Shadows Taller Than Our Souls

The Friday before she was killed in a car accident on I-15 in Utah, my sister informed me that when she died she wanted one song played at her funeral: Stairway to Heaven.

Did she know she would be gone within 26 hours, catapulted into eternity like a fierce star shooting across the sky? How? And why this song? What turn of phrase made a vibrant 18-year old girl extract a promise from her younger sister that this song – THIS SONG – should be played when she died?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but what I do know is this: I have felt my sister’s presence surrounding me today, buoying me up, celebrating my professional successes with me (and there have been many today), while tending my broken mother-heart on this anniversary of my beloved daughter’s birth.  She’s reminded me to relax into the sharpness of adoption loss and that tightening against this moment makes the pain more intense. I can almost hear her say to me, “Just breathe little sister, breathe.”

And by coincidence, an article featuring Heart’s cover of Stairway to Heaven came across my Facebook feed this evening. I listened. I wept. And then I finally looked up the lyrics to this song. Now I am left wondering if perhaps this song wasn’t for her, but a message from her for those of us she left behind. For me.

“And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our souls
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all…”

I’ve spent the last twenty-three years watching my shadow grow longer and listening very hard. I think I can finally hear the tune. She whispers, “Everything will turn out just as it should. Nothing is lost. Nothing is wasted. The alchemy of the dark emotions will eventually yield gold. Patience, patience, and yet again – patience.”

Tonight, on Ms. Feverfew’s birthday, this is a message I needed to hear.

Happy birthday, Ms. Feverfew. I have a feeling Carolyn would have been crazy about you.

Guilt, Coercion, Threats – A New Mom Changes Her Mind – SOS In Action


“Bottom line is this, Clara is worthy of parenting her child and her child is worthy of staying in his original family, of keeping that family intact. When this is a possibility it should always be this way. Adoption should always and only be a last resort.”

If only I known this twenty years ago, instead of buying into the craptastic coercive lies of LDS bishops and the LDS culture. At least Clara and her little one are together, though. I can be grateful for that tonight.

Originally posted on Musings of a Birthmom:

As some of you may know, we are in the process of legitimizing our grassroots organization called Saving Our Sisters (SOS). The goal of SOS is to help vulnerable women avoid adoption relinquishment. Over the past couple of years the organization’s brain child and front-runner, Lynn Johansenn, has helped dozens of women, that had decided to utilize adoption, to keep their babies and successfully parent. SOS offers whatever support is needed to achieve this. Sometimes the support is emotional, sometimes financial, and sometimes legal. Most people who have been helping with this are members of the adoption community themselves. They include birth/first/natural mothers, adoptees, and even a couple of adoptive parents. When the alarm call is sounded, this vast network of people contributes to what is needed and we always end up with enough for the new mom.

Initially, when hearing about an expectant mother who is set on an…

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First Post: Being Open About Open Adoption: An Adoptee Blog


Another adult who grew up in an open adoption begin to speak her truth. I am constantly humbled by the courage and strength of Lost Daughters who have found their voice.

Originally posted on openadoptionadoptee:

Logic versus basic human emotion

How can something that makes complete logical sense still hurt so much? This is a constant battle in my mind and has been for most of my life. I knew I was adopted before I had any idea what the word even meant. I knew that it somehow made me different and I knew that I was the only one in the family who was this thing, “adopted.” For the first decade of my life, I thought little of it. I was blissfully unaware of everything being adopted meant. I was simply the youngest daughter in a family of six. I didn’t know that I had gone by a different name for the first month of my life. I didn’t know that my biological mother was a family member and that everyone else in the family knew who she was, but didn’t know when or…

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And Yet, I am Still Told to “Get Over” Her

I’ve written about maternal-fetal microchimerism before. It served as the foundation of a poem I wrote about two years ago, “Animaeporosis.” It’s a topic that has come to the forefront of my thoughts again when recently, someone on a Facebook posted the article “Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains,” which states:

“The link between a mother and child is profound, and new research suggests a physical connection even deeper than anyone thought. The profound psychological and physical bonds shared by the mother and her child begin during gestation when the mother is everything for the developing fetus, supplying warmth and sustenance, while her heartbeat provides a soothing constant rhythm. . . .Cells may migrate through the placenta between the mother and the fetus, taking up residence in many organs of the body including the lung, thyroid, muscle, liver, heart, kidney and skin.”

Profound psychological and physical bonds shared by a mother and her child – shared by me and my child. Her fetal cells that have taken up residence in my brain, lungs, thyroid, muscles, liver, heart, kidneys, skin, bone marrow . . .and yet. And yet I am told I should just “let go” of her. “Get over” her. “Move on.”

