She Asks for Bread

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Hmmmm….This sounds a lot like the LDS church and the LDSFS’s treatment of single expectant mothers. It also parallels the church’s teaching that adoption
“blesses” the birth parents and the child in this life and in eternity and that it should be considered a gift to all involved. Sacred, even.

Is it really a gift and blessing to be severed from your heritage, your ancestors, your people, and your mother for eternity, thanks to the sealing ordinance? Is it really a gift and blessing to be severed from your child, your future grandchildren, and your descendants for eternity?  Is having your existence expunged from history, a complete and total annihilation of your motherhood – from a legal and a doctrinal point of view  – really a gift?

Most of us with any heart or conscience would say no, those are not true gifts nor are they blessings.

Yet these are the gifts and blessings a Mormon god and his people give the most vulnerable of among the church, single mothers and their newborn children. She asks the Mormon god for bread, but is given a stone instead.

After all, she got herself into this mess. She can live with the consequences.

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“But The Proclamation says. . . .”

Recently over on Facebook, one of my friends (whom I will call Jennifer) posted a link to a blog written by an adoptee. Jennifer then invited her friends to read it and truly listen to what this particular adoptee says about their experience of being an adopted person.  Subsequent to Jennifer’s impassioned plea for more listening to and less telling adoptees how to feel about adoption, one of her friends (whom I will call Maria) countered with the LDS-knee jerk response of, “But the Proclamation* says children are better off with a mother and a father!”

Here’s what I wrote in response to Maria:

I agree that a mother and a father who are sealed to each other and neither partner has ever cheated on the other *IS* the ideal situation in which to raise a child. The Family: A Proclamation to the World clearly states: “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” However, we live in a fallen world where sometimes, we don’t get the “ideal” or even that to which we are entitled (to use the language from The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Sometimes, a parent dies. Sometimes parents get divorced. Sometimes parents who are sealed in the temple and married fail to live up to other covenants.

Do you have any of those situations among your own family and friends? Do you have any siblings, cousins, parents, uncles or aunts, or friends who passed away or got divorced, leaving behind the other parent to raise children as a single parent? Have their been any cases of infidelity in your family? (You don’t have to really answer those questions in this public space, I am just asking you to relate this to your own life).

If we, who claim to be God’s people, are to fully implement The Family: A Proclamation to the World with absolute exactness, then the LDS church should urge *every* parent who is single for whatever reason (death, divorce, etc. – not just single expectant parents), parents who are not sealed to their spouse (part member families), or a parent who has cheated or been cheated on by their spouse “do the right thing” and place their child(ren) for adoption in a home that has a mother and a father who are sealed in the temple and and have never participated in infidelity of any kind. After all, it clearly states children are “entitled” to this kind of home.

However, both you and I both recognize this to be a laughable suggestion, that EVERY parent who is single, not sealed to their spouse, or has been cheated on should relinquish their child(ren) for adoption to a sealed-in the temple couple. The push (social coercion) for single expectant parents to live to a different standard than all of the rest of the LDS membership is indicative of the black and white thinking our culture tends to engender. “There’s a right and a wrong to every question” sounds great in a hymn, but real life is a bit messier. There tends to be grey areas in which we have to use common sense, compassion, and our judgement.

Socially engineering a substitute “ideal” through the removal of a child from their biological kindred is NOT ****always**** the answer. Indeed, even the LDS church recognizes this. One of their primary arguments against same-sex marriage is, (as they state in their recent amici curiae), “Both social science and our own experience have taught that children thrive best when cared for by both of their biological parents.” This position is rather ironic considering the LDS church’s stance on urging single expectant parents give their infant non-biological people to raise.

I love this church with all my heart, but this is one of those areas where efforts to socially engineer a substitute “ideal” comes in conflict with some of our fundamental beliefs about the centrality of family and the importance of family preservation through genealogy and temple work.

I don’t know how this Gordian knot will be unraveled, what I *do* know is it is duplicitous of us, as the Lord’s people, to say “Biological family matters!!!! They matter so much we spend MILLIONS of dollars a year helping people seek out their biological kindred dead. Family matters, except in the case of those girls who get themselves pregnant, then biological families don’t matter to her, the father, OR their baby and she should give their baby to a couple who is sealed in the temple because, after all, that child is ‘entitled’ to parents who are sealed in the temple and don’t cheat on each other.”

Family matters. Mothers and fathers matter. Children matter. None are interchangeable, even when a parent is single (for whatever) or not sealed to their spouse.

“Choice” and The Proverbial Loaded Gun

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

As many natural mothers can attest, one of the common arguments used against us in our effort to process and heal from adoption loss is, “No one held a gun to your head and made you sign the papers. You did that all by yourself.” This line is usually delivered dripping in disdain and with a sneer curling up around the corners of the mouth of the person speaking it.

As many natural mothers can also attest, they are technically correct. For most of us, no one was standing beside us in the judge’s chambers or in the hospital or wherever it is we signed the paperwork. We were all alone. There wasn’t someone with a .45 cocked and pointed at our temple.

Or was there?

I came across this quote over Christmas and have been ruminating about it ever since.

