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.

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The Night Can Never Last

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

This came to me by way of Hopeful World (hopefulworld.org) and a friend over at fMh. I thought I would share these healing words with you today.

Much love, and as always, holding the space –

M.

Let’s be real. Mother’s Day can completely blow sometimes.

You want to be cheerful. You want to be with the program. But some years there are all these little points of pain that will not go away.

The baby you never had.

The one you gave up.
The kid you lost to something bigger than you.
The child that slipped away before you ever held her.
The one that was never born.
The one you worry you’re failing.
The one that failed you.

The mother who’s so close and yet so far.
The one you loved so much who couldn’t love you back.
The one you could never love because it hurt too much.
The one you lost too soon.
The one who is slipping away.
The one you can never please.
The one you wish you could live up to.

There are no cards to honor these children or these mothers. There are no holidays to contain all the parts of you that fall outside the lines of generally understood sorrow or celebration.

But there is this moment, this incredible moment, where you can feel it all. Where for once you can’t stuff it down or forget it. Where you have to be with it, because it is not going away.

And here, my friends, is where something important happens. This is where we connect, where we understand we are frail, where we are human. Where we see in new ways what life means. Where we are issued a compelling and persistent invitation to mother ourselves. To cut ourselves the breaks we didn’t get. To ask for the help we always needed. To let tears come and say, This is how it is. I’ll ask in this one tiny moment, for the courage I need to let everything just be.

No matter what your point of pain or challenge today, I want you to know that you are not the only one. Somewhere over a silly Mother’s Day breakfast, there is a woman faking a smile who feels just like you do. Somewhere in a very silent house with no one to call, there is a woman who is tending the ache of her loss, just like you. Somewhere standing in a shower there is a woman who is feeling it all and letting the tears come, just like you.

As you go about this day, know that over here, Ria and I have candles lit for all these unspoken things, and that we are holding the space and thinking of you. You — the faraway, soulful you — will be in our meditation and in our warmest thoughts. We are sending you light and love and the deep wish that you would know today of all days, nothing is wasted and we are together in ways we cannot always see but are just as true. That the night can never last. That even in our darkest moments, there will be someday, the surprise of a laugh, a comfort, a dawn.

It’s the Same Old Song: People Say the Darndest Things, Part II

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I saw this come across the news the other day. It’s an article titled, “Kaepernick’s birth mother speaks of trying to connect with son” by Katie Dowd.

(Photo by Seth Perlman/AP)

As you can imagine, the article is about the 49’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick and his “not-real mother,” Heidi Russo.  You know the pretend one that just birthed him, like any old brood sow could do?  Yeah, that not-real mother. (Sorry about the snark this early in the morning. I don’t have my filter on yet.) I decided to highlight some of the comments left by readers, just in case anyone was wondering if people’s attitudes about not-real birthmothers/birth mothers is any different once the child is a grown adult. (If you are busy this morning, I can sum it up so you don’t have to read all the comments: Nope, nothing changes in people’s attitudes about not-real mothers if those not-real mothers have waited a lifetime to reconnect with their now-adult children.

Enjoy with a cup of strong brew this morning (and perhaps a barf bag).

M.

P.S. I’ll save my personal commentary so others can draw their own conclusions about the comments.

Linky-loo to original article: http://blog.sfgate.com/49ers/2012/12/05/kaepernicks-birth-mother-spea/

“… Back off and clam up, lady. He moved on 25 years ago, and it’s time for you to do the same.” (outa_here 9:39 AM on December 6, 2012)

I’m wondering if she really has an ulterior motive and is attempting to only get to know him for financial gain…” (
mbonhamwolv 4:18 AM on December 6, 2012)

“It’s sleazy of the media to give her a platform for self-promotion at his expense.” (plano453 7:59 PM on December 5, 2012)

Hey Heidi, Colin is not your son, and you are not his parent.” (BlockHead2u 7:52 PM on December 5, 2012)

