Am I right or am I right?

Sit back, grab of a cup of hot cocoa and be prepared for a long read. Hopefully there is something of value in this letter.

Yesterday was a watershed day for me in many ways.  I did not write about everything that transpired, but let’s just say it was real, it was raw, and it was needed.  Let me also say I am eternally grateful for a loving, compassionate, and wise husband who loves me – all of me – even the real and raw parts of me.

One of the things I spent the day wrestling with God over was this issue of the “doctrine” of adoption that Sister Beck spoke of at the LDSFS/Families Supporting Adoption conference in August. This struggle with God went on all day – I ended up neglecting many of my responsibilities around the home. God bless Jeff  – literally – for coming home, putting his arms around me and holding me tight, then doing the dishes, making dinner, giving the wee ones baths and putting them to bed all while I stomped around behind him, jabbering and frequently cursing about all of this. There are few men finer than Jeff in this world – if more men could be like him, there would be a heck of a lot less sadness and heartache.

So back to Sister Beck and what she had to tell all those folks at the conference in August. This is what she said:

“The Atonement of Christ brings us that covenant and makes us heirs with Him, so that we have the same inheritance that He has with our Father,” she said.

It is through making covenants that individuals are adopted into the kingdom of God.

“It is very doctrinally based,” she said. “We believe in literal adoption, the literal gathering of bringing people into that covenant. … [Beck, J. (2011). “Rooted in Love.” As reported in Church News 20 Aug 2011].

Now maybe my version of the scriptures is different than hers. I highly doubt it since I have double checked to make sure I am using the most current edition of the LDS standard works, but…. The stuff I remember reading about covenants and the Atonement is about being born again through the blood of our Savior, the waters of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Last night, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep, one of the last thoughts I had was, “God, either she is right or I am. We can’t both be right. Either we are adopted into the kingdom of God or we are born into it through the waters of baptism and the blood of Christ.”

When I got up this morning at 5:00 a.m. to take my older son to early morning seminary, I spent about 15 minutes reading in the Book of Mormon. The daughter of one of the ladies I Visit Teach is turning eight years old in October and  issued a challenge to the ward members to read the entire Book of Mormon by her birthday. I took her up on the challenge and have been reading about 10 pages a day in the wee small hours of the morning as Captain Knuckle gets ready to leave.

This morning, this verse was on the very first page I read:

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)

Hmmm. It seems pretty clear in this particular verse from a scripture of the restoration. Begotten. Born. Because of the covenant. Is it just me, or am I not seeing adoption anywhere in that verse?

This led me to search out other scriptures (yet again) about the Atonement and becoming a son or daughter of Christ. This is what I found

“But as many received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 KJV)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:3, 18-19)

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world…” (1 John 5:4)

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 KJV

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:5-7, KJV)

“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters…” (Mosiah 27:25)

“…preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.” (Alma 5:49)

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experience this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14)

“Now I say unto you that ye must repent and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God…” (Alma 7:14)

“I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.”(Alma 36:23)

“And behold, whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit; and they shall be born of me, even of water and the of the Spirit– (D&C 5:16)

“That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” (Moses 6:59)

[An aside: I looooooove that it was Moses, a late-discovery adoptee, who was given the clearest explanation of what being “born again” entails.  God tells this man, this adoptee who has most likely spent a lifetime struggling with his identity, that to become a son of God, he has to be born again, just like he was born physically. To this prophet/adoptee, God clearly states that the process of sanctification from all sin is one of RE-BIRTH, not adoption.]

I think any reasonable, thinking adult can see those scriptures all point to being born as the way we become sons and daughters of Christ. However, even after reading all of them this morning, something in the back of my mind was bothering me. Sister Beck specifically said that adoption was “doctrine.” If it is doctrine, then certainly it must be found in the scripture, yes?  So I turned to “The Guide to the Scriptures” found on the www.lds.org website, and read this:

Adoption

The scriptures speak of two types of adoption.

(1) A person who is of non-Israelite lineage becomes a member of the family of Abraham and the house of Israel by having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized by immersion, and receiving the Holy Ghost (2 Ne. 31:17–18; D&C 84:73–74; Abr. 2:6, 11). (my emphasis)

(2) All who have received the saving ordinances of the gospel become sons and daughters of Jesus Christ by continued obedience to his commandments (Rom. 8:15–17; Gal. 3:24–29; 4:5–7; Mosiah 5:7–8).

Interesting. Both of these instances point back to being baptized as the process through which people are “adopted” into the household of faith.  But…..didn’t all of those scriptures I just found tell me that ordinance of baptism is about being born again? And just a second there. Mosiah 5:7 is being used as a reference to support “adoption” as being the way that we become children of Christ?  Gosh, I could have sworn that it said very clearly we are born again.

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)

Oh yeah. It does say “born of him” NOTHING about adoption.

So then I clicked through to the link “Children of Christ.” This is what I found.

Children of Christ

Those who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child is greatest, Matt. 18:1–4
  • Believe in the light that ye may be the children of light, John 12:36
  • Put off the natural man and become as a child, Mosiah 3:19, Mosiah 27:25–26
  • Because of the covenant ye shall be called the children of Christ, Mosiah 5:7
  • If ye will lay hold upon every good thing, ye certainly will be a child of Christ, Moro. 7:19
  • As many as received me, gave I power to become my sons, D&C 39:4
  • Fear not, little children, for you are mine, D&C 50:40–41
  • Thou art one in me, a son of God, Moses 6:68

Darn it all, there are those “pesky” words again: Begotten. Born again. Born of God. Sons and Daughters of God. No adopted.

