nan and i first started emailing a few months ago. she shared her story with me. i was so touched by it that i actually sent it to my dad, with whom i share most things that touch my heart. (my relationship with my dad has grown even deeper as he has helped me struggle through two rough adoptions and devastating sterility. love you, dad.) as i knew it would, my dad’s heart was touched as well. after he made sure that i was going to make her a guest blogger, he said, “My favorite part, of course: ‘I read through the whole Book of Mormon on my own for the first time in my life during this experience.’ There is a great power in reading the Book of Mormon.”
nan placed in 1993 when the norm were closed adoptions.
it makes my heart hurt to even write it and makes me (again) realize how these women who knowingly placed in a closed adoption relationship are simply incredible.
there are many lessons to be learned here.
i love how raw and honest nan is about herself and her experience …and i love her sense of humor.
nan is our grand finale to our dazzling guest blogging extravaganza.
First, let me tell you a little bit about my situation. I was 19. I was crazy. I was bored, living again in the small town where I had grown up after finally getting away for a few months to attend college 500 miles away in Logan. I was impetuous. I was intentionally reckless. And now I was pregnant. I could tell you I had a boyfriend, because I sort of did, but truthfully I was like the mom in Mama Mia. To tell you the truth, I don’t honestly know who the father was.
So, I knew from the moment I realized I was pregnant that this baby would have to be adopted, because I would be a horrible mother. I was not the kid in Sunday School class who insisted on holding the teacher’s baby. No thank you. I knew I was not patient with little kids, even though I was serving at the time in the Nursery at church. I just knew this was not the right thing for me.
When I took an official pregnancy test, it was at Planned Parenthood in Logan. I was in Logan under the ruse that I was looking for a place to live up there, to get a job and maybe a student loan so I could go back to school. Really, I was trying to get away, so I could figure out what to do away from prying eyes. Planned Parenthood was very good to me. I know that seems weird to say, especially since the one we have around these parts is all about abortion, and I know it is a place where several “good Mormon girls” have gone for abortions from our small town. That breaks my heart, but it is a big reality here. The girl who worked at the Planned Parenthood in Logan asked me what I was going to do, and I told her I was thinking about adoption. Then, she handed me a sheet of paper with different agencies listed that deal in adoption. Of course, LDS Social Services stood out to me. How I wish I could convince the Planned Parenthood near here to do something similar! At least we have practitioners at the clinics here willing to give out information about adoption.
I did find a place to live up there. I continued to work on my repentance process which had started in my home town. I walked into the LDS Social Services Agency there and told them my plan. They were incredibly busy at that time, working with birthmothers who had placed their babies, and others working on a placement plan. I was assigned to a caseworker who did not usually deal with birthmothers, and he was retiring that year. Well, let me just tell you, he sort of handled me with kid gloves. He didn’t quite know what to do with me. It was a little awkward for me that he treated me like a good girl who had just made one little mistake that led to a huge consequence. Awkward, because that sooo wasn’t me. But how do you tell this nice old man, “No really, it is amazing this didn’t happen months ago. I did this to myself, and I know it.” (Well, obviously I had some help, but you know what I mean.)
Meeting with the birth parent support group was the best thing for me. That is what really solidified my confidence in the choice I was making, seeing how it was working for others. It kills me that I wasn’t able to stay connected with some kind of group in the months after placement, since I actually moved home a little more than a month after. That was a really rough time for me, and having others who knew my feelings more personally I know would have helped me heal better.
That said, I want you to know, I have NEVER regretted my decision. LDS Social Services actually encouraged me to consider all my options, including getting married or single parenting. I wrote out the whole plan and figured out how I would make it work for those options. But through a lot of prayer and scripture study (I read through the whole Book of Mormon on my own for the first time in my life during this experience), I KNEW that placing this baby with her family was the right thing to do.
I was very frustrated that I didn’t get to have a more hands-on experience with choosing her family. I had to tell the agency what I was looking for in a family. Then, they went through their profiles, and based on what I said, and based on physical characteristics, they selected some files. Even though I knew with CERTAINTY that I would be placing her, they would not let me even look at profiles until I was 7 months along. They did not show me any pictures until I had chosen the family.
But still, I had a very strong spiritual witness that this was the family she was meant to be with. I love when I read other stories of birth parents and adoptive families who have had similar experiences. I love the r house for that.
My sister in-law, who was not yet married to my brother at the time, came to many group sessions with me. She was my birth coach. She was there when my brother gave me a blessing to have the strength to go through labor and delivery. I still remember her comment on how strong the Spirit was in that hospital room. A year later, she was lucky enough to have her first daughter delivered by the same wonderful doctor who cared for me during this time, a doctor who only took patients through referrals. Six years later, she and my brother were blessed to be able to add to their little family an African-American daughter they were able to adopt. And a little brother two years after that, through LDS Family Services. They went through several failed adoptions, the one of their son nearly being one, and she suffered miscarriages and even a molar pregnancy throughout this time. All of this makes adoption very close to our hearts.
I have not always had success trying to share the message of adoption. My testimony of the Gospel is deeply rooted in this experience, obviously. I have had many people tell me how strong I was and how they don’t think they would be strong enough to do what I did. I believe absolutely that I personally was not that strong. I was strong because the Lord was lifting me, sustaining me. Because of that experience, I truly believe anything is possible if you will let the Lord help you through. The key there: you have to let Him. And as I said, I have never regretted it, never felt my life was empty or tragic.
