My Daily Measure

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I had to take a few days off from writing…I needed a break from all of this adoption stuff.

I needed some time to regroup, rethink, and recenter. There is a recent post over at First Mother Forum that really causes some serious introspection about what our future relationship might be like. The title of the post is “Why Don’t I like My Birth Mother” and it describes the “dance” that natural mothers and adoptees sometimes go through during the years after being reunited.

Reading what the author said stung. Reading the comments left by mothers and adoptees stung.  Is this what my our future holds? And if so, how am I ever going to navigate through it?

I guess what I found so startling is that in many ways, I could have written the post but titled it, “Why Don’t I Like My Birth Mother?” You see, I have acted those same ways towards my own mother many times over the years.

I mean, I love the woman now – don’t get me wrong. She is a completely different person than she was during the 17/18 years that she raised me. I can recognize and appreciate the woman who is my mother today is not the same woman who gave birth to me 37 years ago, if that makes any sense.

We have a peace treaty of sorts in place now.

But…but our family history looms in the background, a constant scythe ready to cut through any happiness we might be able to broker.  Even all these years later (and countless therapy sessions) the abuse at the hands of my biological father – physical, emotional, sexual –  still affects my relationship with my mother in profound ways.

I fear her abandoning me again. Of turning her back on me while the wolves devour my soul. Of leaving me to my own defenses to make my way through a dark and threatening childhood. And sometimes that fear makes me angry. Spiteful. Mean. Petty.

I know that fear is irrational. It is unfounded in our current reality and relationship. But it is still there. Each time I decide to interact with her, I have to sum up the courage to lay those fears at the foot of the cross and to walk a new path with her in faith.

It has been a long journey for me to even reach this point. Zero hour came for me during therapy one time about nine years ago when I was kvetching about (what appeared to me) my mother’s reckless abandonment of me, about her failure to protect me from my biological father, about her part in the abuse heaped on me throughout my childhood.

My very wise and loving therapist said to me, “M., but your mother has apologized to you, hasn’t she? Repeatedly if I remember…”

This was met by several minutes of stony silence on my part, my heart and face set like flint.

Very gently, but very firmly he said to me, “At what point M., do you become the adult and take responsibility for your reaction to your mother’s parenting choices? You can continue down this path or…”

He paused here as he handed me the box of Kleenex as tears started streaming down my cheeks.

“…or you can chose compassion for yourself. For your mother. You can chose to forgive her. She is genuinely sorry for what happened and for not protecting you.  At this point, it is what it is – what happened then cannot be undone. But it can be over come – it is your choice. She has done what she can to make amends. Now it is your turn.”

I wish I could say I was immediately enlightened at that moment, that transcendent clarity filled my mind and compassionate forgiveness for my mother’s stupid choice to stay with my biological father for 23 years filled my soul. But it didn’t. It took time. It took a lot of time. But it was at that moment I began to see my mother through new eyes and I began to understand my responsibility in mending the brokenness between my mother and myself.

She was doing the best that she thought she could at the time with the limited skill set and knowledge that she had. Had she known differently, she would have acted differently. As a mother myself – and not just your mother, but the mother of two sons and a soon-to-be-born daughter – I can see that now.

So, I guess I am trying to say that I understand both sides of the equation – I can feel compassion for the adoptee who feels the need to lash out at his or her natural mother because of the cavernous feelings of abandonment and betrayal. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt, unfortunately. But on the other hand, I can also feel compassion for mothers (my mother and myself included) who truly believed they were doing the best thing they could do for their child but it turned out to be the worst choice instead.

It is a strange feeling – this looking backward and forward at the same time.  I marvel at the daily measure of grace I am given to walk in peace with my own mother. I hope that eventually you and I can come to that same place of grace in our own relationship. Just remind me when things get hard between us that it took me a good 32 years to finally reach that point with my own mother.

Much love and belief in the marvelous creation you are –

M.

LDS Policy on Adoptees Searching for Their Birth Parents

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

In case you were curious as to what the LDS church’s official stance is on searching for family of origin, here is it, straight from the Handbook of Instructions.

Adopted Children and Their Natural Parents (p. 173)

Local Church leaders should discourage adopted children and their adoptive parents from seeking to identify the children’s natural parents.  When adopted children have genetic or medical problems, the family may seek medical information about the natural parents but should be discouraged from seeking their identities.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (2006). Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1 Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics 2006.  Salt Lake City: UT.)

And this is why I despair of ever reuniting after relinquishing you within the LDS Family Services system.

In spite of this, I am doing the work necessary so that when and if you ever do decide to contact me, I will be ready and hopefully we can avoid the missteps and mistakes other mothers and daughters who have been reunited make. At least that is my plan.  As we know, reality is usually fraught with much more messiness than the clean, organized plans I come up with in the wee small hours of the morning.

Much love,

M.

P.S. February 17, 2011: Just thought I would update this post. Things are changing within the LDS adoption community, in particular this outdated and archaic stance on adoptees and their natural families. Read more about it HERE.

Have you seen my backbone?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Somehow, I have misplaced the courage to inform your adoptive parents I have moved across the country. Silly, isn’t it? It’s not like they really care, to be honest with you. After all the years of silence from them, they will most likely be relieved that I am far, far, far away.

So now I live in a place that’s a cross between Mayberry and a National Park. I would include a link to a google map of our address, but since it just takes you to a spot in the middle of a neighboring river, it won’t do you much good. We live so close to the ocean that if the wind is blowing up the bay, I can taste its heady, salty scent from my front porch.

But back to the matter at hand – we moved and in some ways, I have been able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. I spent a lot of time down in your area of the world visiting my in-laws and as you have gotten older, I have grown increasingly worried that I would inadvertently run into you. As much as I would love to see you again, the frozen food section of your local Costco probably wouldn’t be the best place. So not being around reduces the risk of that exponentially – I am fairly certain you aren’t going to be hanging out at the local Barnes & Noble around here. I can go sit and read my books in peace while the good Professor plays with the Thomas the Tank Engine trainset they have on display.

And trust me, there is no doubt we would recognize each other in a fraction of a breath if our lives were to ever accidentally collide. We are cut from the same cloth, you and I. From the curve of your smile & the color of your skin to the way you part your hair – there is no mistaking that we are who we are. If you want to know what I look like, you need look no further than your reflection in the mirror.

But like many things in my life, not being in the area is a double edged sword. Since there is virtually no chance I will run into you at the corner grocery store, that secret hope of mine is gone, even though I know it would be particularly traumatizing for both of us to meet while reaching for the same pineapple at Albertsons. It was always a possibility when I was there in the area and one that is gone now. Mr. Amazing Man doesn’t get why I am so sad about leaving as he is perfectly convinced that you are going to come find me the moment you can, regardless of where I might be living. I guess it is just the fact that…well, that there isn’t even the chance of an accidental meeting now.

And that makes me sad.

M.