Dear JS –
Wow. I didn’t intend for things to get so….out of hand? My original post about your mormon.org profile was a response from the 20-year old version of me that is still coming to terms with the fact that I allowed my religious culture to convince me I was not good enough and would never be good enough to parent my first daughter. It came from the 39-year old version of me has done every thing right according to LDSFS and yet I am still left with the disenfranchised grief brought about by the ambiguous loss of my daughter. It came from the part of me that feels betrayed by a church and culture that promised me adoption would bless my family and me into the eternities.
Obviously, if you read the letters I have written to my oldest daughter, you will discover we are all still waiting for those promised blessings. But that’s a different matter entirely – that’s not what this letter is about.
First, let me publicly apologize for the methods I used in drawing attention to the wording of your mormon.org profile. I acknowledge it was a heavy-handed approach; I unleashed on you the ire I have towards organizations such as LDSFS and the NCFA who have institutionalized magical thinking among natural parents (and adoptive families as well). I am sorry for the approach I took in conveying what I had to say, because it wasn’t about you necessarily, it was really about the organizations that taught you to think so little of yourself, that taught you to belittle your status as your first daughter’s mother. You are so much more than what you have been sold by LDSFS and FSA, Jessalynn, so very much more.
However, the message is something from which I will never back down: How natural mothers use words to frame our experience profoundly affects our children’s ability to heal from the ambiguous loss that adoption brings into their life.
So with that apology in place, please let me try to deliver this message again. Let me speak to you as a woman, a mother, a sister in the Gospel, and a fellow natural mother.
I understand what you were trying to convey in your mormon.org profile. Your second daughter is the first one you have had the great honor of parenting. I get it. I really do. Been there done that, have the t-shirt. However, there is no reason to bend the truth to make you or others around you feel better about the tremendous loss you have endured when you placed your first daughter for adoption. I urge you to step into the headwinds and face the fierceness of the Truth. It is not an easy thing to do. I have lived it. However, your honesty with yourself and your daughters about their true birth order and the irreplaceable role each plays in your life will forge deeper channels of love and respect between all of you.
Perhaps it is because you are young, so very young, that you were not able to hear the pleas of adult adoptees begging you to reconsider how you present your daughter to the world. Perhaps as you age and mature, you will come to see the weight your words carry in your daughter’s face. Words matter. A lot. Our children will never outgrow the need to hear from our own mouths they are valued, important, and irreplaceable parts of our lives. Just as we long for it from our own parents, your daughters will crave your honor and esteem, an esteem that recognizes them not just a “birth” child or a “kept” child but simply as your child.
As your relationship with your first daughter’s adoptive family continues to grow, please try to be mindful the blessings of open adoption are purchased with the tears of millions of women who have suffered untold amounts of grief when they lost their children to adoption. More importantly, your open adoption is built on the millions of shattered hearts of adoptees who came before your daughter, human beings who have never stopped loving and longing for their natural parents, even if they deeply love and respect their adoptive ones, too. When you speak so casually of your first daughter’s birth order and her rightful place in your life, it diminishes the sacrifice and suffering of those who lost everything so you could have something with your daughter. I urge you to listen to what these adult adoptees are trying to teach women like us – women who have lost our oldest daughters to adoption.
Your decision to change your profile does not equal a “win” point on the scoreboard. This is not about winning. We have both lost, Jessalynn. You lost your precious daughter. I lost mine. Our daughters lost us as the mother that raises them, they lost their original heritage and identity, their inheritance. It isn’t about me or you winning, it is about trying to do what is right for these children who had no say in the matter.