Then I clicked through to:

Sons and Daughters of God

The scriptures use these terms in two ways. In one sense, we are all literal spirit children of our Heavenly Father. In another sense, God’s sons and daughters are those who have been born again through the atonement of Christ.

Dang it all, Sister Beck! There those words are again!!!! Atonement. Begotten. Born again. Born of God. Children of Christ.

Essentially, what I discovered this morning is the basis for claiming we are “adopted” into Abraham’s family is because we enter into the covenant of baptism, allowing the Atonement to take effect in our lives….which is clearly the process of being BORN AGAIN.  Which is not adoption. Ask any adoptee. Adoption and being born are two very separate things.

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As I wrestle with this issue this morning, the only thing I can come up with is that members of the church play loose and fast with the word “adoption,” using it as a metaphor for being “born again.” Maybe I just need to get my proverbial doctrinal panties out of a wad and just go with the metaphor of adoption = being born.

But I can’t.

I know the difference on a very intimate level, much like Moses. Adoption is not a sufficient metaphor for the very real, very visceral, very messy and difficult process of being born again, of becoming a child of Christ. The Book of Mormon tells me very plainly that I am born again, made a new creation in Christ. It is another witness to what the Holy Bible teaches me about who I am and to whom I belong. The Book of Mormon, side by side with the Bible, clearly testifies I am born into the household of faith through the waters of baptism, the blood of the Atonement, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Born. Not adopted.

There is no other way. (John 14:6; D&C 132:12)

Much love,

M.

*This* is a Privilege?

I have noticed a theme of sorts running through many LDS “birth mother” blogs, especially ones belonging to women who are less than 5 or so years post-placement. It is one casting the role of “birth mother” as a great privilege and honor. For instance,

“I can see through the fog of my sorrow, pain and anger that this is a privledge [sic]. That this pain is mine to carry for the sake of others so they can be happy, so he can be happy and have all the joys in life he deserves. I know it won’t be easy, but as one has said I know it will be worth it.” ~the birth baby mama

Maybe it is because I am so over being a martyr and a saint, but I am not seeing how the role of a first mother is a privilege.

If it is such a privilege, then why aren’t women lining up at the doors of every LDSFS office across the country volunteering to do it?

Oh yeah. That’s right. It’s because being a first mother isn’t a privilege.

Maybe it is because I am a little bit older now I can see the life sentence of being a first mother is neither a privilege nor an honor. Maybe it is because I can see the sorrow in my sweet 6-year old son’s eyes when he asks about you that I understand this is neither a privilege nor an honor. Maybe it is because I now know the toll adoption extracts from adoptees that I understand this is neither a privilege nor an honor. Maybe because I have had the “luxury” of nearly two decades of living as a first mother I have come to understand this pain is not worth the trade-off.

Just to put the record straight, you would have been happy with me. Sure, I know your adoptive parents are wonderful and good people, but you would have been happy with me. Perhaps not as rich (at first) but just as happy, if not more so. I know your brother Captain Knuckle is happy being with me, in spite of the fact I raised him as a single parent for nearly six years. I would hazard a guess that he is pretty darn joyful being raised by me, his mother.  You would have been, too.

But you weren’t and for that, I am sorry.

And what is this notion of the pain  being “worth it” spoken of by the birth baby mama? Worth it?

I cannot answer that question for you or for other adoptees but for me, my husband, and your siblings, this was SO not worth “it.” But, I guess once again that is the wisdom and maturity that living nearly two decades as an exiled first family brings.

Much love,

M.

Of Course This is How it Ends, Part Deux & a Response to Red Hot’s “Bitter” Comment

Remember Jayci, that girl who is pregnant with Brandon Davies’ son and is planning to relinquish him for adoption? Remember her happy-happy joy-joy adoption blog?

It’s gone now. Vanished into thin air.

Of course this is how it ends.

When too much TRUTH is told about the toll adoption takes on first mothers and adoptees, the LDS adoption community circles the wagons and cuts off the “invaders.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if Jayci goes into seclusion or hiding of some sort until this dirty deed has been done, the paper work signed and filed with the county and state. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t hear nary a word from her again until her son is “safely” ensconced in the arms of another woman, a woman who is as foreign to him as you or I. A woman who doesn’t smell right, doesn’t sound right, doesn’t move right – isn’t right to his tiny newborn brain and heart.

I have known it to happen before with single expectant mothers in the LDS church who are being educated by others about the TRUE cost adoption will extract from them, their parented children, their relationships, and most importantly, their relinquished child.

Heaven forbid the TRUTH be told.

I was going to leave a response to someone named “Red Hot” over on Jayci’s blog who started in with the “bitter birth mother/angry adoptee” garbage but while I was typing it in, the blog *poof* disappeared.  I guess I will post it here instead, since it seems like the wagons have been circled. When that happens, there is no hope of that young mother escaping with her heart and her motherhood intact.

 

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And thus the “bitter” moniker slinging begins. *sigh*

Thanks, Red Hot. Jayci had better get used to being called bitter by the likes of people such as yourself. The moment she starts to speak the Truth about the pain caused by cutting off generations of her descendants for time and all eternity (via adoption and the sealing ordinance), it will be too late for her to do anything about it. It’s nice to know you will be there to call her bitter.  While you are at it, be sure to remind her that no one held a gun to her head and made her sign the papers, that *she* made the decision and therefore has no right to feel the immense grief that will surely come. That is *very* helpful to a first mother who is hurting.

