Saturday, April 25, 2009

my momma's account

I always thought I would die if this happened. I thought I could not possibly survive it. I didn't really believe it could happen. But it did. And looking back, it should not really have been a surprise. This daughter had been "bucking our system" since she was 2 ½ years old. I had been praying and fasting for her for years. But instead of asking myself, "What can I do to help my child get better?", I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy bemoaning the pathetic state of my mothering capabilities. In that sense, in the sense of incapacitating fear, I watched helplessly as her life spiraled downward. And it was no surprise when she became pregnant. For us both, even for our whole family perhaps, it was the Lord's wake-up call.
I had been pining before the Lord that our family wasn't like my family, the family I grew up in. I had brought before the Lord all my husband's faults, not realizing that my own lack of courage and confidence kept me from being a true helpmeet for him. In this atmosphere, our family floundered. I say floundered, because we did not give up and drown; instead, we, my husband and I, kept the covenants we had made before the Lord in the temple. We persevered in family prayer and scripture study, and in family home evening. Our daughter, though caught up in a moral quagmire, was thus able to distinguish between her feelings for her family and her feelings about the Gospel. She stayed active, she kept the Word of Wisdom, she paid her tithing. Thus, the Lord's life preserver kept us afloat, though floundering.
Our daughter's pregnancy brought everything before us in stark reality. Shall we sink or swim? Shall we abandon her to her choice of a doomed marriage and/or single parenting? Shall we offer to take her and her child in and provide for them if necessary? Shall we do what we've done best in the past, and exert undue pressure on her, to place for adoption? To choose any of those options would subject us to sinking. And we kind of did. We told her we respected her right to choose, but we made it very clear that we would expect her to do whatever she had to do to take care of her baby. She could not live with us, she could not expect financial assistance. She was 17, she could go out on her own. From now on, I told her when we found out (she and I together, at the same time) she was pregnant, none of our needs count any more; the welfare of this child is the top priority. And I made it clear that that meant placing for adoption.
Well, everything we said had reason. It was good reasoning. It was also hard reasoning. Mercifully, the Lord came to our rescue. We had been talking with a Church Family Services representative. Our daughter cared enough about pleasing her Father in Heaven to give her a reluctant hearing. We saw the Church video which discussed her options. Of course we were all the more persuaded about adoption. At this point, however, we began to see that we needed to back off and give the Spirit a little more room to operate. When she came to me and said that she had decided to marry and keep the baby, I stayed calm. I asked her only to call the Family Services sister and to inform her of her decision. Somehow this dear lady was able to persuade her to postpone her decision until she had been away from home for a little while, living with another family in the Church, distanced from the emotional pressure of family and boyfriend. If she still felt that way when she came home in three weeks for Christmas, then so be it.
I felt relieved and hopeful.
Our sweet daughter had always had a very tender heart. Though adamantly resistant to, shall we say, unrighteous dominion, and perhaps with a stubborn streak to begin with, it was always she who showed the most concern for me when I was ill or had just delivered a baby. She was forever wanting puppies and kittens, and had managed to acquire three house cats, though I had always said I would never have a pet in the house. She had a strong "save the world" inclination. And she had always wanted to have her very own little baby.
Once away for a time, her tender heart won out. Her situation made itself much more clear to her. It wasn't long before she acknowledged in her mind that adoption was the best thing for this little one. It took some time, some aching pleading with the Lord, however, before her heart agreed. She decided to place for adoption, not through our efforts, but in spite of them.
From that point on, my admiration and appreciation for her and for her righteous desires began to grow by leaps and bounds. She continued to live away from home and received her GED. When she realized that her boyfriend had no real interest in the baby once it was clear she wanted to place for adoption, she let go of her boyfriend. She attended group sessions with other young women in her situation. She tried to build her relationship with the Lord on a stronger foundation. As the time for delivery was only a few months away, she prayed fervently for guidance in choosing the right family, and the Lord answered her prayers in a very direct way, assuring her that he was very much a part of this process.