“An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads.” ~ Terryl Givens, 2012 (The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, p. 7)

An overwhelming preponderance of evidence. A loaded gun. A choice rendered meaningless (but with lasting consequences, I might add), as if a gun was pointed at my head.

Sound familiar? This is EXACTLY what Latter-Day Saints Family Services (AKA LDSFS), the NCFA, Bethany, and all of those other adoption “advocates” do when presenting the adoption “option.” They present a preponderance of evidence of why adoption is such a “gift,” why “it’s all about love,” yet they rarely discuss – and certainly not with any great form or substance – the potential for horrific side effects to a mother’s and her relinquished child’s psyche.

Do they ever give the expectant mother the research articles about how adoption will affect her? Her child? Her future children? Her future relationships? Her ability to trust others? Her ability to trust herself? Do they ever give her statistics about neonates and how they respond to their mother’s voice, scent, movement? How they recognize and prefer their mother’s breast milk and body odor? How their heart rate and blood pressure normalizes when they hear their natural mother’s voice? How their brain lights up to the sound of her talking to them? (This research is out there, BTW. It has been for decades and simply because adoption agencies or social workers don’t acknowledge it or talk about it doesn’t render the studies invalid.)

It is true, some agencies do give a head nod to negative outcomes in the form of offering FREE LIFETIME COUNSELING for relinquishing mothers, but it is highly unusual for a social worker to go into any great detail why that mother might actually need counseling services until she is old and wrinkled. Frankly, many expectant mothers who are in a position to be considering adoption are not in the frame of mind to ask the question, “Why would this agency be offering me FREE LIFETIME COUNSELING if I give my baby away to someone they’ve have decided is more qualified than me?” Most expectant mothers considering adoption never consider the reality that agencies offer FREE LIFETIME COUNSELING to relinquishing mothers because agencies and the people who work in them know the mother will need counseling for the rest of her life.

Let me repeat that again, just to make sure I am clear: adoption agencies and the social workers in their employ, such as the ones at LDSFS, know, and have known for decades, adoption will damage a mother so badly she will need to utilize mental health services for the rest of her life. They know, and have known for decades, she will not get over her lost child. They know, and have known for decades, she will not move on, at least not in the clean and sanitized way they would like her too and tell her she must – within a year. They know these things yet they do not tell her this explicitly. They simply tell her “if she needs them” the services are there. In doing so, agencies do not provide balanced, truthful information to the expectant mother about the long-term outcome of adoption.

Agencies such as LDSFS and organizations like NCFA present information and have single expectant mothers engage in exercises that research has shown will be most likely to convince a woman to give her baby to strangers. They shove information at her on a weekly basis to remind her of what she lacks, of her deficits and shortcomings as a human being and a mother. If this doesn’t work, they call her on the phone and they keep in constant contact with her via text or email. They encourage her to meet the people who will be de-mothering her, to build a relationship with them so she will feel guilty if she backs out because she doesn’t want to hurt this perfect, qualified couple who so desperately wants her baby. The information and tactics used by LDSFS and NCFA supports their best interests, financial, sociological, or otherwise (i.e., securing a commodity to be traded to the “qualified” couple willing to pony up the money at the appropriate time).

In total, the practices and actions of LDSFS, the social workers in its employ, church leaders, and the LDS adoption culture leads to the preponderance of evidence Givens spoke of in his book. If he is correct in saying that presenting an overwhelming preponderance of evidence on only one side is no different than holding a loaded gun to a person’s head when they are trying to make a choice, then I guess I did have a loaded gun pointed at my head.

Like I have said before when quoting Woodie Gurthrie, “Some people rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.” It just so happened to be the fountain pen was in the hands of church leaders and my culture at large.

Take care –

M.

ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME??!!!???

And yes, I am yelling.

I won’t bore you with the details about how I found this picture this after noon but….I am hoping someone can answer me some questions. Now take a good look at it.

Now let me add a few more details.

  1. The woman is 33 years old.
  2. She is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
  3. She is not married (see, no ring on her left hand? Plus, I have first hand knowledge she is not married, has never been married, and has no prospect of getting married. If you want to know how I know, drop me an email and I will fill you in on the details.)
  4. The infant she is holding was procured through a hasty adoption after the Haitian earthquake.
  5. She is white and clearly does not know how to do her own hair, much less African American hair (which as a former beautician/cosmetologist I can assure you is an art unto itself and NOT something a white-bread chic from small-town Utah can pick up in an instant. How do I know? She tells us all about it on her blog and posts pictures of this sweet boy crying his eyes out while she does a hack job on him).

Now before you get all upset that I have posted a picture of a minor child who is not my minor child on my blog, let me assure you this is from her very open, very public blog. In fact, this was the publicity photo used in the Daily Herald press release about the Haitian toddler finally coming “home.” The blog also houses entries such as a FULL ON PICTURE of his green card with a caption along the lines of “Well, it is REALLY mine since I did all the work. He just stood there and looked cute.”

Now answer me these few questions:

  1. Why is just fine and dandy for HER to be a single mother in the LDS church but it wasn’t for me?
  2. Do you think for ONE MOMENT her Bishop, her parents, or her ward members EVER pulled her aside and told her she was being selfish for wanting to parent? That she needed to give her son to a man and a woman who were sealed in the temple?
  3. And what of the blessings of the sealing ordinance? Isn’t her son just as “bereft” of them as my daughter was? Isn’t he just as entitled to being raised by a husband AND a wife who were sealed in the temple (for at least two years, according to LDSFS)?

