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.