LAYTON — The four people on the panel at the LDS Family Services-sponsored Families Supporting Adoption conference on Aug. 1 looked like four ordinary folks: a soccer mom; a housewife with a toddler; a young, engaged man; and a fresh-faced office secretary.
Who would suspect that each of them hides a precious secret — a hurt that never quite goes away?
Each is a birth parent who placed a baby up for adoption.
And each is an ardent supporter of the adoption process, a process that not only allows young girls and boys to move on from a painful time in their lives but gives waiting, generous couples a child, and a child a loving, stable family.
"It's about what is best for the child," the moderator of the panel said after hearing the stories from Lauren Nelson, Ian Adams, Taneil Hirschi and Martina Muir.
Nelson said she was excited at first to learn she was pregnant but soon realized she couldn't, at age 18, care for a baby on her own. After her mother told her she would need to move out and care for the child herself, she decided to find a family for her baby.
Adams, who is adopted and comes from an adopted parent, lobbied to keep his and his girlfriend's baby but finally acquiesced to her wishes. Today, with three other children in his home and a wedding in the future, he openly weeps when he reads a letter about his firstborn.
"The two toughest questions from my 5-year-old son are 'Am I going to die?' and 'Who's Clara?' " he said.
Hirschi said her boyfriend — with whom she had broken up just before she learned she was pregnant — wanted to get married. His parents had done something similar, and he was convinced they could make it. After seven contentious months, she realized she loved her son enough to put aside her own needs and put him into the arms of an ideal family.
Muir was a senior in high school who decided to place her baby for adoption only to discover the baby's father was going to court to block the placement. Although she felt she'd chosen a family with the Lord's help, it was five months later and a second family who got her baby boy. (The second family had only just registered with Family Services and would have missed out on her child if she had placed him immediately.)
In each case, the path to placement was emotionally taxing but, in the end, tremendously rewarding.
The panelists teared up as they discussed the past, the future and their love for their babies.
"It was and remains the single most painful moment in my life," Adams said.
Each agreed that good communication with the adoptive family makes the situation bearable.
"I can't keep dwelling on what I don't have," Nelson said. "These are tears of gratitude that this family would do this. They all saved my life."
"I now have four children," Muir said. "Each time one of them reaches five months, that's the hard time because that's the age my son was."
The panelists suggested couples hoping a birth mother or father chooses them for placement need to be as real and honest as possible in their profiles and conversations.
"Honesty and openness counts," Adams said.
"Put in details about yourself, like what do you like to eat, what sports do you enjoy," Muir said.
"Have faith and find comfort," Hirschi said. "There will be a tailor-made situation for you. Have faith. It will come. Don't lose hope."
"We're able to bless each other," Muir said.