Friday, August 26, 2011

Rooted in Love

{This is part 2 of the United by Love post, just so you know}

listening to the Friday morning keynote speaker, General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck

Why am I having such a hard time with these posts? I get started and then I just can't do it. And you know what else? Every time after I hit the publish post button, I read back through the post and think, "Oh my heck! I am freaking comma happy." I think I must add a comma every time I pause to think of what to say next, because they are seriously all over the place. And then I have to review in my head the rules for proper placement of commas. Then, I edit my post multiple times, and I think I still get it wrong! Whatever!

I really have been having a hard time composing this particular post. I had a certain theme in mind, but as I have taken the last several days, between everything else that's going on, to try to formulate this post, I find myself going in a different direction. I am not altogether happy with the direction it is taking me either. Oh well! Here we go, anyway:

Friday morning, I registered myself (and Britt, even though he wasn't with me at the time) for the FSA Conference. Then, I meandered into the main ballroom for that morning's keynote address, given by General Relief Society President Julie B. Beck. I was excited to hear from her because she was so profound when she spoke at an Area Relief Society Conference here a few years ago. I have to admit, I was actually somewhat disappointed that most of her comments on this occasion seemed to be specifically for the benefit of the adoptive parents and LDS Family Services Counselors only. Another birthmother friend also said she felt Sister Beck did not include birthmothers at all in her speech.

But, there were a couple things Sister Beck said, right toward the end of her talk, which I felt do most certainly tie in with my life. She made a comment--I think it related somewhat to her experience being raised in a family, where her father had been widowed early, then remarried and had three children--she said something about how sometimes there may be questions that arise about what family some are actually sealed to. She says, we do not need to worry about these things. When we partake of those sacred temple covenants, we are ALL sealed into Heavenly Father's family. I am almost sure she even quoted a General Authority on the matter. Then she said, "Blessings will come both to the family the child is sealed to and birth families in the eternities." That part was for me. I am going to come back to that later. . .

She also promised us: "Christ is the advocate for every one of us. We are acquainted with grief, but we have an advocate with the Father who understands completely and will comfort us with the Holy Ghost." She also said to share with others who are struggling (with infertility?-- I don't remember if that was her point, but probably), "This is difficult, but it will not defeat you." Yep, all of that was for me, too.

Personal revelation does not always come in the form of a whispering in your heart, or a specific prompting to do something. For me, revelation often comes when I am reading something, the scriptures or the Ensign, watching something on T.V. or stumbling across something on the internet. It comes as my kids make an innocent statement, and I realize it could mean something more for me. When my boys were babies, I was struggling with being a stay-at-home mom. I didn't feel like I was contributing much to the world and I was certainly doing a pathetic job as a housekeeper, besides not always feeling adequate as a mother. My answer came in an Ensign article and a T.V. show. I felt inspired that I needed to get out of the house and go serve somehow at the nursing home. I started taking my two little boys and a bunch of scrapbook supplies and working on scrapbooks with some of the ladies residing there. I can't tell you I changed someone's life--most of them didn't even recognize me from week to week--but I felt I was doing something good and also teaching my boys to serve others.

Sometimes I don't want to pray for things, because I have an idea what the answer will be, and I know I won't like it. For example, if I can help it, I almost never pray for patience. I just don't like having my patience tested constantly, so I just say to myself, "Nah, don't need any more patience right now." I KNOW I do, but don't tell God, okay? I will tell you what I mean about all this rambling in a minute.

Some of my new friends and I attended another class titled "Understanding Common Emotional Issues in Adoption". The course was given by a couple of women, one who is an adult adoptee and the other is associated with The Adoption Exchange. Mostly, their perspectives related to the adoptee, especially in foster-to-adopt situations but of course not limited to that. They said even infants can experience the core issues related to adoption: grief and loss; divided loyalties; identity confusion; abandonment and rejection; loss of control; guilt and shame; and loss of trust in intimacy and attachment. The three of us in that class had an a-ha moment. Those issues don't just affect adoptees! They affect birthmothers, and we have seen as well that they affect adoptive parents. We see these issues manifest especially in the ways that the adoptive parents avoid us and are afraid of us.

