National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 5: My Ex, His Wife, and Their Version of Adoption Awareness

Last night I learned that my ex-husband and his wife are adopting another baby.

They got married within months of my ex and I divorcing and immediately started pressing me to terminate my parental rights because they believed that Captain Knuckle was entitled “to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity” (Kind of ironic considering how they hooked up, don’t you think???).  So, I was now single, due in large part to my ex not honoring his marital vows to me because he was messing around with herMy single parent status was used as a battering ram by them to try to convince me that it was in Captain Knuckle’s “best interest” that I terminate my rights and let her adopt my son so he could be raised in a two-parent home.

Whatev’ people.

Fast forward a couple of years and miscarriages later. My then 5-year old son comes home from a weekend visit and tells me that his dad and other mom are going to adopt a baby from “a mommy who didn’t want her baby, just like you didn’t want your first baby.”  After I picked up my heart from the floor and shoved it back into my chest, I asked him who told him I didn’t want my first baby. He told me that his other mother had said it. This led to a long and frank discussion with Captain Knuckle about adoption and first moms and the fact that I desperately loved you and thought I was doing the “right thing.” Then  I tucked him into bed and stomped around the house, as angry as I had ever been at those two people I had to share my son with. Didn’t want my first baby?

Whatev’ people.

Fast forward a few more years. I had been married to Mr. Amazing Man for about two years and had recently found out I was pregnant with the Good Professor.  Captain Knuckle gets off the phone with me one night and tells me, “Oh, I have a new sister. My other mom and dad were there when she was born and my other mom was  the first person to hold her.” Ugh. Double ugh.  Obviously a case of pre-birth matching. Captain Knuckle has since told me that they send his sister’s first mom a letter once a year. Yeah. Pre-birth matching and a nearly closed adoption. Give it a few years and they will cut her out completely. Well done.

Whatev’ people.

I have tried to be friends with Captain Knuckle’s step-mom but she has always been highly resistant to any sort of friendly overture. For the past five or six years, it has been full on alienation and psychological warfare from her end of things. I understand why – after all, by virtue of the fact I have produced four lovely children, I am a powerful, threatening figure in her imagination.  I am what she fears most in her life – I am the scary birth mother monster lurking under her bed. My heart breaks for them – they have lost so many pregnancies, most recently a set of twins at 16 weeks. My mother’s heart is devastated for them….but. BUT. It doesn’t entitle them to other people’s children. It doesn’t entitle her to not allow my son to call me “Mom” when he is at their house. When he was younger, she would spank him if he called me “Mom.” I was Melynda, his birth mother. (Yes, she taught him that lovely turn of phrase. Cute, eh?) I tried to talk to my ex-husband about it but his response was, “I can’t control what my wife does.”

Whatev’ people.

So like I said earlier, last night I learned they are adopting another little girl. This time it is through the foster care system there in UT. She’s a newborn who was born addicted to meth. The picture they sent Captain Knuckle of her first day at home with them is just heartbreaking – she is on oxygen and you can see the remnants of IVs and feeding tubes. But she is lovely. Captain Knuckle doesn’t know anything more about her, other than they don’t like her name so they are going to change it.

Whatev’ people.

Perhaps this is one of those rare circumstances when infant adoption is a needful thing. I also have to say I am glad they are adopting out of foster care instead of using pre-birth matching. That being said, it doesn’t surprise me they would wait for a white baby girl before deciding to adopt from foster care. I bet they feel like they have won the lottery for more reasons than one. Adopting a baby in Utah whose drug addicted mom won’t be harassing them with those pesky yearly contact letters? Sweet!

Needless to say, my ex and his wife’s adoption awareness begins and ends with fulfilling their needs.

Whatev’ people.

 

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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.