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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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.

 

 

 

“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.

Am I right or am I right?

Sit back, grab of a cup of hot cocoa and be prepared for a long read. Hopefully there is something of value in this letter.

Yesterday was a watershed day for me in many ways.  I did not write about everything that transpired, but let’s just say it was real, it was raw, and it was needed.  Let me also say I am eternally grateful for a loving, compassionate, and wise husband who loves me – all of me – even the real and raw parts of me.

One of the things I spent the day wrestling with God over was this issue of the “doctrine” of adoption that Sister Beck spoke of at the LDSFS/Families Supporting Adoption conference in August. This struggle with God went on all day – I ended up neglecting many of my responsibilities around the home. God bless Jeff  – literally – for coming home, putting his arms around me and holding me tight, then doing the dishes, making dinner, giving the wee ones baths and putting them to bed all while I stomped around behind him, jabbering and frequently cursing about all of this. There are few men finer than Jeff in this world – if more men could be like him, there would be a heck of a lot less sadness and heartache.

So back to Sister Beck and what she had to tell all those folks at the conference in August. This is what she said:

“The Atonement of Christ brings us that covenant and makes us heirs with Him, so that we have the same inheritance that He has with our Father,” she said.

It is through making covenants that individuals are adopted into the kingdom of God.

“It is very doctrinally based,” she said. “We believe in literal adoption, the literal gathering of bringing people into that covenant. … [Beck, J. (2011). “Rooted in Love.” As reported in Church News 20 Aug 2011].

Now maybe my version of the scriptures is different than hers. I highly doubt it since I have double checked to make sure I am using the most current edition of the LDS standard works, but…. The stuff I remember reading about covenants and the Atonement is about being born again through the blood of our Savior, the waters of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Last night, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep, one of the last thoughts I had was, “God, either she is right or I am. We can’t both be right. Either we are adopted into the kingdom of God or we are born into it through the waters of baptism and the blood of Christ.”

When I got up this morning at 5:00 a.m. to take my older son to early morning seminary, I spent about 15 minutes reading in the Book of Mormon. The daughter of one of the ladies I Visit Teach is turning eight years old in October and  issued a challenge to the ward members to read the entire Book of Mormon by her birthday. I took her up on the challenge and have been reading about 10 pages a day in the wee small hours of the morning as Captain Knuckle gets ready to leave.

This morning, this verse was on the very first page I read:

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)

Hmmm. It seems pretty clear in this particular verse from a scripture of the restoration. Begotten. Born. Because of the covenant. Is it just me, or am I not seeing adoption anywhere in that verse?

This led me to search out other scriptures (yet again) about the Atonement and becoming a son or daughter of Christ. This is what I found

“But as many received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 KJV)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:3, 18-19)

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world…” (1 John 5:4)

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 KJV

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:5-7, KJV)

“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters…” (Mosiah 27:25)

“…preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.” (Alma 5:49)

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experience this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14)

“Now I say unto you that ye must repent and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God…” (Alma 7:14)

“I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.”(Alma 36:23)

“And behold, whosoever believeth on my words, them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit; and they shall be born of me, even of water and the of the Spirit– (D&C 5:16)

“That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” (Moses 6:59)

[An aside: I looooooove that it was Moses, a late-discovery adoptee, who was given the clearest explanation of what being “born again” entails.  God tells this man, this adoptee who has most likely spent a lifetime struggling with his identity, that to become a son of God, he has to be born again, just like he was born physically. To this prophet/adoptee, God clearly states that the process of sanctification from all sin is one of RE-BIRTH, not adoption.]

I think any reasonable, thinking adult can see those scriptures all point to being born as the way we become sons and daughters of Christ. However, even after reading all of them this morning, something in the back of my mind was bothering me. Sister Beck specifically said that adoption was “doctrine.” If it is doctrine, then certainly it must be found in the scripture, yes?  So I turned to “The Guide to the Scriptures” found on the www.lds.org website, and read this:

Adoption

The scriptures speak of two types of adoption.

(1) A person who is of non-Israelite lineage becomes a member of the family of Abraham and the house of Israel by having faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized by immersion, and receiving the Holy Ghost (2 Ne. 31:17–18; D&C 84:73–74; Abr. 2:6, 11). (my emphasis)

(2) All who have received the saving ordinances of the gospel become sons and daughters of Jesus Christ by continued obedience to his commandments (Rom. 8:15–17; Gal. 3:24–29; 4:5–7; Mosiah 5:7–8).

