Can I have that white hot anger with a squeeze of lime, please?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

The latest edition of the Ensign arrived the other day. This afternoon I read it. And then spent the rest of my day alternating between crying and being angry. Maybe it is just pregnancy hormones, but something tells me it’s not.

In this month’s edition, there is an article titled The Promise of the Temple. Smiling up from the glossy page is a picture of a near-perfect family: five beautiful children, a wonderful husband, and a glowing wife. The articles tells the story of a woman who married “outside the faith” and her journey back into full activity in the church, culminating in her family being sealed for all eternity in the Dallas Temple. For all intents and purposes, this is a good story – actually, a wonderful story of love conquering all, even the tragic death of one of her daughters.

However, I didn’t even make it through the first couple of paragraphs before I literally threw the magazine across the dining room and started sobbing into my half-eaten lunch. The article made me angry, so very very very angry.  And this is why: In the LDS adoption world, young mothers are told over and over and over again that one of the most important “gifts” they can give their child are parents who are sealed together in the temple for all eternity.  She is also told that she (as the single, unwed mother) simple does not qualify and will most likely never qualify for that privilege if she decides to parent instead of relinquishing her child. She is told that adoption through LDS Family Services:

“…ensures that the child will be sealed to a mother and a father in the temple, and it enhances the prospect for the blessings of the gospel in the lives of all concerned. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the birth parents, the child, and the adoptive family.” (www.lds.org under “Gospel Topics: Adoption“, emphasis mine)

But…but…but…but what about that woman in the article?  She wasn’t sealed in the temple when she started having children.  That means her children were just as “bereft of the sealing ordinance” as you were but for some reason…for some reason it was OK for them but not for you. Sure she was married, but she wasn’t sealed in the temple to her (at the time) non-member husband.

If adoption in the LDS faith is really about ensuring children being sealed to temple worthy parents, then why wasn’t she told by her Bishop to relinquish her young children for adoption?  By her own admission, she didn’t feel like living up to the standards to qualify for temple attendance at that time. According to LDS Family Services rhetoric, wouldn’t relinquishing her children for adoption by a temple-worthy couple have been the most “unselfish, loving  decision” for her to have done? If it was for me, then why not her too?

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Are her children any more precious and valuable to her than you are to me?   And why did this woman get the support she needed while parenting her children to help her family eventually attain the blessings of the temple but I never did while I was parenting you? Why was I told that relinquishing you the absolute best way to show that I loved you?

Like me, was she ever told that since her children weren’t “born in the covenant,” they would most likely never qualify for the blessing of being sealed to parents? You can bet she was never once told something like that – she was only offered encouragement, support and unyielding love from her leaders in her decade long journey to the temple as she parented her un-sealed children.

Why wasn’t I? Was she inherently more worthy than me? Were her children more special than you? I ask again: If relinquishing you to adoption so you could be sealed to temple-worthy parents was the most “unselfish, loving  decision” I could make simply because I could not provide you with that benefit at that time, then what about every woman in this church who has a child with a man to whom she is not sealed in the temple? Shouldn’t she be encouraged to relinquish her child(ren) for the exact same reason?

All of this leaves me wondering if adoption in the LDS culture is less about sealing children to parents than it is about something else. What? I don’t know. But it just seems so paradoxical that on one hand, the “right” of a child to be sealed trumps a mother’s right to parent but on the other hand, that “rule” isn’t universally applied to all mothers who have children.

Needless to say, my outburst startled the Professor and brought Mr. Amazing Man in from the library to see what was wrong.  Even Captain Knuckle turned off the Wii and peered over the back of the couch as I sat there and ranted. As always, Mr. Amazing Man said all the right things and comforted me in all the right ways (God bless him for that).  The Professor hugged me and told me that he loved me even though I was so sad and mad.

It was just what I needed right then: unconditional, unfettered love and support, regardless of my shortcomings. I just wish there had been more of it in my life 17 years, 7 months, and 18 days ago.

Much love and belief,

M.

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Coming Clean

So…I don’t even know how to begin this particular letter so I will just come right out and say it.  I am pregnant. OK, you can stop laughing now. Yes, we do know what causes this and yes, at 37 (me) and 49 (Mr. Amazing Man) years of age, we are old enough to know better too.

Honestly, I was certain we were done having children – I have two beautiful, amazing, and wonderful boys that keep me busy. The older one is nearly as tall as me and the youngest just started all-day kindergarten one week before I found out I was pregnant. I was supposed to graduate with my PhD on nearly the same day this baby is due. I had given away anything and everything baby related not more than two months before. I was at peace with my life as it was and actually getting a bit excited to welcome in the next phase of my life.  I mean, I had a plan and it was a really good plan. I thought.

I planned. God laughed.

