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.

The Doctrine of Transferability & LDS Adoption Policy

The Doctrine of Transferability states:

“When a man and a woman are married in the temple for time and all eternity and then separate, the children will go with the parent who is justified and who has kept the covenants. If neither of them has kept his covenants, the children may be taken away from both of them and given to somebody else and that would be by virtue of being born under the covenant. A child is not to be sealed the second time when born under the covenant, but by virtue of that birthright can be transferred. (Questions Frequently Asked About the Temple and the Endowment. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981, 10).

Let me see if I have this straight: In a Mormon afterlife, children can be taken away from less righteous parents and given to more righteous ones by virtue of the sealing ordinance. Children can thereby be transferred from one family to another, never taking into consideration what the child may want. It’s all about the more righteous parents being “justified.”

Sounds an awful lot like LDS adoption policy to me.

Should anyone be wondering why LDS first mothers are such a hot mess most of the time, this is a perfect example of why. This is what we were taught from the time we were small enough to sit on our mother’s laps. That if we aren’t perfect, we deserve to loose our children. Not only do we deserve it, but we should expect it, too.

LDS first mothers have been taught since our youngest days that if any parent isn’t righteous enough, he or she will have their children taken from them in the next life and transferred to someone else, some more “qualified” and “worthy” couple. The pattern has already been set in our doctrine – we are mere players on a stage at this point. Parents that are “unrighteous” in this life lose their children and the more righteous (and infertile) ones feel perfectly justified in facilitating the transfer of those children into their family. After all, it is a pattern God has set forth for the eternities. Why not help Him along right now?

Love is Banishment

What goes by the name of love is banishment,
with now and then a postcard from the homeland.
– Samuel Beckett, First Love

I came across this Beckett quote in my reading earlier this week. I immediately thought of all my friends who are adult adoptees, the ones who have taught me what is feels like to live a life different than the one they were born into, a life manufactured by social workers, bishops, adoption brokers, grandparents, and most painful of all, their own mothers – regardless of how well intentioned she was or how much her choice was motivated by love. These adult adoptees are the ones who, with patience and honesty, have taught me the deep pain of growing up banished to a strange and foreign land, even if they came to love their adopted homeland and its inhabitants with a profound love.

Beckett’s words sting this mother’s heart. They re-open wounds I have come to accept will never fully heal.

It is true, I banished my daughter from her homeland in the name of love. I fell prey to the LDS church’s carefully crafted and well-planned “Adoption: It’s About Love” campaign. You know, the one created by Steve Sunday (currently on the Board of Directors for the National Council For Adoption) in partnership with Bonneville International and their copyrighted “HeartSell”® advertising techniques.

Trusting, believing, and naive, I was led like a lamb to the slaughter with my daughter in my arms. And then, in the name of love, I sacrificed my own mother-heart when I placed my firstborn child on the altar of adoption, LDS-style.  Twenty-two years later, I am still asking where was our ram in the thicket? Where was our delivering angel? Why weren’t we worth saving?

To some, it doesn’t matter my motivation or what extreme social and psychological pressures I was under at the time to “do the right thing.”  To some, all that matters is I had “free agency” to make my own choices, to which I ask, “Did I *really* have “free agency,” considering what I had been taught growing up and the social and religious coercion that was in play at that moment in time? Did I really have “free agency” when HeartSell techniques were being used to influence my thoughts and actions? Can “free agency” even exist in such a religiously manipulative and coercive environment? Can “free agency” *really* even exist within the patriarchal power differential that exists between a LDS bishop (who happens to also be a social worker well-versed in the NCFA “good mother/birth mother” rhetoric) and a young unwed 20-year old mother?”

But none of that seems to matter to some. The fact (the truth) remains: Regardless of my motivation or the reasons, I banished my daughter to the land of the adopted ones. Consequently, I am a persona non gratis into the eternities, at least according to LDS church doctrine.  My heart tells me differently, common sense tells me differently, but the religion of my youth tells me she is lost to my family for the eternities, because of a “loving” God and the sealing ordinance.

Love is banishment, with now and then a postcard from the homeland.

 

 

 

“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.

