Dear Ms. Feverfew –
I recently read an article written by Julia Steiny titled, “Why ‘Bad’ Moms Still Should Parent Their Kids” at http://m.golocalprov.com/news/julia-steiny-why-bad-moms-still-should-parent-their-kids/ . In it, she discusses Dr. Brenda Harden‘s feelings about mistakes she made as a social worker, mistakes in removing children from mothers who could have been taught to be better ones. It’s an excellent article that raises incredibly important ethical questions about how we treat children and mothers in this country.
It’s an article that leaves me in tears because I was an incredible mother to you during the nine months I had you. You can ask every single person who knew us during that time period and they will say the same thing. There was never a misstep when it came to being your mother during those nine months, other than maybe I should have waited a bit longer to start you on solids like I did with Poppy and Luke.
I. was. a. damn. good. mother. to you, just as I am to the three children I am raising now. Unlike some of the mothers discussed in the article, there was NEVER any drugs, alcohol, abusive boyfriends, homelessness, crushing poverty, malnutrition, neglect, or incarciration. Never. Not even for a moment. I did everything right for you and yet….and yet somehow it still wasn’t good enough in the eyes of my bishop or the LDS culture because I didn’t have an “Mrs.” at the beginning of my name.
From the vantage point of two decades, I now see how my excellent mothering was used against us – not just me – by my priesthood leaders and my church. After all, “good” mothers put their baby’s interests and well being above their own and what they claim (though science does not support) is the “right thing.” And so, against every instinct in every cell of my body, I did what I had been groomed to believe was the morally heroic thing for a mother who loved her child as much as I loved you: I placed you in the arms of your adoptive parents.
With desperation only a first mother knows, I tried to leave you…no, us – the tightly knit mother/infant dyad comprised of you and me – behind. That’s what I was told I should do by my church, my society, my therapist, my bishop. According to the adoption industry, that’s what a “good” birth mother does – she gets over and moves on, she doesn’t “waste” her second chance. But how could I get over my first born child? How could I get over you? How could I get over being your mother, the one who nursed you in the still quiet of the evenings and rocked you for hours on end? I need only trace the silvery marks that map my motherhood on my abdomen to be led back to you and to know there is no “getting over.” Ever.
Yes, I have carved out some semblance of peace in my life and no, I am not a complete hot mess (all the time but I do admit I have my moments), but this mythical “getting over” and “moving on” thing my bishop, church, and adoption industry claim a first mother should do? Twenty plus years into this experience it has never happened. It never will. To paraphrase John from the classic Tennessee Williams play, “The Glass Menagerie,” “…I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than [they] intended [me] to be!”
I am more faithful than they intended me to be.