I knew I was pregnant before my cycle was even late that month.  I mean I knew it knew it, deep down in my bones.  And I also knew it was going to be a girl.   It wasn’t completely unexpected for me to see the pregnancy test turn positive on September 14th. I had actually known since September 12th when I was only 8 DPO. Today, I wasn’t shocked or surprised at all to hear the ultrasound tech proclaim the baby a girl and point out her girlie-bits on the screen.  Somehow my soul already knew.  And my heart began to shatter all over again into a million thousand pieces.

I haven’t voiced my fears to many people…well, just to Mr. Amazing Man and that was on the ride home from the ultrasound appointment.  I held it together while we were in the office but once I got in the car, I fell apart and started sobbing.  He thought I was happy to find out we are having a girl, a little Penelope Rose, named after her grandmothers.  I probably didn’t need to yell as loudly as I did at him that NO, I AM NOT CRYING BECAUSE I AM HAPPY BUT BECAUSE I AM TERRIFIED I AM GOING TO LOSE HER TOO.  And not only that, why would God play this cruel trick on me??? Why would He send me another daughter when He had already told me that I wasn’t worthy or able to parent one before?

Raising two boys has somehow insulated me a bit from losing you to adoption. After all, I can white-knuckle my way past the the sea of hair bows, barrettes, leggings, ruffles, and pink in the girls clothing section of Target to make it to the boys section.  I can breath deeply and avert my eyes so I don’t have to see those sweet little Mary Janes as I reach for yet another pair of Thomas the Tank Engine sneakers.  I can keep the boys’ hair short and not worry about battling morning tangles and ponytails. There have been no baby dolls, princess dress-up clothes, or Polly Pocket pieces to step on in the mornings – just Legos, cars, and trains. Lots of trains.

In short, raising the boys has allowed me a little bit of breathing room because I am not constantly and daily reminded of what I lost.

But now I find myself being plunged headfirst back into it all…and I find  I am not doing so well.  Like, I need to call in reinforcements not doing so well.  I will be the first to admit I drank the adoption kool-aid, sucked it down like it was the nectar of life. I had to because other wise, the horror of what I had done to us would have consumed and destroyed me.  But eventually the anesthesia wears off and I am left wanting answers and wondering where God was in all of this mess. I am struggling to sort out the theology from the cultural practices and finding it very difficult to reconcile the God of the Restoration with the God of the Mormon culture.

Because the God that I have come to know and worship would never have required me to sacrifice my own child to justify my redemption.  The justification for my reconciliation to God and His goodness came through the cross and the atoning sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son. No good works on my part, no matter how “unselfish” my church/culture claims it to be, can qualify me. It is only through the merits of Jesus Christ that I am made whole. My worth in God’s eyes was not conditional upon my surrendering you to adoption – that worth is a birthright I was born with, an heritage from a loving Father bestowed on me simply because I am His creation.

But I didn’t know that then. I know it now, but I can’t undo what I did then. I can only trust in God as I know Him now – a loving, personal God who is crazy about me (yes, even the 19-year old, scared, people-pleasing single mother me) and who says, “Wait, my beloved daughter. Be patient. It will all work out in the end.”

I just wish I had found Him before that cold, wet night in March when I left my beloved daughter in the arms of strangers.

 

The answer is yes

Today on a social media site you posed the question to the Universe, “Do you ever regret your decision?

My answer to that question is unequivocally, undeniably, yes. Every single day of my life I regret my decision to relinquish you for adoption. If there was one single decision in my life that I could “do over” it would be that rainy evening in March of 1993 when I walked out of the Orem Institute of Religion, leaving you and a part of my soul behind.  If I could do it over, I would have never even gone there that night in the first place. Adoption would have not ever been part of our lives. Period.

Knowing what I know now about how adoption might affect you in the long term, there is no way in hell I would ever make the same decision again.

The more understanding and knowledge I have gained over the years about mother-infant relationships and child development, the more I have come to understand how absolutely wrong adoption was for us.  While I truly believe there are times when adoption is the correct thing (as in the cases of abuse, neglect, or abandonment), none of those things were part of your life at any point in time.  From the moment I found out I was pregnant with you, you were wanted, cherished, and loved.

I thought I was doing the right thing. My culture told me I was doing the right thing.  I now know it wasn’t the right thing, but what is done is done. All I can do now is pray that eventually you find peace and healing from the wounds I may have unknowingly inflicted on you by relinquishing you for adoption.

 

Missing in Action

A few days ago, I posted a picture of the Luke’s finger-swipe of butter on another blog.

What I didn’t post was the tears that I shed as I took this picture because it remind me of you.  Actually, he reminds me of you – the unruly hair, the dark chocolate brown eyes, the plump rosy cheeks that just beg to be kissed.  But I digress…

I am only now beginning to “unpack” what happened the night I met with your parents and Bishop F. at the Orem Institute of Religion and then…left you behind.

