104. After calling my doctor, I went straight to the Emergency Room.

What follows is a story that no young mother expects to live. I went through an emergency surgery on my kidney. I was placed on Level III bed rest, suddenly unable to work or even get out of bed to shower everyday. I had to go on Cash Assistance to make my rent. I had to sign up for Food Stamps in order to eat. I was kicked off assistance three times during my pregnancy because I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t drive myself to appointments to keep that assistance. I had to fight to keep enough money coming in to eat food — food that I couldn’t get out of bed and prepare for myself.

Due to that craziness that ensued because of an undiagnosed kidney disorder and the panic of not being able to work, not being able to keep assistance, I relinquished that baby — my only daughter — for adoption.

Needless to say, I did not earn enough money in 2003 to be required to pay federal taxes, like the 47% you chastised and called entitled. I also didn’t spend all of my Food Stamps that were allotted to me in that year. Nor did I use all of the Cash Assistance. I simply couldn’t go out and spend the money. It was a year of bare necessities, a year of bare minimum. I only gained 19 pounds that pregnancy, partly because of my health and partly because I couldn’t get up and get food, make food, find the energy to consume food.

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As for my “entitlement” to the health care that I received during that pregnancy, I felt no such entitlement. I simply needed it. I felt shame then, and it angers me that you are still shaming me now, nine years later. Without that medical coverage, Mr. Romney, I would have died. Plain and simple. My life was on the line twice during that pregnancy. But you see, I paid taxes before that pregnancy and have paid taxes every year since that pregnancy. I have worked my ass off. And, even if I hadn’t, even if legislation and economy failures and poor choices I could have made would have kept me from finding stable employment and building my life — even if I hadn’t wanted to do right by my daughter and prove myself to be more than a failure — I believe that my living, breathing self was worth your tax dollars. I believe that the doctors working hard to save my life, to help keep my unborn child safe from my own toxic body, oh, I believe we were both worth it. Especially her.

I will vote for a President who doesn’t make me feel guilty for signing up for Medical Assistance when I needed it. I will vote for a President who doesn’t villainize me for a health condition that we didn’t know about, that landed me flat on my back and in need of help from others. I will vote for a President who doesn’t make me out to be the bad guy for accepting that help. I will vote for a President who doesn’t throw me under the bus in the name of campaigning. I may not have paid taxes in 2003, but I can assure you that I will stand with those who need assistance, who need help, and vote for Obama in 2012.

Obama Plate

 

This post originally appears on The Chronicles of Munchkin Land, my now defunct adoption blog.

 

This post was syndicated by BlogHer on September 18, 2012.

 

 

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In the Spring or Autumn of Anger

Sometimes you just want to hear, “I’m sorry you’re sad.”

Or even, “I understand why you’re angry.”

“That must be hard.”

“I’m here for you.”

I don’t necessarily want everything to be fixed, made better. I want arms to wrap around me, pull me close and hold me while I cry tears of confusion and hurt. I want a hand to pet my hair, rub my scalp. I want fingers to wipe away my tears, smear my not-quite-waterproof mascara and kiss the marks on my face.

Maybe mostly because I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t understand why I feel this a crushing blow, a personal affront to everything I have done and worked for and fought for and achieved. For me, not understanding something makes my anxiety skyrocket. I hate that feeling of confusion, of not being in control of myself — let alone a situation over which I will not, do not and should not have any control. The fact that I am feeling something that isn’t logical makes me angry, with myself as well as the situation at hand. It’s a cycle of messy feelings, confusing thoughts and general angst.

I hate myself in these moments, in the deep thick of trying to make sense of things that might not ever make any sense. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror — though my dreams are haunted by the reality of what was and what is. I wake up mad — not at the world, not even at the one who doesn’t even know I’m mad — but at myself. For being mad. For being sad. For being.

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Today I stood in the bathroom and stared at myself. I allowed myself to go to the place I had stayed away from, avoided. I hope every time you look at her, you feel guilt for what you did. Bile rises in my throat, an instant reaction to anger and hate so deep and so pure, not watered down with politically correct filters or kindness or gentleness. Pure, unmitigated, the stuff that kills — usually the one feeling it, not the one to whom it is directed. I bent over the toilet, spitting out what I can.

But the truth remains; I feel that way. It makes me even angrier that I don’t know when or if that feeling will eventually lose steam, run its course, live its season and fall from the tree, from me.

Red Red

I stand with it now, hoping this is the autumn and not the spring.

 

This post originally appeared on my now defunct adoption blog, The Chronicles of Munchkin Land.

 

Why Christians Need to Be Aware of How They Speak About Birth Parents

Before I launch into this post, I want to address something important. I am aware that not all birth parents share my faith. This post is about to get all faith-tastic up in here, and more specifically of the Christian faith. I am speaking of my experience, my beliefs and my faith. Just a heads up.

I attended the Women of Faith conference in Pittsburgh this weekend with the women of my family. As a whole, it was a great experience. I love a chance to sing some great praise songs, listen to some faithful and inspirational women, eat nachos with jalapenos and generally have a good faith experience.

But… there was a moment during which it was almost derailed.

