What Goes By the Name of Love

Image of a large extended family and text that says 'I have a heritage and blood line.  Why do I have to lose that before you will care for me?" Picture from Adoptee Rights Australia, Inc.

I have a good friend whose husband is a Baby Scoop era adoptee through LDS Social Services. He recently met his original family and she shared some of the reunion photos with me.

Everyone is going on and on and on about how grateful they are that his birthmother chose life, saying how brave she was to give him up for adoption. What courage she had. That she is a hero for giving him life, then giving him away.

As a first/birth mother who relinquished my daughter 28 years ago due to the LDS cult brainwashing and coercion, I am GUTTED seeing those pictures.

I am filled with rage at how single expectant mothers have been treated by the LDS church through the decades and how people fetishize adoption reunion, as if it fixes the life long trauma adoption can cause adoptees and their original families.

Here’s my unpopular opinion of the day: His birth mother was not brave. She was not courageous.

She was a terrified single expectant mom in a culture that told her that she had committed a sin second only to MURDER.

She was alone. She was bullied. She was told she was selfish. She was shamed by the LDS culture and leaders. She was sent away by her parents to hide her pregnancy. She was backed into a corner. She had no support. She couldn’t keep her job because she was pregnant. She couldn’t receive direct consultation for her medical care. She couldn’t have a bank account or a credit card without her father’s permission. She couldn’t legally live with her boyfriend, even if he stuck around instead of abandoning her.

She was told her son’s eternal salvation was dependent on her giving him to strangers.

She was many things, but brave was not one of them. Courage did not come into the equation for one moment.

In the mid 1960’s, she didn’t “choose life.” She had no choice. As a 19 year old single mother in the LDS church, SHE. HAD. NO. OPTIONS.

When she delivered her baby, she was probably drugged. She probably had a towel put over her face. She probably never saw him because the nurses took him away from her.

I peer at her in the photos can trace the path of disenfranchised grief and ambiguous loss etched in her face. The look of shock and relief at meeting this grown man who is bone of her bone, flesh of her flesh, yet a stranger.

Alive and well, but . . . not hers. Never hers, not here or in the eternities if one is to believe the sealing ordinance.

And seeing those pictures of him, standing next to his siblings, all of his brothers looking JUST LIKE HIM, their arms interlocked and with a look of ease and belonging in his eyes I have never seen in the 20 years I have known him. . .how can ANYONE call severing this man from his original family and identity for 50+ years “love”?

Why did there have to be a secret legal proceeding to change his identity and sever all kinship bonds?

Even if he had the best of adoptive parents who gave him the world, adoption still taught him and and his mother that love = a primal wound, a loss that cannot be mended.

Samuel Beckett once said, “What goes by the name of love is banishment, with now and then a postcard from the homeland.”

That’s what LDS adoptions are: Banishment in the name of love.


“Why Didn’t You Do More Research?”

A few days ago, a younger adoptive mother asked me – with a great deal of disdain, condescension, and ill-will in her message, why I didn’t “do more research” before I relinquished my daughter for adoption. I should have known things would turn out like this. After all, look at all the information that’s out there. Therefore, I had no right to grieve or feel sorrow. I should have known.

Uh . . . because it was 1992 and the World Wide Web was still so young its umbilical cord had not yet dried up and fallen off?

I think I can state with unequivocal certainty that not one of the 10 websites in 1992 was about the irreparable harm that can come to a mother and her child through adoption or the coercive adoption practices that dominated the LDS culture in Utah and LDS Family Services during that time period. I am also pretty certain not one of those 10 websites would have connected me with adoptees and mothers of adoption loss so I could learn from them what it was really like to live this life. Nor was there any website where I could connect with any kind of social aid or services – heck, not even a website on how to find safe & effective birth control.

What was I supposed to have done as a 19-year old pregnant single mother in the pre-World Wide Web era? Waddled my very unmarried pregnant self down the road to BYU and searched through the microfiche & journal stacks for non-existent academic studies about adoption loss, disenfranchised grief, and the long term mental health outcomes for adoptees? By hand?

Any “research” I could have done would have been reading materials created and given to me by LDS Family Services and the LDS church, such as the pamphlet they gave me about all of the horrors that would befall my daughter if I raised her as a single mother. You know, the one where it says that she’ll be less likely to graduate from high school, more likely to abuse drugs if I raised her a single mother, witness or be the victim of domestic violence, and a host of other societal ills.

Turns out that once the World Wide Web had matured to a point where I did have access to information that wasn’t created by the LDS church and I was able to actually do some real research (thanks, Google Scholar!), I discovered a very different story.

