“The Absent are Ever Present”

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Way back in junior high school, I learned a really cool trick from my home economics teacher (do they even teach that class any more? What is it called nowadays, anyway? Certainly not home economics – that phrase must have gone out of a favor for something more politically correct by now, yes?)

The cool trick? Crushed up candies melt in the middle of sugar cookies.  (These pictures are from a year or two ago – I forgot to get the camera out this year!!!)

bighearts_2They’ve never failed me yet – these are cherry Life Savers and some flavor of Jolly Ranchers. Year in and year out I can trust them to deliver gorgeous results. And the sugar cookie recipe I have is to DIE FOR, but I promised my niece I would never share it because it is the one she developed for her business, Snickety Snacks.

bighearts_5I’ve remained faithful and never shared it, even with the darling 12-year old who wanted it from me today!

bighearts_3Today has been a good day – lots of sugar cookies with the small ones and then a party with other home-schooling families from church. Tomorrow I head to University of Alabama to visit the pain management clinic there to see what they can do to help me…well, manage the pain caused by this craptastic medical device I have inside of me. (Thirteen weeks until it comes out, yahoo!!!)

lifesaverheartAnyhoooooo, as I wandered through today, I couldn’t help but think of you. I hope your mom helped you build family traditions, whether it be baking sugar cookies every Valentine’s Day or something else, like making Valentine cards for all of your older relatives. I am sure she did things like that. Well…at this point, I have to choose to believe she did – it’s my own version of fairy-dust and adoption-mythology, as it were. This fairy-dust is the only way I can endure a day full of Matthew, Luke, and Poppy laughing and giggling and carrying on like siblings do. It is on days like this that your absence in our lives is so noticeable to me.

Much love –

M.

National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 27: Me & the Professor…er, the Professor and I?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

If I had my druthers, I would put my Christmas tree up in mid-October. As it is, I have to restrain myself in order to accommodate Mr. Bah-Hum-Bug-the-tree-should-not-be-put-up-until-December 1st,  AKA Mr. Amazing Man. (He really isn’t a grinch, we just differ on when to put up the tree and when it is appropriate to start playing Christmas music. He seems to think that July is not appropriate.)

My older son is of the same mindset. He will sit there on the couch with Mr. Amazing Man and roll his eyes (ever so lovingly) at me when I bust out the stockings and “Cookies for Santa” plate.  In past years, I have indulged their ill-humor and waited until the 1st of December but this year….

This year my tree was up by November 20. Ha! Victory.

And this year, I have had a partner in my Christmas criminality – the Professor. Turns out he adores Christmas as much as I do. The music, the lights, the decorations on the tree, the yummy baked goods, the Santa letters, the 30 nights of Christmas movies: we delight in these things equally.  He simply cannot understand why other people in the neighborhood don’t already have all their decorations up. (Me either son, me either!)

And so I wonder…are you more like Captain Knuckle who likes Christmas but approaches it with a more restrained pleasure, or are you like the Professor and myself, reveling in the season’s delights?

Much love,

M.

Outing Myself on Facebook

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

You would be so proud of me. Since I have been home, I haven’t once been tempted to take a sharp turn off the [insert the name of your small town here] ramp on I-15 and drive past your parents place. I didn’t once ask my good friend to track you down on campus at the [insert name of your university here] while she was there for a 2-day conference. I would have liked to attend  said conference but I figure that would be tempting fate – you know that old problem we have of looking like twins. Well, actually you don’t know but that’s OK. I know.

I haven’t spent much time on the computer either, what with having living a life that I am sometimes accused of not having because I am a “bitter LDS birthmother with nothing better to do.” However,  I did take some time between dazzling my graduate committee with my brilliance and hanging out with my amazing family to check my Google reader today. One of the blogs I follow directed me to a newly found first mom blog full of insightful & honest writing, Hidden Beneath the Surface.

I was particularly moved by her post from today: http://nzrose05.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/coming-out/, especially after spending last Friday night with my wonderful younger sis. It made me think about my own Facebook page – I only had Captain Knuckle listed under “Children.” I first listed him when he joined Facebook a few weeks ago but it felt strange and awkward to only have him there, as adorable as he might be. After all, I do have three other children as equally adorable.

So today, spurred on by the courage the author of Hidden Beneath the Surface displayed, I outed myself as a first mother on Facebook. (Once I get home and have access to a photo editor, I will post a picture here. ) I now have Captain Knuckle, The Professor, Princess P., and Little Ms. Boo Bear (lost to adoption 1993) posted in my “Children” section.

And it feels good.

I have quite a few adoptive mother friends on Facebook – I think I may lose some of them over this but oh well. I will most likely have some ‘splainin to do to other people as well. I will most likely have to answer difficult, uncomfortable questions, but frankly I don’t care any more.  If those people can’t love me – all of me which includes the fact I have four children, not three – then it’s their loss. You can be sure I will keep you updated!

So, thanks to the first mom/author of Hidden Beneath the Surface – I am now leading a more authentic life.

And it feels really good.

Much love,

M.

They Told Me I Would Have Other Children

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Yesterday, the Professor came into my bedroom where I was dressing Princess P. for church.  He climbed up on the bed and put his little nose up to hers and declared, “Mom, this is the most beautiful sister ever!”  She squealed with delight, he stroked her chubby cheeks, kissed her downy head and then skipped merrily down the hall, leaving me breathless.

