A time to choose (side note)

Sandra is a special woman. She has a way of making people feel comfortable. She cares, and shows emotion. She is supportive and uplifting. She educates. She taught me what was most important and who was most important. She taught me to stand up for myself and not let people walk all over me. She taught me boundaries, and the ability to see red flags in peoples’ behavior. It may have taken me awhile to put those boundaries into practice, but I have.

I will forever be grateful to her. She was my saving grace. I don’t think it was coincidence that we were able to work together. She seemed to be the only one that could get me to open up. To be real with myself and those around me. She also taught me tough love, and applied it when needed.

Group meetings at LDS Family Services were a fantastic opportunity for me. I was able to be with other girls in similar situations.. We were all able to talk, share our stories, and listen. It was nice to know that I wasn’t alone and had other people I could talk to, people who wouldn’t judge me. We weren’t allowed to just sit there either. Everyone participated no matter how hard it was. It was fantastic to be able to open up, even if I didn’t want to, I knew I needed to.

I have heard many different stories from birth mothers. Each story is unique and special. Each birth mom is also unique and special. My relationship with some of them has withstood the test of time, we are still very dear friends to this day. Those relationships to me, are more special than any other. We have a common bond. And a common belief in our purpose. Each one of those girls I met in my group meetings are angels. They have endured many things, we all have.

My Grandmother was my companion to most group meetings. She was loved by all. I think she enjoyed going to group just as much as I did. She was known simply as Grandma by all the girls, and even the counselors.

My Grandmother is a very special lady. We have developed a very special bond. A bond I will forever cherish. We had our routines while living together. I always did the dishes and she washed the big pans. We would stay up late crafting, or playing card games. With Rook cards of course, no face cards in her house.

I could go on forever about Sandra, group, or about  my Grandmother  but I don’t want to keep babbling. I will just say that I value those times I had with each one of those people, and everyone at group.

~ Candice

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A time to choose (part 1)

Yea I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. – D&C 8:2

 A time to choose

Is one who has closed her mind and hardened her heart, one whose bitterness precludes the help of those closest to her, is one who may not really want such inspiration able to receive it? Will the Lord offer help to such a person? The simple answer to both questions is, yes.

Candice is not a stranger to the Salt Lake area having visited there on many occasions and having lived there for the better part of a year while going to school. She was however, a stranger to the circumstances which now brought her there to live with her Grandmother.

Grandma Ruth lives in basement apartment built for her in the home of my brother. He and his family are no strangers to adoption, having adopted three of their four children and his wife having been adopted as a baby as well. These people were a tremendous support for Candice and a great example of the good that can from adoption. We cannot express enough, our gratitude for their support and love during this difficult time.

Once settled in, the first order of business was to introduce her to the LDSFS agency in Farmington. Candice called and made an appointment to see a counselor (chosen by the agency based on availability) who had expertise in dealing with Birthmothers. Even so, it was no coincidence that brought her together with this particular counselor, Sandra. Sandra, a soft spoken but very wise, humble, and inspired woman began her work with Candice.

Candice quickly developed a sense of security and trust in Sandra, things vital to her if she was to experience any change of heart. This security and trust proved to be the foundation of what would become, for both of them, something much more than a typical counselor/client relationship. It was Sandra’s genuine caring and love for our daughter that enabled Candice to begin to tear down her walls and thus begin the process of restoring her testimony.

Candice was counseled on many subjects as needed, one of which was the position of the Church as outlined in The Proclamation to the World which states in part; “children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, to be reared by a father and mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity”. This instruction was reiterated in a letter from the First Presidency which states:  “children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by parents who provide love, support, and all the blessings of the gospel”.  “Every effort should be made in helping those who conceive out of wedlock to establish an eternal family relationship. When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely, unwed parents should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Family Services”. Candice took this very seriously, even defending this as being a commandment since it was stated by the Prophet. Please understand, girls in no way are pressured to make the decision to place their babies, in fact, some do choose to keep and parent their babies themselves. Whatever their decision, it is theirs to make and they are all treated equally.

