Vanessa McGrady and her daughter, Grace — shown here at book signing in Glendale, Calif. — will be at a book event Friday in Port Townsend. McGrady spent several years on the Olympic Peninsula and said she is looking forward to being back in town. (Andrea Sluchan)

Vanessa McGrady and her daughter, Grace — shown here at book signing in Glendale, Calif. — will be at a book event Friday in Port Townsend. McGrady spent several years on the Olympic Peninsula and said she is looking forward to being back in town. (Andrea Sluchan)

Former Peninsula resident writes of open adoption

Vanessa McGrady set to read at Port Townsend event Friday

PORT TOWNSEND — In her memoir, “Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption,” Vanessa McGrady has a story to tell about miscarriages, open adoption and compassion.

Part of her book discusses the North Olympic Peninsula and the impact it had on her life.

McGrady, who now lives in Los Angeles, will read excerpts from her book Friday at Phosphene, 1034 Water St., at 6 p.m. Her daughter, Grace Magnolia, who was the catalyst for the book, is now 7 and will accompany her mother to the event.

A percentage of sales of her book will be given to Dove House.

McGrady said the local nonprofit is special to her.

“I was volunteer there when it was known as the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Agency of Jefferson County,” McGrady said. “At every one of my book events, a portion of sales goes to a local charity. This one is important to me.”

McGrady landed in East Jefferson County in 1980 after being raised in New York. She attended Chimacum junior high and high schools, then moved back to New York for college and then New Mexico for work.

She returned to the Peninsula in the mid-90s and worked as a reporter for the Peninsula Daily News covering the West End, focused on the logging industry and education.

She has held various jobs, including waitressing, bartending and owning a dating service. She lived off the grid, too, in a cabin in the woods and tried not to freeze, although she said she did anyway.

“My book is about building a family and finding a tribe, and that includes the adoption of my daughter,” she said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

“It’s about infertility, becoming pregnant, having a miscarriage late term, and realizing that what I really wanted was to be a mother. I fell in love with the idea.”

She moved to Los Angeles after her miscarriage and broken relationship, and dated a man named she identifies as Peter in the book; it is not his real name.

“I decided to pursue adoption and he joined me,” she said.

“We got married in 2010, and nine months later we got the call from the social worker that there was a possible match and I met the birth parents. Four days later Grace was born. Basically I was pregnant for two years — the amount of time I had been waiting, or four days. That’s all the time I had to get ready. “

Birth parents Bridget and Bill had met online through myspace for music; she was a fan of his band. They developed an online relationship and she moved to L.A. and became pregnant shortly thereafter. They decided they were not able to parent and they wanted to pursue music careers. It was a unanimous decision to place the baby for adoption.

“I had been with the agency for two years, but this was the first serious match that was possible, and I was grateful that it went through,” said McGrady. “Bridget and Bill were confident in their decision so they didn’t change their minds.”

McGrady and Peter were married and she said it was going well, but there were issues around drinking.

“He denied he had a problem and I was worried,” she said. “Some things happened and I didn’t have the tools to stay in the marriage. We divorced when Grace was 2. He died last month.”

McGrady explained how the birth parents came back into her life soon after.

“Grace and I were living in my two-bedroom apartment in Glendale when I learned Bridget and Bill had become homeless. They were close to the edge financially. We had our monsoon season around the holidays so I invited them to stay with us. It was unthinkable for them to be on the streets.”

She said she was glad for the relationship but that their living with her caused problems.

“They were happy to be safe and have a shower and place to practice their instruments,” she said. “They stayed through the holidays and came and went when they needed to. Grace was an independent child but started to cling to me, showing some anxiety. I felt the best thing was to just be us together.

“I didn’t draw a good boundary with Bridget and Bill and one night I didn’t invite them in and that hurt them.”

She’s been in touch with them but they decided not to be in contact with her. McGrady’s hope is that if Grace ever needs them, that they would be available to her.

McGrady said it will be good to be back in the Northwest this weekend where her mother still lives.

“Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula occupy such a big part of my heart,” she said “I’m looking forward to seeing my friends, read the book, and explain the nuances of adoption.

“It’s important to have compassion for birth parents who make the decision to place their child for adoption. They are somewhat marginalized.

“We all should have an appreciation for different types of families.”

For more information about McGrady’s book event, contact the store via email at [email protected]_are_phosphene.com.

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