The article in the February Ensign, where the birth mom qualified her statement by saying she would like to have not made the mistakes that led to the pregnancy, but is glad she could repent of them, I DO NOT feel that way. I am who I am today because of ALL the things I have done, good and bad included. I don’t regret any of it. I needed it to get here. I am not bragging about my sins. If you can avoid them, then absolutely you should. But the fact is, I did what I did. I know I cannot change that now. But I can do better today, and I do largely because of where I have been.
I wrote an essay not long after the placement, where I likened myself to a forest that had been ravaged by fire. New flowers and plants were flourishing in the ash-rich environment which could never have come without the fire. I am thankful for the fire and the person I have become.
Once, after I was married, and nearly 2 years after placement, I was at a Relief Society retreat, and a lady there made a comment about how a woman who had “given up a baby” years before had been searched out by her birth child, but wanted absolutely nothing to do with the child. I felt to share my personal experience with my own placement, including a birth mom I knew who was so heartbroken by her choice, that she felt it was easier on her soul to sever all ties completely. I was trying to encourage her not to judge this woman too harshly, because no one can really know what that is like.
On Sunday, the Bishop rebuked me, and told me I should not be sharing that about myself. (Kind of like I was bragging about being pregnant and unwed). I had other similar experiences when I tried to share my story, which is something I felt I needed to do. This, as part of the healing process, and also because I wanted to inform other young women in our small community that there is the option of adoption when these kinds of mistakes have been made.
Oh well, since that time, I have been able to share my testimony of adoption in FSA presentations in several wards in our community. I have worked with prospective birth parents a few times. I meet with an FSA group that consists entirely of adoptive families, other than myself. I have even spoken at the high school and in other youth groups about my experience. As I have said before, I really want more people to be aware of adoption as an option, especially young women who may be considering another choice which could be devastating (and I don’t just mean abortion).
Now, I have some questions going back to my own placement in 1993. I would like to somehow communicate with the family who adopted “my” little girl.
When she was about five, I tried to write to the family, and the agency informed me that they no longer had their information on file, and I would have to go to the state registry to try to contact them. Which was a joke, because I knew those records would be sealed for several more years. When I had done the placement plan, it stated that either of us could continue to write indefinitely as long as a letter was requested by either party.
That sounds awkward. Yeah, the wording is weird. Back then, they liked to keep things pretty closed. Allow pictures for a year, and then some communication, but then everything was supposed to taper off so I could get on with my life. This was hard for me not because of my birth daughter, but because I had always wanted to have more of a relationship with her family. I loved them. I absolutely feel like I knew them before. I feel like my birth daughter and I had been friends in the pre-existence and she and I always knew we would be there on earth somehow for each other. I feel like she was in heaven wondering how on earth she could help me when I was making such a mess of everything, but she was there right when I needed her. She saved me.
I was the first birth mom at the Logan agency to participate in a face-to-face meeting with the adoptive family. We used fake names. We wrote with fake names in our letters. If they sent me a picture with them in it, they had to cut themselves out. The agency always screened our letters to make sure no identifying information was given. I always wished we could have had a more open relationship.
I have a close friend who adopted a daughter nearly a year after my placement. Her birth mom was so anxious to know her, that she broke every rule as far as keeping everything private. She even sent a gift which was a Disney video, shrink-wrapped and everything, that actually contained video of their baby’s delivery in the hospital. My friend attended this birth mom’s sealing to her husband about a year later. Her daughter has gone on vacations with the birth mom’s family. They are still very close.
And I always wanted that, or at least something like that. I tried to sneak information about myself into letters, so that if they wanted to find me, they could. It never happened. As I have met with this FSA group, I have seen the impressions of other dear friends who are terrified to know the birth mother that closely, although they love her dearly. So I can see maybe they felt that way. Or maybe the agency screened out that information.
We still had a close bond. I remember when we met that one time, the adoptive mother commented that she could sense my compassion for her not being able to bear children. I also have a letter from her which states that she had been sensing I was going through a rough time, and she wanted me to know of her love for me. I remember going back through those letters months later, re-reading that and realizing how true that actually was and I hadn’t recognized it at the time.
I will always love them.
But I miss them. I have considered writing again a few times, like her baptism, and turning 12, getting to go to the temple. But I didn’t want to fight with the agency, so I never tried to send those letters. She will be 16 this year.
I would like to correspond at least in writing, if nothing else, but I don’t know if it could happen now. I just feel like this is a critical time, and I would like to somehow be a support to her parents, let them know a little more about me so they can handle whatever they have going on with her now. If she is related to me, her rebellious period may not start for a few years still (late bloomer) but if she tends toward her birth father, she has already been in that phase for years.
Another concern I have is that I actually wrote my testimony in a Book of Mormon as a gift for her. I gave it to the agency. Whenever I look through any of the letters I have, there is no mention anywhere of this. It makes me wonder if the agency ever gave it to the family. Would they hold it until she was “of age”, 18 or 21? Which makes no sense to me. And if they had, how would she ever get it, because as I said before, I got the impression that they weren’t even keeping any of that information anymore, much less a bulky gift like that.
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.