According to LDS theology and practice, every single one of my descendants that come through my daughter I placed for adoption are lost to me and my family. FOREVER. That’s quite the reward for such a “loving” decision, isn’t it? Even a murderer has the chance of pardon or reprieve. A first mother? It is a life sentence and in the LDS church, it is an eternal one too. There is no chance at redemption, no chance to ever reclaim a rightful inheritance. It is lost to both me and my daughter and our descendants for time and all eternity. Sit with that for a while and then get back with me about how “loving” adoption is for the adoptee or first mothers.

Once Jayci signs those papers and her son is sealed to another family, she is a persona non grata for ETERNITY in the lives of her descendants who come through her son.  She needs to think very carefully about what this means to her, her parents, her future children, and most importantly, to her son. She is willfully and intentionally cutting her son off (and all future descendants) from his rightful heritage. All in the name of love, of course.

The potential adoptive couple might be the nicest, most loving, most incredible people on the planet but when it comes right down to it, in the eyes of the law Jayci will not matter. In the eyes of the LDS theology and eternal family units, Jayci will not matter.

It doesn’t matter how many text messages they exchange or how many times they have Jayci over for dinner, it will not erase those simple truths from Jayci’s life or her son’s life. It doesn’t not matter how many “birth mother” bracelets, blankets, or monthly packages they send Jayci, she will reduced to nothing more than a walking uterus and a birth vessel in the eyes of California state law and by the doctrine of the LDS church. You may think that adoption is “so different” nowadays, but the  Truth is Jayci will still go home without her son and her son will still be raised by virtual strangers who can at ANY moment cut Jayci off from his life. For ANY reason. That is the Truth, as hard as it might be for some to hear.

Red Hot, *until and unless you have walked the path of a first mother* for nearly 20 years, have NO RIGHT to call those who have, “bitter.”  We speak TRUTH and sometimes TRUTH is a hard thing (1 Ne 16:2), a bitter pill to swallow.

If there is bitterness detected, perhaps it is bitterness in your own moral conscious and not in the hearts of first mothers who made a “loving” decision that shattered her family relationships FOR ETERNITY. Perhaps our Truth is a hard thing to you because you know in your heart we are speaking with the voice of wisdom and the authority of experience. Perhaps you know in your heart that babies and their mothers deserve to be together whenever possible, regardless of marital or financial status. (Ahem… did anyone else listen to Elder Cook’s talk in conference this last April???? You know, the one where he says that bit about single mothers who are single *for any reason*?)

Bitterness? No. Broken hearts? Yes. Sadness? Yes. Wondering why no one had the courage or willingness to tell me the TRUTH about adoption and its affect on my life, my relationships, my parented children, and most importantly on my daughter? Yes. But bitter is certainly something I am not, thankyouverymuch.

Myself, and many of the other first mothers who have posted comments here only want Jayci to be fairly warned of the eternal implications of what she is about to do.  We understand little of what we say will be taken to heart but at least she won’t be able to say, “No one told me differently.” These words will stand as a witness she was told differently and chose to go ahead with her “adoption plan” anyway.

That being said, we will be here to help her pick up the pieces in 6-8 years when the adoption anesthesia starts to wear off.

A Solemn Duty

Ms. Feverfew –

Today at church, the lesson was on the conference address I wrote about a few weeks ago, “LDS Women are Incredible!” It was taught by my old Visiting Teaching partner.

It was a tough lesson to sit through.

Oh, not because I don’t think LDS women are incredible – I think the women who make up the worldwide membership of this church are an amazingly diverse and exceptional group of women.

It was hard because she was teaching on this particular lesson.

Last fall when we were new Visiting Teaching partners, we were at the home of one of the women we visit. Somehow, the subject turned to adoption and I made the comment about how important it was for adoptees to have access to their first families if at all possible. With the hiss of a viper and the sting of a scorpion, this woman turned on me in an instant. She pointed her finger at me and angrily said, “Those people don’t deserve to know about the children they abandoned and adopted children don’t need to have anything to do with their birth families.”  She then proceeded to tell me how her mother had taken in three children because their birth mother was a “promiscuous junkie” who didn’t deserve to be in the same room with “those kids.” Eventually her mother legally adopted all three of the children but they had “turned out to be just as disastrous as their birth mother because my mom let her continue to see them.”

Today, she stood at the front of the Relief Society room with tears streaming down her face as she talked about her great-great grandmother’s journals and how when she read them, she felt connected to her across the generations. She told of how just like herself, her great-great grandmother didn’t get married until later in life (38), didn’t like doing housework, wasn’t a very good cook, and would rather spend her time reading and writing than taking care of more mundane daily activities. Her voice caught in her throat and she had to stop several times as she spoke of the comfort she found in knowing she was a decedent of this woman. She told of how knowing her great-great grandmother’s history helped her figure out that she was doing OK in life, that her journey through life was normal, even in the context of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I wanted to raise my hand and call her out on her hypocrisy – on her vehement feelings about denying her adopted siblings access to their heritage while bawling over how grateful she is to have access to hers.

I didn’t though because it wasn’t the time or place to enter into a heated argument about this topic.  I just sat there and simmered in the irony of the moment. I looked around the room at all the other women and wondered how many of them felt the exact same way: Adoptees do not have a right or need to access their true genealogy or history.