In addition to her one on one counseling with Sandra, Candice participated in weekly group meetings with several other girls in the same situation. Grandma was her usual companion at the meetings but we were privileged to attend a few of these meetings on our visits with Candice in SLC during her pregnancy. In these meetings, expertly presided over by Rachel, don’t expect to sit on the sidelines and watch, Rachel expected/compelled all to participate.  And don’t ever try “I don’t know” as an answer to one of her questions, this was just not acceptable. Rachel, in her own endearing style forced (caused is probably a better word for it), the girls to think, to talk, and to open up…Great therapy.

It was on one such occasion, with us in attendance, that I received a rather rude awakening; you might even say I was put in my place. I heard several of the girls make reference to “placing” their babies. To me this seemed like a politically correct term for what was really about to happen…they were putting their babies up for adoption,  “placement” was a “nice” term designed to make them feel better. The next day Candice, Mary, and I attended a session with Sandra during which I asked why the girls didn’t “tell it like it is” and use the term adoption. In short order I was set straight and rightfully so. These girls were not putting their babies up for adoption as on the auction block to the highest bidder. Of their own free will, they were “placing” their babies with a specific family, a family of their choosing. Sometimes semantics are more than just words. As we would learn later, Birthmothers quite literally do “place” their babies with their adoptive couples.

Sandra further informed us that placement was a sacred experience. I must admit that in my ignorance I did not understand. The significance of her statement would soon become very clear to all of us.

*****

I was very apprehensive to meet with a new counselor, almost (internally) against it. My previous interaction with a counselor at LDS Family Services, was really disappointing. This counselor was not sensitive to me or my situation. He was curt, and harsh. He jumped right into how hard this would be, and how I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. He never encouraged me, or showed any sort of compassion. For me, that was the one way to drive me deeper inside myself and make my walls even stronger. I shut down while meeting with him. Luckily, I only had to meet with him the one time.

My next post will take a small break from the norm., so I can talk more about group & Sandra (don’t want these posts to be too long).

Sixth Sense (part 2)

As the initial trauma of that first night began to wane, it became more apparent to us that Candice’s fear and uncertainty surrounding her pregnancy was turning more to anger and bitterness. At the suggestion of our Bishop, we made an appointment with a counselor from LDS Family Services, a service of the Church we had never heard of before now. This initial visit provided needed information about adoption and LDSFS.  Legalities, procedures, what we could expect in the process…many questions were answered. One such answer, both a surprise and an indication of the importance the Church places on this program, also served to eliminate one of our worries. For Birthmothers, the financial burden of counseling, birth, and adoption is completely paid for by LDSFS.

A couple of months into the pregnancy, her bitterness reached the boiling point. We; Candice, Mary, and I, had discussed and were in agreement that the boys needed to know about the pregnancy. Mary and I had envisioned a family council in which we would discuss the situation, vent feelings if necessary, and lend support. Candice had other ideas.

Mary returned home one day to find our youngest son Lucius, in his bedroom crying. He said Candice had just told him (far too cavalierly) that she was pregnant. No further discussion took place between the two of them. I could not allow this scene to be repeated with the other boys. Mary and I told Candice that this was not the right way to do this, that we needed to sit together as a family and discuss this together, and that we would not allow her to continue in this manner. With much anger and bitterness (not exactly what we had hoped for) she agreed to meet as a family to tell the rest of them about her pregnancy. Even though her attitude was less than desirable, our son’s were supportive and loving. Unfortunately, she could not accept that love in her state of mind. Even so, they freely offered their support.

