“As I look back on what I’ve learned about shame, gender, and worthiness, the greatest lesson is this: If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
Dear Ms. Feverfew –
I don’t write many letters to you lately, but today I echo Dr. Brown’s words: If we are ever to find our way back to each other, past the shame that is the essence of adoption, it is because we support each other in the process of becoming real to each other again.
So today, I set down the list of what a “good” LDS birth mother is supposed to be. I set down the stony expectations of my religion and my culture. They have sought to invalidate our connection, to convince both of us that we are no longer real to each other.
But you are real. Just as Poppy is my real daughter, so are you. You are not a ghost nor a lost daughter. Your presence in this world carries weight and significance.
You are real. You are worthy. You are loved.
Just as you are.
Know that you are supported in your quest for wholeness, that my love for you is an ever burning blaze, even in your darkest of moments.
You are real. You are worthy. You are loved.
Just as you are.
Dear Anonymous Search Engine User:
In short, no.
It doesn’t make you a bad person, per se, to give your child up for adoption, especially if you have not been told the full truth about the potential risks adoption brings your relinquished child’s life, not to mention anything about yours. What you need to know is that adoption will break you in ways you did not know you could be broken. Adoption can also break your child in ways that you had no idea a child could be broken. This damage – this breaking along the fault lines of your soul – compounds across the years. It is not a one time thing. It gets bigger as it spreads, like a tsunami traveling across a deep ocean.
And while you are not “bad” for choosing to relinquish your child for adoption without full knowledge of the truth, you will be treated as if you were “bad.” The moment you sign the voluntary termination of parental rights paperwork, you will be treated like there was something defective in you, which is why you don’t deserve to have any kind of relationship with your child. After all, what kind of woman gives their baby to strangers????
And when you wake up from the adoption-industry induced anesthesia and discover the depth of injury you have caused your child and you are crazy with grief, society (and even perhaps the adoptive parents and your once-upon-a-time child) will point at that grief as “evidence” that you were “bad” and didn’t “deserve” your child.
So think carefully about the adoption “decision” and the potential long-term devastation you are inviting into your child’s life, even if you think you are choosing “good” adoptive parents. Your child wants only you. You and you alone. Be your child’s hero. Not some white infertile couple who has a slick advertising book on some corner of the internet, boasting about all their Stuff and all the Things.
Your. Baby. Wants. You. Your. Baby. Needs. You.
And, if after saturating yourself in the true facts of the cost of adoption to your child’s long-term mental health, you still relinquish your child for adoption? Then yes, yes you are a bad person.
One Who Wishes She Had Been Told the Truth 23 Years Ago
Hmmmm….This sounds a lot like the LDS church and the LDSFS’s treatment of single expectant mothers. It also parallels the church’s teaching that adoption “blesses” the birth parents and the child in this life and in eternity and that it should be considered a gift to all involved. Sacred, even.
Is it really a gift and blessing to be severed from your heritage, your ancestors, your people, and your mother for eternity, thanks to the sealing ordinance? Is it really a gift and blessing to be severed from your child, your future grandchildren, and your descendants for eternity? Is having your existence expunged from history, a complete and total annihilation of your motherhood – from a legal and a doctrinal point of view – really a gift?
Most of us with any heart or conscience would say no, those are not true gifts nor are they blessings.
Yet these are the gifts and blessings a Mormon god and his people give the most vulnerable of among the church, single mothers and their newborn children. She asks the Mormon god for bread, but is given a stone instead.
After all, she got herself into this mess. She can live with the consequences.
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.
Note to self:
Reading Amy Tan’s “The Valley of Amazement” the week of your daughter’s birthday is not a good idea as parts of it will leave you weeping and unable to breathe.