Not Sure I Can Do This

Dear Ms. Feverfew,

I just called and made an appointment with Brother-Things-Are-So-Different-Nowadays for Wednesday.  I am going to try to do what my mom said – treat this as an opportunity to pull out the pointy-headed academic rhetoric and attempt to educate this counselor on what life is really like 18 years post-relinquishment. But I am not sure I can do this.

The woman at the other end of the phone scheduling the appointment asked me what the visit was going to be about. I took a deep breath and said, “I am a first mother who relinquished a baby for adoption 18 years ago and I need to find a therapist to help me work through some of these ongoing issues.”

Her response came as a casual and cheerful, “Oh yes. I know all about that kind of thing. I have a daughter who placed a baby for adoption.”

The bile rose in my throat and it was all I could do to not say something completely unkind to her.  My God, what kind of mother allows her own daughter to barter away her grandchild and then so gleefully declares it to strangers on the phone????? This is her grandchild, bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh, fruit of her age old mother pain!!!!

No…to this grandmother, it wasn’t her grandchild: “it” was just a nameless baby.  It wasn’t her daughter’s baby. Just a baby.

After giving her my contact information, I hung up the phone and collapsed into tears.

I don’t have time to deal with all of this right now. I have a dissertation to write and children to raise. I have a home to manage, a husband to love, and a baby to nurse. I just want to stuff all of these tears, all of this sobbing, snotty, ugly crying back into whatever corner of my soul I have shoved it for the past 18 years.  I want to drink that adoption kool-aid again and believe that “all is well, all is well – yeah, Zion prospereth.”

The pony-rides in May sunshine view of adoption  is so much easier than…than this.



P.S. After I finished talking with LDSFS, I called my mom.  I told her some of the things “Pat” the secretary said, including when she asked, “So did you place through LDS Family Services, because if you did, you are entitled to lifetime counseling for free.” I made some (snotty) comment about how “Yeah, you get my baby and I get a lifetime of free therapy! Sounds like a win-win to me!” or something along those lines.

It hit both me and my mom like a ton of bricks at the same time: By offering a first mother a lifetime of free counseling, LDSFS is tacitly (definition: done in silence; implied from actions and statements) admitting that relinquishing a child for adoption will require a LIFETIME of counseling for the first mother to manage her pain. Think about that: A LIFETIME. Not a year, not five years, not even ten. A LIFETIME. LDSFS even goes so far to provide it for FREE because they know the surrendering mother will never be able to afford the LIFETIME of counseling it will take to help her manage the trauma of losing a child to adoption.

So on one hand, they tell us we will move on and get over our children but on the other hand they offer surrendering mothers FREE counseling for the rest of her natural life. Just another one of those adoption paradoxes.

9 thoughts on “Not Sure I Can Do This

  1. Instead of educating this counselor by yourself, how about enlisting help from the sisterhood of first mothers? We could write letters, engage with this therapist on your blog (or other blogs), etc.

  2. M –
    I do not know about you but 18 (omg actually 19 years ago now) years ago I was told adoption is so different now. It is nothing like the past. We are so much better, more educated, blah blah blah. Really just the same thing they are saying now. And probably the same thing they will say in 20 more years.

    When I went in almos 2 years ago to get my daughters non-id I asked the counselor to recomend to me good books to read so I can understand the adoptees and adoptive parents point of views. I asked for books not written by psychologists but by adoptive parents and adoptees. He could not recomend one. Not one book. This is a person that deals with adoption daily but can not recomend any books.

    My daughter very recently called her local LDSFS agency in utah asked how she can get her identifying information and original birth certificate. First they told her her OBC is DESTROYED. Really they actually said it was destroyed when you are adopted. Second without even asking what state she was born or adopted in they said she can never have her identifying informaion. That is not given out to adoptees. This is what they are telling adoptees when they reach 18.
    Is it a wonder adoptees have a hard time searching when they are lied to by the agencies. The same agencies we trusted our children with.

    Ofcourse we need a lifetime of counseling and what a great trade off, your baby for a life time of counseling. Sounds like a win-win to me. I couldn’t stomach going back in there. Really a place that still has to destroy a womans self esteem to get her child. Because really they have to convince you that you are nothing and not good enough to let strangers raise your child.

    Do you know what is even better, Alyssa’s social worker told her not to put the biological father on Owen’s birth certificate. We are talking LDSFS from 6 months ago. They tell women don’t put the dad on the OBC because it makes it more complicated. Yes adoption has changed so much.

    I do nit understand how you have the stregnth to go in there. I wouldn’t/couldn’t go back.

    • Jeannette –

      I don’t think I am going back for “counseling” as much as it is to get answers to questions like, “Fred Riley, head of LDSFS has stated in an Ensign article that adoption is a priesthood ordinance. Where in the doctrine does it state this?” and “If things are so different, then why as recently as 6 months ago, was a young woman told by a LDSFS counselor in Utah to not put the father’s name on the birth certificate because it would complicate things? This was the exact same counsel given me by the exact same office 18 years ago. How is that different?” Another question I am going to ask is, “Why is it that surrendering mothers are told they will heal from their loss and move on with their lives but LDSFS offers a LIFETIME of counseling? If we “get over” our children, then we wouldn’t need a LIFETIME, would we?” I am going to pull out the list of questions they have each single expectant mother answer and ask him how many of them he and his wife could answer the “right way” when they were younger. I will ask him why, if things have changed so much, does the church still support and condone bearing false witness on birth records.

      You need to help me come up with a list of questions to ask him – questions that are honest, real, and get the heart of the matter. I figure if I am going to shell out $112.50 (not covered by my insurance) then I am going to get my stinkin’ money’s worth.


