Thank You, 31 Years Later

This past month I celebrated my thirty-first birthday, and in addition to very much enjoying my friend-sponsored surprise party (where my lovely friends contributed to my much needed mental tidy by burning things that upset me in a big big bonfire), I enjoyed some free introspection time. This year, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about my birth mother. Usually, a few days after my birthday, I remember that she is out there somewhere, and surmise that she was probably trying to deal with a very difficult day. This year, however, I thought about her quite a bit on my birthday and thought that although I have no strong desire to actually try to find her (as I’m a fiercely devoted member of the quirky but loving Hall family) I did want to say thank you. So here is my thank you note:

Dear Birth Mother,

I don’t remember meeting you, although I’m sure that I made quite an impression on you 31 years ago. I know it must have been hard to make the decision to put me up for adoption. But I wanted you to know that I consider it to be the most admirable selfless act that I can imagine. My parents are amazing, supportive, loving people, and they raised me in a stable, spiritual home, along with my older brother. They aren’t rich, but they had the financial stability to support me and encourage my education. They also are happy, well-adjusted people, who raised me to be practical and strong–but still call me princess. I am so grateful that I was raised in that home, and I know that you made it possible. I imagine that you were pretty young when I was born, and I also imagine you realized you couldn’t give me everything you wanted to yourself, so you shared me with people who could. I like to think that you passed on to me the ability to make mature selfless decisions, because that is something that I admire about you, and am striving to develop myself.

I also want to thank you for not having an abortion. I always thought it was ironic that I was born exactly nine months after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. I know that you legally had the choice to terminate your pregnancy, but you chose not to. I hope you don’t regret that decision. I feel so fortunate to be alive. I love my life. I love what I’ve done with it, and I cherish the fact that I’ve been so blessed.

Please don’t worry about me. I know that there are still people who are wary of adoption. I remember reading billboards for mental hospitals in Utah that specialized in “drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, and adopted children.” I always thought that was pretty ridiculous, and being the spunky girl I am, make fun of those signs and attitudes regularly. Please don’t spend time anguishing over whether or not you did the right thing. I know you were inspired to allow my parents to adopt me, and I’m so grateful that you followed that inspiration. I really hope that you have found peace with your decision, and I want you to know that I wish you all the best in life. You certainly deserve to experience the same kind of happiness you’ve given me.

With much respect,

Karen

Comments

  1. D. Fletcher says:

    A beautiful post, that makes my heart ache for children. My situation… and the Church… will not allow it, but I still think I’d be a terrific, if single, parent.

  2. Beautiful. Thank you.

  3. Chad, your comments remind me of the comments my step-father and I always receive when people say they can tell we are father and son because we look alike.

    We usually don’t say anything. ;)

  4. D.–adopt a baby, if you want to! You’d be a great dad, and nobody would kick your baby out of the church nursery. The handbook says some mildly discouraging thing about single parent adoptions, but it also says discouraging things about vasectomies, which no one pays much attention to or even knows about.

    I’ll babysit whenever you want. And meet you for playdates in the park.

  5. I dated someone at BYU who was introduced to the church shortly after she became pregnant at 18 years old. After she gave birth she put the baby up for adoption through LDS social services. She was eventually was baptized, became a very devout member, served a mission, graduated from BYU and married in the temple. She would not talk directly about her decision to give her child up because she felt that the experience was too sacred, but she had a tremendous testimony that it was the Lord’s will.

    I think that her actions gave the child and herself a chance at a better life. I don’t know if this woman considered that when making that decision, but she certainly made the most of her chances.

  6. I loved reading the letter. As a birth mother myself, I am always interested in reading the thoughts and stories of children who had been placed for adoption.

    I hope that my dear one will want to find me when she turns 18. Time will only tell and I have quite a long time to wait and see.

    I do not regret the decision and I know the Lord had His hand in it right from beginning to end, even afterwards.

    I do receive a letter from the parents each year and I am grateful for that blessing.

    J

  7. I think adoption is an interesting context in which to discuss sealing. I think it highlights the need for intergenerational ties, some spiritual way to cement, in this case, a non-biological child into a family. But isn’t that need just as important for biological families? Maybe the knowledge that you are not only born to, but sealed to your parents, functions as a behavioral incentive, and gives more gravity to free agency. Or at least it should.

    Steve, to your earlier question, I have to be honest in saying that I’ve never considered my birth parents in the context of heaven. And I don’t quite know how to answer that. I guess I’m one of those people who is pretty comfortable assuming that everything really will work out on the other side, and I don’t anguish over it. I’d be curious as to how other people answer that question.

    Generally, to your question of how do adopted children view their families, I can obviously only answer for myself, but I think my parents handled it in a very wise way. I always knew that I was adopted, I never remember being told. And my mom would always say to me something to the effect of how we chose to be a family together in the pre-existence, and that it was so important that we find each other that my parents had to wait three and a half years for me, and about five years for my brother. I knew it took nine months for other kids, so I felt pretty special. :o)

  8. I think people would be surprised to find out how many adoption issues surround them–how connected they are to it. I’m sure there are more birth mothers than we know about (as there are so many adopted children through LDS social services.) In my home ward in SLC, three families were made up, at least in part, of adopted children when I was growing up. One of my good friends from that home ward has now adopted, as has my brother’s sister-in-law. In addition, there are two new families in our ward who are adding to their families with adopted children from the former USSR and China. Everyone of those situations, to my knowledge, is incredibly healthy and happy. And the children are all being raised in great homes. I don’t know why there is still somewhat of a stigma against adoption. It has the potential of creating such healthy blessed situations.