Let me repeat my first question: Why is just fine and dandy for HER to be a single mother in the LDS church and culture (she lives in Utah Valley) but it wasn’t for me? Is it because she bought her baby from a Haitian orphanage instead of (gasp) getting pregnant?

 

Tell Me How You Feel, How You Really, Really Feel

I just need to rage against the storm for a bit and tell you how I feel, how I really, really feel about adoption, in particular infant adoption as practiced by the LDS church and the people that attend it.

I HATE IT.

I hate everything about it. There is precious little that is virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, or of good report about it.

Don’t tell me how different things are nowadays with womb-fresh infant adoption because in the end, it is just the same as it has always been: A mother’s God-given desire to protect her child from harm is used as a battering ram to rivet the lie onto her heart: YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. A mother’s love for her child and her desire to please God is used against her to convince her that by giving away her child, SHE can redeem herself and turn a “bad” situation into a “good” one. Adoption is portrayed as the portal to redemption for both her and the product of her sinfulness.

HELLLOOOOOO. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous on ALL parties involved? I thought that whole redemption thing was God and his Son’s job – not ours.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know. Before you get your panties all in a wad screaming about the staving babies in Africa and the abandoned girls in China let me just remind you that I am not discussing international adoption right now. I am discussing the shameful practice of womb-fresh infant adoption that happens within the LDS culture, that is celebrated as “family building” and the most loving option.

I ask again (and will keep asking), if adoption is the most loving option a single parent could choose for their child, then why isn’t EVERY SINGLE PARENT in the LDS church (regardless of the reason they are single) urged to relinquish their child for adoption by a more “worthy and qualified” temple married couple? This would include parents who become single through death or divorce. 

You can stop laughing now. I know you are laughing because it is a ludicrous thing to demand.  My questions merely highly the reality faced by first parents in the LDS culture: Adoption in the LDS culture is about punishing the mother for her unsanctioned fertility. It is about finding babies to fill the homes of infertile couples. If you have any doubt of that last statement, just read the words of Julie Beck, president of the Relief Society, which she said at the FSA conference last month:

“…our focus has shifted a lot more toward the childless parent, and the couples who desire a family and aren’t able to have that blessing in their lives,” [Beck, J. (2011). “Rooted in Love.” As reported in Church News 20 Aug 2011].

According to her, it is INFERTILE couples who should be extended love and compassion and understanding. Not single expectant parents.

I have to admit, it is quite refreshing to have a church leader finally publicly acknowledge what many of us natural mothers have known all along: LDSFS is NOT about helping us. It is about helping infertile couples to our children. _________________________________

I just got off the phone from talking with my mom.  After reading that entire article about Julie Beck’s comments, I felt like I was going to tear my hair out. I had to talk to someone who I knew wouldn’t judge me or tell me I was off my rocker. I screamed at my mom, “Tell me, what am I supposed to do????!!!! How on earth can I continue to participate in a religion that tells me I deserve this pain, that THIS is a blessing and miracle from God?”

My mom reassured me that I wasn’t crazy and every thing I have ever talked with her about the “doctrine” of adoption and the LDSFS’s crazy obsession with stripping single mothers of their children is Truth. As a side note, did I mention that many of the Families Supporting Adoption groups, hosted and run by LDSFS, hold fast and prayer days so more women’s hearts will be “touched” to give their babies up for adoption instead of (selfishly) parenting them? Seriously. They honestly do that. “Good” Mormons, under the leadership of their local LDSFS offices, who fast and pray that mothers and babies will be separated for time and all eternity so that infertile couples can become parents. I get sick to my stomach thinking there are people of my own faith out there, fasting and praying that another woman and child have to be put through the hell that is adoption.

Not that they see it that way.

According the Sister Beck, “Adoption blesses both birth parents and the child in this life and the eternities.”

Yeah, Sister Beck, remind me again of the blessings I have received from adoption other than a broken heart and a broken relationship with my daughter? Tell me again what a blessing it has been to have people look at me in revulsion and horror as they say, “Oh, I could have NEVER given my baby away! You are such a hero.”

I can’t speak for my daughter but I wonder what kind of blessings she has gotten out of adoption.  But hey, Sister Beck? Can you  look me up in the eternities and remind me about the blessings of adoption when my grandchildren and posterity, in perpetuity, are not considered part of my family? I am sure I will be eversograteful for the rest of forever, amen, to have been cut off from my daughter and my descendants. /sarc

Most days, I can keep a lid on my anger about what this craptastic system has done to me and to you and to our now non-existent relationship. Today is not one of them and anyone who crosses me is going to get an earful.

I HATE ADOPTION AND WHAT IT DOES TO OTHERWISE PERFECTLY LOVELY, CAPABLE, AND RATIONAL WOMEN.

Myself included.

 

Of Course This is How it Ends, Part Deux & a Response to Red Hot’s “Bitter” Comment

Remember Jayci, that girl who is pregnant with Brandon Davies’ son and is planning to relinquish him for adoption? Remember her happy-happy joy-joy adoption blog?