  3. Top of my head questions – What have they done to help keep adoptions opened? Are adoptive parents told that natural parents will move on? Are adoptive couples allowed to adopt after they closed one adoption? BTW that answer is yes. What has the agency done to give fathers more rights? Are PAPs encouraged to be at the hospital and doctor appointments? How does the agency help to reunite the natural mother and child? Are adoptive parents and natural parents both told that because of adoption there is a higher chance that the adoptee might commit suicide? Are open adoptions agreements signed before placement?

    Do children need their mothers? Do they know their mothers voice, smell, taste? Every study shows that breast feeding is best, but is that not true for adopted babies? If those things are true do babies feel loss?

    Are women first encouraged to raise their children? Do fathers have equal rights? Do adoptees have lifetime counseling also? Is Kinship adoption/guardianship first encourged so the child does not lose all family and heritage?

    • Do adoptees have lifetime counseling also? Is Kinship adoption/guardianship first encourged so the child does not lose all family and heritage?

      Wow, great questions but these ones in particular!!!!! Holy cow – keep ’em coming, Jeannette.


  4. What about the children we raise the half or full siblings of the child we placed? what about them? How does adoption affect them? Willl they feel like you will abandon them to? What about the relationship between the siblings? Shouldn’t the kept children also receive counseling? What help and support is given to mothers that raise their children instead of place?

    I was not allowed to take sacrament until after I placed. It was as if I was supposed to choose the church over my child. Does the church still do that?

    If the church is all about families and geneology is so important – what about the adoptees? Their only true geneology is their natural family. What is done to help the adoptees have their true identities. Or are their ancestors no longer important just everyone elses are important?

    What happens when the adoptees wants to be sealed to their natural parents instead of their adoptive parents?

    What is done to make sure that no Native American children are adopted out without consent of the tribe. 6 weeks after my daughter placed she found out she was 1/4 Native American. When she called up her worker to tell them all they said was, “oh you are regretting your choice huh? Why don’t you come in for counseling.” Because my daughter is blonde hair and blue eyed she wasn’t believed that she was part Indian.

    What percentage of natural mothers and adoptees end up leaving the church? I know a lot of mothers that keep their children leave because of the treatment they get from members and LDSFS.

    Now for questions about dads. So it is ingrained into us from an early age that only a married couple should have sex and have children. If you can not be together than the child should be placed. I have read this in church magazines, on the church website, and had LDSFS representatives come into church classes telling the benifits of adoption. If the same happen to men aren’t we giving them a way out so they do not have to take responsibility? (actually I have a blog post I am writing about that is this exact subject).

    Should all grandparents of the soon to be born baby be questioned about how they can help to raise the child? Shouldn’t we make sure that the main reason the child is being placed isn’t about money?

    Why is LDSFS so attached to NCFA?

  5. I especially like Jeanette’s questions about current or future siblings and the rest of the natural family. What is the collateral damage on the extended family as well as future generations?

    Other thoughts:

    Do counselors warn women that this could be the only child they will ever give birth to…how will they feel if the only baby they ever had is gone from their lives forever? (And no, reunion does not resolve this problem for women who never have another child. On the flip side, having other children is not a panacea, either).

    Also, are women informed of the negative impact that adoption may have on future love interests as well as inter-family relationships? The agencies tell women that adoption = love but we all know that many in society do not share this view (when you get them to talk off the record, that is). Will they be able to handle people saying “I could never give up my baby” or “how could you abandon your baby?” or “why didn’t you take repsonsibility and do whatever was necessary to keep your baby?”

    How about damaged relationships with parents and siblings who were unwilling to help the young mother and who may have pushed for the adoption? Are those issues considered in the couseling sessions?

    What about the concept of SHAME? Isn’t that what adoption really is supposed to be addressing: the SHAME of the young woman who gets pregnant, the SHAME of married couples who are childless. Is SHAME a healthy psychological construct? Is a woman who gives up a baby locked in SHAME for a lifetime? Based on the words of other mothers, I would argue that adoption increases the SHAME factor ten-fold for women who give up their babies. It does little to nothing to alleviate ongoing feelings of inadequacy, doubt, and even self-loathing. How is this addressed in the counseling?

  6. M, I am so proud of you for walking into the lion’s den. Wow. I don’t think I could do it. You are strong and beautiful. I admire you and will support you anytime, anywhere.

    The free lifetime counseling hit me like a ton of bricks. I suppose they cast it as a “gift” for your “gift,” although as you said, it is a tacit admission that there are deep issues that last a lifetime. I agree wholeheartedly that many of the children who are placed would also claim a lifetime of pain, although we both know that we will be fought tooth and nail on this (oh, those “lucky” oblivious babies!).

    You are my hero.

  7. One last thing before I leave for a few days – Things are so very different now, right? Why did things need to change? What were there problems with what was done 18 years ago? If there were problems have there been apologies and corrections made to both natural parents and adoptees from the past? When did they realize that there were problems? What have they done to fix the laws in each state so adoptees can have 1 and only 1 birth certificates?

    @Maybe – Yes Yes Yes adoption hurts the natural familes dynamics. On such a deep level everything is rearranged. You either disown your parents or bury those feelings very deep to try to survive and keep what is left of your family.

    My grandmother doesn’t even know about my grandson Owen. She could handle premarital sex, single parenting, but losing another person through adoption might literally kill her, She has lost 2 great grandchildren and now 1 great great grandchild to adoption. She has lost one child and one grandchild to death. I think in ways adoption is harder for her to deal with than death.

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