Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mormons on Meeting your (Birth) Child

The comment from the Mormon birth/first mother to the last post has been on my mind because I am not too kind to mothers who stay in the closet from their children, and a good number of them turn out to be Mormons. She wrote:
"I wonder if many of these (possibly) Mormon mothers still feel alone, isolated, and wholly unworthy of speaking out or seeking contact. The social stigma of being an "unwed mother" still looms large in the LDS church, even if you were an "unwed mother" decades ago - it is a label that will never leave you in this culture.

Perhaps because I have an insider's understanding of psychological warfare used against relinquishing mothers throughout their entire lifetime in the Mormon culture, I am able to view some of these women's choices in a different light. I am not condoning or supporting their choice in any degree. My heart just aches for them that they feel like their own flesh and blood should have no contact with them."
Her post has been gnawing at me because I feel so strongly that mothers ought to at least meet their children ONCE face-to-face, and decide where to go after that; but I realize that a million different  cultural forces may be pushing up against them--just the way many of us felt when we relinquished in the Baby Scoop Era. And we want understanding and acceptance, don't we?

Additionally, I realize that my personal stance against established religions and their dogmatic views, despite having been raised Roman Catholic or perhaps because of having been, I am not as forgiving as I should be of those who are contentedly living within a religious culture that actively discourages contact. That would exclude most religions, including my own Catholicism, because they do not discourage meeting the child one gave up to adoption. From what I know, Mormonism does. Certainly the National Council for Adoption [NCFA] does, and the Church of the Latter Day Saints is a major component, though their adoption agencies, of that nefarious pro-adoption organization. NCFA is unquestionably one of the biggest stumbling blocks to allowing adoptees access to their original birth certificates. The only kind of adoptee-reunion legislation NCFA supports is a passive registry, with as many disqualifying caveats as they can unreasonably get legislators to agree to. So if anyone reading this is considering placing a child for adoption, stay as far away from any NCFA members as you can when choosing an agency. You can find a list of their members at their website.

As for first/birth/biological/original mothers who will not meet their children whom they relinquished for adoption, I know they exist. One has even gone so far as to sue the state of New Jersey for having released her identity to her daughter; another has a fervid website opposed to open records. While I truly deeply believe all mothers who have relinquished a child to adoption have an unwavering, unyielding, absolute obligation to meet their children at least once and open to door to those children to have a a relationship with their siblings if there are any, I try to find some compassion for those women, and birth father men, who struggle with this.

Where does this leave us? I do not have the answers. All I know is that giving up a child to the unknown, or even to known parents in an open adoption, is the most gut-wrenching, difficult, terrible, awful thing that a mother can do, and everyone suffers, mother and child. Birth mother and adoptee.

And the pain inflicted never ends. Adoption is the sorrow that goes on grieving.
___________
Incidentally, the woman who posted the above comment has a blog of her own: Letters to Mrs. Feverfew. And longtime readers know that in the past we have written extensively about the Mormon church and adoption. See Mormon Opposition to Open Records,
and Rachel's Origins Don't Include Me
and  An Inconvenient Appendage. For starters.
--lorraine

16 comments :

  1. Lorraine wrote:"I am not as forgiving as I should be of those who are contentedly living within a religious culture."

    Mothers who reject their surrendered kids are not necessarily doing it for religious reasons, or even part of a "religious culture." I am one of those "living within a religious culture"(but often not contentedly:-) in that I am a returned practicing Catholic. For me it is more cultural than dogmatic, but still, I show up for Mass most weeks and sing in the choir, and raised my kids Catholic. They are all agnostics now, including the surrendered one, and that's fine with me too as they are good human beings.

    I know many very religious mothers of all denominations who have welcomed their children with open arms,and many who have searched, and this includes some Mormons, and many Ex-Mormons, as well as Catholics, Protestants of all stripes,including Born Again Fundamentalists, Jews and at least one Buddhist! I also have heard of mothers with no religious affiliation, atheists and agnostics, rejecting their kids, for reasons known only to themselves.

    Mormons have a special problem with their theology, where children are "sealed for eternity" to their adoptive family, which means that even in the Mormon Afterlife they will have no connection to their biological kin.However, this does not stop some Mormon mothers from searching and reuniting. There is pressure to conform in all aspects of Mormon life, but not all members go along with everything.