It’s gone now. Vanished into thin air.

Of course this is how it ends.

When too much TRUTH is told about the toll adoption takes on first mothers and adoptees, the LDS adoption community circles the wagons and cuts off the “invaders.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if Jayci goes into seclusion or hiding of some sort until this dirty deed has been done, the paper work signed and filed with the county and state. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t hear nary a word from her again until her son is “safely” ensconced in the arms of another woman, a woman who is as foreign to him as you or I. A woman who doesn’t smell right, doesn’t sound right, doesn’t move right – isn’t right to his tiny newborn brain and heart.

I have known it to happen before with single expectant mothers in the LDS church who are being educated by others about the TRUE cost adoption will extract from them, their parented children, their relationships, and most importantly, their relinquished child.

Heaven forbid the TRUTH be told.

I was going to leave a response to someone named “Red Hot” over on Jayci’s blog who started in with the “bitter birth mother/angry adoptee” garbage but while I was typing it in, the blog *poof* disappeared.  I guess I will post it here instead, since it seems like the wagons have been circled. When that happens, there is no hope of that young mother escaping with her heart and her motherhood intact.

 

_________________________________________________________________

And thus the “bitter” moniker slinging begins. *sigh*

Thanks, Red Hot. Jayci had better get used to being called bitter by the likes of people such as yourself. The moment she starts to speak the Truth about the pain caused by cutting off generations of her descendants for time and all eternity (via adoption and the sealing ordinance), it will be too late for her to do anything about it. It’s nice to know you will be there to call her bitter.  While you are at it, be sure to remind her that no one held a gun to her head and made her sign the papers, that *she* made the decision and therefore has no right to feel the immense grief that will surely come. That is *very* helpful to a first mother who is hurting.

According to LDS theology and practice, every single one of my descendants that come through my daughter I placed for adoption are lost to me and my family. FOREVER. That’s quite the reward for such a “loving” decision, isn’t it? Even a murderer has the chance of pardon or reprieve. A first mother? It is a life sentence and in the LDS church, it is an eternal one too. There is no chance at redemption, no chance to ever reclaim a rightful inheritance. It is lost to both me and my daughter and our descendants for time and all eternity. Sit with that for a while and then get back with me about how “loving” adoption is for the adoptee or first mothers.

Once Jayci signs those papers and her son is sealed to another family, she is a persona non grata for ETERNITY in the lives of her descendants who come through her son.  She needs to think very carefully about what this means to her, her parents, her future children, and most importantly, to her son. She is willfully and intentionally cutting her son off (and all future descendants) from his rightful heritage. All in the name of love, of course.

The potential adoptive couple might be the nicest, most loving, most incredible people on the planet but when it comes right down to it, in the eyes of the law Jayci will not matter. In the eyes of the LDS theology and eternal family units, Jayci will not matter.

It doesn’t matter how many text messages they exchange or how many times they have Jayci over for dinner, it will not erase those simple truths from Jayci’s life or her son’s life. It doesn’t not matter how many “birth mother” bracelets, blankets, or monthly packages they send Jayci, she will reduced to nothing more than a walking uterus and a birth vessel in the eyes of California state law and by the doctrine of the LDS church. You may think that adoption is “so different” nowadays, but the  Truth is Jayci will still go home without her son and her son will still be raised by virtual strangers who can at ANY moment cut Jayci off from his life. For ANY reason. That is the Truth, as hard as it might be for some to hear.

Red Hot, *until and unless you have walked the path of a first mother* for nearly 20 years, have NO RIGHT to call those who have, “bitter.”  We speak TRUTH and sometimes TRUTH is a hard thing (1 Ne 16:2), a bitter pill to swallow.

If there is bitterness detected, perhaps it is bitterness in your own moral conscious and not in the hearts of first mothers who made a “loving” decision that shattered her family relationships FOR ETERNITY. Perhaps our Truth is a hard thing to you because you know in your heart we are speaking with the voice of wisdom and the authority of experience. Perhaps you know in your heart that babies and their mothers deserve to be together whenever possible, regardless of marital or financial status. (Ahem… did anyone else listen to Elder Cook’s talk in conference this last April???? You know, the one where he says that bit about single mothers who are single *for any reason*?)

Bitterness? No. Broken hearts? Yes. Sadness? Yes. Wondering why no one had the courage or willingness to tell me the TRUTH about adoption and its affect on my life, my relationships, my parented children, and most importantly on my daughter? Yes. But bitter is certainly something I am not, thankyouverymuch.

Myself, and many of the other first mothers who have posted comments here only want Jayci to be fairly warned of the eternal implications of what she is about to do.  We understand little of what we say will be taken to heart but at least she won’t be able to say, “No one told me differently.” These words will stand as a witness she was told differently and chose to go ahead with her “adoption plan” anyway.

That being said, we will be here to help her pick up the pieces in 6-8 years when the adoption anesthesia starts to wear off.

