Read the previous part of this story: How We Told My Parents About My Unplanned Pregnancy.
There are numerous reasons a woman considers placing a child for adoption. Whether she is single or married, a teenager or not, with a good support system or not so much, the ultimate decision to abort, keep, or place is one that will haunt her for the rest of her life. For me, I was 16 years old, with a loving, supportive family and an awesome boyfriend. I was simply too young. It was 1984 and choosing to place was a forever deal—closed and sealed with no choice about who the parents would be and with no option of ever seeing your baby again. This is my story about grief and healing but most of all, about love. I dedicate this series for all birth moms, whether their adoption was closed, partial, or open, for their sacrifice and grief and loss that is so profound and so deep and complex that even their closest loved ones don’t truly understand. May you find healing and peace.
I was about three months along when I told my parents that I was pregnant. That first week was a flurry of activity as my mom took charge. I was so grateful to have someone who knew what to do (now, looking back, I’m sure she had no clue—she was as lost as I was). I went and saw the doctor who confirmed that I was pregnant, and we set up regular visits and got me on prenatal vitamins. I also saw the bishop of our LDS church congregation, and I was referred, through him, to LDS Family Services. Robert and I went to the first adoption counseling appointment together. It was the social workers’ responsibility to show us all of our options and to explain all of the help that was out there if we chose to keep our baby. As we sat there holding hands, the counselor was surprised when we calmly told him our decision to place and why. On our own, we had already gone through all the steps that Family Services uses to help those who are pregnant and unwed.
As the weeks progressed, I continued to see my doctor, my bishop, and my counselor. The medical and the counseling sessions progressed well, but the ones with my bishop . . . well . . . not so much. To say I had a bad attitude about my weekly visits with him would be an understatement. I went because I didn’t want to put my parents through more pain. I would willingly go, but once his office door was closed, I sat with my arms folded in front of me, eyebrows raised, with attitude oozing from every part of my being.
The purpose of the weekly meeting was repentance. My attitude wasn’t because I didn’t like the leader of my church congregation because I did. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe in my faith or because I thought that what I was being told was stupid; it was because I believed that I had messed up too badly and that I was past being able to repent. After all, I had been taught that sexual sin was only after murder in severity. I did not understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Yes, I had learned about it and heard about it my entire life. I just thought that repentance only worked for those who committed regular, everyday kinds of sins. I felt that there was a line you could cross, and there was no turning back.
Each week my bishop would tell me that Jesus Christ loved me, no matter what, and that my sins could be forgiven. He showed me passages in the scriptures that told me that very thing. He talked with me about how to change my life. Each week after our time was up, I smiled, shook his hand, and when my parents asked how it went, I said, “Fine.”
After several weeks of the same-‘ole, same-‘ole, I walked into the Bishop’s office just as I had over and over, but instead of the usual, my Bishop said, “Lisa, do you love your baby?”
I was surprised at the question, but easily answered, “I love my baby more than I have ever loved anything in my life.”
“How hard it is going to be to let the baby go?”
Pause. Silence. I had thought about it and had grieved about it and even though that moment was a few months away, I knew that it would kill me. I loved my baby more than I had ever loved anything else—more than Robert, my parents, my sister, my best friend, grandparents, and cousins all rolled together. It was simply going to destroy me.
“It will be the hardest thing I ever have to do.”
“Why are you doing it, then?” the Bishop quietly asked.
“Because I love him, and I want to give him the very best at everything. I would do anything for him. I would die for him.” Tears began streaming down my face.
“Do you know that you are a child of God?”
“Lisa, you are His beloved daughter. He loves you the way you love your baby. He is your Heavenly Father. Don’t you think that there would be a way provided so that no matter what you did, you could return home to him? Wouldn’t He do anything for His child, just like you would do anything for yours?”
I was speechless. My heart swelled inside.
My Bishop continued, “Jesus Christ atoned in the Garden of Gethsemane for you, Lisa, for this moment in your life. He died on the cross to seal that promise for you. He did it all because He loves you. Yes, He did it for me and for everyone else, but you have to know that He did it for you—just like you are sacrificing everything for your baby, He sacrificed everything for you.”
At that moment, I knew that I was not only loved but beloved. As we went through those same scripture passages that we had before, I read them with a new heart, for I knew that God was talking directly to me. All was not lost. I could be forgiven. The first step to my healing was working to forgive myself.
At the end of our time that day, my Bishop reached out to shake my hand, and I pulled him to me for a hug and said, “Thank you for helping me.” He had tears in his eyes, too. As my mom asked how things went, I said. “Mom, I’m fine. I’m going to be fine.” And I meant it.
The next article in this series, “I Knew That Healing Would Require a Painful Sacrifice,” is scheduled to publish on May 29th.
Read this author’s other series: “Silenced by Society: A Birth Mom’s Tale.”