“The Absent are Ever Present”

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Way back in junior high school, I learned a really cool trick from my home economics teacher (do they even teach that class any more? What is it called nowadays, anyway? Certainly not home economics – that phrase must have gone out of a favor for something more politically correct by now, yes?)

The cool trick? Crushed up candies melt in the middle of sugar cookies.  (These pictures are from a year or two ago – I forgot to get the camera out this year!!!)

bighearts_2They’ve never failed me yet – these are cherry Life Savers and some flavor of Jolly Ranchers. Year in and year out I can trust them to deliver gorgeous results. And the sugar cookie recipe I have is to DIE FOR, but I promised my niece I would never share it because it is the one she developed for her business, Snickety Snacks.

bighearts_5I’ve remained faithful and never shared it, even with the darling 12-year old who wanted it from me today!

bighearts_3Today has been a good day – lots of sugar cookies with the small ones and then a party with other home-schooling families from church. Tomorrow I head to University of Alabama to visit the pain management clinic there to see what they can do to help me…well, manage the pain caused by this craptastic medical device I have inside of me. (Thirteen weeks until it comes out, yahoo!!!)

lifesaverheartAnyhoooooo, as I wandered through today, I couldn’t help but think of you. I hope your mom helped you build family traditions, whether it be baking sugar cookies every Valentine’s Day or something else, like making Valentine cards for all of your older relatives. I am sure she did things like that. Well…at this point, I have to choose to believe she did – it’s my own version of fairy-dust and adoption-mythology, as it were. This fairy-dust is the only way I can endure a day full of Matthew, Luke, and Poppy laughing and giggling and carrying on like siblings do. It is on days like this that your absence in our lives is so noticeable to me.

Much love –

M.

National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 27: Me & the Professor…er, the Professor and I?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

If I had my druthers, I would put my Christmas tree up in mid-October. As it is, I have to restrain myself in order to accommodate Mr. Bah-Hum-Bug-the-tree-should-not-be-put-up-until-December 1st,  AKA Mr. Amazing Man. (He really isn’t a grinch, we just differ on when to put up the tree and when it is appropriate to start playing Christmas music. He seems to think that July is not appropriate.)

My older son is of the same mindset. He will sit there on the couch with Mr. Amazing Man and roll his eyes (ever so lovingly) at me when I bust out the stockings and “Cookies for Santa” plate.  In past years, I have indulged their ill-humor and waited until the 1st of December but this year….

This year my tree was up by November 20. Ha! Victory.

And this year, I have had a partner in my Christmas criminality – the Professor. Turns out he adores Christmas as much as I do. The music, the lights, the decorations on the tree, the yummy baked goods, the Santa letters, the 30 nights of Christmas movies: we delight in these things equally.  He simply cannot understand why other people in the neighborhood don’t already have all their decorations up. (Me either son, me either!)

And so I wonder…are you more like Captain Knuckle who likes Christmas but approaches it with a more restrained pleasure, or are you like the Professor and myself, reveling in the season’s delights?

Much love,

M.

National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 6: Captain Knuckle and the Curious Case of the Missing Sister

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Today your little brother turns 14 years old.  I only use “little” in the most general of terms since he is nearly 6′ tall and is starting to fill out with what he proudly calls his “man muscles.” In spite of his newly sprouting mustache (of which he is equally proud) and the deepening of his voice to a mellow chocolate sound, he is still my baby boy. His heart is still as tender and his spirit just as precious as it was when he was a tiny baby.  Even though he is nearly 6′ tall teenager, he will still let me put my arm around him and give him a kiss on the cheek in public.  And I do. Frequently.

His birth made me a mother for the second time. His birth brought a measure of healing to me. His birth re-awakened within me the knowledge that I am a capable, competent mother. His given name means “gift of God” and that is what he has been to me every day of his life.  I treasure the fact that I have been lucky enough to be a mother to this incredible human being.

Unfortunately, adoption has robbed him of you. Ever since “celebrating” his own version of adoption awareness when I told him of you, he has always wondered if you would ever get to meet.  A few years ago, when he was still small enough to fit on my lap, he climbed up and gazed into my eyes with his blue-green ones and plaintively asked, “Mom. Do you think my sister will like me?” When I told him that yes, he was inherently lovable and you would be crazy about him, he wrapped his pudgy arms around my neck, put his cherub cheek next to mine and said, “Good. Because I know I will like her because she is my sister.”

Out of all the sorrows in my life, this is my greatest: That your two brothers and your sister will most likely never know you. Even if they do, the chances are fairly high that they will be the “others” in your life, the less than, the not quite.  Not only will they always be your not quite siblings, but I did this to them. My foolish, trusting, believing heart that thought I was doing what was right and good has severed not only my ties with you but theirs as well, all in the name of love.