Of Course This is How It Ends

When the story of Brandon Davies’ (an adoptee, btw) violation of the BYU honor code first broke, I knew it was because he had gotten someone pregnant.  Come on folks, let us all stop lying to each other and just deal with reality. Any of us who grew up in the shadow of those ever lasting hills has to be truthful and acknowledge the only reason any of those athletes get publicly admonished for honor code violations is if they do something that BYU can’t cover up. Jayci Stephen’s swelling belly is something they can’t hide. Even when rumors where swirling around that he had been suspended because of other reasons, I knew in my heart it was because someone was pregnant with his baby.

Since Jayci is LDS (linky to her FB page where she states this), there was never any doubt in my mind of the outcome of the situation. Never. Her only choice would be adoption. If not at birth, then people would continue to tell her, “It’s never too late to do the right thing” until she finally caved and gave in to societal and parental pressure.  While parenting might be given lip service by the social workers at LDSFS and by church leaders, tremendous amounts of pressure is placed on a single expectant parent to “do the heroic,  and right thing” and “make an adoption plan.” After all, that’s what good mothers do. Good mothers let other people raise their baby. Good mothers never parent on their own.

How do I know this is what she is being told?

Because it is my story.  It is our story.

Naturally, she selected a very white family to raise her mixed-race baby. Naturally, they will be there in the delivery room with her when the baby is born.

And naturally, the LDSFS adoption community is swooning over this latest “miracle and blessing.” So get ready folks for the blog of another LDS birth mommy who is simply overjoyed to be the vessel carrying someone other woman’s baby to hit the ‘net.

It should prove to be an entertaining ride.

 

For Whatever Reason

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Last April at General Conference, Elder Cook gave a talk titled, “LDS Women are Incredible!.”  I have to agree, for the most part. Most of the women I hang out with who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are pretty amazing, accomplished, and intelligent women. They are women who have figured out how to balance the rewarding demands of being a mother with the rewarding demands of a life “outside of the home” as well. And GASP (said tongue in cheek) some of them are even single women. In fact, a few of them have never married but have adopted older children from the foster care system. Yes, that means they are single parents. By choice. Single mothers of previously unwanted and unruly teenagers who flourish under their loving, consistent care.

An overarching theme of this spring’s General Conference was that of service and charitable works for others.  Elder Cook’s talk was tucked in amongst others such as Elder Eyring’s “Opportunities to Do Good” and Elder Ballard’s “Finding Joy Through Loving Service.”   I particularly loved Elder Ballard’s emphasis on showing our appreciation of the Atonement of Jesus Christ by doing as He did – “simple, compassionate acts of service.” To me, this is where true Christianity is manifest – when we do as Christ would have done.

But back to Elder Cook’s address. When he gave his talk, one phrase jumped out at me. Perhaps it is because of my history of being a single parent, both with you and with Captain Knuckle that my ear and heart are attuned to these kinds of things. But for whatever reason, I was heartened by his words,

“You devoted sisters who are single parents for whatever reason, our hearts reach out to you with appreciation. Prophets have made it clear ‘that many hands stand ready to help you. The Lord is not unmindful of you. Neither is His Church.’ ” (April, 2011. Elder Quinten L. Cook, quoting President Gordon B. Hinkley from 1996; emphasis mine).

Single parents. For whatever reason.

Here is a man I believe to be an apostle of the Lord, admonishing His followers to reach out to single mothers — regardless of how or why they became single parents. He is telling us to reach out with hands ready to help and appreciative hearts.  His words fortified my courage – my future efforts to reach out to single expectant mothers is in complete keeping with newly established official policy and directly in line with divinely inspired advice from a modern-day apostle of Jesus Christ.

While my heart and mind soared at the possibilities this new authority could afford my efforts, another part of my heart sank into despair.

I wondered…why didn’t this include me all those years ago? Why didn’t it include us? The moment I found out I was pregnant with you, I turned my life “around” and returned to church. At the time I relinquished you, I had been actively participating in church services for over 16 months. I did my Visiting Teaching.  I attended Relief Society events. I held callings. I paid my tithing. I sang in ward choir.  I attended Sacrament meeting faithfully.

Was I not a devoted sister? Were you not just as precious and irreplaceable as my future children? Where were the many hands that should have stood ready to help me? Instead of support, I felt tremendous pressure from my culture and my priesthood leaders to “do the right thing” and place you for adoption, simply because I was single. That phrase, “It is never to late to do the right thing” is seared into my soul. Why was I held up as the paragon of a “good mother” by giving you away to strangers so you could have  “better” life? How completely sick and wrong is that??? More importantly, how is telling a young mother that her child was entitled to more than she could offer (at that moment in time) in keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ? How is that loving, for either the mother or her child???

And where was God in all of this? An apostle of the Lord just told me that the Lord was mindful of me during that time period in my life as a single parent…but where was He?

I reject the idea that you had a “better” life than you would have had with me. Different, yes, but better? Was it better for you to grow up completely divorced from your culture, from your people? Was it better for you not to know your Samoan grandmother and aunties? Was it better for you to be raised without the knowledge of whose blood courses through your veins? Of the history of the mitochondrial DNA that powers your every breath? Was it better for you to be raised by people who don’t understand your love of words and the deep longing you have for education? Was it better for you to be raised not knowing your brothers and your sister?

Bottom line: Was it better for you to be raised by strangers or would it have been better for you to have remained with me?