I was able to pull the original studies referenced in the pamphlet. And guess what? The main study they used to “prove” their point that I would ruin my daughter’s life if I raised her? It was a study involving a small sample of mothers who had very low IQs/learning disorders and were living independent of any support systems in urban settings.

Uh . . . that was nothing like me in 1992. But everyone acted like it WAS me. Treated me like it WAS me. But I had no way of knowing I was being compared to very low IQ mothers living in isolated urban environments.

My point is that the times were very different back then, especially for a young single Mormon mother in the heart of Utah. There was no Internet. There was no Google. There were no electronic databases of scholarly journal articles that I could search by keywords using Boolean operators.

There were only carefully crafted lies the LDS church fed mothers like me through LDS Family Services and Bonneville Communications.

So, dear random adoptive mother on the Internet who decided to judge me through today’s lens of 1.7 billion websites and make snarky comments on my social media, that’s why I didn’t do more “research” in 1992.

Knowing Them Helps Me Make Sense of Him

From his birth nearly 16 years ago, I’ve struggled at times to make sense of my second son. I love him to pieces and find him endlessly entertaining to talk with, but . . . there have been times I have looked at him and thought, “Holy crap, kid. I do NOT get you. I love you, but you are cut from different cloth than me.”

Fortunately for me though, I have the benefit of knowing his extended family. Rather, fortunately for BOTH of us, really.

The crippling social anxiety that occasionally besets him? No worries. There’s medication for that if needed and you know what? Lots of his uncles and aunts on his dad’s side have similar issues and they’ve been able to find ways to navigate through life just fine. In fact, I think some of them are the better for it because the sensitivity to their surroundings makes them better artists & more compassionate people.

Psoriasis of the scalp? Yep, his dad and one of the uncles on his dad’s side has dealt with that his whole life, too. Same with two of the aunts. And guess what? Treating it with the things that worked for them works for him, too. Go figure.

His rapier wit and love of arguing the finer points of all things, even if they don’t need to be argued? Grandpa Jay was the same way. He grew up to be a successful attorney . . . maybe my boy will, too.

Even something as simple as the way he answers his texts is just like his dad’s side of the family. The screen shot is from a few minutes ago – his response on top and his aunt’s on the bottom.

When I saw these responses side by side like this, I laughed a bit and then sent my sister-in-law a quick text about how grateful I am to know them because they help me make sense of my highly intuitive, charming, sensitive, and intelligent son. He is so very different than me in so many ways but is so very much like his uncles and aunts from his dad’s side of the family.

If I didn’t know them, I would be lost as a parent.

If he didn’t know them, he would be lost as a person.

Trying to raise my son without the anchors and mooring his natural family brings would be a wildly frustrating experience for both of us.

Knowing his extended natural family helps me make sense of him and most importantly, it helps him make sense of his own self and his journey through life. He knows how and where his unique giftedness fits into the tapestry of life because he knows them.

In a very small way, this helps me understand the struggles of many adoptees who are raised with no knowledge or contact with their original family.

In the absence of any genetic mirroring, how do they make sense of their world? Of themselves?

Is it any wonder so many adoptees tell us how they grew up feeling like they were strangers living in a strange land, rootless and drifting? How could we have expected anything different as a society? Most importantly, how do we now rectify this?

God May Forgive and Forget, But the LDS Church Never Does

To Mom and Dad:

This is why I had to have my name officially removed from the records of the church. God may forgive and forget, but the LDS church doesn’t. If you are a birth mother, they will use it against you for the rest of your living days. And if the sealing ordinance is to be believed, for eternity, too.

I love both of you and I know my choice to leave probably hurt you, but I could not – with any fidelity to who I am as a person – continue to have my name associated with an organization that thought so little of me and continues to fail to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.


(For more information about what happened in the Joseph Bishop case, please read this Salt Lake Tribune article by Peggy Stack , as well as the reports of how the LDS church responded. )

When You Hear That High Lonesome Sound

About ten years ago, I started making some of my writings public on this blog. Since I last wrote anything, I’ve finally met my daughter and things are….well, they are what they are and I’ll leave it at that. Out of respect for her, I won’t say anything  about the state of our relationship but here’s what I do have to say:

I am no longer an active, practicing Mormon.

After 25 years of wrestling with the LDS version of God, I came to a place where I could no longer, with any fidelity to my soul and my core values, continue to participate in a religion that thought so little of me as a mother and that thought so little of my daughter.

I came to understand that giving my time, talents, and all with which I have been blessed to an organization that systematically stripped me of my motherhood was an affront to common sense and moral decency.

As such, I officially resigned from the LDS church in January of this year.  My husband, my mother, and my LDS bishop were all extremely supportive and understanding as they know on an intimate level the cost the LDS church has extracted from me. They all agree that there are few who have tried harder to make things “work” than me. If there is a God (of any version), I know He/She/It/They will understand my heart and my choice and judge me accordingly.