We had, from the very first night, talked about the possibility of Candice moving to live with my Mother during her pregnancy. We discussed this possibility with the counselor from LDSFS. Generally it was not considered to be the best option as the support of family is critical in times of crises, support only a mother and father can give, support we certainly wanted to give. After much prayer and counsel and with Candice in agreement, the decision was made to move her to Utah to stay with my Mother for the duration of her pregnancy.

We want to be clear on this point; our own apprehensions or insecurities were never a consideration in this decision. We did not send Candice away to hide her pregnancy, or to save her, or ourselves, from any embarrassment, shame, or from the judgments of others. These things were of no consequence in this decision. Not fully understanding why at the time, we did what we knew we were inspired to do.

Imagine if you can what a bitter pill this was for Candice to swallow. A free, independent, strong willed girl, twenty years of age, who wanted nothing more, prior to her pregnancy, than to be on her own. In spite of this, for one of the few times in a long time, she did willingly, but probably a bit reluctantly as well, what she knew she needed to do. Arrangements were made, her pride and joy, a new truck, was sold, friends were left behind and on January 28th 2002, Candice now five months pregnant, but showing nothing of it physically, boarded a plane for Salt Lake City.

*****

I was bitter and angry, but also terrified. That terror was taking over my life (those walls mentioned previously, were the only thing keeping everyone from knowing exactly what was going on inside me, it was beyond hard, dealing all on my own). I didn’t know what was going to happen or how people would react. I was ashamed that I had gotten myself into this situation. When it came time to telling my brothers, I was beyond terrified. They were all good LDS boys, doing what they should. I didn’t want to tell them. In fact, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was still in denial, hoping this all would just go away. It didn’t. I do regret to this day how I told my youngest brother. He was far too young to understand or communicate what was happening. Luckily, he has forgiven me, and we have a very strong bond.

I also had a pretty steady boyfriend at the time. In hindsight, I did love him. He wasn’t LDS, but he was very respectful and just a really good guy. When my parents first found out about my pregnancy they thought it was him, and were very angry. It actually was not him. When it came time to telling him, he wanted to keep the baby and stay together. As wonderful as this sounded, I was smart enough to know that I was not ready for that. Maybe it was me being selfish, but I wasn’t ready to be a parent, I still had things I wanted to do, selfish things. But maybe that was a good thing. It helped me to make the best decision possible for my child. When I told him my plans, he was very supportive. He was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan about the same time I was leaving to UT. We were going to come back and pick up where things left off.

The Sixth Sense (part 1)

 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. – Job 32:8

The sixth sense

I have been blessed with a sixth sense about my children, a sense many parents Possess. Some call it intuition, though I am certain inspiration is more accurate. Although at times this blessing has seemed more like a curse (ignorance is bliss), I am grateful for it. This sixth sense has enabled me to know on many occasions when things were wrong, when truths were not forthcoming, and when help was needed. Unfortunately this sense could not make my children any more willing to accept my help.

And so it was with Candice. She is a very pretty girl, blond hair, blue eyes, and a very fun yet strong personality. She has had a difficult time believing these things about herself though. It was this difficulty, at least in part, that helped her develop her construction skills as a builder of walls. Not tangible, touchable walls, but walls even more formidable than those of wood or stone. Walls designed originally to act as a shield from the hurt of betrayed friendships and to hide her insecurities and feelings about her own self worth. These walls also served, perhaps unintentionally at first, to lock out her family who wanted so much to help.

Sixth sense or not, sometimes parents need help too. One of those times was close at hand.

One of our, or any responsible parent’s, greatest fears was now a reality…Candice was pregnant.

We have allowed Candice to keep private, details which she did not choose to share or did not have to share. She has allowed us the same right. So for the purposes of this book I will say only that calling into service that sixth sense, I discovered her pregnancy before she told us about it. Additionally, I knew she had an appointment for an abortion. Without telling her mother what I knew, I sought the help of our Bishop. With his council and because of the possibility of abortion, I knew I could not risk waiting for Candice to tell us about her pregnancy. I told Mary the situation, we cried together, got mad together, wondered what we did wrong together, and together we waited for Candice to come home for the night.