I am Philomena

Adam Pertman, adoptive father, author of books such as ‘Adoption Nation’ and ‘Adoption by Lesbians and Gay Men,’ researcher, and president of the Even B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, recently wrote an article for HuffPo about the movie, “Philomena.”  It can be found here: Big Lessons That Transcend the Movie: There Are Philomenas All Around Us

I felt a profound sense of relief when he acknowledged my own reality:

“…the reality is that during the mid-20th century and beyond, severe religious, social and familial stigmas against unwed motherhood were the norm far beyond Ireland. As a consequence, it’s almost certainly true that there are more Philomenas in the United States than in any other country — i.e., women who, given a choice, would have parented their children rather than suffering the anguish of losing them” (Emphasis added.)

He is right. And I am one of them.

Me in 1992, seven months pregnant with my daughter.

I am Philomena.

I am a mother, who without the extreme social, religious, and familial pressures of the LDS church and culture, would have raised my daughter and done a damn fine job of it, too. However, my reality is that unlike most other mothers of loss to adoption, it took eight months and 27 days from my daughter’s birth until I was overwhelmed by the unforgiving social and religious stigmas against unwed mothers in the LDS church.

Like a tide that only flowed in one direction, it seemed a foregone conclusion from the moment I found out I was pregnant that it wasn’t if I would relinquish my oldest daughter, my beloved “Boo Bear,” for adoption, but when. That try as I might, it was God’s will for her to be raised by someone other than me and I should just stop fighting the inevitable outcome and ride the rolling swells out to sea.

My reality is I was peppered with questions and comments reinforcing this idea. When are you finally going to do the ‘right’ thing and place her for adoption?  When are you going to stop thinking of yourself and what you want? Why are you choosing to fly in the face of the prophet’s counsel by raising her on your own? Why are you putting your wants ahead of her need for the sealing ordinance? What are you trying to prove by raising her on your own – don’t you see she deserves a family who loves her? Why are you depriving her of a saving ordinance? If you really loved your daughter, you would let her be adopted by a married couple so she could have the saving ordinance performed. You know Melynda, the likelihood you will ever get married if you keep her is extremely low. Temple worthy men don’t date girls with babies. Doesn’t your daughter deserve so much more than to just be raised by you? If you truly love your daughter, you would place her for adoption with parents that can offer her more.

My reality is my bishop at the time said things to me like, “You know Melynda, it’s never too late to do the ‘right’ thing. I happen to know a wonderful couple looking to add to their family…”

My reality is the more I fought to keep my precious child with me, the more I was told I was being selfish, even cruel. Yes, a person I respected and trusted told me it was CRUEL and un-Godly to “selfishly” raise my daughter as a single mother. I was also told it was abusive to keep her. Not that *I* was abusive, but the mere act of raising a child as a single parent was inherently abusive.

My reality is I didn’t see those comments for their absurdity – I took them as indictments against my personal character and my ability to mother my cherished daughter. Those kinds of comments and questions created a chasm of self-doubt in me, a crippling worry I was going to “ruin” my daughter if I didn’t place her for adoption. Those kinds of comments fostered the thinking that by keeping her, I was damning her to a life of misery and “selfishly impeding her eternal progression.”

My reality is after eight months and 27 days of being a single mother, my faith in my ability to raise my daughter collapsed under this kind of extreme shame-based cultural coercion.  My sense of worth to anyone, God included and certainly my children, was pulverized and crushed to a fine powder during those months. It has yet to fully recover. I’m not sure it will ever make a full recovery in this lifetime.

“First and foremost, shaming or coercing parents into parting with their children…inflicts profound and lasting psychic wounds.”

Mr. Pertman doesn’t make such an assertion lightly – years of research back up his statement. Shame and coercion in adoption inflict “profound and lasting” wounds on birth mothers.  Research wasn’t wrong about that, at least not in my case.