For much of the last decade, this space has been where I told my story with a high lonesome sound. It’s been a place where I worked through the heart ache and sorrow of being a natural mother, while at the same time trying to hold space and hope for a joyful reunion with my daughter. But since my resignation and subsequent reunion I no longer feel the high lonesome in my soul. While things did not turn out as I had longed for in my reunion, my resignation has allowed me to engage with my life and relationships in an authentic way.

For the past few months I’ve wrestled with taking this blog down completely or leaving it up for others to read. Do I let it stand as a witness to my experience? A testament to my pain? My truth? I know this blog is polarizing on many fronts. I am also under no illusions that my story is somehow unique or special. However my gut tells me to let this blog of high lonesome remain as is.

Whether this be folly or wisdom, only time will tell.

Dear Adoption, I Thought I Knew You

Words for my daughter, written by another mother’s daughter. May these words find her and be a guidepost for her as she travels on her own journey.

Love and belief –



Dear Adoption, I Thought I Knew You

I thought I knew you when I was a young girl mesmerized by the video recordings of my arrival. I’d never have let the others down by telling them it made me unsettled. I couldn’t help but notice the look of fear and confusion across my six-month-old face. Yet I couldn’t stop watching as I tried to reconcile the feelings I was too young to process.

I thought I knew you when teachers, family, friends, and strangers marveled over my foreign features. Nobody knew much about Korea—except that I probably would’ve died had I not been saved.

I thought I knew you each time it was echoed that my adopters were saints for taking in this poor unwanted child. It helped overwrite my grief with gratitude and miscredit my pain.

I thought I knew you when at a school ceremony, I recited my…

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Damned if We Do, Damned if We Don’t

Obituaries. We are all going to die someday and our loved ones will face the conundrum of who to list as next of kin. I have had some adoptees tell me that they were extremely hurt and offended that they were NOT included in their first mother’s obituary as one of her children. I have also had some adoptees tell me they were extremely hurt and offended they WERE included in their first mother’s obituary as one of her children.

Even when we die, we don’t get a break.

What’s real?

An adoptee speaks: listen.

Holt Adoption Product:

I have two birthdays.

One birthday is the day/ anniversary of the day on which I was born.

The other birthday is the one which appears on my birth certificate but has nothing to do with my birth. Originally it was an ordinary day which had abosolutely nothing to do with me, but an adoption agency’s workers attributed it to me as my birthday as they invented a family background story in order  to make me more adoptable/sellable and to prevent my family from finding me.

A birthday is a birthday.  One can be born only once in his/her lifetime. There should be no need of adding a modifier with a birthday.  But the land of adoption is a land apart where the language is tweaked and moral values are twisted [link], so I have to use a modifier to distinguish between the two birthdays. The day/anniversary of…

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Educating the Masses, one Discussion Board Post at a Time

I’ve already posted my main response to this week’s writing prompt for one of my classes, in which I argue adoption is not a reproductive right but I thought I would share my response to a fellow student who argued that adoption is a right for adoptive parents.



At one point in my life, I felt very much the same way you did: adoption is a right. However, when I started  listening to the voices and lived experience of the very people adoption is supposed to benefit—adoptees— I unlearned many of my biases regarding what is and what isn’t a reproductive right.  I figure since they are the experts on what it feels like to live an adopted life, they probably have a lot to teach the rest of us. And this is what I learned.

No one should be prohibited from adopting based on sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender. If a person is a fit parent, they should not be prohibited from adopting and courts across the land agree.  However, not prohibiting a person from adopting does not grant them the right to adopt.  Framing adoption as a right sets adoptive parents at odds with the rights of their adopted child when he or she reaches the age of majority.  It also creates an environment where entitlement abounds and can lead to grievous violations of human rights for both the adoptee and the birth parents.

Adult adoptees have been engaged in an ongoing struggle since the late 1970’s to have their civil rights restored so they can gain access to their original birth certificate, as well as to end the human rights violations that occur when a person’s original identity, heritage, and culture are obscured and even lost in the adoption transaction. Opponents to open records cite the primacy of the birth and adoptive parents’ rights, claiming they are superior to that of the adult adoptee. While 42 of the 50 states still prohibit an adoptee from accessing their original birth records, people across the country are beginning to realize that an adoptee’s rights are human rights and are moving to open records in their state. The most recent state to declare the supremacy of adoptee rights over birth or adoptive parents’ rights is Indiana, who just passed an open records bill today—the bill now moves on for a signature from the governor, which it looks like he will do.

