***Disclaimer: This is a long one!
This last week I drove North on Gilbert road a few times. I passed Joe’s BBQ and remembered my first Face to Face with one of my birthmoms (you know who you are) and her couple. I couldn’t help but remember the excitement and nervousness of that day and how cool I thought it all was afterward when everyone clicked so well. I passed Oreganos where we had our first birthmother celebratory dinner. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go to Olive Garden again without thinking about two of my birthmoms. I can’t believe how much I have learned and changed in the past year and a half as I’ve been blessed to work with such remarkable women and watch them complete the impossible task of sacrificing their hearts for their children. I’ve been told more than once by people that they could “never” do my job, and wondered how I could hold it together working in such an emotional environment. What they don’t realize is that the things I’ve witnessed, though emotional for sure, are holy and sacred and have taught me so much about our Savior’s love and sacrifice. Some of you have heard me try to explain how I see adoption and my role in it, but let me try again because I feel like I have to let you know how much you changed me.
First off, let me tell you that when I interviewed for this job I was asked “Do you have a testimony of adoption?” I thought, “What is a testimony of adoption?!” and responded that I knew that the First Presidency has recommended that adoption be considered if marriage is not a viable option in response to an unplanned pregnancy, and that I believed that it was a good option. How little I understood back then! I can say now that I DO have a testimony of adoption, and I want to share it with you now.
To start, I hardly feel like I “made” adoptions happen or had much of an influence at all as to whether a birthmother chose adoption or not. When I’ve been thanked by a birthmother or adoptive couple after a placement, I feel unworthy of that gratitude. I think of birthmothers as standing in the shoes of our Savior when he sacrificed himself for us. When he suffered in Gethsemane for us he asked Heavenly Father to “remove this cup from me” as I’m sure most, if not all, birthmothers wish they could do when the time comes to face the emotional pain of separating themselves from their child, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Birthmothers have very little they can do to prepare themselves for the pain they feel. They follow the counsel of our first presidency and the spiritual confirmation they have received that their baby should have a family to which he/she can be sealed, and have faith that somehow our Heavenly Father can heal their heart afterwards. They sacrifice themselves for their children much like our Savior did for us. He knew, and birthmothers know, that it needs to be done and it is done completely out of love.
So where do I and other caseworkers come in? When the Savior was suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, I have no doubt that all of us and the other angels in Heaven dropped everything to solemnly honor and give reverence to him. I’m sure we wept as we watched the horrific pain and humiliation our Elder Brother endured. In St. Luke 22:43, it says that while in the garden “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” Note that the angel was there to strengthen Him, not take away or lessen His pain. It wasn’t possible for someone else to feel that pain for Him; it had to be his alone. Stop for a moment and ask yourself how you would have felt to be the one asked to stand next to our Savior during that time. Can you imagine the honor that angel felt when asked to go and be with our Savior? What a sacred duty! I’m sure it was emotionally taxing, but worth every second. The closest I can imagine to understanding that feeling is comparing the feelings I have had when standing next to you amazing birthmothers as you complete your feat of placing your newborn babies with their families. I couldn’t make your pain any less, and I couldn’t take any of it upon myself, but what I could do was stand next to you and try and strengthen you. I also have no doubt that angels stood in reverence as you completed your trial as well. Your actions and sacrifice, as were our Savior’s, were of eternal consequence to the tiny baby Heavenly Father entrusted in your care. He and that tiny spirit depended on you alone to ensure he/she was delivered to his/her family. I have been so moved and have felt such gratitude to have been the one to witness those events. Why should anyone wonder how I could “handle” such a job, and how little they understand when they tell me they “could never do it”? I have been allowed to stand by your side at your most painful and vulnerable hour, and for that honor I shouldn’t be thanked. It is YOU who I need to express my gratitude to. Thank you so much for allowing me into your lives and your adoption stories.
THAT, my sisters, is my testimony of adoption. I want so much to see our Heavenly Father’s blessings pour upon you and enrich your lives. I want to see you walk tall with pride and a personal knowledge that you are amazing and deserving of every blessing imaginable. I want you to want as much for yourself as you do for your child and to not stop until you get it! Working with you was an amazing ride I shall never forget. I consider each of you dear friends and you will forever be in my heart.