As difficult as Mr. Pertman’s summary of research findings is to read, it is comforting to know a *man*  – an adoptive father, at that! – can understand what many others fail to grasp about losing a child to adoption. One should note I do not sit around nursing these “profound and lasting” wounds 24/7, regardless of what some readers of this blog think (and express in their emails to me). Just as many other Philomena’s have done across the years, I have carved out a great life for myself in the midst of this loss. I have learned to live well in spite of this ambiguous loss and unresolvable grief. I have come to terms that these “profound and lasting psychic wounds” are in my life to stay for some time – perhaps permanently – but they needn’t dictate my relationships with my children or others. Yes, the wounds are still there 20+ years on, but now they are mostly like old curmudgeons reminding me to listen more closely, love more readily, and treat myself and others with greater compassion.

There are other important things Mr. Pertman has to say about the lessons Philomena can teach a broader audience, so please take the time to read his article. There are broader lessons to be learned, if only people will listen and are willing to be taught.

“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.

These are Temporary States

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

More ruminations about last week’s General Conference talks. In the Saturday morning session, President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said something that probably slipped past most people, but not me. Here is one of the things he said:

“Some…are raising children as single mothers or
single fathers. These are temporary states. In the eternal scheme of things—not always in mortality—righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled.” (Boyd K. Packer, 2012. And a Little Child Shall Lead Them).

I wonder how many of the “happy” LDS birth mothers – you know, the ones who are seemingly thrilled to have been given the “honor” and “privilege” to give their babies away to other women, so much so they are out there actively advocating and recruiting other mothers into this sorry sisterhood – how many of them heard what an Apostle of the Lord told them last Saturday, that being a single parent is a temporary state. He confirmed what many of us already know: Adoption is a permanent solution for the temporary state of single parent status. I wonder how many of those same “happy” LDS birth mothers heard what Elder Baxter told the single parents of the 13+ million member church a few hours later when he said:

“With God’s help, you need not fear for the future. Your children will grow up and call you blessed, and every single one of their many achievements will stand as a tribute to you. Please never feel that you are in some kind of second-tier subcategory of Church membership, somehow less entitled to the Lord’s blessings than others. In the kingdom of God there are no second-class citizens.” (David Baxter, 2012. Faith,
Fortitude, and Fulfillment: A Message to Single Parents
).

“Although you often feel alone, in truth you are never
totally on your own. As you move forward in patience and in faith, Providence will move with you; heaven will bestow its needful blessings.”

I wonder if these merciful and compassionate words of an Apostle and an Elder in the church made any of them wonder how different their life would have been if they had been met by LDSFS counselors and church members who held the same views? Did it prick their conscience even a bit? Or did they continue on their merry way, continuing to believe it was “God’s plan” to use their uterus and their body to get a baby to the “right” family, believing they would never be able to offer an eternal family status to their child, even when an Apostle declares it a temporary state? I wonder, will they continue to advocate and recruit other mothers as intensely as they do, knowing mercy is over taking justice within the LDS church? I wonder, would they have made the same “choice” if, instead of spouting NCFA-sanctioned rhetoric, their LDSFS case worker, bishop, and parents offered the same hope held out by Elder Baxter? Can you imagine a bishop or LDSFS case worker reminding a single expectant mother her marital status was a temporary state (Packer, 2012) and in the eternal scheme of things, she can offer the idealized “more” – you know, an eternal family, a stable, happy home, and parents who are utterly devoted to each other AND that their children would call them “blessed” for it (Baxter, 2012)? What if she had been told she “need not fear for their future, and as they move forward with faith in raising their child, ‘providence will bestow its needful blessings’ ” (Baxter, 2012)?

I know this conference will have little affect on LDSFS adoption practices and probably even less impact on those “happy” birth mothers who try to recruit others to relinquish their child for adoption. Infant and newborn adoption is about now, now, now, now,
now
. It is about solving the “crisis” in front of us now. It is not about being patient, trusting God’s plan and timing for us, and looking forward to the eternities with hope for our family, even if that family was create because of a wrong turn before marriage (Baxter, 2012). Just a few more thoughts about General Conference.

M.

I’m All In.

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I just posted this over on Facebook in response to the comments some of my LDS friends have left on my posting about the open letter to potential adoptive parents. It marks the first time I have publicly come out of the closet in such an overt manner. It is the first time I have ever told my LDS friends at large what adoption has done to me and my family.  I don’t know what will come of it but I do know it is going to make the ward Christmas party tomorrow night very interesting.

Much love,

M.

