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,


17 thoughts on “I Double-Dog Dare You, Brother and Sister Arnell

  1. What about the reverse of this? Would you tell a child whose mother has died that she is not a mother because she isn’t parenting anymore. I double dog dare you. It seems that some folks get hung up on only one person fulfilling a parent role per lifetime.

    • Great comment, one that I have thought about. I have a good friend who was killed in an auto accident when her youngest was only 6 weeks old. She also had a daughter who was about two at the time. Even though her husband remarried and someone other woman is raising them, do you think for one moment ANYONE would dare tell those two girls that J. is not their mother simply because she didn’t parent them into adulthood?

      “It seems that some folks get hung up on only one person fulfilling a parent role per lifetime.”

      My point exactly.


  2. This is the attitude that makes me absolutely crazy about the LDS church. I respect ALL religions. However the LDS have a very active and coercive movement in pushing adoption on single pregnant women, telling them that it is a huge sacrifice and it is all fairy tales and best for everyone. Adoption is NOT right for everyone. It is right for some and it is not right for others. I am sure that Brother and Sister Arnell would be the first people to support and encourage a single pregnant woman to continue her pregnancy, but once the relinquishment has been made, turns his back on the birthmother and reduce her to an incubator. Makes me sick. I am sure he would be singing a different tune if it was his daughter, and his grandchild involved in that adoption scenario.

    • “I am sure that Brother and Sister Arnell would be the first people to support and encourage a single pregnant woman to continue her pregnancy, but once the relinquishment has been made, turns his back on the birthmother and reduce her to an incubator.”

      Yes, and this same type of thinking is what leads to the sentiment that “good” mothers surrender their children for adoption and “selfish” ones parent them. Sure, they are “good” until they surrender their child but once they do, they frequently become a persona non grata .

  3. For what it’s worth, my father’s entire family is LDS and I respect and admire a lot about people of the LDS faith. My father was raised LDS and left the church on his own when he was 18 because he did not agree with or understand many of the teachings. My uncle is an Elder so I am not someone from the peanut gallery who doesn’t know anything about the religon.

  4. M – Can I say I just adore you. You wrote these things so much better than I could have. I am so glad I found you here.

    Life Being Lived – Thank you.

    Words can not express my grattitide for the both of you.

    • Jeannette – LOL. I just left a message for you over on your blog about my response to Brother Arnell!

      I am so looking forward to the day when adoption only happens in the church when it is truly needed (i.e., when a child’s life is in danger or there are NO extended family members with whom the child can be placed). Thank you for sharing your story and your daughter’s story with us. I am glad that we have found each other as well.

      Smooches –


  5. Yep, serving a child for a life time, like that 15 year old who had noticed that her periods were not absent but somewhat “weird”, noticed light bleeding in the weekend(seemed like That kind, yes) and was told on Monday with a routine medical check-up that, yes, she had gotten pregnant, was three months along, but that her child had already died, and that it would be best for her, her health, future fertility and all to let nature run its course and to give birth to her dead child. That hurt. A life time of three months, served unaware, is still a life-time served. More pure, unconditional mother love and for that small bit of dead human tissue and what it had been and could have been, more motherhood towards a dead child carried under her heart, than Brotha Arnull will ever encounter.

    And why? Why? Because you do not commit arson to whipe adoption agencies of the world, because you do not dress up like superheroes and wait on some tower for the return of your children, because you do not return to your children, and because you keep playing by the rules, because never the beast missing her cub takes over, because you REFUSE TO GO COMPLETELY CRAZY, as we would go, and we do not understand, why you aren’t revolting, and it seems that the best you can hope for is that when once the children of your missing child stand at your coffin, they will finally see how beautiful you would have been without that ever present sorrow, and that broken heart, and we will finally know the pain, we couln’t see because it was always there and you kept so careful, so silent, such a slave of customs. We haven’t seen that more, you talk about, new parents, well, whatever they were, they were not you, we had a mother, but no mother true, and when we had finally the lies banned, true bloodties restored, and all the other obstacles ignored, you were still such an unnatural mom, you tried, but were trapped in living the lies and we wonder what we did so wrong. Do we look like that rapist? Is it stolen innocence we represent? Your lost love’s end? Committed sins? Are we unjust punishment? Nobody can understand, that if we were your beloved children, you did not come and tell us a secret between two, that you did not try to sue, that you did not take our hand to go together to another land? You did not run wild, did not cause a revolution, your grief was too well hid, and sorrow always there was invisible too. And some people are unimaginative you-know.

    (Teddy should not have let poetic license take over, do not believe everything Teddy wrote, Teddy assumed to talk for too much people here, it was art taking over out of avoidance of personal grief, some of it is real, so were my tears.

    Sorry, but would you experienced folks please see if this girl can be helped a bit, please? It is the oh so common pattern again: You’ll recognize it…


  6. You know, Bro-nell might be right – single mothers should accept they are inadequate and should give the baby to someone in a better position. Just think, if that unmarried woman named Mary had only realized that a nice Roman family could have given Jesus so many opporunties, he might have become Emperor of Rome!

    Wow, I finally understand why adoption is so awesome, thanks Bro-nell.

  7. As an adult adoptee, i would be mortified if someone told my natural mom she wasn’t my mom. It’s no ones business or job to define but ours!

  8. As an Amom, I would be flipping pissed if someone commented that my daughters’ first moms were not really their moms. I think it comes down to people viewing the relationship (word?) between first and adoptive parents as being an either/or –mutually exclusive situation and I am sick of it– already and I am new!

    My daughters are under age 5 and I am already sick of it– I cannot begin to imagine how sick of it so many adoptees and first moms are.

    As Amanda stated– my daughter’s can define their life and all the people in it however suits them.

    • Reena – As a first mom, I feel the same way that you and Amanda feel about who is in charge of defining people’s roles in an adoptee’s life. That of course, would be the adoptee. Period. And especially not some well meaning yet ridiculously self-righteous member of the LDS church (of which I am an active, “card carrying” member).


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