It’s a lie though. It is a complete and total lie. Adoptees have an absolute right to their true genealogy and history. They have an innate need and right to know and to connect with the generations of parents that formed them. Anyone who says differently is selling something – and that something is generally another human being (under the guise of adoption services).

Adoptees have the right to clear, clean, and unfettered access to their factual birth records. Period. Anyone who says differently is selling something (confidential intermediary services, perhaps?)

I can somewhat forgive the woman giving the lesson today – she doesn’t know any better and I haven’t had the chance to have a “come to Jesus meetin’ ” with her over the issue. Her attitude was still full of hypocrisy, but I am willing to allow that it might be an unintentional hypocrisy on her part.

But what of first mothers who think that because they are in an “open” adoption, their children do not need access to their birth certificates? Do they not realize that even if they were advised by adoption professionals to secure copies of it before the adoption was finalized the fact of the matter is that records are sealed for their child. These sealed birth records are an injustice for their child, an injustice in which they took part.

The other day, Cassi who blogs at Adoption Truth posted a brilliant response to this question and so I will let her eloquent words speak for me:

How hypocritical can we be if we believe the rights we have just aren’t all that important for our children to have after it was our own actions (for whatever reason) that placed that fate on our children’s shoulders?

First Moms have more than a responsibility, they have a duty to fight for their children to be given the same equality they receive. They have an obligation to create change in the life their child will face in their adult years.

I pledge to you, Ms. Feverfew, that I will work towards repealing or replacing the laws which prevent you and millions of other adoptees free access to your birth records. It’s the least I can do for you.

Much love,

M.

It’s a Small Freakin’ World, Dang It

It has been said that being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints means the world becomes very small. You can always find someone who knows someone or who is related to someone you once knew. Always. Even with 13+ million members worldwide, the odds of winning this strange version of Six Degrees of Separation is fairly high.

So…that coupled with the even more insular world of adoption blogging, replete with its own striated caste system, makes for some interesting Six Degrees of Separation game playing.

To whit: I was recently sent an email from a ward member looking for donations of items to sell at a fund raiser for Girl’s Camp this summer. The point of contact had an unusual last name I have come to recognize over the past six months.

Huh.

I went a poked around a couple of “adoption-is-such-a-miracle-and-a-blessing-happy-happy joy-joy I-lurv-my-birthmommies-and-my-birth-mommies-lurv-me” blogs and sure enough, there it was.

The unusual last name.

I poked around some Facebook accounts and low and behold, there was that unusual last name again. This time attached to the accounts of people I am friends with on Facebook.

Huh.

Turns out “happy-happy joy-joy I-lurv-my-birthmommies-and-my-birth-mommies-lurv-me” blogger’s extended family attends the same church building I do and lives not too far from me.  I knew they were in the area – I thought they were members of a ward much further south of here.  What are the chances that we would both end up here?

Interesting. Small world.

I know I have met the extended family members of the “happy-happy joy-joy I-lurv-my-birthmommies-and-my-birth-mommies-lurv-me” blogger. I know they don’t have a clue about how I feel about adoption and what their offspring have done (and continue to advocate to do) to other women just like me. They probably wouldn’t be so nice to me if they knew.

Well, maybe they would be nicey-nice to my face and tell me what a “hero” I am for giving such a wonderful gift to another family. Then I would have to go home and brush my teeth because anytime someone calls me a “hero”  for giving you away to strangers, the bile rises in the back of my throat as a wave of nausea comes crashing down.  Then they would go home and over their Sunday dinner discuss how shocked they are that a woman “like me” could have been a girl “like that” because I don’t seem like “that kind of person.”

If we were staying here any longer, I might try to strike up a more meaningful relationship with them to give them a differing view of what adoption does to a family. I might ever so casually tell them how I know their offspring and how “well” I have been spoken of by their devotees.

However, since I am moving in like…19 days, *sigh* what’s the use?

 

For Whatever Reason

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Last April at General Conference, Elder Cook gave a talk titled, “LDS Women are Incredible!.”  I have to agree, for the most part. Most of the women I hang out with who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are pretty amazing, accomplished, and intelligent women. They are women who have figured out how to balance the rewarding demands of being a mother with the rewarding demands of a life “outside of the home” as well. And GASP (said tongue in cheek) some of them are even single women. In fact, a few of them have never married but have adopted older children from the foster care system. Yes, that means they are single parents. By choice. Single mothers of previously unwanted and unruly teenagers who flourish under their loving, consistent care.

An overarching theme of this spring’s General Conference was that of service and charitable works for others.  Elder Cook’s talk was tucked in amongst others such as Elder Eyring’s “Opportunities to Do Good” and Elder Ballard’s “Finding Joy Through Loving Service.”   I particularly loved Elder Ballard’s emphasis on showing our appreciation of the Atonement of Jesus Christ by doing as He did – “simple, compassionate acts of service.” To me, this is where true Christianity is manifest – when we do as Christ would have done.

But back to Elder Cook’s address. When he gave his talk, one phrase jumped out at me. Perhaps it is because of my history of being a single parent, both with you and with Captain Knuckle that my ear and heart are attuned to these kinds of things. But for whatever reason, I was heartened by his words,

“You devoted sisters who are single parents for whatever reason, our hearts reach out to you with appreciation. Prophets have made it clear ‘that many hands stand ready to help you. The Lord is not unmindful of you. Neither is His Church.’ ” (April, 2011. Elder Quinten L. Cook, quoting President Gordon B. Hinkley from 1996; emphasis mine).