When she returned, acting (one of her great talents) again as if everything was great, we called her to our bedroom. Knowing this was not a time for hollering or questioning (How could you do this?!), and with all the composure and courage we could muster, we told her we knew she was pregnant. For an all too brief moment she cried with us and hugged us, finally showing the fear and uncertainty we hoped she was feeling. When composure was reestablished we discussed the future. Mary and I made certain Candice knew that we still loved her and would support her through this. We were all in this together now and as we saw the situation, we had three options.

First, abortion…we were greatly relieved when she told us she didn’t think she would have gone through with her appointment and was no longer interested in this option. Planned Parenthood does have their own agenda and is quick to push it on fearful, confused young girls…makes us wonder how often P.P. is successful in pushing their agenda with girls such as our daughter whose fear of disclosure to LDS (or other) parents may be greater than they can manage.

Second, single parenting…Candice was not able, financially or emotionally, but this option was given great consideration. We would become aware of, and support, other much more significant reasons to not pursue this option as we put in motion the option we did choose.

Third, adoption…an appealing idea for an expectant mother who couldn’t realize, at that early stage, just how difficult it would be. Couldn’t realize that what seemed to be little more than an extreme inconvenience, would, in the next nine months and beyond, become an unbreakable bond between mother and child, making adoption a greater trial by far, than that of pregnancy for an unwed LDS girl. The decision was all but made that night, adoption was the correct choice for us. We would learn later just how correct this decision was.

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The day I found out I was pregnant I told my very best friend. She was the only person I told. I also made the appointment (with no intention of actually going to it). It was later that day that my parents came to me. For years I thought my best friend told my parents. How else could they know? I had the pregnancy test with me, and left no evidence at home. I now know that my friend never did tell my parents, they really did have divine inspiration in knowing that, and knowing what I needed. And what a relief it was for me to know that they already knew. It wasn’t a “burden” or “secret” I had to carry for long.   As much relief as I did feel, I had no idea what was to come. And the pain, heartache and anger I would feel.

Painful Parenting

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink. – D&C 19:18

The birth of our first son came only after twelve solid hours of hard labor, one pain followed closely by the next. Natural (no anesthesia) child birth was the order of the day and Mary was determined to accomplish this feat with the birth of her first child as conventional wisdom was that any anesthesia could be harmful to an unborn baby. I so admire her commitment to doing what she thought was best for our son. Her excruciating labor was followed by a very difficult delivery, our son’s stubbornness evident even in the womb and at his birth! My emotional pain at seeing her physical suffering during this time, lead to a good natured disagreement between the two of us which we have deliberately perpetuated in fun for many years…Which is worse, physical or emotional pain? I don’t need to explain which side of the argument I supported and which side she supported. I will explain however that Mary has in recent times changed her position. Dare I say it after all these years? I win!

Our relationship with our daughter, while very special to both of us, is the thing which also made so difficult the problems we were about to experience. The greater the love, the more acute the pain. Imagine then the suffering, in the Garden of Gethsemane, of he who knows perfect love, and the suffering of the Father who endured his son’s agony. It used to be that I got my relaxation and diversion from the pressures of everyday life by doing things such as skiing or hiking or playing sports of some kind. So I suppose it may be a sign of age catching up with me that I now get my relaxation to a large extent in gardening. It was on one such occasion that Candice, then eighteen, approached me in the yard and asked if she could talk to me. I said, very nonchalantly, “Sure, what do you need?”, Not realizing the seriousness of the conversation she wanted to have.  She asked if we could go inside and talk. We found a quiet place and she proceeded to tell me that she had been to see our Bishop about this and he suggested she might also talk to me. She proceeded to confess some relatively minor transgressions and expressed a desire to proceed in life doing the things she knew she should be doing. It was a moment of great pride for me and for Mary. On her own, Candice realized she needed to set her life in order and she did what she needed to do to make it possible.  As I have told her since that time, she was, at that point, on the verge of doing great things in her life.