“…did she have permission or approval from adoptive parents when she went to visit him during college days????????????? (michol0808 5:34 PM on December 5, 2012)

A birth mother is not the same thing as a Mother.” (MsWest 4:53 PM on December 5, 2012)

“Hey Colin? Maybe you should tweet this to her. You had a chance to be part of my life but you bailed.” (hoosier1 4:33 PM on December 5, 2012)

“…she has a pair of brass ones to describe herself as a “parent” when she hasn’t actually done any parenting.” (finnlandia 2:09 PM on December 5, 2012)

I wonder what she needs the money for.” (dr_mojo 2:09 PM on December 5, 2012)

“OF course she wants to renew her relationship. HI son, it’s your mama, can I have some money. I really didn’t mean to give you up.” (R8derMan 2:05 PM on December 5, 2012)

“… you are no more his mother than any other female posting on these pages.” (nixonstheone 1:47 PM on December 5, 2012)

“GOLD DIGGER ALERT! Lets welcome the newest 49er gold digger…NOT! How nice it is to seek some fame now that her son is famous. This loser probably now wants everyone to know that she is his “real” mother. Some people have no shame. (sloan111 1:27 PM on December 5, 2012)

“…outside of biology, she probably didn’t shape any part of what Colin is today. That’s from his “real” parents.” (d2010 12:43 PM on December 5, 2012)

He know’s [sic] who his parents are and it ain’t you Heidi Ho and I use Ho loosely !” (boise49ers 12:10 PM on December 5, 2012)

Maybe she’s angling for a book deal. Title “How I got rid of my baby boy, but now want him back since he’s a big $tar” (
sanfran126 12:05 PM on December 5, 2012)

Piece of work that lady…. FYI: You are not his parent, you gave birth to him. The folks that adopted him and raised him, are his parents!” (Apetez 11:40 AM on December 5, 2012)

Oh my gawd. You are not his parent. You gave up that right.” (wahwah 10:40 AM on December 5, 2012)

People Say the Darndest Things: What Some People **Really** Think About Women Who Place a Child For Adoption

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

A while back, there was an article in a paper about an open adoption that for all intents and purposes, seems to be “working” (whatever that means). These are some of the comments left by readers about the birthmother (her choice of words, not mine) who believes she made a “loving” decision to voluntarily terminate her parental rights because she was single, and for no other reason. Mind you, these aren’t the things people say directly to a woman who has lost a child to adoption (which are hurtful enough as it is), but behind her back and under the cloak of anonymity on the Internet.

I stopped collecting comments after the first day or so – I didn’t have the stomach to pursue it further at the time. But now…now I do. So, if you don’t mind, I think I will keep adding more of these little gems as I encounter them, and not necessarily from the original story. I will even start including screen captures and links back to the original content when possible. Nothing like full attribution to shine the light of day on this kind of stuff, eh?  I’m sure there are enough similar published-in-public-spaces-sentiments to fill an entire book.  A large one, maybe even a multi-volume set.

Take care –

M.

” Any moron with a working set of reproductive organs can create, carry, and birth a child… Squeezing out a baby doesn’t make you a mother any more than putting together a bookshelf from Ikea makes you a master furniture builder.” ~ Guy Incognito

“birth mothers aren’t the type of people who should be around little kids regardless of their genetic relationship” ~ El Conejo

“There’s nothing wrong with having an open adoption and then closing it…” ~ Ron W., adoptive father

I wouldn’t even consider an open adoption.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think it’s in the child’s best interest.  Furthermore, it really rubs me the wrong way that the birth mother gets to outsource all of the responsibility but be there for the happy moments. ~ EdDebevic

Sorry, but the mothers who took responsibility didn’t give their kids away. They sacrificed and raised them. This kind of dump or responsibility is slap in the face to real parents.…Shes married now and I’m willing to bet she has another child… which is weird to me, if you can be a mom a few years after your first one, what was really the dilemma in the first place? Simply not being married? Its a cop out, and yes, she is just getting the best of both worlds. ~ macciatos

Giving up your child… is a complete cop out. You give up all of your responsibilities, basically dump your child off on someone else so that you don’t have to make the sacrifices. It isn’t brave and I don’t feel like it is something that should be cherished or encouraged. ~ macciatos

what a selfish arangement [sic]. ~ fudgemonkey1

I personally don’t think a contract would have been helpful in my situation. If the contract had forced visits or emails on me, I think that may have pushed me to insanity! (HA!) ~ adoptive mother

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.