Little Penelope is calling for me – I guess I should go rejoin the world.  I just want you to know that there is a young man who is longing to meet you, just as much as I am.

Much love,

M.

Outing Myself on Facebook

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

You would be so proud of me. Since I have been home, I haven’t once been tempted to take a sharp turn off the [insert the name of your small town here] ramp on I-15 and drive past your parents place. I didn’t once ask my good friend to track you down on campus at the [insert name of your university here] while she was there for a 2-day conference. I would have liked to attend  said conference but I figure that would be tempting fate – you know that old problem we have of looking like twins. Well, actually you don’t know but that’s OK. I know.

I haven’t spent much time on the computer either, what with having living a life that I am sometimes accused of not having because I am a “bitter LDS birthmother with nothing better to do.” However,  I did take some time between dazzling my graduate committee with my brilliance and hanging out with my amazing family to check my Google reader today. One of the blogs I follow directed me to a newly found first mom blog full of insightful & honest writing, Hidden Beneath the Surface.

I was particularly moved by her post from today: http://nzrose05.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/coming-out/, especially after spending last Friday night with my wonderful younger sis. It made me think about my own Facebook page – I only had Captain Knuckle listed under “Children.” I first listed him when he joined Facebook a few weeks ago but it felt strange and awkward to only have him there, as adorable as he might be. After all, I do have three other children as equally adorable.

So today, spurred on by the courage the author of Hidden Beneath the Surface displayed, I outed myself as a first mother on Facebook. (Once I get home and have access to a photo editor, I will post a picture here. ) I now have Captain Knuckle, The Professor, Princess P., and Little Ms. Boo Bear (lost to adoption 1993) posted in my “Children” section.

And it feels good.

I have quite a few adoptive mother friends on Facebook – I think I may lose some of them over this but oh well. I will most likely have some ‘splainin to do to other people as well. I will most likely have to answer difficult, uncomfortable questions, but frankly I don’t care any more.  If those people can’t love me – all of me which includes the fact I have four children, not three – then it’s their loss. You can be sure I will keep you updated!

So, thanks to the first mom/author of Hidden Beneath the Surface – I am now leading a more authentic life.

And it feels really good.

Much love,

M.

They Told Me I Would Have Other Children

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Yesterday, the Professor came into my bedroom where I was dressing Princess P. for church.  He climbed up on the bed and put his little nose up to hers and declared, “Mom, this is the most beautiful sister ever!”  She squealed with delight, he stroked her chubby cheeks, kissed her downy head and then skipped merrily down the hall, leaving me breathless.

The Professor loves his sister. I know he loves his older brother, but he gets all mushy and soft over Princess P. How on earth am I ever going to tell him about you? Captain Knuckle was told as a matter of necessity when he was five.  He has handled it much like he has the other hard things in his life – with great maturity and resiliency.

But the Professor…I don’t know how to tell him he has another sister that doesn’t live with us. I don’t know how I could answer the questions and sadness that will certainly shade his luscious brown eyes.

They told me I would have other children….they just didn’t warn me of soul-deep sorrow that would gnaw on my bones. They told me I would have other children….they just didn’t tell me how to explain to them that I gave away their older sister to strangers.  They told me I would have other children….they just didn’t tell me how to answer the question, “If you gave her away, will you give me away too? I don’t want  live with anyone but you Mommy.”

With much love –

M.

LDS Adoption Policy

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

In an effort to make sure that I was recalling the events surrounding your relinquishment correctly, I searched out the actual policy regarding the LDS church’s stance on unwed parents.  And here it is, in all it’s glory. (Sidenote: I guess I am a bad Mormon. I googled this and found it in it’s entirety on the internet in PDF format.  This particular document is supposed to be read only by the priesthood leadership in the LDS church, not the lay members such as myself. Bad, bad, bad Mormon, but a curious one too.)

Here is the LDS church’s adoption policy for unwed mothers from the Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1 Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics 2006.

Unwed Parents (p. 188-89)

The First Presidency has stated:

“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by parents who provide love, support, and all the blessings of the gospel” (First Presidency letter, June 15, 1998).

“Parents and priesthood and auxiliary leaders are encouraged to teach members to live chaste and virtuous lives and prepare to receive the ordinances of the temple. Children sealed to parents have claim upon the blessing of the gospel beyond what others are entitled to receive.

“When a man and woman conceive a child out of wedlock, every effort should be made to encourage them to marry. When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely due to age or other circumstances, unwed parents should be counseled to place the child for adoption through LDS Family Services to ensure that the baby will be sealed to temple-worthy parents. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses both the birth parents and the child in this life and in eternity.