Single parents. For whatever reason.

Here is a man I believe to be an apostle of the Lord, admonishing His followers to reach out to single mothers — regardless of how or why they became single parents. He is telling us to reach out with hands ready to help and appreciative hearts.  His words fortified my courage – my future efforts to reach out to single expectant mothers is in complete keeping with newly established official policy and directly in line with divinely inspired advice from a modern-day apostle of Jesus Christ.

While my heart and mind soared at the possibilities this new authority could afford my efforts, another part of my heart sank into despair.

I wondered…why didn’t this include me all those years ago? Why didn’t it include us? The moment I found out I was pregnant with you, I turned my life “around” and returned to church. At the time I relinquished you, I had been actively participating in church services for over 16 months. I did my Visiting Teaching.  I attended Relief Society events. I held callings. I paid my tithing. I sang in ward choir.  I attended Sacrament meeting faithfully.

Was I not a devoted sister? Were you not just as precious and irreplaceable as my future children? Where were the many hands that should have stood ready to help me? Instead of support, I felt tremendous pressure from my culture and my priesthood leaders to “do the right thing” and place you for adoption, simply because I was single. That phrase, “It is never to late to do the right thing” is seared into my soul. Why was I held up as the paragon of a “good mother” by giving you away to strangers so you could have  “better” life? How completely sick and wrong is that??? More importantly, how is telling a young mother that her child was entitled to more than she could offer (at that moment in time) in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ? How is that loving, for either the mother or her child???

And where was God in all of this? An apostle of the Lord just told me that the Lord was mindful of me during that time period in my life as a single parent…but where was He?

I reject the idea that you had a “better” life than you would have had with me. Different, yes, but better? Was it better for you to grow up completely divorced from your culture, from your people? Was it better for you not to know your Samoan grandmother and aunties? Was it better for you to be raised without the knowledge of whose blood courses through your veins? Of the history of the mitochondrial DNA that powers your every breath? Was it better for you to be raised by people who don’t understand your love of words and the deep longing you have for education? Was it better for you to be raised not knowing your brothers and your sister?

Bottom line: Was it better for you to be raised by strangers or would it have been better for you to have remained with me?

Sure, there might have been more money (initially), but can money truly replace your heritage? Was that extra trip to Disneyland worth the loss of a mother who loves you beyond all reason and has from the moment she discovered she was pregnant? Were the piano lessons worth the sorrow your brothers feel at your absence in their lives? Was the college tuition worth not knowing you are an exact carbon copy of your mother, right down to the rhythms in your poetry?

Those are questions only you can answer.

And then I come back to the here and now and the lessons I learned from Elder Cook’s talk: We are called to love, support, and serve sisters who are single parents for whatever reason. This tells me it is not for me to determine who is worthy of my efforts, who is deserving to be a mother and who isn’t deserving. My role is to support and care for these single mothers and help strengthen their parenting skills. Period. Not convince them they are not able to parent. Not convince them their child would be better off with strangers, to be adopted and sealed away from their natural families for time and all eternity.

Support and love them in their role as mother in every way possible. That is the sum total of what we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are called to do. Not convince them they are not capable or able to parent.

I could spend another couple of hours pontificating, but I can hear little Penelope over the baby monitor. “Ma, ma, ma, ma, ma, ma, ma” she says, with ever increasing intensity. It makes me wonder how long you called for me all those years ago and the heartbreak you must have felt when I never came for you. You didn’t understand I thought I was doing what was best for you, that I was trying to protect you from the “horrors” of being raised by a single mother.

All you knew is that you called out for me and I never returned.

I am so sorry for that.

M.

I Double-Dog Dare You, Brother and Sister Arnell

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I have a friend, a newly formed first mother who is still in the tender, fragile first year of post-relinquishment. Over on her blog “My Story”,  an uber-helpful man in her life, “Brother Arnell,”  has posted several comments to which I simply had to respond. I really should be writing my dissertation, but this just keeps getting stuck in my brain and I am afraid if I don’t write about it, it will continue to block my progress on what I should be doing. So here is the comment that I have had a hard time digesting:

I didn’t realize that as a man, husband and father of six I might be so clueless about parenthood as some of the respondents seem to think, so I asked my wife who has (among all our children) 52 years of 24/7, one-on-one, day-and-night mothering experience (not to mention pregnancy, labor, delivery and miscarriages) and who, for what it’s worth, knows something of the heartache of broken families. Her response: “Conception, nine months of pregnancy and 3-36 hours of labor do not a mother make – motherhood requires a lifetime of service.” (Brother Arnell, Feb 21, 2011;emphasis mine)

I would like to issue a challenge to Brother Arnell and his wife: I challenge them to look into the eyes of the mother of a child that was stillborn, the mother of a child who died in early infancy, the mother of a child lost to a miscarriage and I DARE them to tell that woman she is NOT a mother because she did not serve her child for a lifetime. I challenge them to look at that mother in the eyes and speak those same words they just said to Kara: “Conception, nine months of pregnancy, and 3-36 hours of labor do not a mother make – motherhood requires a lifetime of service. In fact, I issue this challenge to ANY PERSON who thinks the ONLY requirement for motherhood is serving a child for a lifetime.