Maryann had shared an analogy the night before. She said closed adoption is like a game of keep-away. The adopted child is held up in the air and passed around by everyone, the parents, the grandparents, the neighbors, the doctors, the teachers--everyone can hold the child as long as they keep it far, far away from the birthmother. Who suffers in that scenario? Obviously, the birthmother, but less obviously that child held high and away.

There were some good points the presenters made in that class. We enjoyed hearing the presenter who was an adoptee discuss the reasons she felt like she needed to track down her birthparents and establish a relationship with them, if somewhat awkward and difficult at times--her birth father didn't even know about her until she sought him out. She said in her case, when she was in her early twenties and starting her own family, she felt the need to know more about herself and where she came from. She also discussed how this open communication can be healthy and healing for everyone involved in the "adoption circle", formerly called the adoption triad--the adoptee, the birthparents, the adoptive parents. Oftentimes though, adoptees are afraid to seek out birthparents until their adoptive parents have passed away, because of the above-mentioned loyalty issues. This is a dagger in our hearts as birth mothers.

In the afternoon, Britt and I attended a panel together with husbands of birthmothers. It wasn't really that helpful to us in particular. It was more like, "Look, you young, single birthmothers, there is still hope for you. There are good men who can love you not just in spite of your experience but because of it." Hello! Britt and I already had that one figured out long ago.

So, he went back to shopping with the kids, and I met up with some of my other birthmother friends. There are a couple things worth mentioning in the other classes we attended. My friends attended an adoptee panel, with adoptees of various ages, including a 17 year-old boy and a lady in her fifties. The theme of that panel, my friends told me was "Look, we are so well-adjusted and content, we have no desire to EVER meet our birthparents in this lifetime!" OUCH! Of course, I wasn't there. Maybe it wasn't that bad.

But in another class Meg and I attended, a woman sat behind us who introduced herself as both the mother of a birthmother (we never met her daughter; I am assuming she was actually an expectant parent considering adoption), and as an adoptee. Then, she smilingly told us that she has had such a wonderful life, she never felt any need to know her birthparents. Meg flat out told her how much this hurts us as birthmothers. We have absolutely no way of finding our birth children after a closed adoption. We have no information, no options, no rights. We have to wait for them to find us. And when we hear that they don't want to know us, it kills us. Some of us have been waiting 18 years for the magic moment when we would get to have a relationship again with the adoptive family we loved and to get to know the child we loved enough to give away, only to discover there is no magic moment for us.

In that same class, we met a woman from Grand Junction, Colorado (not too far from here) who placed her daughter for adoption through LDS Social Services 30 years ago. She has moved forward in her life, but there is still that hole of not knowing, hoping she did the right thing, hoping someone might seek her out some day. All we have as birthmothers is hope. That, or bitter regret, if you read some of the very vocal anti-adoption "reformers" out there all over the internet. Believe me, they are there, and they are LOUD.

And now is the moment where I draw my conclusions from the experiences I had there and what I was meant to learn, both in those classes and things I have come across on the internet recently. In particular, I did a web search which included adoption, birthmother and Cosette and I found my blog multiple times with the particular combination of words that I used. I looked at some of my old posts. I read my guest posts on the r house blog. I even read some of my old letters to Cosette. I only saved the first ones; I didn't make copies of any of the letters I sent, so I only have the family's letters saved. But there is something very clear in there that shows up multiple times. I wrote it myself over and over again. It must mean something. Even if we never meet again, in this lifetime, I know someday we will. From my guest post:

Still, as I sit here and read some of what I have written, I am reminded of a statement I made several times in the year after placement. I said then that I knew we might never meet again in this lifetime, but I do believe that someday, we will meet again. I am okay with that. That is still true. If we are not able to connect in the near future, I still believe we will continue our relationship someday, if not now, then in the next life. I look forward to that reunion.

I don't like this. I hate this answer. But this IS the answer, for now. I am going to send in the paperwork to register with the State of Utah Vital Records Adoption Registry (which she cannot access until she is 21 anyway). I am going to register on all the online adoption registry sites I can find. And then I am going to let it go. I may never know them here. We may never communicate again on earth. But like Sister Beck said, we WILL celebrate in the eternities. She will ALWAYS be connected to me. I know this is true. I love her. And that is why I am letting this go.

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