You know the hymn that says, “In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see”? Well, that’s me. I have a universe of sorrow I have kept hidden from the vast majority of my church friends because I have feared the exact reaction that has just occurred.

Look, I am just going to lay it all out on the line.

I am a mother who lost her oldest daughter to adoption.  After parenting her for nearly nine months, I was finally worn down by the dominant cultural rhetoric in the LDS church that told me I was being “selfish” by parenting her and that “good mothers” make “adoption plans” and “place” their children for adoption.  My bishop at the time also told me the only way I could take the sacrament again was to “prove” my repentance by relinquishing my daughter – the daughter I had nursed and loved and mothered all those months. He believed that adoption was a redemptive act on my part and would not let me partake in that sacred ordinance until I gave her away.

I now know how wrong he was in his treatment of me and my daughter.  I now know that I was forgiven of my sins INDEPENDENT of relinquishing her for adoption.  I now know the Atonement didn’t stop short of my front door simply because I was a single mother. I now know that I was relying on the arm of the flesh instead of my own personal revelation when I made the decision to relinquish my daughter. I know these things now, but I didn’t know it then.  I trusted him. He was my bishop. As a woman who loved God and wanted to please Him, what else should I have done?

However, I didn’t know the potential affect adoption can have on my daughter even if she grew up in a fabulous, amazing, incredible adoptive family. It still hurts. And it can hurt badly. If I had known the truth about the toll adoption could extract from some people, I would have never made the decision I made. My daughter would have remained with her people, the people that GOD sent her to. But I wasn’t told the WHOLE truth because NO ONE was willing to tell me the whole truth about adoption, about disenfranchised grief and the continual marginalization of “ birth” mothers and adoptees alike, about the primal wound and the adopted psyche, about sealed birth records and falsified birth certificates, about what the loss of my daughter’s Polynesian heritage would mean to her and her Samoan grandmother and aunties.

Consequently, my daughter paid the ultimate price for my mistake. And yes – it WAS a mistake for me to relinquish her for adoption. God and angels did NOT rejoice that day – I believe they wept for two of His precious children, needlessly separated by cultural practices.  The ONLY “crime” I had committed was being single. That’s it. I wasn’t abusive, I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, I was actually in school and had a job, much like many other LDS mothers that were my age. I went to church every Sunday. I did my visiting teaching. I held Family Home Evening with her. But none of that mattered. My single-ness was enough to bring down the wrath of my culture upon me and my daughter.

Yes, she was adopted by a good family and has had a good life for all intents and purposes, but God sent her to me. He trusted ME to be her mother. *I* am the one who didn’t trust God enough, I am the one who trusted in the arm of the flesh instead of trusting God’s grace and mercy for me.  In the end, I have to live every day with the fact that I chose my bishop’s approval and the LDS culture over my own daughter. This shame and sorrow is something I will carry with me until I die, perhaps longer. I have to live with the attitudes of well meaning people who believe that adoption is a “miracle and blessing” to my family and me into the eternities.  I have to live with people telling me that angels rejoiced when I lost my daughter and that the destruction of her first family is something to be celebrated.

However, nineteen years in to the eternal sentence of being a “birth” mother, I have yet to see one single moment when adoption has been a miracle or a blessing to my family or me. I challenge ANY of you who think it is to look into Luke’s eyes and tell him that NOT knowing his sister is a blessing to him, to tell him that angels rejoiced when he lost his sister. I challenge them to look into Matthew’s eyes and tell him his life has been blessed by adoption, a social practice that has rendered his older sister a complete stranger to him. I challenge them to convince him what a “miracle” it is that his sister wouldn’t recognize him from Adam if they were to ever meet. I challenge any of them to take my sweet Penelope into their arms and tell her that her life is blessed because her mother gave her only sister away to strangers.  There are no more chances for me—I can’t have any more children. She will never have a sister because of what I did—what adoption did—to our family. Remind me again—how is this a blessing and a miracle?