Sure, there might have been more money (initially), but can money truly replace your heritage? Was that extra trip to Disneyland worth the loss of a mother who loves you beyond all reason and has from the moment she discovered she was pregnant? Were the piano lessons worth the sorrow your brothers feel at your absence in their lives? Was the college tuition worth not knowing you are an exact carbon copy of your mother, right down to the rhythms in your poetry?

Those are questions only you can answer.

And then I come back to the here and now and the lessons I learned from Elder Cook’s talk: We are called to love, support, and serve sisters who are single parents for whatever reason. This tells me it is not for me to determine who is worthy of my efforts, who is deserving to be a mother and who isn’t deserving. My role is to support and care for these single mothers and help strengthen their parenting skills. Period. Not convince them they are not able to parent. Not convince them their child would be better off with strangers, to be adopted and sealed away from their natural families for time and all eternity.

Support and love them in their role as mother in every way possible. That is the sum total of what we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are called to do. Not convince them they are not capable or able to parent.

I could spend another couple of hours pontificating, but I can hear little Penelope over the baby monitor. “Ma, ma, ma, ma, ma, ma, ma” she says, with ever increasing intensity. It makes me wonder how long you called for me all those years ago and the heartbreak you must have felt when I never came for you. You didn’t understand I thought I was doing what was best for you, that I was trying to protect you from the “horrors” of being raised by a single mother.

All you knew is that you called out for me and I never returned.

I am so sorry for that.

M.

To Bishop F: Thanks for Everything!

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

That last two times I spoke with your mother (last June/July), she asked me if I had been in contact with Bishop F. recently. (In case you didn’t know, he was my Bishop at the time I relinquished you for adoption, the one who urged me “that it is never too late to do the ‘right’ thing” and spent many hours convincing me that you deserved so much more than I could ever possibly offer you. He is the one who arranged your adoption – he had been your parent’s neighbors for years and….well, I trusted him. Any time I had concerns, hesitations, or did not think adoption was the right thing for us, he deftly and expertly talked me out of it, as well-trained social workers in the adoption industry are taught to do (and can even get continuing education credit for it, too! How sweet is that? Thanks National Council for Adoption for providing well intentioned social workers like him with the tools necessary to convince a vulnerable but extremely capable young mother that she was a big fat pile of steaming poo and that she would potentially “destroy” her daughter’s chances at success in life if she parented!!!! Thanks, NCFA, for teaching people to prey on the weaknesses of the most vulnerable among our citizenry, all in the name of love. Huzzah for infant adoption training, eh?).

Bishop F. was the one who reassured me it was “just the abuse” talking and the best way to prove I was a “good” parent and “truly loved” you was to relinquish you for adoption. After all, adoption is about love, you know and birthmothers are good mothers (implying that single mothers who choose to parent are bad parents). He was one of the people who urged me to remember the mother in King Solomon who would rather have another woman raise her child than to see her child perish. He just forgot to tell me the rest of the story and I was too stupid/naive/trusting to go do my own research and to trust my own mothering instincts.  (Side note: He is also the same one who convinced me to dump Mr. Amazing Man because he was told “old” for me – ha. Joke is on him, eh?).

At any rate, the last time I spoke to your mother, I told her I had not talked to Bishop F. since I had gotten divorced in 1997 (when he called me to urge me to work out my marriage to my ex-husband.) But every time your mother asks about him, it feels like a litmus test of some sort, as if she is wants to know if I have kept him up to date so he can judge whether I am a good person or not or am “safe” enough to have contact with at this point.

So when it came time to send out graduation announcements, I sent one to your parents. When I sent theirs, I took a deep breath also sent one to Bishop F., along with a letter. That way if your mother ever asks if I have contacted him, I can answer in the affirmative. The following is the letter I sent along with it (obviously names and places have been changed).

April 14, 2011

Dear Bishop F. –

Not sure if you remember me, but I am M., Ms. Feverfew’s first/birth mother. I know it has been many years since we communicated but I just thought I would update you on how my life has unfolded.  I think the last you may have heard from me was when my then husband, The Ex and I were going through a divorce in 1997.

During that same time, I had been called to testify against my biological father for his abuse (he eventually went to prison). I testified against him on a Friday and the following Monday, The Ex asked me for a divorce. Fortunately, my very wise and knowing Bishop at the time knew far more than I did what was actually going on in The Ex’s life. He advised me to file for divorce and loaned me the money to do so. Within a short time period after it was final, The Ex ended up marrying my therapist’s 18 year old daughter, leaving me a single mother with a darling blue-eyed, dimple cheeked 8-month old little baby boy.

After the dust settled, I went back to school full time and worked a graveyard shift at a disabled adult care facility so I could provide for my little one and get a degree at the same time. It worked out well for little son and me  – my sister took care of him overnight while I was working and I was able to get homework done while my clients slept.  I graduated summa cum laude with my BS in Psychology from Utah State University in 2000 and immediately went on to a MS program in Instructional Technology there.