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

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

It’s gone now. Vanished into thin air.

Of course this is how it ends.

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

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

Heaven forbid the TRUTH be told.

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

 

_________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And What is So Rare as a Day in June?

And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days. ~ James Russell Lowell

I woke this morning before 5:00 a.m. and in the stillness of the morning while listening to my husband’s deep and easy breathing, I let my thoughts wander back to the day you were born.  I don’t indulge in this kind of activity very often because it quickly becomes overwhelming but this morning, I tried to focus on the goodness of the day I labored you into being. And oh, there was so much goodness the day that you came into this world. It was full of sunshine and roses and warm summer breezes, literally.

I have recently been reading other first moms’ blogs where they proudly declare their status as a “birthmother,” where they publicly state they really never wanted their child in the first place and never wanted to be a mother (ahem, Ask a Birthmother over on Facebook – yes, I am talking about you). They are fawned over by adoption professionals and adoptive parents as being heroic and choosing the better part for not being “selfish” in wanting to parent their own child.

These blogs leave me feeling stale and worn out and I am left wondering…what about their child? Do they ever stop and think for one moment how those words will affect their child? Eventually, that tiny baby will grow up into an intelligent and sentient adult with the ability to read, in their mother’s own words, how they were casually discarded because she didn’t want the burden of being a parent. How will they face them then?

My heart breaks for the children of those “heroic” women. Perhaps it is better for them to be raised by strangers than by a woman who cares so little for them. I hate saying that, but having been raised by one parent who detested the mere sight of me, who treated me like vermin and excrement, I have to admit – it might have been better if I had been raised by someone else.

But not my mother. For all her faults and weaknesses, I know she loved me beyond all reason.

Just as I love you.

I do not understand that breed of first mothers. I can’t wrap my head around their casual attitudes that allows them to discard their children so easily, as much as I try. Perhaps it is because I have read so many adoptee’s first-hand accounts of what it is like to be adopted and the monumental struggles they face as they try to carve out their identities. Even if they had fabulous adoptive parents and practically perfect childhoods. Perhaps it is because I have wept so many tears for courageous women who have fought valiantly to build bridges with their first mothers, only to be told, “I never wanted you in the first place.” What a dagger to the soul.

So today, on your 19th birthday, I want to make it perfectly clear: You, my darling daughter, were and still are a very much cherished and wanted individual.

And for you, a birthday poem of sorts. It’s really a love sonnet, but perhaps when you are a new mother yourself, you will come to understand  nuanced meanings of what it means to “love straightforwardly, without complexities or pride.”

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms,
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers.
Thanks to your love a certain fragrance,
risen darkly from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride,
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where “I” does not exist, nor “you,”
So close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
So close that your eyes close and I fall asleep.

-Pablo Neruda

I hope that today is full of sunshine and roses and warm summer breezes, just like it was on that rare day in June when you were born.

 

I Double-Dog Dare You, Brother and Sister Arnell

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

I have a friend, a newly formed first mother who is still in the tender, fragile first year of post-relinquishment. Over on her blog “My Story”,  an uber-helpful man in her life, “Brother Arnell,”  has posted several comments to which I simply had to respond. I really should be writing my dissertation, but this just keeps getting stuck in my brain and I am afraid if I don’t write about it, it will continue to block my progress on what I should be doing. So here is the comment that I have had a hard time digesting:

I didn’t realize that as a man, husband and father of six I might be so clueless about parenthood as some of the respondents seem to think, so I asked my wife who has (among all our children) 52 years of 24/7, one-on-one, day-and-night mothering experience (not to mention pregnancy, labor, delivery and miscarriages) and who, for what it’s worth, knows something of the heartache of broken families. Her response: “Conception, nine months of pregnancy and 3-36 hours of labor do not a mother make – motherhood requires a lifetime of service.” (Brother Arnell, Feb 21, 2011;emphasis mine)

I would like to issue a challenge to Brother Arnell and his wife: I challenge them to look into the eyes of the mother of a child that was stillborn, the mother of a child who died in early infancy, the mother of a child lost to a miscarriage and I DARE them to tell that woman she is NOT a mother because she did not serve her child for a lifetime. I challenge them to look at that mother in the eyes and speak those same words they just said to Kara: “Conception, nine months of pregnancy, and 3-36 hours of labor do not a mother make – motherhood requires a lifetime of service. In fact, I issue this challenge to ANY PERSON who thinks the ONLY requirement for motherhood is serving a child for a lifetime.

I challenge them to look into the eyes of Abby’s mother and tell her she is NOT a mother because Abby passed within hours of being born. (Be prepare and have lots of Kleenex on hand if you follow that link….). I challenge them to look into the eyes of my friend here on base, who lost her lovely 9-month old daughter to a tragic illness two years ago this month. I DARE them to tell her she does not qualify to be called MOTHER because she did not serve her sweet daughter for a lifetime. I challenge them to send Curtis’s mother an email telling her that since she did not spend a lifetime serving him as he was stillborn at 40 weeks gestation, that she is NOT a mother. I dare them to look into my sister-in-law’s eyes and tell her that because my sweet nephew, her only son, died at 5 months gestation and she did not get the chance to serve him “for a lifetime” that she is NOT his mother. (Just do not do it while my brother is around or they might end up in a headlock with 190 lbs of angry on top of them).

I think you would agree that treating these mothers of loss this way would be absurd and I doubt you would find one single person who would take me up on that challenge (but maybe Brother Arnell would like to try it anyway?).

So why is it that mothers of loss (to adoption) are treated soooooooooooooo differently? Why is it the public assumes that we do not grieve, that we do not suffer, that we do not ache to hold our lost child just one more time as much as these women? Why is it that my friend, even two years later, is still having people bring her meals around the anniversary of her daughter’s passing and people still stop and hug her at the mailboxes and wipe her tears away? Why is she afforded that but I am not? Why am I told I should just get over you? I know it has been longer than two years for us, but I highly doubt that in 16 more years, my friend is going to have anyone say to her, “It was so long ago, just forget about her and move on already, will you? You have other children – stop crying about the one you lost.”

One of the things I find the most perplexing in this whole adoption transaction is that it is presumably  based on the deep and abiding love a birth mother has for her child. We (I) love our child so much that we gave her (you)  “more.” However, once the adoption is final, that deep and abiding love that moved us to make such a “selfless choice” no longer matters and some people feel that it no longer  (or should not) even exist.

And then you get people like Brother Arnell and his lovely wife who state that because I did not spend a lifetime serving you, I am neither a mother nor do I deserve the status of “motherhood” decreed up on me.

So if I am not a mother, then what am I Brother and Sister Arnell?

Much love,

M.

National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 17: “He Shall Feed His Sheep Like a Shepherd” or in other words, God’s View on Reunion

The other day as I doing my early morning study, I read the following scripture:

“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11, KJV)

The imagery of Christ gently leading those that are “with young” brought tears to my eyes.  Having been “with young” myself four times now, I know all too well how vulnerable – physically, emotionally, spiritually – a woman is when she is pregnant or when she has a little one tagging along beside her.  The idea that Christ will “gently lead” pregnant and new mamas as he gathers his lambs to his bosom is a salve to my soul.  This is the true heart of God.  We are – you and I and all the mothers and children like us – we are surely his sheep and his flock, just as much as any one else.