How do I “move on” when my relinquished daughter – in a very literal manner, thanks to maternal-fetal microchimerism – lives in every thought, in every expansion of my lungs as I inhale and exhale, in every beat of my heart, in the very thing that covers every inch of me? How does any woman “get over” someone so deeply embedded in her physical being?

It’s been almost 22 years. I am still seeking an answer that provides lasting relief from this bone-deep ache for my relinquished daughter.

Collateral Damage: On Adoption, Beheadings, and Invisible Siblings

Did you know Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, one of the recent beheading victims of the Islamic State, was an adoptee?

When I first heard it on the news (and once I started breathing again) my first question was: Does his mother know?  Forgive me, it’s a knee-jerk reaction I have whenever I hear of an adoptee’s passing. And by mother, I do not mean adoptive mother. I mean the woman in whose womb Peter was knitted together. Because surely, his adoptive mother knows, since she’s all over the news (and seems like a perfectly lovely woman, by the way.) But his first mother – the woman who bled for him as she labored him into this world – did she know he was gone?

Through some quick Internet research, I learned that Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig had indeed found his first mother soon after his 18th birthday and had become close with his two younger half-siblings.  But sadly, I came across this article of their first interview since their beloved older brother had been tortured and killed: Here are some of the words he wrote to his sister, Jana, while in captivity (the letter to her was one of only two he was able to send during the year and two months he was being held captive by the Islamic State). To his sister he wrote:

“Did you know, when I was little, I used to pray for a little sister? I prayed and prayed, but I didn’t see how it was possible. What do you know? One day I found myself staring at a picture of you and all I could think was, ‘She’s perfect.’

“You are the best thing that has ever happened to me: you and your brother.”

To Peter, Jana and Sam were perfect. They were his prayed for miracle. They were, in his words, “the best thing” that had ever happened to him.

And yet, thanks to adoption laws, the federal government does not recognize Jana or Sam as Peter’s siblings, next of kin, or members of his family, regardless of their shared DNA, regardless of their deep emotional bonds. Therefore, the U.S. Government did not and will not provide grief counseling for them as they do for family members of hostages and kidnapping victims, which in the case of Peter means only his adoptive family, not his natural family. Not Jana and Sam, the best things that ever happened to Peter.

Much like my three younger children, Jana and Sam are collateral damage of adoption. They are the invisible siblings, the forgotten of the adoption constellation.

In their first interview since the Islamic State captured, tortured and killed Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig in Syria, his biological mother, Rhonda Schwindt, and two siblings describe a bureaucracy that declined to help a grieving family at its lowest moments. Kassig was beheaded Nov. 16.

When they lost contact with their brother Oct. 1, 2013, the Schwindts say the FBI kept his captivity a secret from them for 5½ months despite extending victims assistance to his adoptive parents, Ed and Paula Kassig. Once they learned of his fate, the Schwindts say they were denied federal assistance in finding grief counseling and the FBI told them to keep quiet — even after Kassig’s parents and friends were encouraged to speak up in an unsuccessful attempt to save him.

More than a week after his death, Jana Schwindt still doesn’t have an exact copy of the letter her brother penned to her in captivity. The original, they were told by the FBI, was processed as evidence and destroyed.

Jana, Sam, Matthew, Luke, Poppy, Lyne, Marie, Teresa, Lily, Violet, Heather, Max, Jane, Kyle, Keith, Mark, Eliza, Spence, JP, Caroline, Phoebe, Margaret, Bonnie, Claudia, Nancy, Melissa, Benjamin, Trevor, Cindy, Steve . . .I could go on and on with their names, but my tears stop me tonight as I think of their collective losses.

These are my friends with whom I have wept when they discovered they have 47-year old sister somewhere out there. These are my friends who have called me at midnight, wondering why their adopted-out sibling has cut off contact with them again after what they had thought was a lovely Christmas holiday to Hawaii. These are my own children. These are the ones who, if their beloved older sibling were beheaded by terrorists, would not be acknowledged as “real” by the U.S. government and would be deemed undeserving of victim assistance.

The fact this cloak of invisibility goes both ways is not lost on me. If it were my son in Peter’s position, Ms. Feverfew would not qualify for victim’s assistance, either. The law does not recognize her as next of kin or immediate family of any kind.

I’ll keep asking these questions until I get a satisfactory answer: Tell me again,  how is adoption, an act that renders my children invisible to each other in the eyes of the law, a loving act? How is this blessing my family “into the eternities” as I was promised it would?

Tell me again, what part of this is about love?