    People can be practicing members of a church and still not go along with "official" views that conflict with their personal conscience. Mothers who reject their kids may be selfish or indifferent or scared for reasons other than religious upbringing. I do not think it is fair to lump all rejecting mothers as part of a "religious culture". It is not that simple.

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  2. I am not LDS, but I wonder if a small part of LDS first moms refusing to meet/have contact with their children is because of the LDS belief that families are "sealed" in eternity? For them, their children are not only lost to another family but then on top of that, they have this belief that they are also lost to them even in heaven, becoming a permanent, eternal part of their adoptive family. This is something I believe to be entirely false, but it does give me a little glimpse into how an LDS mom might be feeling. ??? All of it is just very, very sad to me. :(

    Jenni
    First mom, wife and mom to precious daughters

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  3. Maryanne:

    You are right, I meant, religious cultures that discourage contact...I changed the blog to include that final thought. I was on my way to the dentist for an emergency problem when I wrote that. And it's hard to remember to cover all the bases, all the time.

    So thanks for your comment and making me state exactly what I meant.

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  4. Ladies, Since I was raised LDS I can see parts that only an insider sees. First, the Mormon church does not advocate adoption, unless the father or mother is not mormon. That way the child can be adopted by a "good mormon family" and be sealed to the church upon their 11th year. Second, if the mother and father are both mormon, the church will force a marriage if at all possible. Third, mormons truly believe that the male is the only line to god - therefore to reach god, women and children not of the age of maturity (under 11 years) have to reach heaven through their earthly father/husband. Then, and only then, can the people of the church become gods and goddess's, for they are then accepted into gods house.

    All the crap they do to ensure the child stays within the church, that is all about the procreation requirement for families. Currently families are not required to have as many children as humanly possible and a few have only a few. But the average family can have up to 20+ children. If these children remain in the church (surprisingly - not - many do not) the chance of the parents, specifically the father, will become as god, or a god.

    For adoption purposes, the child that is pulled back into the church, or just into the church, there is the added bonus of having a member of the church that is unlikely to want to find their parents - I know a lot of them.

    A man I knew long ago was an adopted child. His adoptive, mormon, parents told him that his family just had too many children and they gave him to them because one more was just too many. However, the facts were even more simple. They had no male children. Therefore, adopting a male child from a family (because they can and do force poor families to give up children, either to adoption as infants or wives as teens) that was LDS in the first place made it highly unlikely that the child would want to look or that the parents would allow themselves to be found.

    Any questions? LOL

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  5. I have been reading your forum and want to thank you for the much needed information on the subject of adoption. My grand daughter if pregnant and alone, she has no means of support either financial or emotional. I am trying to help her find out where she can go for help if she wants to keep her child. She is so young and scared, please help. Thank you, Jody Johnson

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  6. Lorraine, I'm putting this in the comment section because I don't know how to contact you otherwise. You don't have to post it.

    Did you hear that a group of American missionaries was stopped at the border trying to take some Haitian children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic? The missionaries were arrested and the children were sent to a Haitian orphanage. The Dominican orphanage is brand new, owned by the church the missionaries belong to. Haitian authorities are not happy about the missionaries essentially walking into their country and stealing Haitian children, and they've made that very clear.

    Anyway, I heard about it yesterday on National Public Radio, and I believe it happened on Saturday. I searched the New York Times for a story, but couldn't find one. (So much for being the paper of record) But I did find this blog post. There are plenty of links in the post to give you a clearer picture of what happened.

    My apologies if you've already heard about it, but I wanted to pass it on.

    Maura

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  7. Lorraine, If Jody Johnson wants information on where to go, I will be happy to help. I know a lot of people in a lot of places. At any rate - I don't have a clue how to help her without contact information. Any thoughts?

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  8. Jody and Lori:

    I don't know how to put you in touch. Can either of you leave an email here that will not compromise your life? Or send them to me via the comment section, and I will not post the comment but pass them on to each other.

    All I can say is that I hope your daughter finds the resources somehow to keep her child. Surrendering a child is...well, I don't even know how to finish that sentence. Life will look different in a year. Let's all hope and pray she finds the way.