The image of Christ as a shepherd got me to thinking about shepherding in the gospel. I went to the topical guide and found the following scriptures about shepherds in Israel. As I read them, it became pretty darn clear: God isn’t too happy with the folks who lead his flock when they scatter and feed off of His sheep.  (Bold & underlined stuff is my emphasis…)

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.”  (Jeremiah 23:1-2 KJV)

“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.(Ezekiel 34:1-4 KJV)

Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick. (Ezekiel 34:9-16 KJV)

Two things about these passages really struck home for me. First, the shepherds had been “feeding” themselves from the flock. They had been taking that which was not theirs to satisfy their wants. They had scattered and driven away the sheep, they didn’t bind up those that were hurt but with force and cruelty they had led them.

Sound familiar?

Sounds a lot like what Christians (of any variety) do to single expectant mothers, even all of these years post-BSE. They scatter the very flock they should be protecting when they convince a young mother to make the “loving choice” and give her little one away.  Their hunger to parent – any child, dammit! – leads them to feel justified in satisfying their craving by feeding off of the most vulnerable among us, single expectant women.  The first mother then becomes an acceptable casualty, left broken and bleeding beside their path to motherhood.  And when those first mothers or those children start to talk about the catastrophic loss adoption caused in their lives and the brokenness it has left behind, they are frequently met with cruelty from the very people that should have been protecting them in the first place.

I don’t know about you but it makes my heart pause to read what God says about the people who are scattering his fold: He will require his shepherds  to account for what they have done to mothers and children and visit the same evil upon their heads. (What this means, I don’t know. I figure I will let God sort it out and not worry my pretty little head over it right now). Additionally, He will eventually bring an end to the unholy practice of scattering the lambs of His fold through infant adoption.

The second things and perhaps most important to my situation is when God tells us,  “I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken.”

I think most first mothers will agree that the day we lost our child to adoption, the day our baby was scattered and driven away by the appetites of people who thought they were better parents, was a pretty “cloudy and dark day.” But here God promises that he will bind up that which was broken  – my heart, your heart, and the hearts of millions of other mothers and children just like us. He will bind up our hearts and restore that which was lost. He will seek us out from wherever we have been scattered, bind up our broken relationship and carry us in His bosom.

In my mother’s heart, I know this to be true. I just wish I knew His timing but his ways are not my ways. I just have to keep trusting that God is faithful and he will fulfill all his promises.

 

National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 8: Let Me See if I Can Be Perfectly Clear About This: God DOES NOT DO ADOPTION (Unless of course, the adoptive grandfather is trying to kill the child, then God makes an exception)

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Making the rounds out there on the internet is this video. Take a moment and watch it.

Sounds all well and good, right? We are a bunch of orphans, plopped on this little ol’ planet and God loves us so much He adopts us into His family.  Because we are trying to be like God, then we must adopt the orphans of the world to save them from a multitude of woes.

Wrong.

The truth of the matter is this: We are already God’s children. It is impossible to “adopt” something that is already yours. (Please refer to the post God Doesn’t Do Adoption: Paul’s Version for further discussion about the word “adoption” in the Bible; also please refer to the post God Doesn’t Do Adoption: “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t” (Or in other words: A question for Fred Riley of LDS Family Services) for a better understanding of how we LDS folk view our relationship to God).

The scriptures are an epic love story. They are the story of a Father’s love for his children and the extreme measures He goes to bring them back from their wanderings. He never ceases to search for us. He never quits loving us regardless of the fact that we have “sold ourselves for naught.”  In fact, He loves us so much He sent his first born, his Only Begotten Son in the flesh to pay the ransom for the rest of His children – to atone for our sins and redeem  us from our spiritual bondage (please refer to the post God Doesn’t Do Adoption: He’s Into Being Born Again for further elucidation about this reality). Not to adopt us. To redeem us. That is why our Savior Jesus Christ is known as the Great Redeemer. Not the Great Adopter.