About this same time period, my mom remarried a wonderful man, my New and Improved Dad. He eventually adopted many of my siblings and myself, even though we were all adults at the time. He is the father that I was promised in my Patriarchal blessing all those years ago and has been such a miracle in all of our lives.  My parents live in a sleepy little town at the south end of Cache Valley and it is there that I now call home.  My mom has gone on to be a successful author and writer. One of her books was used for many years by LDSFS as the resource in their drug and alcohol recovery program. Eventually, she was tasked to write one specifically for the church with a friend of hers, which is the one in current use by the church. She and my New and Improved Dad recently co-authored another book specifically for the spouses of people who are struggling with sexual addictions in the LDS culture.

In the fall of 2002, I married the love of my life and this year will mark our 9th anniversary. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to be married to a man so exquisitely matched to my unique needs.   I am certain that God brought him into my life to help me overcome the challenges I have faced and to accomplish the things the Lord has set before me. Perhaps you remember him – he was the tall, dark haired green-eyed Special Forces soldier I was dating fairly seriously at the time you were my Bishop, just after the H.’s adopted Ms. Feverfew.

I finished my MS degree in 2003 and have had two more lovely children. Our son is six years old and is a wonderfully challenging little one to parent. He has a keen intellect and a command of the English language well beyond his years.  I simply adore him and am so grateful God sent him into my life! I was also blessed to have a baby girl early last May. We named her after her two grandmothers. Needless to say, she has brought untold amounts of joy to our little family. The boys are a completely head over heels for her and her daddy is utterly smitten with her.

I am nearing completion of my PhD in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State and will be graduating in May of this year. Yes, that means I took comps, defended a proposal, and finished a dissertation all while having a nursing baby, a grade-schooler, and a teenager – crazy, but true!!! I will graduate on May 6th, four days before our little girl’s first birthday.

I felt strongly prompted by the Lord to return to school and earn a PhD and in 2006, the way was made clear to do so. Mr. Amazing Man had started another two-year deployment schedule and so I moved back to Logan with the boys to complete course work. When I had completed the course work and Mr. Amazing Man’s deployments came to an end, we joined him at his current assignment. It has been a tremendous amount of work but I have held fast to the knowledge and conviction that I have been on the Lord’s errand as I earn this degree. It has been the only thing that has sustained me as I have balanced the demands of research and academic writing with being a mother.

We currently live in the Tidewater where we are active members of our ward and have enjoyed the wonderful history in the area.  My fascination with the history and the area has only deepened as I recently discovered my maternal grandmother’s side of the family is entirely peopled by Tidewater residents of the oldest order (thank you FamilySearch.org!) I have multiple direct ancestral lines that can be traced back to charter members and early settlers during the 1610s and 1620s.  Not only that, but also many of my direct ancestors stayed in this general vicinity for the last 400 years!  Finding this out has only heightened my love and attachment to the Tidewater area and the people I have grown to know and love.

As much as we love this area we will be moving  in July. My husband’s work with the military requires we move every couple of years, meaning we are always making new friends and having new adventures. Captain Knuckle will be entering the 9th grade and so we hope to stretch the assignment into a four-year gig so he can finish all of high school in one place. Mr. Amazing Man will be doing a lot of deploying, which means I get to be a “sort of single parent” again. Fortunately, it has gotten easier as the years have gone by. Parenting Captain Knuckle on my own for nearly six years and then managing Mr. Amazing Man’s multiple deployments with two boys and graduate school has taught me I do not need to be afraid of what challenges life might bring my way. God always provides a way.

All in all, life has turned out to be sweet and good, despite its challenges. I hope all is well in your life – I would love to hear from you if you get a chance.

Sincerely,

M.

Naturally, I have not heard back from him. Or your parents.

Not that I am expecting too, but to be honest, it would be nice to be acknowledged that I exist.

I think I handled things fairly well in the letter, don’t you? Especially considering this is the man that I trusted so implicitly (as was only natural – he was my Bishop and a father figure to me during that time period). I think I did a fairly decent job of not telling him exactly what I thought of his craptastic advice to (a) relinquish you for adoption, (b) dump Mr. Amazing Man all those years ago, and (c) get back with my ex-husband when that marriage hit the rocks.  Good thing I finally listened to my heart and to common sense. Otherwise I just might still be related to my ex-mother in law and that makes me shudder!!!!  All in all, I feel I did a very good job bringing him up to date with the happenings in my life and hopefully he will give the thumbs up of approval to your parents. Hopefully the letter convinces him that I am not some raving lunatic crack whore birthmother who wants your parents money or to usurp their position of authority in your life.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if I was that kind of woman instead of the stable, settled, well-educated, successful normal mother and wife I have become. Then at least I would fit the LDS cultural stereotype of a fallen woman and it might be easier for everyone to “deal” with me. As it is, no one knows quite what to do or say.

Much love,

M.

Someone Has to Face the Valley, Part 3: (Some) Answers

Dear Ms. Feverfew,

I am feeling pretty emotionally wrung out, like one of the old bath towels we would use to dry off after one of our daily water fights during the hot desert summers there in Utah. Invariably, just as I was almost dry enough to be let back in the house, a brother would turn the hose on me again, drenching me and the towel. I would enlist the help of one of my siblings to  twist is up like a pretzel, wringing out as much water as possible so I could try to dry off again. That’s kind of what I feel like right now. I am a frayed and faded threadbare towel, laying on the hot summer sidewalk after being twisted into knots.