I challenge them to look into the eyes of Abby’s mother and tell her she is NOT a mother because Abby passed within hours of being born. (Be prepare and have lots of Kleenex on hand if you follow that link….). I challenge them to look into the eyes of my friend here on base, who lost her lovely 9-month old daughter to a tragic illness two years ago this month. I DARE them to tell her she does not qualify to be called MOTHER because she did not serve her sweet daughter for a lifetime. I challenge them to send Curtis’s mother an email telling her that since she did not spend a lifetime serving him as he was stillborn at 40 weeks gestation, that she is NOT a mother. I dare them to look into my sister-in-law’s eyes and tell her that because my sweet nephew, her only son, died at 5 months gestation and she did not get the chance to serve him “for a lifetime” that she is NOT his mother. (Just do not do it while my brother is around or they might end up in a headlock with 190 lbs of angry on top of them).

I think you would agree that treating these mothers of loss this way would be absurd and I doubt you would find one single person who would take me up on that challenge (but maybe Brother Arnell would like to try it anyway?).

So why is it that mothers of loss (to adoption) are treated soooooooooooooo differently? Why is it the public assumes that we do not grieve, that we do not suffer, that we do not ache to hold our lost child just one more time as much as these women? Why is it that my friend, even two years later, is still having people bring her meals around the anniversary of her daughter’s passing and people still stop and hug her at the mailboxes and wipe her tears away? Why is she afforded that but I am not? Why am I told I should just get over you? I know it has been longer than two years for us, but I highly doubt that in 16 more years, my friend is going to have anyone say to her, “It was so long ago, just forget about her and move on already, will you? You have other children – stop crying about the one you lost.”

One of the things I find the most perplexing in this whole adoption transaction is that it is presumably  based on the deep and abiding love a birth mother has for her child. We (I) love our child so much that we gave her (you)  “more.” However, once the adoption is final, that deep and abiding love that moved us to make such a “selfless choice” no longer matters and some people feel that it no longer  (or should not) even exist.

And then you get people like Brother Arnell and his lovely wife who state that because I did not spend a lifetime serving you, I am neither a mother nor do I deserve the status of “motherhood” decreed up on me.

So if I am not a mother, then what am I Brother and Sister Arnell?

Much love,

M.

No Hat Tossing for Me, Just Singing Solo on a Blacked-Out Stage

There has been a recent eruption in the blogosphere between some LDS folks and the ladies over at the forum/blog that bills their blog as a  “place where first/birth/natural/real mothers share news and opinions. And vent.”

Some of my friends who read these letters I write to you and that forum/blog have wondered why I have not tossed my hat into the ongoing fracas over there. Well, the main reason is this: it is “a place for first/birth/natural mothers to share news, opinions, and vent”…unless you do not fit within their narrow, stereotyped notion of what an LDS birth mother should act like or say.

If they truly wanted to have honesty in advertising, their headline banner should read like this: “A place where first/birth/natural/real mothers share news and opinions. And vent. (That is, unless you are an active LDS birth mother who doesn’t fit within our “good LDS b-mommy” paradigm and regurgitate LDSFS propaganda which allows us to summarily attack your argument and dismiss your experiences all in one fell swoop, as we do all useful idiots. Do not bother posting a comment if you are a thinking, articulate LDS birth mother who is still a faithful member  but DOES NOT believe in the LDSFS garbage. It will not further our agenda so we will not post it.)”

However, that headline is not nearly as catchy or all-inclusive as the “place where first/birth/natural/real mothers share news and opinions. And vent.” one is, would you not agree?

It is terribly ironic. I am in nearly 100% agreement on every single thing the owners of that blog post about adoption and family preservation. This latest discussion about the Oregon bill HB 2904? I come down firmly on the side of “IT IS FABULOUS” and much needed legislation. It is a giant leap forward in the protection of expectant parents AND potential adoptive parents.

However, it seems like because I am LDS I have been branded as “one of them.” And because I am “one of them,” but I do not spout the typical, “adoption is such a miracle and a blessing” garbage so typical of LDS b-mommies, the blog owners do not know quite what to do with me. Honestly, I can understand their leery hesitation – I am about as unusual as a unicorn in the LDS adoption scene. Unfortunately, however thoughtful, measured, or supportive of their cause my response may be, my (still faithful and active LDS member) voice doesn’t serve a useful purpose to them. They cannot grind their anti-LDS ax against my rough stone, as it were.

I have submitted numerous posts over the past months merely seeking to correct misconceptions about LDS policy or doctrine that seem to have just….disappeared. Some of the ones where I call out other church members make the editorial/censorship cut but the ones that attempt to explain or correct misinformation (using published sources, not my personal conjecture or opinion) just…dissipate into a gaseous cloud of binary information floating around out there on the internet. (I know that is not what really happens, but just let me wax poetic for a moment, mmmkay?)

After a while, a girl gets the message.

Your voice is not welcome. There is no room at the table for you. Move along, little lady, move along.

Once again, it feels terribly ironic.  I would have thought (and I did at first), that the blog owners would welcome a staunch LDS church member who supports their positions on adoption 100%. I would have thought that my lived experiences as a birth mother who has (a) not left the church and (b) isn’t main-lining the adoption kool-aid like so many other LDS birth mothers would have been an asset to their discussion….

But I thought wrong.

Their continued heavy handed censorship of my comments has left me wondering…what other voices are they silencing? Who else is not being heard on the forum that touts itself as being a place for all birth mothers? Whose stories remain invisible? Whether it be for practical or political reasons, what does this silence tell us about the forum owners’ agenda?

