I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes in Stake Conference tonight. I even had a power point to go along with it (because I had to show pictures of our gorgeous girls!). Here is the written version of my talk:
I am grateful to speak with you tonight about a topic that is near to my heart: my family. Greg and I have been married for over 20 years and we have three beautiful daughters that joined our family through the miracle of adoption.
Thanks to our transracial family, we often get the chance to talk about adoption. I love talking about our daughters’ birth parents and the relationships we share in our open adoptions. I love debunking myths and talking about how open adoptions are in the best interest of all involved: our daughters, most especially, but also their birth moms, birth dads, and us as the parents. For our daughters, it is vital to their identity formation that they have information about their biological heritage, and that they have an ongoing relationship with their birth parents and know that their birth parents placed them out of love. It is healing for their birth parents to see the girls happy, healthy, and loved. And it is awesome for Greg and I because we expanded our family not just by our daughters, but by their birth families.
A common question that I get asked is, “why did her birth mom place for adoption? Did she not think she could be a good mom?”
I relish getting asked this question because I can set the record straight. Our birth moms did not choose adoption because of their parenting skills or their ages or their earning potential. They chose adoption because they understood the power and importance of the sealing covenant, and they follow the prophet.
The First Presidency issued this statement in 2006: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2008/01/why-adoption?lang=eng
“We … express our support of unwed parents who place their children for adoption in stable homes with a mother and a father. We also express our support of the married mothers and fathers who adopt these children.
“Children are entitled to the blessing of being reared in a stable family environment where father and mother honor marital vows. Having a secure, nurturing, and consistent relationship with both a father and a mother is essential to a child’s well-being. When choosing adoption, unwed parents grant their children this most important blessing. Adoption is an unselfish, loving decision that blesses the child, birth parents, and adoptive parents in this life and throughout the eternities. We commend all those who strengthen children and families by promoting adoption.”
To me, the purpose of adoption is to have these precious children of God sealed, linked to their generations.
An article in the January 2008 Ensign entitled Why Adoption? talks about the importance of the sealing covenant:
"A primary reason the Church supports adoption is that children who are adopted by temple-worthy Latter-day Saint couples can be sealed to their adoptive parents. The sealing ordinance is the capstone ordinance in the Church, and its blessings are present in this life as well as in the next. As President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) declared, children who are born in the covenant—and, by extension, those who are sealed to their parents in the temple—“have claims upon the blessings of the gospel beyond what those not so born are entitled to receive. They may receive a greater guidance, a greater protection, a greater inspiration from the Spirit of the Lord; and then there is no power that can take them away from their parents.” 6
Fred Riley, commissioner of LDS Family Services, says that although adoption is rarely discussed in Church meetings, it is a profound gospel principle. He points out that when the prophet Elijah restored the sealing keys, these keys encompassed adoption. And one of the ways in which Jesus Christ is our Father is through adoption, for we become His sons and His daughters when we are adopted into the family of Christ.”
What does the ward council, and the ward members, need to know about families formed through adoption? First, that this is a family, albeit a family formed in a unique way. Second, there is no role confusion in open adoptions; it is not co-parenting or joint custody: Greg is the dad, I am the mom, our birth moms and birth dads are some of our favorite and most loved people. Our birth moms are kind of like the favorite aunts – only better!
I never get offended, but I feel it is important for everyone, and especially the ward council, to use proper adoption language to go along with your genuine love and concern. Many birth moms find it hurtful that the common phrase is “giving up your child for adoption.” You “give up” soda, or bad habits, or old clothes. A birth mom “places” her baby for adoption. She lovingly places her baby in the arms of their forever family. The birth moms at birthmotherbaskets.org put it this way: Gave love, gave life, but never gave up. #placed
Other language that may be hurtful: real parents, having children of your own, or keeping your baby. Instead of asking about my adopted daughter’s “real” parents, ask about her birth parents or biological parents. Instead of asking us if it is ever possible to have children of our own, recognize that we have three beautiful daughters, and they are as much “our own” as your children are. Instead of asking a woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy if she wants to “keep” her baby, ask her if she is considering parenting or making an adoption plan. (Or better yet, don't ask her anything at all -- if she wants to tell you, she will do so!) Instead of asking my daughters with beautiful brown skin if they are adopted, ask them if they were adopted. Their adoptions were onetime events.
Our birth moms are my heroes. Placing a child for adoption is a selfless act of pure love. Being with our birth moms in the hospital were some of the most sacred moments of my life. Watching them choose a different path for their daughters, a path with a father in the home who is a righteous priesthood holder, a path which includes the sealing ordinance, was beyond extraordinary. Placing a child for adoption is the closest thing to the Savior’s sacrifice I have ever personally witnessed.
As a ward council, as you help adoptive families and birth parents in your ward, I hope you remember that adoption truly is about love: love for the child and love for each other. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we have a stewardship to “rear children in love and righteousness.” We have a responsibility to care for each other and love each other.
I hope you also remember that pregnancy is not ,and never will be, a sin. Babies are always, always a miracle!
In closing, I hope we may all gain hope from one of my favorite statements by Elder Wirthlin:
“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.”