I challenge them to look in to the eyes of my husband—a man who would have adopted my daughter as his own, a man who stands witness to nearly two decades of the marginalization and poor treatment of his wife by members of the LDS church, who has held me for countless hours as I have wept for what adoption has done to all of my children, who has cried with me—I challenge them to tell him that adoption has blessed me and will continue to bless me into the eternities. I challenge them to tell any one of my sisters, who lost their oldest niece and long for her nearly as much as I, that adoption is a blessing. I challenge them to look into my mother’s eyes, the woman who sat next to me as I labored my daughter into this world, who held my hand and was the first to hold my daughter after she was born– I challenge them to tell my mother that angels rejoiced over her losing her first granddaughter.

How is that God’s plan?  Does the God of your Universe and His angels look at the sorrow stitched into my family’s hearts, woven into our very existence and rejoice over it? If so, then I want no part of your God. The God I believe in is full of mercy and grace. He is full of long-suffering and love unfeigned. He believes it is wrong to pluck the fatherless from the breast of their mother and he believes that TRUE religion is to care for the fatherless in their need. The apostles of my God quote prophets when they say, “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.’ (Quinten L. Cook, “LDS Women are Incredible, Ensign, May 2011; Gordon B. Hinckley, “Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1996).”  It shouldn’t have mattered why I was single. Me and my daughter were just as deserving of the love and compassion of the church community as any other mother and daughter.

My heart was shattered into a million tiny shards the day I finally caved in and “placed” my daughter with her adoptive family. I became a dead woman walking from that moment on. It has only been through extensive counseling and the unending love and patience of my husband that I have been able to carry on in any semblance of normalcy. Most of you would agree I have done a damn fine job of acting “as if” I was just fine. But the drive to excel at everything I do is firmly rooted in the reality that the LDS culture convinced me I was not good enough and would never be enough.  I struggle each and every day with my self worth and my belief that I am worthy and capable as a mother because I allowed myself to believe I was such a horrible mother that my daughter deserved to be raised by other people.  I struggle each and every day to believe I am worthy and capable of parenting the three children I have with me because honestly, I am the same mother to them as I was to my daughter and if I wasn’t good enough for her, then why am I good enough for them? My faith in God and in the Atonement have been shaken to their very core by the wreckage adoption has left behind in my life, in my parented children’s lives, and in my relationships with my sisters and mother.

In my life, adoption was a permanent solution to very temporary problems. It has not turned out to the great panacea that I was promised it would be. It has not been a win-win-win. I did not “move on,” I did not “forget.” I had other children but they will never, in all of the eternities, replace the one I lost to adoption. I know that sometimes, in the case of abuse, neglect, or drug use, adoption is a necessary thing. I accept that fact. But none of those were present in my life 19 ½ years ago and have never been in the intervening years.  Adoption was an unneeded and unnecessary social practice that I allowed to enter in to my family system. It has robbed my parented children of their sister and it has robbed my daughter of her true heritage.

In the past five or so years, I have had the distinct “pleasure” of discovering that adoption may not have been all it is cracked up to be for my daughter either.  I started reading accounts of adopted women and books written by and for the adopted person—not by and for adoptive parents, not by and for first families, but by and for adopted people. I discovered that regardless of my intentions or purest motivations, I inflicted a wound on my daughter which my culture tells her (a) to be grateful for and (b) doesn’t exist in the first place.  And this is even in the *best* of circumstances—the ideal outcome. I have come to witness firsthand how those who have the MOST to teach us about what it feels like to be adopted are the ones who are told to shut up and move the back of the bus, over and over and over and over again. I have witnessed first hand the rampant discrimination against adoptees, the ONLY class of U.S. citizens who are denied access to the full and factual accounting of their birth simply because the ADULTS in their life made choices that preclude them from having that access, even if they are now 65 years old themselves.

I have stood mutely by until now.  But I can’t any more.  My intent of sharing that link to the letter written by an adoptee was simply to give them voice, to allow the ONLY ONE in the adoption transaction that had NO CHOICE in the matter the ability to speak to us about adoption, to teach us what it means to be adopted from her perspective.

I know I am going to lose friends over this post, but it is what it is. I am tired of hiding this hurt, of pretending that I am OK with a culture that rejoices over the destruction of families under the guise of the “miracle and blessing” of adoption. And yes, my daughter and me were a family.  A family that the Lord was mindful of regardless of the reason I was single, a family that church members should have stood by with hands “ready to help.”