And so, I choose simply not to submit any more comments. Why bother spending the time crafting a carefully worded, well reasoned response that I know will not be posted? I do not fit the role of the useful idiot LDS b-mommy and so they have no use for me.

I had hoped to find some camaraderie over there, and indeed I have. Through that forum I have met many wonderful adoptees and first mothers who have helped me normalize (as much as possible) this experience of living with disenfranchised grief. However, it has become apparent by the {chirping crickets} silence that I am not welcome there ….and if I am not welcome there, then where do I fit? Where does my voice belong? The owners of that forum do not seem to want me around…I definitely know the good LDS b-mommies do not want me around. So where do I fit?

I cannot believe I am the only LDS mother who has dealt with these issues and chosen to remain in the church. I cannot believe I am the only LDS mother who while extremely grateful I have had the “best” of adoption outcomes as defined by the LDS culture, I am still deeply unhappy about this issue and suffering because of my culture. I cannot believe I am the only LDS mother who is willing to speak out against infant adoption as we currently practice it.

Sometimes I feel like I am singing a solo in the middle of a dark stage with no audience, no accompaniment, no back up choir, nothing but the spot light burning down on me.

 

Someone Has to Face the Valley, Part 3: (Some) Answers

Dear Ms. Feverfew,

I am feeling pretty emotionally wrung out, like one of the old bath towels we would use to dry off after one of our daily water fights during the hot desert summers there in Utah. Invariably, just as I was almost dry enough to be let back in the house, a brother would turn the hose on me again, drenching me and the towel. I would enlist the help of one of my siblings to  twist is up like a pretzel, wringing out as much water as possible so I could try to dry off again. That’s kind of what I feel like right now. I am a frayed and faded threadbare towel, laying on the hot summer sidewalk after being twisted into knots.

The first half of the 50 minute session started with me explaining my background and then I started asking him some of the questions I had brought with me. That all ended  when I started asking questions about the counsel single expectant mothers are given in comparison to newly converted single mothers. With tears brimming in my eyes I asked him, “Why was I told it was selfish to raise my daughter but no one would ever consider saying that to a new convert who was single and had a nine month old daughter? What is so different about me and my daughter?” He tipped back onto the back two legs of his chair, crossed his arms and declared, “The church is not interested in justifying its position on adoption. I have a few things I would like to tell you, but I don’t think you would listen.” I said, “Try me.”

And then I sat pretty much silent for the second half as he proceeded to tell me what my problems were and how he felt he was qualified in fixing them.

So I will just hit the “highlights” of the visit with Brother O. and then digest them at greater length over the next few days.

Most Helpful Information:

  • Brother O. told me that the LDS church is looking to get out of adoptions entirely. He said they are going to start referring members who need adoption services to “private agencies”, Catholic Charities, or Lutheran Family Services. When I asked him why, he said, “Members are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the heavy subsidization of adoptions through the tithes and offerings.” While I suspect that has something to do with it, I also suspect the recent lawsuits of fathers who have had their rights trampled on by LDSFS and Utah adopters working their way through the court system there in Utah has a lot to do with it too.  Probably a lot more than any leader in the church is willing to admit out loud.
  • Brother O. also told me that ANY LDS “birth mother” who has EVER relinquished a baby, whether with LDSFS or not is entitled to free counseling for the rest of her life.  I told him he is the first person in the last 18 years that has told me this. Even his secretary told me I had to pay for the visit when I spoke with her on Monday. He leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, tipped his chin up as the muscles around his eyes went hard, and in a low voice said, “Are you calling me a liar? Pat works for me. She doesn’t know what she is talking about.” Now that I look back, this should have been a clear sign to me to just end the conversation and be done but you know me and my crazy belief that people are fundamentally good and helpful unless they prove otherwise. But bottom line: I didn’t have to pay $112.50 yesterday to be told that my testimony of the gospel is doubtful because of the types of questions I was asking.

Sort of Helpful Information

  • When asked about Fred Riley’s statement about adoption being a priesthood ordinance, he scornfully laughed and said, “He doesn’t work for LDSFS anymore. What does it matter what he said or when he said it?” I pressed him on the issue again and he said, “No, it isn’t. It never has been.” Good, glad we cleared that up.
  • According to Brother O. Colorado now allows any adoptee upon the age of 18 to access their full unamended birth certificate. I don’t know if this is true or not or sort of true for some adoptees but not others.
  • Church policy about contact between adoptees and natural families has changed. (Already knew that.)
  • No, adoptees are not offered the free lifetime counseling if they were surrendered through LDSFS. He had no response to my question, “Why?”

Least Helpful Information

  • When asked why the LDS church was so involved with NCFA, Brother O. tipped his head back again and looked down his freckled nose at me saying, “I don’t see why that is even a concern of yours.”
  • When discussing adoption and the various stories from the scriptures,  he raised his voice at me a bit and said, “Melynda – those are all just metaphors. What do they really mean? They are just words.” Stunned, I just looked at him not sure what to say.
  • “You are truly the exception to the rule, Melynda. Most other single mothers aren’t as successful as you have been. Most other first mothers don’t get their act together either.” (Another point I should have gotten up and left.)