As I drove out of the parking lot that night, my heart, my mind, my body was screaming at me to turn around, to go back and to get you because you were my daughterbone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.  But the need to be approved of by my priesthood leaders won that night.

I gripped the steering wheel tighter, hunching forward because the ache in my heart and my soul was making it difficult to breathe.  I don’t recall if the oncoming headlights were blurry because of rain on the windshield or my uncontrolled tears. I don’t even remember how I got home that night.

What I do remember was stumbling into the house, into the room you and I shared while we were living with a friend.  I wanted to take your blankets, your clothes, your toys, to cover myself with them and to disappear, as if I had never existed.  In fact, at that moment, I wished I had never existed.  What kind of wretched human being does what I just did?

However, instead of finding your crib, I found emptiness. Instead of finding lacy pink dresses hanging in my closet, I found bare hangers. Instead of bins of toys…just impressions on the carpet.  It felt like I was in a horrible nightmare as I searched frantically for something of yours – where had it all gone?  Just like you, it had disappeared from my life.  A few hours later the family I was staying with came home and told me that they had packed it all up while I had been at the Institute of Religion. They thought it would make it easier for me if I didn’t have any reminders of you.

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. Just floods of tears and sobs that originated in deepest recesses of my soul and body. I don’t know what time it was when I finally collapsed, exhausted, wrung out, and completely defeated. I recall the sky starting to lighten so it had to have been in the earliest hours of the day that sleep finally overtook my grief. When I awoke, the sun was streaming through the southern facing windows,  my eyes were swollen, my voice like sandpaper and my heart forever changed.

I sat up, delicately touched around my eyes, breathed in deeply and then tried to summon the courage to face myself.  My bleary gaze settled on a glass-fronted cabinet in the room and I let out on audible gasp. All over the front of the glass were your tiny, perfect, precious handprints. They covered the glass. I stumbled across the room and fell down in front of the cabinet and pressed my head against the cool glass and traced the outline of your nine-month old hands, begging God to forgive me and pleading that someday, you would forgive me too for what I had done.

So when I saw the Luke’s fingerprint etched into the butter, I was reminded of the morning after I last held you in my arms.   Little fingerprints and hand prints always do that to me and consequently, I have a hard time cleaning them off my walls.  I don’t usually cry over them like I did the butter the other day and while I think God has forgiven me, I have yet to forgive myself.  However, I have come to accept that it is what it is. We are who we are and each of us is so much more than the sum total of our experiences.

 

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

why doesn’t anyone want to keep me?”

When I read that, I had a complete and total come apart. As in one of the worst ever to date. Good thing it was late and everyone else was in bed and was spared my decent into a sobbing, snot-nosed, puffy-eyed puddle of raw emotions. It took me until nearly 5:00 a.m. to collect myself, to calm myself so that sleep could find me.

Here’s the truth of the matter: I wanted to keep you. I did keep you for nine months. And I was a damn good mother. I unfortunately let others convince me that I wasn’t good enough for you, that you deserved more than me. By surrendering you to adoption, I inflicted on you the primal wound that all adoptees carry and must some how find the courage, strength, grace, and wisdom to heal from. For this, I cannot tell you how sorry I am and how ashamed I allowed it to happen.

One of the hardest parts about this whole thing is that I now understand I was truly a good mother to you and would have continued to be so if you had remained with me. I now see that if I had kept you, I still would have gone back to school and earned a Ph.D., I still would have married Mr. Amazing Man, I still would have found the courage to kick my bio-dad out of my life, I still would have accomplished all the things I have in my life. The reason I know this is because I am that kind of woman.

But instead, I have a Ms. Feverfew-shaped hole in my soul and I haven’t found the courage, strength, grace, or wisdom to forgive myself for what I did. I wish I could reach out across time and distance and wrap my arms around you and tell you what a beloved child you were and still are. But for now, all I can do is pray for God to send you comforting angels to bind up your wounds and help you find your place in life.

M.

Where is my Balm of Gilead?

Dr. Ms. Feverfew –

Any healing that might have been gifted me seems to have been blown away with the blustery March winds. This time of year is always so difficult for me…it marks the anniversary of your passing from my life, of my relinquishing you for adoption. I find myself not looking at calendars, pretending that if I don’t know what day it is, somehow it will be easier. Unfortunately, a mother can never forget…she doesn’t need calendars or clocks to remind her of the years since her beloved child slipped from her fingers.

This mourning is so paradoxical because I did this. I did this to you. I did this to me. I did this to us. And I can’t seem to forgive myself. I thought what I was doing was so right, but now I know it was so wrong. Each year these feelings get worse, compounded, magnified. It’s a long, painful triage that seems to have no end.

With as much love as this broken heart can gather up today –

M.