  9. I’m an adoptive parent and the tone of your note is perfectly in line with my own feelings, Karen. I have met both of my son’s birth parents and have nothing but admiration for them. They made choices that weren’t so good initially, but made the best of the situation.

    I’m grateful every time I walk down the hall past the room of a blond 7-year-old boy who looks nothing like me but still calls me daddy.

  10. Karen,

    This is beautiful.

  11. Karen,
    Thank you for that wonderful letter. My wife and I adopted a beautiful baby girl 4 years ago. Her birth mother had 3 girls already, and had just joined the church. We were lucky enough to meet her, and have exchanged pictures and letters, which we are grateful to have. We have so much respect for the difficulty if such a great sacrifice.
    My wife and I have recently been asked to be the co chairs for the Ohio region’s LDS FSA (families supporting adoption). We love to talk, and here about stories like yours.
    I wonder if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of your feelings about the sealing covenant. I really feel strongly about the power it has, especially in my little family.
    I would also like to throw it out there to anyone else. Why do we need to be sealed to our parents, when we can be sealed to our spouses? What are the blessings of being sealed to those above you. I know the question may sound ignorant, but I respect the time and thought that usually goes into responses on this blog, and was wondering what everyone thinks.

  12. Karen, are you an only child? Did your parents adopt other children?

  13. Karen, I’m surprised you had any doubts. It’s a very touching post. Keep ‘em rollin’. :)

    Quirky I’ll share ‘cos quirky I is.

  14. Karen, thank you. Beautiful post.

    D, no doubt you would be a wonderful father.

  15. Karen, thanks for your post – very beautifully written. Adoption is , I think, a great opportunity for good people to give an innocent child a second child a chance at a normal, loving, supportive life, allowing them ( the adopted child) to be abl eto maximise his/her talents, and row up be a succesful, happy , productive member of our society.
    Leaving a child with obviously incompetent and psychologically damaged birth parents, is, well, bad……… Not t hat I have to talk about what damage such defective birth parents can do.

  16. Karen, thanks so much for posting this. Wow. Thank you.

  17. Karen, what is your concept of family? By that I mean, do your birth parents figure in to your notions of family? When you envision heaven, for example, which family elements are a part of that picture for you? I guess I’ve always been curious as to how adoption impacts our family bonds and ties.

  18. kneight, I don’t know a complete answer to your question, but my intuition is that we are sealed to “those above us,” as you put it, as a means of forging intergenerational ties that bind. It is literally turning the hearts of the children to the fathers. The greatest image of Mormondom, IMHO, is the great links of family going back and forward in time over many generations. Being sealed to spouses is a way of ensuring the integrity of the present-day ties in our families — sealing other generations is the accomplishment of the prophecy of Malachi regarding Elijah. That’s just my two cents.

  19. Nice post Karen. And I’m a quirky Hall too. Hall is my mother’s maiden name as well as my middle name.

  20. Nicely written, nicely written.

  21. Steve, Mat, and Danithew, thanks for the support. I’ve been worried about posting this one, but kept thinking it was the right thing to do.

    I’m not an only child. My parents adopted my older brother 3 and a half years before me. (Thank goodnes…he kept me from being spoiled! Plus I love him bunches. Plus, he has cute kids that I can now spoil. It works well for everyone.)

    Danithew, oddly, I remembered you telling me you were a Hall all those years ago. We’re not related. My dad’s actually a second generation Swede. Our great something grandfather took his name from an Englishman. But you are certainly free to share the quirky!

  22. thanks Steve and Karen for your two cents on the sealing covenant. I have been thinking about it a lot lately as my wife and I have been giving the LDS family services 5th Sunday presentation in and around the Columbus, Ohio area. I had been looking for other angles to view adoption in the church, in relation to stewardship and the sealing covenant. It seems that there is a stumbling block in the church, and elsewhere, for that matter, for birth mothers, and their parents, that parenthood is ownership. And to place your child for adoption is giving up on your family. IMHO that is selfish. Aren’t we all stewards of our HF’s children? That really sounds corny. Sorry, writing is not my strong suit. I just love this topic, and would to love to see more about it. I also realize, as I have seen in many wards, that many people feel that they have no connection to adoption.

  23. very cool!

  24. Karen, your letter is absolutely beautiful. I only wish there were some way to get it into the hands – or onto the computer screen – of YOUR birthmother. The problem with generic letters like yours is that they drift off into the outer universe without targeting the one person who needs desperately to read it. Here’s an analogy: Can you imagine how little comfort a mother of a service person stationed in Iraq would get from reading a generic letter posted on the internet assuring an equally-anonymous mother that he/she is alive, doing fine, and doesn’t feel any need to communicate with her personally? Ouch!

    As a reunited birthmother, I can’t tell you what a horrible, dark place I inhabited the whole 24 years of not knowing anything about the daughter I relinquished to unknown parents. When I had to sign that surrender paper, it was like dropping my baby off the edge of a cliff and having no way of knowing whether anyone ‘down there’ would catch her! Through the years, I was tormented wondering whether she had even been adopted, or did she remain in foster care? Was she still alive, or was she the one whose grave stone I saw recently, born the same year she was and died as a teenager? If she was alive, did she need updated medical information from me? Could she unknowingly marry one of her brothers or cousins? Did she feel such emptiness, as a great many adoptees do, that she turned to alcohol or drugs to fill the void? Was there anything I could do to help her? Incidentally, when I found her, I learned that I could have helped her through a problem pregnancy, which she terminated for lack of family support. I was four years too late.

    Please, Karen, even if you don’t feel the need to meet your birthmother personally, would you at least submit a letter to her through the agency and ask if they would make it available to her if she has or does inquire about you? She did what she believed was right for you. I ask you to please do what is right for her! God bless!

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