Another article about Kassig’s natural family:

Merry Christmas


Earlier this year, in a series of what felt like devastating events at the time, I was gifted with release and the sure witness I have done all I can. I have fulfilled my sacred contract.

Unlike every Christmas Eve for over two decades, tonight there are no tears but a profound awareness my daughter is exactly where she needs to be to learn the lessons she needs to learn from God/Life/The Universe at this very moment.

With peace this advent season, I pronounce blessings on her head and on the heads of all the Lost Daughters who have walked this journey with me these last eight years. I am connected to each of you in ways I never dreamed possible and my life is enriched in countless ways.

Much love and belief to all of you –


The Doctrine of Transferability & LDS Adoption Policy

The Doctrine of Transferability states:

“When a man and a woman are married in the temple for time and all eternity and then separate, the children will go with the parent who is justified and who has kept the covenants. If neither of them has kept his covenants, the children may be taken away from both of them and given to somebody else and that would be by virtue of being born under the covenant. A child is not to be sealed the second time when born under the covenant, but by virtue of that birthright can be transferred. (Questions Frequently Asked About the Temple and the Endowment. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, 10).

Let me see if I have this straight: In a Mormon afterlife, children can be taken away from less righteous parents and given to more righteous ones by virtue of the sealing ordinance. Children can thereby be transferred from one family to another, never taking into consideration what the child may want. It’s all about the more righteous parents being “justified.”

Sounds an awful lot like LDS adoption policy to me.

Should anyone be wondering why LDS first mothers are such a hot mess most of the time, this is a perfect example of why. This is what we were taught from the time we were small enough to sit on our mother’s laps. That if we aren’t perfect, we deserve to loose our children. Not only do we deserve it, but we should expect it, too.

LDS first mothers have been taught since our youngest days that if any parent isn’t righteous enough, he or she will have their children taken from them in the next life and transferred to someone else, some more “qualified” and “worthy” couple. The pattern has already been set in our doctrine – we are mere players on a stage at this point. Parents that are “unrighteous” in this life lose their children and the more righteous (and infertile) ones feel perfectly justified in facilitating the transfer of those children into their family. After all, it is a pattern God has set forth for the eternities. Why not help Him along right now?

Does This Part Get Easier?

Someone stop me. Now.

I am doing it again.

I am buying way too many gifts for Poppy, just like I have done every year at Christmas time since she was born.  Last Christmas was the first time I was truly cognizant of it, but really did not quite grasp why I was doing it. I just know I *totally* blew the budget.

This year I have figured out why I do this and it is alum to my soul.

It is over-compensation, plain and simple, driven by the subconscious need  to make up for all the Christmases I did not have with Ms. Feverfew.

I wish someone had told me 22 years ago that not only would I lose my oldest daughter to adoption, but I would lose the ability to fully enjoy another holiday season to adoption, too, that it would steal precious moments with my other children from me like a thief. I wish someone had told me that the losses would compound and grow as the years unfolded. I wish Bishop Felix or someone who knew would have told me this gets harder, not easier, as the years go by. My ability to withstand the grief has grown, too, but some days. . . some days like today when I was standing in the girl’s clothing section at Kohls with Poppy at my side ooohing and aaahing over the sparkly Hello Kitty purses, it hits me and my heart tightens and it’s hard to breathe.

I will never get the chance to stand next to a 4-year old Ms. Feverfew in Kohls as she delights in the purse selection and talks me in to buying one for her.

It is never more obvious Ms. Feverfew is missing from our family than when we are together on Christmas morning as Matthew, Luke, and Poppy dig into their stockings. Always, always, always, there is the unspoken Truth that lingers in the air between my boys and me. Their oldest sister is not there. I can see it in the flicker of their eyes when we are talking about extended family members who are enjoying Christmas morning, too. It’s a look between them, a feint of the eyes towards me, and slight shake of the head that Matthew gives to Luke, almost as if to tell him, “Not now, little brother. This isn’t the time to ask Mom about Ms. Feverfew.”

Actually, that is not the entire truth of the matter.

It is obvious she is missing every time we sit down to eat dinner together. We have a table that seats six. There is always an empty seat. Our vehicle seats six. There is always an empty seat.

It is that empty seat driving my behavior towards Poppy when it comes to gift buying.
My question is now that I am conscious of how I am overcompensating, what do I do to stop myself? I’m trying to be more mindful of my actions and working very hard to be present in the here and now, not the what-could-have-been ghost of years gone by, but it is a tenuous walk right now. Someone please tell me this gets easier as time goes on, that it gets easier to raise my sweet Poppy, that eventually the ghost of her lost-to-adoption-sister will stop shadowing the joy I have with this amazing creature who came into my life four years ago.

Does this part of adoption get easier?