Interesting. Both of these instances point back to being baptized as the process through which people are “adopted” into the household of faith.  But…..didn’t all of those scriptures I just found tell me that ordinance of baptism is about being born again? And just a second there. Mosiah 5:7 is being used as a reference to support “adoption” as being the way that we become children of Christ?  Gosh, I could have sworn that it said very clearly we are born again.

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)

Oh yeah. It does say “born of him” NOTHING about adoption.

So then I clicked through to the link “Children of Christ.” This is what I found.

Children of Christ

Those who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child is greatest, Matt. 18:1–4
  • Believe in the light that ye may be the children of light, John 12:36
  • Put off the natural man and become as a child, Mosiah 3:19, Mosiah 27:25–26
  • Because of the covenant ye shall be called the children of Christ, Mosiah 5:7
  • If ye will lay hold upon every good thing, ye certainly will be a child of Christ, Moro. 7:19
  • As many as received me, gave I power to become my sons, D&C 39:4
  • Fear not, little children, for you are mine, D&C 50:40–41
  • Thou art one in me, a son of God, Moses 6:68

Darn it all, there are those “pesky” words again: Begotten. Born again. Born of God. Sons and Daughters of God. No adopted.

Then I clicked through to:

Sons and Daughters of God

The scriptures use these terms in two ways. In one sense, we are all literal spirit children of our Heavenly Father. In another sense, God’s sons and daughters are those who have been born again through the atonement of Christ.

Dang it all, Sister Beck! There those words are again!!!! Atonement. Begotten. Born again. Born of God. Children of Christ.

Essentially, what I discovered this morning is the basis for claiming we are “adopted” into Abraham’s family is because we enter into the covenant of baptism, allowing the Atonement to take effect in our lives….which is clearly the process of being BORN AGAIN.  Which is not adoption. Ask any adoptee. Adoption and being born are two very separate things.

______________________________________

As I wrestle with this issue this morning, the only thing I can come up with is that members of the church play loose and fast with the word “adoption,” using it as a metaphor for being “born again.” Maybe I just need to get my proverbial doctrinal panties out of a wad and just go with the metaphor of adoption = being born.

But I can’t.

I know the difference on a very intimate level, much like Moses. Adoption is not a sufficient metaphor for the very real, very visceral, very messy and difficult process of being born again, of becoming a child of Christ. The Book of Mormon tells me very plainly that I am born again, made a new creation in Christ. It is another witness to what the Holy Bible teaches me about who I am and to whom I belong. The Book of Mormon, side by side with the Bible, clearly testifies I am born into the household of faith through the waters of baptism, the blood of the Atonement, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Born. Not adopted.

There is no other way. (John 14:6; D&C 132:12)

Much love,

M.

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.

 

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.

No Hat Tossing for Me, Just Singing Solo on a Blacked-Out Stage

There has been a recent eruption in the blogosphere between some LDS folks and the ladies over at the forum/blog that bills their blog as a  “place where first/birth/natural/real mothers share news and opinions. And vent.”

Some of my friends who read these letters I write to you and that forum/blog have wondered why I have not tossed my hat into the ongoing fracas over there. Well, the main reason is this: it is “a place for first/birth/natural mothers to share news, opinions, and vent”…unless you do not fit within their narrow, stereotyped notion of what an LDS birth mother should act like or say.

If they truly wanted to have honesty in advertising, their headline banner should read like this: “A place where first/birth/natural/real mothers share news and opinions. And vent. (That is, unless you are an active LDS birth mother who doesn’t fit within our “good LDS b-mommy” paradigm and regurgitate LDSFS propaganda which allows us to summarily attack your argument and dismiss your experiences all in one fell swoop, as we do all useful idiots. Do not bother posting a comment if you are a thinking, articulate LDS birth mother who is still a faithful member  but DOES NOT believe in the LDSFS garbage. It will not further our agenda so we will not post it.)”

However, that headline is not nearly as catchy or all-inclusive as the “place where first/birth/natural/real mothers share news and opinions. And vent.” one is, would you not agree?

It is terribly ironic. I am in nearly 100% agreement on every single thing the owners of that blog post about adoption and family preservation. This latest discussion about the Oregon bill HB 2904? I come down firmly on the side of “IT IS FABULOUS” and much needed legislation. It is a giant leap forward in the protection of expectant parents AND potential adoptive parents.

However, it seems like because I am LDS I have been branded as “one of them.” And because I am “one of them,” but I do not spout the typical, “adoption is such a miracle and a blessing” garbage so typical of LDS b-mommies, the blog owners do not know quite what to do with me. Honestly, I can understand their leery hesitation – I am about as unusual as a unicorn in the LDS adoption scene. Unfortunately, however thoughtful, measured, or supportive of their cause my response may be, my (still faithful and active LDS member) voice doesn’t serve a useful purpose to them. They cannot grind their anti-LDS ax against my rough stone, as it were.