Let’s back up to 2003: I was pregnant with the Munchkin. It was a difficult time as a whole. Those who have read my blog for years know that I fell into adoption when my kidney disorder landed me on Level III bedrest. It has worked out for us, as I chronicle here, but it wasn’t an easy time.

During that time, the Pastor at my parents’ church basically threw my family under the bus. For all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t have been able to come out of my daughter’s relinquishment and immediate postpartum phase with my faith in tact.

But I did.

I don’t get all “God meant for me to be used as a vessel for Dee to be a Mom.” I don’t believe that. I believe that free will — which we all have — came into play. I believe that my faith has allowed me certain room to heal — and to be angry and to rant and rave and get back to healing — along the way. I’ve been angry with and/or at God at times, but I always come back to a peace that, despite that free will decision, I can still use whatever free will I have left combined with His grace for good.

Now we can get back to Saturday morning, October 8, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My hometown, where a Pastor put my faith to the test eight years earlier.

Lisa Harper is on the stage. And she is rocking it. She’s funny. She has on great boots. She has this smile that reminds me of one of the women in my family. I want to give her a high five. And then she tells us that she has started the process of adoption.

I start the inward cringe. I know where this is going. But I pray — not just hope, but I pray — that she won’t take it there. She’s a single woman, and I want to believe that she has an understanding of what other single ladies might have been through, gone through, dealt with at one time or another. She starts talking about the kind of child she’d like to adopt. I give her leeway. I allow her space. She’s new to this, right? She doesn’t know what can of worms she is opening, right? I allow her the wiggle room that I don’t always offer others.

And then she slams me into the floor. My breath catches. I can’t feel my toes.

I’d like to adopt one of those chocolate babies that their birth mamas and daddies have passed over.

I won’t even get into the race issue. That’s something else entirely.

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I just blinked. I felt every woman in my row cringe; every woman in my family who knows the beauty that is my daughter, the love that I have always had for her, the hard work I put into making our open adoption work. They knew. They knew, and they have never relinquished a child. They knew, and they’ve said their fair share of stupid things over the years. They knew.

I didn’t tweet immediately (but I did eventually, to which @womenoffaith didn’t reply like the other ones I tweeted which were full of good things). I wanted to let it slide. Lisa even included a prayer at the end of her time specifically stating that if anything she said offended anyone, that God would erase it so that the message wouldn’t be lost.

I can tell you that for the women in Row W on the back side of the stage, the message was lost.

I tried to let it go. But the truth is, in a crowd of 8,000+ women, I wasn’t the only birth mother in the crowd. In fact, I know I wasn’t the only birth mother in the crowd. Some of my birth mother (Internet-started) friends who happen to live in Pittsburgh were in attendance. And they were caught off guard by that comment as well. I’m just the most verbal one. My sister-in-law laughed, knowing I was going to blog it. It’s what I do.

I get that Lisa has not yet adopted. She isn’t fully indoctrinated into what is and is not acceptable with regard to adoption-speak. She’s learning on the fly. She’s being baptized by fire.

But.

As a public speaker, you have to be responsible for what you say on a stage. If you don’t know enough about adoption and birth parents and the intricate “stuff” of the in between, then don’t speak about it on a stage to a room of 8,000+ women. You run the risk of doing more harm than good.

So let me tell you, Lisa Harper, something you need to know: I did not “pass over” on my daughter. I wanted her. So desperately. I loved her with all of my being. I was heartbroken when I had to hand her over to her parents. I didn’t “pass over” on the opportunity to parent her. I didn’t just think, “Well, I’ll just hand her over to someone else because I don’t want to do this and it will be all okay.” It has been the most difficult road I have ever had to walk. It has changed who I am, at the very core of my being. I am grateful for the open adoption I have with her, with her mom, but it still remains the hole in my soul — the colander in my heart that won’t be filled by God or anything else. I miss my daughter every single day.

I just want you to think, Lisa, the next time you speak. In that room, there will be a woman who relinquished her child for adoption. It will be the hardest thing she has done in her life. It will be that one thing that she still questions God about: the whys, the reasons, the heartache, the hurt. It will be the one thing that she still cries about in prayer, the one thing that still makes her doubt if she had just been a “good enough” Christian if it would have worked out differently. So before you make some flippant comment about birth parents who “pass over” their children, think about the wedge you’re driving between those parents and the God you are representing on stage.

And then — more importantly — think about the child you might one day adopt. They will hear the undertones in how you speak about their birth parents. They will know that you think less of their birth parents, even if you use God-speak to say what a “gift” they were. They will read this post one day and know that you think their birth mama just “passed them over.” Your child will take your cues about how to feel about their birth parents and thus how to feel about themselves.

Please think before you speak on a stage. Your words hurt me, and I wasn’t alone. Your words run the risk of hurting children in the future, one of whom might be yours someday. Think, Lisa. I’m a real, faithful, hurting child of God who made a decision that altered the course of my life. I am not less than you, and neither is any other birth mother or father.

Please remember that before you speak next time — because there will always be a birth mother in attendance. Always.

 

Editor’s Note: Years after this post originally ran on The Chronicles of Munchkin Land, someone who attends Lisa Harper’s Bible study let me know that Lisa uses this post as an example of a disgruntled, angry, bitter woman who needs God’s grace. Methinks she missed the point.