The video I have linked here uses three specific examples from the Bible to illustrate why adoption is “God’s heart,” namely, the story of Moses, the story of Esther, and the preservation of the Messianic line through Joseph’s supposed adoption of Jesus. (I have already discussed the fallacy of this belief in the post God Doesn’t Do Adoption: The Jesus Was NOT Adopted Version, but let me just reiterate one more time: Joseph was Jesus’ STEP-FATHER. I personally feel that misrepresenting this righteous, loving, and protective step-father as the adoptive father of Jesus is near heresy but that’s just my personal opinion. Joseph should be held up as the supreme example of what it means to be a loving step-father, not an adoptive father.)

I know that many Christians like to use the Moses story as an example of why adoption is such a great thing and I guess, if you follow the story all the way through, it is a great story about adoption. (Well, other than that part about Moses returning to his adoptive grandfather’s household years after killing an Egyptian and then calling down the 10 plagues of Israel onto his adoptive family’s kingdom, culminating with the first born of every household dying and then a whole bunch more of his adoptive family dying when they were drowned in the Red Sea. I guess that part isn’t such a great example of adoption, is it?)

Moses’s story starts off when his PAP sees how many Israelites there are and starts to get worried about the sheer number of them. A decree is set forth that the Hebrew midwives have to kill the Hebrew babies – when that doesn’t work, the Pharaoh orders all Hebrew male children tossed into the river.  This is the political environment Moses was born into – his death certificate had already been issued by his future adoptive grandfather before he was born.  His mother hid him (and nursed him) for three months, then put him in the river. His older sister followed along so she could offer the services of her mother as a wet-nurse to whomever found baby Moses.  Their plan worked wonderfully – the Pharaoh’s daughter found him, gave him back to his natural mother until he was weaned, then took Moses into the palace as her own son.

As we all know, with the killing of a “fellow” Egyptian Moses eventually rejected his adoptive family and culture. This precipitated his flight into the wilderness where he then spent 40 years learning of his true identity and heritage. While sojourning in the wilderness, Moses was reunited with his natural family and in this act, God’s heart is revealed: God is totally into family preservation. Eventually, Moses returned to his adoptive father’s palace, this time in his true identity and name – he returned to speak Truth to power and demand that his people be set free. His people – the Israelites, not the Egyptians.  Hmmm…now that I think about it I guess that would make Moses an angry, ungrateful,  bitter adoptee according to a lot of adoptive parents I know.

In case you missed it: the reason Moses was put into the basket and floated down the river was because his adopted grandfather had issued an order to kill him. So yeah, I guess God does do adoption in RARE and UNUSUAL circumstances where the life of the child is at risk.

Now the story of Esther being “adopted” is even easier: BOTH of her parents had died. Her COUSIN took her in a raised her as his own daughter. It was a kinship “adoption” – that whole family preservation theme again. That being said, it wasn’t an “adoption” as we conceive it. Adoption as we know it today (with the falsified and sealed birth records) is a purely modern legal arrangement that simply did not exist under Talmudic law. In Talmudic law, blood relations were all that mattered. Mordecai raised her because he was following the law of the land – orphans stay with their kin folk.

I have probably belabored the point by now.  I know I have very little hope of convincing any of my born-again Christian friends that God didn’t adopt us. Most won’t listen because *gasp* I am a Mormon. Frankly, I like the idea of being the literal child of God, created in image of my eternal parents. And frankly, that’s OK if they don’t listen to me. I still love them and think they are pretty interesting people.

Hmmm…just had an interesting thought.  Born-again Christians are the ones who most frequently use the “God adopted us” and “God’s heart is adoption” themes. Does anyone else see the irony in this? These folks claim to be born again (which is a good thing, BTW) in one breath, and in the next claim that God adopted them.  ?????? If they wanted more congruency between their name and their beliefs, perhaps they should call themselves “Adopted Christians” instead of “born again.”

Maybe it is just a little bit too late and I need to get some sleep. Maybe it won’t be so ironical in the morning. Is ironical even a word?

Much love,

M.