Really, Truly, Awful Things That Should Have Never Been Said

  • “Your questions lead me to believe you have an issue with the church. You are conflating  Mormonism with adoption. They are two different things.” (Uh…no. No they aren’t in this particular situation. Not when the very principles and foundational beliefs of the gospel were used a tools to convince me that my daughter deserved more than me.)
  • “I think it would be good for you to meet with me. Consider it immersion therapy – it would force you to sit here and talk to a man in a white shirt and tie in an LDS church building, and face it, that’s what you really have a problem with – the LDS church.” (My response: “No it isn’t. If I had a problem with the “church,” I sure would not be sitting here today talking to you. I wouldn’t hold a temple recommend, I wouldn’t be paying tithing, and I sure wouldn’t be doing my Visiting Teaching every month.”
  • He saved the best for last though. I had mentioned a couple of times that I know where my daughter lives and that she had grown into a lovely young woman and he said, “What kind of power does having the information give you?” I said what any first mother would say – I get to know that my daughter is alive and that she appears to be doing well. He pressed again, “No, what kind of satisfaction are you getting from knowing where she lives?” Hot tears started streaming down my cheeks as I looked at him and said, “I get to know that my daughter is ALIVE. This is something most first mothers NEVER get to know about their child.” Nonplussed, he pressed again with a sneer in his voice, “You must derive some type of power or satisfaction from this information, especially since her parents don’t want you involved with her life.”  At this point, I had no response….I just sat there and let the tears fall. This is when I knew I was d.o.n.e. talking with him.

Needless to say, I won’t be going back no matter how fabulous Brother O. thinks it would be for me. Thank you, but I don’t need your kind of help. Even though I wouldn’t have to pay any money, the cost for the “help” he is offering is far to high.

More to come later –

M.

It’s Time to Try Defying Gravity

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

It seems that I set off a firestorm yesterday, unintentionally. I am not the type of person to go around picking fights with people and anyone who knows me would agree with this. After all of the happy-happy joy-joy adoption is such a gift and and a miracle blogs I have digested in an honest effort to understand where the typical LDS adoptive mother is coming from, if I really wanted to pick a fight about LDS adoption I could have and would have. But I don’t because as anyone who knows me would attest – that’s not how I roll. But…

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

Yesterday, Lola/Laura made several statements that really struck a chord with me. No, I am not talking about the personal attacks on my motherhood, my parenting, or my life – those I can frankly forgive because it is the standard party line response to any woman who dares to step out of line and speaks up about the pain adoption has caused. It is not just first mothers who encounter this, but enlightened LDS adoptive parents who understand that yes, their eternal family is built upon the ashes and remains of another family. It isn’t that these adoptive parents go around wearing sack cloth and ashes and rending their coat, but they at least acknowledge and accept this reality.  These kinds of adoptive parents are frequently met with the same vitriol that first mothers are when they dare question the status quo of infant adoption in the LDS community.  So, to make a short statement long – I don’t take those kinds of attacks on my parenting ability or familial relationships personally.

But back to the statements that did get me thinking. Towards the end of her first response, Lola/Laura said:

CLEARLY, you will continue to suffer as long as you continue to fight and rage against something that can never, and will never be different.

It’s the basic equivalent of being angry that humans have to breathe or that, I don’t know, gravity exists.

Don’t rage against what is. You will lose every time.

With this attitude of equating adoption with breathing and gravity, is it any wonder that Utah County has the highest surrender rate in the nation? Is it any wonder that many LDS first mothers feel marginalized or belittled by their culture? Is it any wonder that so very many of those LDS first mothers end up leaving the church in the long years post-placement? This attitude of “Don’t rage against what is. You will lose every time” is an all-pervasive belief that is riveted on the hearts of many LDS people.  As first mothers, both pre-surrender and post-surrender, we are met with this attitude on every front: Give up – it will never, it can never be different. You will lose very time.

It’s time to try
Defying gravity
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!

I wonder if this the same attitude that many of our black brothers and sisters were met with pre-1978 when they attempted to discuss the Priesthood. Were they told the same things? Were they told give up – you not having the priesthood is just like breathing or gravity. It will never, it can never be different. Stop raging against what is, you will lose very time.

In response to Lola/Laura’s comment, I wrote this:

However, you are right. Fighting for change in LDS adoption is like fighting against gravity. But just like we humans have been able to “slip the surly bonds of earth” and peer into the galaxies, I believe change can and will happen. The ability to defy gravity started with one apple and one man who was willing to look at things in a different way. It will be the same with LDS adoption. One apple, one person, one voice willing to speak out.  It might take 304 years before the equivalent of the moon landing happens in the LDS adoption world but change is happening, as evidenced by the changes in the official Handbook. Hopefully it won’t take that long but if it does take 304 years? It’s OK because in the end, time doesn’t matter to God.

I know I will be met with the sentiment as I try to defy this generational gravity in the LDS adoption culture. “Can’t I make you understand? You’re having delusions of grandeur” (Glinda, Wicked, the Musical) is pretty much what I was told yesterday. But that’s OK. Really. I cannot go back to sleep, anesthetized by the adoption fog that mercifully protects first mothers those first five or so years post-placement. I am fully awake and aware of the challenges and resistance I will encounter. However,

I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I’d sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down.

As someone told me lately:
“Ev’ryone deserves the chance to fly!”
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I’m flying high
Defying gravity

Much love and belief in your own attempts to defy gravity –

M.

P.S. Lola/Laura: I am grateful for your comments and for the opportunity to clarify my stance and position on this subject. Like I said before, I hold no ill-will towards you personally. I am sorry that it was such a confrontational encounter yesterday and I hope that today is a better one all around.

(Note: All quoted lyrics are from the song “Defying Gravity” in Wicked, the Musical.)