I have submitted numerous posts over the past months merely seeking to correct misconceptions about LDS policy or doctrine that seem to have just….disappeared. Some of the ones where I call out other church members make the editorial/censorship cut but the ones that attempt to explain or correct misinformation (using published sources, not my personal conjecture or opinion) just…dissipate into a gaseous cloud of binary information floating around out there on the internet. (I know that is not what really happens, but just let me wax poetic for a moment, mmmkay?)

After a while, a girl gets the message.

Your voice is not welcome. There is no room at the table for you. Move along, little lady, move along.

Once again, it feels terribly ironic.  I would have thought (and I did at first), that the blog owners would welcome a staunch LDS church member who supports their positions on adoption 100%. I would have thought that my lived experiences as a birth mother who has (a) not left the church and (b) isn’t main-lining the adoption kool-aid like so many other LDS birth mothers would have been an asset to their discussion….

But I thought wrong.

Their continued heavy handed censorship of my comments has left me wondering…what other voices are they silencing? Who else is not being heard on the forum that touts itself as being a place for all birth mothers? Whose stories remain invisible? Whether it be for practical or political reasons, what does this silence tell us about the forum owners’ agenda?

And so, I choose simply not to submit any more comments. Why bother spending the time crafting a carefully worded, well reasoned response that I know will not be posted? I do not fit the role of the useful idiot LDS b-mommy and so they have no use for me.

I had hoped to find some camaraderie over there, and indeed I have. Through that forum I have met many wonderful adoptees and first mothers who have helped me normalize (as much as possible) this experience of living with disenfranchised grief. However, it has become apparent by the {chirping crickets} silence that I am not welcome there ….and if I am not welcome there, then where do I fit? Where does my voice belong? The owners of that forum do not seem to want me around…I definitely know the good LDS b-mommies do not want me around. So where do I fit?

I cannot believe I am the only LDS mother who has dealt with these issues and chosen to remain in the church. I cannot believe I am the only LDS mother who while extremely grateful I have had the “best” of adoption outcomes as defined by the LDS culture, I am still deeply unhappy about this issue and suffering because of my culture. I cannot believe I am the only LDS mother who is willing to speak out against infant adoption as we currently practice it.

Sometimes I feel like I am singing a solo in the middle of a dark stage with no audience, no accompaniment, no back up choir, nothing but the spot light burning down on me.

 

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.

Someone Has to Face the Valley, Part 2: The Questions

Dear Ms. Feverfew,

I went to the appointment yesterday with Brother Olsen from LDSFS. It went…well, it went. I am going to break up this story into a couple of parts because there are so many facets and things I need to tell you.

Before I start though, I thought I would share with you the list of questions that I took with me. I thought they were fair questions – hard – but fair. When I asked them, I tried to be my nicest self and to non-confrontational. I feel they were not only fair questions, but honest ones as well, meaning these are things I truly wanted to understand. So here there are, in all their glory…misspelled, bad grammar, all of it.

Much love,

M.

Questions for Brother Olsen of LDSFS:

  • Is adoption really considered to be a priesthood ordinance? {Fred Riley statement: “From the time of Adam, adoption has been a priesthood ordinance,” says Brother Riley. “It’s a principle of the gospel that probably all of us will experience at some point as we’re literally adopted into our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.”  Taylor, R. M. (2008). Why Adoption?, Ensign, Jan 2008, 46–52.}
  • If things are so different now in LDS adoptions, why did things need to change?
  • What were the problems with how things were done 18 years ago?
  • If there were problems, have there been apologies and corrections made to both natural parents and adoptees from the past?
  • When did they realize that there were problems?
  • Does LDSFS encourage open adoptions agreements to be signed prior to placement?
  • What have they done to help keep adoptions open?
  • Are adoptive couples allowed to adopt after they closed one adoption?
  • Are adoptive parents told that natural parents will move on?
  • Are PAPs encouraged to be at the hospital and doctor appointments? Why?
  • Are adoptive parents and natural parents both told that because of adoption there is a statistically higher chance the adoptee might commit suicide?
  • Why does LDSFS offer free lifetime counseling to surrendering mothers?
  • Are they told that they are at a significantly higher risk for depression and mental health issues that will require in-patient care? (3% of the general maternal population pre-surrender VS 12% post-surrender).
  • Are mothers considering surrendering their child for adoption told they face a much higher risk for secondary infertility than the general population (40-60% vs 2.24% for the general population)?
  • What is LDSFS view on adoption’s collateral damage on the extended family as well as future generations?
  • What kind of advice does LDSFS give to help repair damaged relationships with parents and siblings who were unwilling to help the young mother and who may have pushed for the adoption?
  • What specific counsel does LDSFS give on for the half or full siblings of the child relinquished for adoption?
  • What kinds of longitudinal studies have been done by the LDS church (if any) to track the activity rate, mental health status, marriage status, etc of women who surrender a child in the LDSFS system? If there isn’t one, why not?
  • What percentage of natural mothers and adoptees end up leaving the church?
  • What has the agency done to respect the rights of fathers?
  • What is done to make sure that no Native American children are adopted out without consent of the tribe?
  • You offer mothers who surrender their children for adoption through LDSFS a lifetime of free counseling. Is this same offer extended the adopted individual as well? Why?
  • As adoption affects entire family systems, shouldn’t the parented children of a surrendering mother also receive counseling for free as well?
  • Is kinship adoption/guardianship first encouraged so the child does not lose all of their family and heritage?
  • If the church is all about families and genealogy is so important – what about the adoptees? What is their true genealogy?
  • What about trans-racial adoptees like my daughter? What is done to help the adoptees embrace their cultural heritage or is does that part of their life because tabula rasa with the adoption?
  • Are their ancestors no longer important?
  • Who does the church consider to be their ancestors – their adoptive parents or first family?
  • And what of the issue of the sealing ordinance – if infant adoption is REALLY about ensuring children have access to the sealing ordinance, are newly converted single mothers told to relinquish their child for adoption to a temple worthy couple? Are they told they are being “selfish” for wanting to parent their child? What about children of part member families? Are their children any less “deserving” of the sealing ordinance than my daughter? Are those mothers told that if they loved their children enough, they would let a temple-married couple adopt their children so could be sealed together as a family?
  • How does the agency help to reunite the first mother and the adult adoptee?
  • According to LDS church policy, LDSFS should be offering single expectant parents who have the desire to parent support to learn the parenting and life skills they need to become successful parents. What is currently done to assist mothers who decide to parent their child? What programs and resources does LDSFS provide to these mothers?

Someone Has to Face the Valley

Dear Ms. Feverfew,

“Pat” over at LDSFS called the other day and rescheduled my appointment so I actually am going in to see Brother Olsen in oh…about 38 minutes. I am not nervous or anything but…OK, I am ridiculously nervous. I just need to remember that I am not a scared 19-year old girl seeking advice but a intelligent and sentient 38-year old mother who has serious questions.

Mr. Amazing Man just reminded me: There are more people out there like Lola, people who are willing to listen and who are willing to let their hearts be changed. I pray that Brother Olsen is another Lola. I am prepared for him not to be, but hope he is.

So here’s my theme song for the day – “Into the Fire” from The Scarlet Pimpernel. Wish me luck – if you don’t hear from me within the next 48 hours, send reinforcements.

“Into terror, into valour
Charge ahead, no, never turn
Yes, it’s into the fire we fly
And the devil will burn!”

Much love,

M.

David walked into the valley
With a stone clutched in his hand
He was only a boy
But he knew someone must take a stand

There will always be a valley
Always mountains one must scale
There will always be perilous waters
Which someone must sail

Into valleys, into waters
Into jungles, into hell
Let us ride, let us ride home again with a story to tell
Into darkness, into danger
Into storms that rip the night
Don’t give in, but give up
But give thanks for the glorious fight

You can tremble, you can fear it
But keep your fighting spirit alive boys
Let the shiver of it sting you
Fling into battle, spring to your feet boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Never doubt that your courage will grow
Hold your head even higher and into the fire we go

Are there mountains that surround us?
Are there walls that block the way?
Knock ’em down, strip ’em back boys
And forward and into the fray

Into terror, into valour
Charge ahead, no, never turn
Yes, it’s into the fire we fly
And the devil will burn

Someone has to face the valley
Rush in, we have to rally and win boys
When the world is saying not to
By God, you know you’ve got to march on, boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Never doubt that your courage will grow
Hold your head ever higher and into the fire we go

Let the lightning strike
Let the flash of it shock you
Choke your fears away
Pull as tight as a wire
Let the fever strike
Let the force of it rock you
We will have our day, sailing into the fire

Someone has to face the valley
Rush in! We have to rally and win boys
When the world is saying not to
By God, you know you’ve got to march on, boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Look alive! Oh, your courage will grow
Yes, it’s higher and higher and into the fire we go
Into fire!
Onward, ho!