In the meantime, I believe I came to see that there was much more that I could do to grow in personal righteousness as well. I started examining my own life with a little more faith and frankly, with a little more kindness. Consequently, I began to view my family and my husband with a little more kindness as well. I began to know that personal righteousness is at the crux of all our walk in life. I do not think it a coincidence that it was around that time that I could finally say I was happily married.
When the time came for our dear daughter to deliver the baby, I drove down to be with her. As I observed the doctor and nurses and grew concerned about some of their actions, the Lord let me know that this child would be born strong and healthy. When he made his entrance, I know that there were angels in the room. I could feel their presence, and I knew that what I was witnessing was holy. I speak not only of the birth of a child, but also of the fact that this was a special birth; this child was being brought into life in behalf of a family who could not bring it to pass on their own. In that sense, this birth was a vicarious act of love.
At the time she delivered, the policy was not as open as it is now. The only time she had with Justin was that short time in the hospital. State law allowed ten days for the birth mother to change her mind, during which time the baby would be placed in a foster home; desiring that Justin be placed as directly as possible from his birth mother's arms to his adoptive mother's arms, our daughter waived that ten days' allowance. I was with her for the next thirty-odd hours in the hospital. As in the delivery room, so there was a holy presence in that recovery room, as we enjoyed the company of this sweet child. We both felt that he was truly special, with a great destiny. And I know that our sweet daughter was comforted in her decision, though still dreading its outcome.
Too soon, she dressed him in the best outfit and fed him for the last time. The brethren from Family Services came to effect the transition. They were to carry Justin to his family. She signed all the necessary papers, then took him in her arms. I can never write of this moment without crying. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she silently expressed to him enough love to last a lifetime. That precious Justin, barely two days old, purposely reached out his little arm and with his tiny fist patted her face, gazing meaningfully into her face. This is all true. Then she handed him over and he was gone. It was the most noble act I personally have ever witnessed.
Until Justin was five years old, she received pictures and letters, and treasured them. She still treasures them.
Twelve years later, she has never ever regretted her decision. She knows that she was an instrument through whom Justin was enabled to come to his own family. However, the ensuing weeks and months were anything but easy. I don't know how it would be for any other young woman; for our tender-hearted girl, it was a time of grieving, sometimes almost inconsolably. There was even spiritual darkness at times. She talked to almost anyone about it, she showed her pictures to people. She worked through it. She suffered, but she was also refined. She became a new person.
What do I wish I would have known, or that someone would have told me in order to be prepared for this situation? That it is survivable; that placing for adoption has a deep redemptive power; that charity truly never faileth. Maybe I had do learn these things for myself.
In the years since, I have seen that in all her trials she has been supported. She has been miraculously preserved from harm in several situations. God does not abandon those who have bended themselves to his will. She has been able to be a huge influence in the lives of many women as she has worked with Family Services in various settings. She has also helped adoptive parents understand better the birth mother of their child. She continues today to serve in capacities of support and help to young people.
My plea to anyone in this situation is, honor the agency of your child. Plead with God for charity and wisdom. Consider seriously God's will, and bend yourself to it as you pray that your child will in her time of decision. Trust in his love and support. Explain simply but clearly to siblings what is happening and why, emphasizing that love and support are tantamount. Listen to and validate their concerns. Know that you will survive this difficult trial. Have charity and know that you will all be healed in his time. In all likelihood, it will take a lot of time. But that's what "time" is for.
In retrospect, I can see that, as always, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, ashes have been turned into beauty. We are better and stronger and happier, and more able to reach out to others in their afflictions. Our children know that they can count on each other in times of trial and in times of rejoicing. We are able to talk over and work through the difficulties of the past. My husband and I are eternally, joyfully, committed to each other For this I am thankful not only to my Heavenly Father, but also to the sweet daughter through whose instrumentality so many of these blessings have come.

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