“Birth parents who do not marry should not be counseled to keep the infant as a condition of repentance or out of a sense of obligation to care for one’s own. Unwed parents are not able to provide the blessings of the sealing covenant. Further, they are generally unable to provide a stable, nurturing environment which is so essential for the baby’s well being.  Unmarried parents should give prayerful consideration to the best interests of the child and the blessings that can come to an infant who is sealed to a mother and father” (First Presidency letter, June 26, 2002; see also “Adoption and Foster Care” on page 173).

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (2006). Church Handbook of Instructions: Book 1 Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics 2006.  Salt Lake City: UT.)

Is it any wonder that with this kind of policy that I felt as if I had no other option than to relinquish you?   My Bishop and the cultural rhetoric told me that relinquishing you for adoption was the single best way to “repent” of my sins and to qualify for the healing power of the Atonement in my life. By relinquishing you, I was showing that I was repentant and willing to accept God’s will in my life. Adoption was portrayed as the portal to redemption (spiritually, financially, socially, and physically) for someone as “fallen and lost” as I was.

And I bought into it lock, stock and barrel. I wanted so desperately to qualify for God’s love in my life, to be approved of by my mother, and to please my priesthood leaders. Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but in my set of circumstances, they were both toxic and tragic.

Four years later, I found myself an “unwed” (newly divorced) mother yet again.  This time though, I had a self-righteous ex-husband pressuring me to relinquish my parental rights to Captain Knuckle.  After all, I had done “it” before he argued and more importantly, he was remarried and he could provide Captain Knuckle with both a mother and father who were married. He quoted to me from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to emphasize his point of children being entitled to a mother and father who were married. He told me I was being selfish – abusive – and that I really didn’t care for the best interests of Captain Knuckle because I was “forcing” him to be raised by a single mother.

It was during this time that the absurdity of his comments really hit home.  I don’t know why I couldn’t see as clearly four years before, but this time around, it was as plain as the nose on my face.  And then the irony of the moment began to sink in.  I knew that my priesthood leaders would have never counseled me to relinquish my parental rights simply based on the fact that I was now “unwed” and my ex remarried (not that I bothered asking this time around…) I also knew that the Handbook of Instructions didn’t contain any direction on this matter either.

So…I began to ask questions. Questions like, why is it now OK for me to parent this child as a single mother when four years ago it was looked at as being  wrong? Aren’t I just as single now as I was then?  And what about my friend whose husband had passed away just after finding out they were expecting but before they had been sealed in the temple? Why was it somehow noble for her to parent her new baby instead of relinquishing him for adoption so he could be raised by a mother and a father who had been married in the temple? Wasn’t she just as single and her child just as un-sealed to his parents as in our situation? And if children really are “entitled” to be raised by parents who honor their marital covenants, then why doesn’t the LDS church recommend adoption for all children from marriages where there has been infidelity and try to find them homes where the parents do honor their marital vows? Or what about children in part-member families? They aren’t sealed to their parents – why doesn’t the LDS church put pressure on those parents to relinquish those children to more “qualified families” (read: one man, one woman sealed together in the temple who pay their tithing, hold a current temple recommend, and as a general rule have a higher socio-economic status than the relinquishing parent)?

Something just doesn’t make sense…if parenting is a viable option for people in those circumstances, then why wasn’t it for me and you?

I still haven’t sorted out the answers to all of that yet. I don’t know that I ever will be able to. It wasn’t as if four years later I was magically a fundamentally different person with a new set of skills and a new support system. I still had the same flaws, the same weaknesses, the same proclivities as before. I still loved God and I was still a damn good mother. Why it was culturally acceptable for me to be a single mother to Captain Knuckle and not to you, I will never know.

Real life is calling and I must go. I am sure you will hear more on this subject later.

Much love and belief in the amazing creation you are –

M.

Mother’s Day Post-mortem

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Yesterday was Mother’ Day and as usual, any joy was tempered by the two edged sword of…us.

I have given up pretending like Mother’s Day is a good day for me. I mean, I loved on my boys and pressed the delicate blue flower the good Professor gave me between the hand drawn card that Captain Knuckle made for me, talked with Mr. Amazing Man when he was able to call me from the far side of the world, and generally was pleasant to be around. But I had no expectations that this was the year that it wouldn’t hurt as much. I have resigned myself that I will always ache for what could have been, what should have been, more so on this ridiculous holiday than others. Instead of trying to hide from that reality, I am getting better about embracing it and accepting it for what it is.

Instead of doing anything remotely religious (church just seems to rub the wound even more raw), I went to IKEA with The-World’s-Best-Sister-in-Law. We left the kids with The Samoan and had a gloriously fabulous day wandering around the store, doing nothing but nothing. We bought some of these decadent marshmallow chocolate coconut things and then drove to an anonymous neighborhood and ate them all. We talked and laughed and cried – we talked about you, we talked about being a mother, we talked about what the future holds for all of us.

Then we went home and collapsed on the sofas in her living room in a marshmallow-induced coma. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day that usually leaves me in tears.

M.