Instead, my culture used my cellular deep maternal instinct to protect my daughter from harm as a battering ram to convince me that I was not good enough to raise my daughter and that she deserved “more.”  My love for her was used as a tool to pry her from my arms.  The idea that my culture—that sisters in the gospel—rejoice and celebrate this loss? Well…it sent me to bed weeping afresh last night and kept me up into the small hours of the morning. It follows me around the house this morning, no longer the little dog yapping at my heels that it usually is, but a full-grown wolf, ravenous and dangerous, shadowing me as I move through the necessary daily routines of motherhood.

What is Missing

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are frequently accused of trying to earn our way in to heaven through our good works and righteous behavior, as opposed to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

I can see how many believe that; even some within our own church preach we have to earn our way into heaven. After all, we teach a person can’t be saved by grace alone, right? It has been hammered into the devout Mormon’s head throughout years of Primary, Young Women’s, and Relief Society. Grace has become a four letter word in the Mormon culture* because it is our good works that save us! Good works, good works, and more good works are what get us in to heaven!!!!

Blech. I can totally see how other Christians look at very busy Mormons, busily working our way to salvation and say, “What about grace?”

So what about grace? Yesterday, I watched a devotional given by Brad Wilcox on July 12, 2011 titled “His Grace is Sufficient” that pretty much sums up what I have learned about grace. It can be seen at http://byutv.org/watch/49475abb-10d4-4f45-a757-7000b9945468 .

I loved when Wilcox says,

“Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. Its about filling us. Jesus…paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”

It is finished. What a beautiful phrase, full of mercy. Of grace.

Wilcox’s talk has set me to thinking about the issues of justice, mercy, and grace as it applies to single expectant parents in the LDS church. For too long, single expectant parents have only been treated with the hand of justice.  This heavy hand demands perfection – perfection in families, perfection in people – and punishment when we fall short.

Frequently when a young LDS woman falls short of perfection and finds herself single and pregnant, our culture* demands she pay the price for her sins: marriage or relinquish her baby. Any other option is considered selfish and of putting her “wants” about a child’s “needs.”   The implied principle is through the “good works” of relinquishing her child, she shows she is willing to pay the price for her sins.

But the miracle of the Atonement – the miracle of grace – teaches us that Jesus Christ has already paid that price. His grace is sufficient to cover us – all of us. However, many single expectant mothers in the LDS culture are treated as if grace stops short of their front door. They are treated as if grace doesn’t pay the price for them in full, just like it does every one else.  We require the single expectant mother to prove her repentance by either marrying the man that got her pregnant or paying the ultimate price, by placing her broken heart, her mother’s love, and ultimately her child on the altar of adoption. Only then do we declare the demands of justice have been satisfied.

So what is missing in this equation? Grace.

The kind of grace that steps in and says, “It is finished. Jesus paid the debt, in full.” The kind of grace with bounty enough to enfold a mother and her growing child in the arms of merciful love, sheltering her from a culture that clamors for justice in the form of a hasty marriage or adoption. Grace, which whispers in a young mother’s ear, “You are enough.” The kind of grace that sits with a young mother while she labors her baby into the world and places the babe, still slippery with her mother’s blood and amniotic fluid, into the arms of her mother, not the arms of a more “qualified” woman waiting to take custody of this newest member of the human race.

What is lacking in the LDS church grace that takes a young mother by the shoulders and looks her squarely in the eyes and says, “Yes, this is scary and this will be hard, but you are ready to be a mother. With me, you are ready.”

This same grace then turns to the rest of us and looks us squarely in the eyes and says, “Love her. Support her. Help her become the best mother she possibly can. Help her learn and grow in the gospel of love” (see Elder Quinten L. Cook’s conference address from April 2011). This is the same grace that then leans close, takes us by the shoulders and whispers in our ear, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Yes, grace is what is missing. Justice we have plenty of. Self-righteous foot-stomping by people who have done it “the right way” and “deserve” a baby we have plenty of.  What we need is grace. And lots of it.

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*Please note I said culture, not doctrine. There’s a BIG difference between the two in many instances. Unfortunately.