The first half of the 50 minute session started with me explaining my background and then I started asking him some of the questions I had brought with me. That all ended  when I started asking questions about the counsel single expectant mothers are given in comparison to newly converted single mothers. With tears brimming in my eyes I asked him, “Why was I told it was selfish to raise my daughter but no one would ever consider saying that to a new convert who was single and had a nine month old daughter? What is so different about me and my daughter?” He tipped back onto the back two legs of his chair, crossed his arms and declared, “The church is not interested in justifying its position on adoption. I have a few things I would like to tell you, but I don’t think you would listen.” I said, “Try me.”

And then I sat pretty much silent for the second half as he proceeded to tell me what my problems were and how he felt he was qualified in fixing them.

So I will just hit the “highlights” of the visit with Brother O. and then digest them at greater length over the next few days.

Most Helpful Information:

  • Brother O. told me that the LDS church is looking to get out of adoptions entirely. He said they are going to start referring members who need adoption services to “private agencies”, Catholic Charities, or Lutheran Family Services. When I asked him why, he said, “Members are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the heavy subsidization of adoptions through the tithes and offerings.” While I suspect that has something to do with it, I also suspect the recent lawsuits of fathers who have had their rights trampled on by LDSFS and Utah adopters working their way through the court system there in Utah has a lot to do with it too.  Probably a lot more than any leader in the church is willing to admit out loud.
  • Brother O. also told me that ANY LDS “birth mother” who has EVER relinquished a baby, whether with LDSFS or not is entitled to free counseling for the rest of her life.  I told him he is the first person in the last 18 years that has told me this. Even his secretary told me I had to pay for the visit when I spoke with her on Monday. He leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, tipped his chin up as the muscles around his eyes went hard, and in a low voice said, “Are you calling me a liar? Pat works for me. She doesn’t know what she is talking about.” Now that I look back, this should have been a clear sign to me to just end the conversation and be done but you know me and my crazy belief that people are fundamentally good and helpful unless they prove otherwise. But bottom line: I didn’t have to pay $112.50 yesterday to be told that my testimony of the gospel is doubtful because of the types of questions I was asking.

Sort of Helpful Information

  • When asked about Fred Riley’s statement about adoption being a priesthood ordinance, he scornfully laughed and said, “He doesn’t work for LDSFS anymore. What does it matter what he said or when he said it?” I pressed him on the issue again and he said, “No, it isn’t. It never has been.” Good, glad we cleared that up.
  • According to Brother O. Colorado now allows any adoptee upon the age of 18 to access their full unamended birth certificate. I don’t know if this is true or not or sort of true for some adoptees but not others.
  • Church policy about contact between adoptees and natural families has changed. (Already knew that.)
  • No, adoptees are not offered the free lifetime counseling if they were surrendered through LDSFS. He had no response to my question, “Why?”

Least Helpful Information

  • When asked why the LDS church was so involved with NCFA, Brother O. tipped his head back again and looked down his freckled nose at me saying, “I don’t see why that is even a concern of yours.”
  • When discussing adoption and the various stories from the scriptures,  he raised his voice at me a bit and said, “Melynda – those are all just metaphors. What do they really mean? They are just words.” Stunned, I just looked at him not sure what to say.
  • “You are truly the exception to the rule, Melynda. Most other single mothers aren’t as successful as you have been. Most other first mothers don’t get their act together either.” (Another point I should have gotten up and left.)

Really, Truly, Awful Things That Should Have Never Been Said

  • “Your questions lead me to believe you have an issue with the church. You are conflating  Mormonism with adoption. They are two different things.” (Uh…no. No they aren’t in this particular situation. Not when the very principles and foundational beliefs of the gospel were used a tools to convince me that my daughter deserved more than me.)
  • “I think it would be good for you to meet with me. Consider it immersion therapy – it would force you to sit here and talk to a man in a white shirt and tie in an LDS church building, and face it, that’s what you really have a problem with – the LDS church.” (My response: “No it isn’t. If I had a problem with the “church,” I sure would not be sitting here today talking to you. I wouldn’t hold a temple recommend, I wouldn’t be paying tithing, and I sure wouldn’t be doing my Visiting Teaching every month.”
  • He saved the best for last though. I had mentioned a couple of times that I know where my daughter lives and that she had grown into a lovely young woman and he said, “What kind of power does having the information give you?” I said what any first mother would say – I get to know that my daughter is alive and that she appears to be doing well. He pressed again, “No, what kind of satisfaction are you getting from knowing where she lives?” Hot tears started streaming down my cheeks as I looked at him and said, “I get to know that my daughter is ALIVE. This is something most first mothers NEVER get to know about their child.” Nonplussed, he pressed again with a sneer in his voice, “You must derive some type of power or satisfaction from this information, especially since her parents don’t want you involved with her life.”  At this point, I had no response….I just sat there and let the tears fall. This is when I knew I was d.o.n.e. talking with him.

Needless to say, I won’t be going back no matter how fabulous Brother O. thinks it would be for me. Thank you, but I don’t need your kind of help. Even though I wouldn’t have to pay any money, the cost for the “help” he is offering is far to high.

More to come later –

M.