The Professor loves his sister. I know he loves his older brother, but he gets all mushy and soft over Princess P. How on earth am I ever going to tell him about you? Captain Knuckle was told as a matter of necessity when he was five.  He has handled it much like he has the other hard things in his life – with great maturity and resiliency.

But the Professor…I don’t know how to tell him he has another sister that doesn’t live with us. I don’t know how I could answer the questions and sadness that will certainly shade his luscious brown eyes.

They told me I would have other children….they just didn’t warn me of soul-deep sorrow that would gnaw on my bones. They told me I would have other children….they just didn’t tell me how to explain to them that I gave away their older sister to strangers.  They told me I would have other children….they just didn’t tell me how to answer the question, “If you gave her away, will you give me away too? I don’t want  live with anyone but you Mommy.”

With much love –

M.

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.

Have you seen my backbone?

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Somehow, I have misplaced the courage to inform your adoptive parents I have moved across the country. Silly, isn’t it? It’s not like they really care, to be honest with you. After all the years of silence from them, they will most likely be relieved that I am far, far, far away.

So now I live in a place that’s a cross between Mayberry and a National Park. I would include a link to a google map of our address, but since it just takes you to a spot in the middle of a neighboring river, it won’t do you much good. We live so close to the ocean that if the wind is blowing up the bay, I can taste its heady, salty scent from my front porch.

But back to the matter at hand – we moved and in some ways, I have been able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. I spent a lot of time down in your area of the world visiting my in-laws and as you have gotten older, I have grown increasingly worried that I would inadvertently run into you. As much as I would love to see you again, the frozen food section of your local Costco probably wouldn’t be the best place. So not being around reduces the risk of that exponentially – I am fairly certain you aren’t going to be hanging out at the local Barnes & Noble around here. I can go sit and read my books in peace while the good Professor plays with the Thomas the Tank Engine trainset they have on display.

And trust me, there is no doubt we would recognize each other in a fraction of a breath if our lives were to ever accidentally collide. We are cut from the same cloth, you and I. From the curve of your smile & the color of your skin to the way you part your hair – there is no mistaking that we are who we are. If you want to know what I look like, you need look no further than your reflection in the mirror.

But like many things in my life, not being in the area is a double edged sword. Since there is virtually no chance I will run into you at the corner grocery store, that secret hope of mine is gone, even though I know it would be particularly traumatizing for both of us to meet while reaching for the same pineapple at Albertsons. It was always a possibility when I was there in the area and one that is gone now. Mr. Amazing Man doesn’t get why I am so sad about leaving as he is perfectly convinced that you are going to come find me the moment you can, regardless of where I might be living. I guess it is just the fact that…well, that there isn’t even the chance of an accidental meeting now.

And that makes me sad.

M.

On The Professor’s 4th Birthday

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Today is the Professor’s birthday – he is turning four. It is on days like this that I ache for you the most, days like this that I let myself pull out the sorrow that is us that is tucked tidily in the back corners of my heart. I dust it off, slipping it on like a prayer shawl. I let myself sit shiva, my grief a riverstone in my soul – cool, heavy, familiar. Invariably, I eventually have to set it aside and open the door to my life as it is today. But for now…for now I just let the tears fall where they may, my study door shut to the sounds of the Professor and his trains.

You should be here. I should have celebrated your fourth birthday with cake and ice cream and new toys instead of tears and old heartache. I should have held your face in my hand that morning and told you how thrilled I am to be your mother and how happy I am that God gave me the honor of having you in my family instead of offering up an unvoiced prayer, asking for forgiveness yet again.

Despite years of counseling and countless hours in prayer, I have yet to find the balm of Gilead that will heal this woundedness in my heart. My hope is that someday I can sit down to write one of these letters to you without my heart shattering into a thousand pieces as if for the first time. Today is not that day.

M.

Mother’s Day Post-mortem

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Yesterday was Mother’ Day and as usual, any joy was tempered by the two edged sword of…us.

I have given up pretending like Mother’s Day is a good day for me. I mean, I loved on my boys and pressed the delicate blue flower the good Professor gave me between the hand drawn card that Captain Knuckle made for me, talked with Mr. Amazing Man when he was able to call me from the far side of the world, and generally was pleasant to be around. But I had no expectations that this was the year that it wouldn’t hurt as much. I have resigned myself that I will always ache for what could have been, what should have been, more so on this ridiculous holiday than others. Instead of trying to hide from that reality, I am getting better about embracing it and accepting it for what it is.

Instead of doing anything remotely religious (church just seems to rub the wound even more raw), I went to IKEA with The-World’s-Best-Sister-in-Law. We left the kids with The Samoan and had a gloriously fabulous day wandering around the store, doing nothing but nothing. We bought some of these decadent marshmallow chocolate coconut things and then drove to an anonymous neighborhood and ate them all. We talked and laughed and cried – we talked about you, we talked about being a mother, we talked about what the future holds for all of us.

Then we went home and collapsed on the sofas in her living room in a marshmallow-induced coma. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day that usually leaves me in tears.

M.