Also realizing that Candice was now poised to move forward in her life was he whose sole purpose is to stop us from achieving any form of greatness, even destroy our lives. It was at this point that his work began in earnest. At least somewhat unaware and unprepared for this onslaught, Candice began her downward spiral. Well disguised choices which on the surface seemed harmless and fun lead to her losing the spirit which prompted her earlier conversation with me. The warning signs were there. Were we too slow to react? Did we too make poor decisions?

If so, what could we have done to prevent what happened? It is natural and easy, I suppose, to ask such questions of ourselves. Answers to these questions were much more difficult to come by. Realizing there may be some who will question our actions, we remain confident that once confronted with the reality of our daughter’s situation the decisions made and actions taken were correct and inspired. Our decisions were correct for our circumstances, for our daughter, and for our family.

Candice’s poor choices, created the need for her to cover her tracks…lies followed, parental suffering began. As we sought help to assuage our pain, her indifference only served to intensify it. We prayed for help, sought the advice of family, worried, and lost a lot of sleep. Though answers seemed to escape us, we persisted.

On one occasion, a Saturday night, when she was supposed to spend the night at the home of another girl from our Ward, but was to be home in time to go to church with us the next morning, we discovered Candice had again lied to us. She had not spent the night where she said she would be. We went to church the next morning in anything but a spiritual mood, sat in our usual place, and tried to hide our worry and anger from our sons. Candice joined us a few minutes after the meeting started and acted as if nothing was wrong. As the Sacrament hymn was being sung I began crying uncontrollably, I hid my face hoping others around us would not notice. Candice noticed, and asked Mary what was wrong with me. Mary answered that I was upset because she, Candice, did not spend the night where she said she would. Her response, though logical, was incorrect. I was crying because the spirit manifested to me at that moment, the love of my Father in Heaven and gave me the assurance that He was aware of our problems and had not forsaken us. The experience, if somewhat embarrassing, also much needed and appreciated, then repeated itself during the congregational hymn between speakers. The knowledge and comfort it provided would prove invaluable in the coming months.

Candice’s pattern of behavior continued, fun was the name of the game. Family no longer mattered or mattered very little. Unknown to her at the time, her fun was about to come to a crashing halt.

Painless Parenting (part 3)

Daughter Candice, actually our second child in order of birth, has always been “Daddy’s little girl”, though we don’t think she likes that designation as much as her father does, at least not in her later teenage years (sounded too juvenile). In any case, she has always had a special place in our hearts. This revelation will come as no surprise to our sons (I really think they feel the same way). We justify this fact to them by saying if we had four daughters and only one son, the one son would be the special one. We’re not sure if they buy that or not but they accept the reality of the situation graciously and know their own place in our hearts is secure.

Candice too, is a kind hearted but strong willed girl. Being raised with four (five if you count me) boys determined to prove their superiority taught her to stand up for herself. She is independent and ambitious, not one to take the easy way out and not afraid of a challenge. Somewhat surprisingly, it is she who has been my backpacking partner and adventure seeker to a greater extent than any of the boys, though they have done their share of thrill seeking as well. She loves to fish, especially on our backpacking trips, it did dampen her thrill however when she proudly showed off her catch and I refused to clean it for her. You catch it, you clean it!  And she was only mildly embarrassed when on her first experience with the call of nature in the middle of the forest, her brothers and I out for a hike, happened upon the scene of her answering that call. She gets a lot more embarrassed now when we retell the story every chance we get.

To better illustrate her sensitive side…while on a family vacation in San Diego several years ago we were witness to a search for someone believed to have drown in the ocean. We watched from the beach as many lifeguards methodically and systematically searched the area where the person was last seen. Call it morbid curiosity, but for me it was interesting to watch their very organized search efforts. This realism proved to be too much for Candice , in tears she asked us to leave, we were happy to oblige.