As a mother of four children, I understand the deep-seated psychological need to be a parent, but this is one of those instances where we must listen carefully to those whose rights are most vulnerable, and that is the rights of the adoptee. If you would like more information about adoptee rights and how viewing adoption as a reproductive issue thwarts those rights, you can read more at Americans for Open Records, the Adoptee Rights Coalition, and Bastard Nation.

All the best-


P.S. I address this issue at length in my discussion board post, too. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am what is known as an “adoptee light.” My step-father adopted me when I was 27-years old. While I have my original birth certificate tucked securely away, there are millions of Americans who are prohibited from accessing their original birth certificate.

Is adoption a reproductive right?

The writing prompt from this week’s Human Behavior in the Social Environment class for my MSW program instructed us to read the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Family Planning and Reproductive Choice position paper. We then had to select one topic and then tell whether we agreed or disagreed with the NASW’s position on the subject, as well as how it might affect serving our clients.

Here’s my response.

Reproductive rights are things such as access to affordable birth control, safe abortion, and even perhaps infertility treatments and assisted reproduction techniques. However, a trend in recent years is to include adoption as an alternative to abortion as part of a broader range of reproductive services.

This trend is reflected in the NASW (2009) position that “the fundamental right of each individual throughout the world to manage his or her fertility and to have access to a full range of effective family planning and reproductive health services….these services include….adoption rights.” The NASW also supports, “public and private adoption services that better address the needs of birth parents….to consider adoption as a genuine alternative to abortion or parenting, contributing to a broader range of options.”  Additionally, Planned Parenthood (n.d.), NARAL (n.d.), and the ACLU (n.d.) all hold the belief that adoption is a third reproductive choice.

Opponents on both the Right and Left of the political agenda frame adoption as one of three choices in the marketplace of reproduction: abortion, parenting, or adoption.

However, I disagree, as adoption is not a third reproductive choice but a parenting choice.

When a woman is faced with an unplanned pregnancy, her choice is binary: to continue to carry the pregnancy to term or abort. If a woman chooses to not terminate a pregnancy but to carry the pregnancy to term, she will be a mother of a child, whether a mother who raises her child or a mother who voluntarily terminates her parental rights.

Her reproductive rights have already been exercised when she chose to continue with the pregnancy. 

That being said, women do have the right to voluntarily terminate their parental rights and relinquish a child for adoption after the child is born, based on what she feels is in the child’s best interests. Just like breastfeeding, good schools, access to day care, and prevention of child abuse are not reproductive rights issues, but issues centered on the well-being of a child, so is adoption.

Additionally, framing adoption as a reproductive right is at odds with the rights of the child once he or she is born.  Those rights are outlined in Articles 7 through 10 in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and include the preservation of a child’s identity and family relations, the right of the child to maintain direct and regular contact with one or both parents, and that the child be provided with essential information about their family.

By framing adoption as a reproductive right of the birth mother or adoptive mother, it becomes easier for the state to violate these essential rights and deny adult adoptees factual information surrounding their original identity in the form of sealed original birth certificates and the issuance of amended ones.

However, reproductive rights of a mother do not last forever—those rights end with a live birth.  Even if a mother voluntarily terminates her parental rights at birth and relinquishes her child for adoption, she is not guaranteed privacy in perpetuity.

My belief that adoption is a parenting choice and not a reproductive right will affect how I interact with my clients who are already members of the adoption constellation because birth parents are not guaranteed anonymity and therefore, all adult adoptees have a right to their original birth certificate. I realize this may sometimes come in conflict with both adoptive and birth parents’ feelings, but the rights of the adopted individual trump those feelings.

By removing adoption from the marketplace of reproductive choices and situating it soundly in the realm of parenting choices, it places the child at the center of the process and protects their rights—as a separate and unique member of the human family, independent of the biological process of reproduction—to have access to factual knowledge surrounding their birth and heritage.

Additionally, when working with a woman facing an ill-timed or unplanned pregnancy, my position will affect how I counsel them and the sequencing of the questions I ask. Instead of asking if she wants to abort, parent, or place for adoption, I will ask if she wants to continue her pregnancy or not? If she wants to continue with the pregnancy, then I will help her decide between parenting her child or placing her child for adoption.


American Civil Liberties Union. (n. d.). Reproductive freedom. Retrieved from: https://www.aclu.org/issues/reproductive-freedom

National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. (n. d.). Healthy Pregnancies. Retrieved from: http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/what-is-choice/healthy-pregnancies/

National Association of Social Workers. (2009). Family planning and reproductive choice. Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Planned Parenthood. (n. d.). Thinking about Adoption. Retrieved from: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/pregnancy/pregnant-now-what/adoption

United Nations General Assembly. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. United Nations, Treaty Series, 1577(3).