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  9. Lorraine -

    Thank you so much for addressing this issue. I am in total agreement with your comment, "mothers ought to at least meet their children ONCE face-to-face, and decide where to go after that." I think they have the moral imperative to do so.

    But as others have pointed out, those who relinquish in the LDS faith and then remain active members have the added burden/baggage of the whole "sealing" issue. We are told that these children will never, EVER be a part of our family in this life or the eternities. Period. How does a woman who relinquished in the BSE deal with not only the horrors of *that* experience but also the added spear wounds of this kind of belief?

    Ugh. I don't even know how to sort through all of this right now. It's going to take a bit more time...like Jenni said, "All of this is just very, very sad to me."

    But until then, I thought I would address some comments left by Lori - I responded over on my blog so as to not muddy the comments section over here to much but here is the URL:

    http://letterstomsfeverfew.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/clearing-up-some-misconceptions/

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  10. I think (in fact I am pretty much convinced) mothers who don't want to meet their children are usually frightened of the pain. Often, in addition to all the feelings about losing the child, there are often a lot of feelings about the end of the relationship that produced the child.

    They have shut themselves down and they believe that is better.

    I am all for open records but I think it would be very hard to meet your child just once and I wonder about the emotional toll on the other party when either the mom or the adoptee just want to have a look and then head back into the shadows.

    I think it would be very very hard on whoever didn't want it to be that way.

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  11. Lori -

    I can't seem to figure out how to send you a private email but I just thought I would let you know I responded to some of your comments over on my blog. I would love to know what your thought are.

    M.

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  12. Jody, hey, I think I might know a way to help your granddaughter. I don't however, like to leave my email addy in an open forum. So, simply click on my name in my responses and go to my blog - read anything you would like and comment on it - including an email address. I will then have an email to reach you and I will not put your email address out there.

    It is a solution I know will work, I have done it for others.

    Be well.

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  13. Letterstomsfeverfew,

    I stand corrected. Thank you.

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  14. The comments on Mormons has sparked a long rebuttal over at Letters to Ms. Feverfew that readers interested in Mormonism and adoption will find enlightening.

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  15. As an LDS (Mormon) adoptee, I had to respond to this post. I found this post/article while doing a search on how to contact my birth mother since I believe I have her number, I'm just unsure of how to approach it.

    I just want to say that I feel a profound love, respect and admiration for my wonderful birth mother. I'm not sure of what kind of woman she is today or anything of the sort but for a young woman at the tender age of 17 to place me for adoption was so selfless and brave. I don't even know if her parents put her up to it or what the situation was at the time. It doesn't matter. I still feel immense gratitude for her.

    I have often thought of finding my birth mother. The only thing preventing me was that I wanted to be in a healthy state emotionally so that I wasn't seeking her out for anything other than to know. I'm now 26 years old, married and pregnant with my own baby. I found what I believe was a query written by my birth mother on a reunion website. Immediately I felt compelled to seek her out believing that she wanted to find me as well.

    I think that was the key. Right now, if all I get to do is to thank her, that would be worth contacting her. My main concern is her feelings, if she's ready or comfortable. Thing is, I've finally reached that point where I don't need to find her for me, but I want to find her for her.

    If an LDS birth mom is reading this, please know that sealing ordinances or not, you still have an important role in the life of you first/birth child. Please do not hesitate to seek out your birth child, if anything leave quearies on various sites and make it easier for that child to find you. The gospel of Jesus Christ has allowed for so much healing with my adoption and given me far more love and compassion for all mothers. Allow it to do the same for you.

    Baby girl, Dayton OH, 10/1/84
    adoptee84@yahoo.com

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  16. Anon,

    It's wonderful that you want to meet your birth mother. And I'm sure LDS birth mothers will be encouraged by your thoughtful comments.

    But please, please, do not thank your mother for surrendering you. This would be a terrible insult. What you are saying is that any woman selected by an adoption agency would have been a better mother than your birth mother would have been.

    You can never know what your life would have been if she had been able to keep you -- don't assume it would have been worse.

    The truth is likely that she desperately wanted to keep you but her family and perhaps the church insisted she give you up. She didn't make a loving decision; she accepted the inevitable.

    You can tell her you have had a good life --but don't thank her for it. Tell her what she means to you. Try to understand her pain and be compassionate.

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