This true to life slice of American pie does little to distinguish our family from most other LDS families. Neither does it give any suggestion of the trouble ahead, this fact itself an indication that no family can expect exemption from life’s problems.

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The story about me “answering my call of nature” is a proud story. I own that now! Also, I will be happy to inform that I was forced to help gut and clean fish on a camping trip with my husband and his family a few years back. It only took 30 years to get me to do it, and I will tell you it was done begrudgingly. However, I have still never mowed a lawn, and don’t ever intend to (we now have synthetic grass, no need to even own a mower)

Painless Parenting (part 2)

Number two son, Marshall, currently serving a full time mission, has been a great example of what a son/ brother/missionary should be. He has been focused his entire life on living the Gospel, though he has certainly had his challenges as well. Those challenges without question helping him realize at an early age the importance of things eternal. We believe the sacred nature of some things requires that they not be discussed publicly, so for our purposes here we will simply say that Marshall learned while in his early teen years the reality of mortality and the power of the Priesthood. He expressed in fast and testimony meeting one Sunday, perhaps the most heartfelt and powerful testimony of this that I have ever heard, and in only one sentence, when he said; “I know the power of the Priesthood is real”, then, unable to continue he closed and returned to his seat. Sometimes less is more. To his credit he has never wavered from this testimony.

Marshall has always been a happy person, always looking for the good in things, always (well, nearly always, he is still a teenager!) willing to help and do what was asked of him. Marshall, as you will learn later, proved to be a valuable tool in Heavenly Fathers hands in helping his sister overcome her trials. Perhaps my greatest failure as a father is in the fact that Marshall is a Dodger fan. As a Giants fan, it is my duty to despise the Dodgers and to teach my children to do the same…where did I go wrong. I will wash my hands of responsibility for this, as I know I did everything in my power to prevent it!

Our third son Ryder has learned from the example of his older brothers. He has applied himself fully to mission and vocation preparation and anxiously awaits his opportunity to serve a full time mission. Now if only he was as anxious to serve when it’s his time to do the dishes!

Ryder likes to charge forward and take command, sometimes to his regret. On a family skiing trip several years ago, he decided he didn’t need any more lessons. We got to the top of the mountain and down he went, the only problem was, he forgot the part of the lessons he did take that dealt with stopping! Luckily there were no trees, or other skiers, in his path. Sometime later, and after having watched the ski patrol carry another skier down the hill on a stretcher, I guess it came as no surprise to me to learn that their passenger in the stretcher was Ryder! Fortunately his only real injury was a severe bruise to his ego!

Lucius, our youngest, is a kind hearted sort who just wants to have fun. He can’t wait to be able to drive a car, though I’ve told him he will never drive any car of mine…he’s the one who always wants to go “faster Dad, faster”, a request I always (well, almost always) deny. He loves to smash things or take them apart, though he has not yet mastered the fine art of putting them back together again! He loves anything with an engine; it should come as no surprise then that his two favorite television shows are Monster Garage and American Chopper. He too has benefited from the example of his brothers and plans on serving a mission in a few years.

Lucius’ kind heart was evident when, one Sunday a few years ago as his sister stood to give a talk in Sacrament meeting, he turned to me and said “hey Dad, I’ll bet you 10 bucks she cries”!  Much to his dismay, I declined the bet.

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Since this book Marshall served an honorable mission, met a lovely lady whom he married in the temple and now has 3 beautiful children with. They just live too far away! Ryder also served an honorable mission, went to college and graduated with a degree. He recently met a young woman and has since married her. Finally Lucius (he made up that name for me to use here) too served an honorable mission. He is currently in school perusing a degree in construction management.

It has obviously been a long time since this book was written. I will fill in the gaps as I go with little stuff like this. Also, I will add my two cents throughout this blog always at the end of the post.