The Mask of Perfection

By: - April 18, 2011

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The following are the words Grace Ann shared with her church nearly 25 years after she placed her daughter for adoption.

“When I asked for a few minutes to share some personal things in a public way, I wasn’t aware that Jim’s sermon topic for today was sexuality.  But because I feel God’s leading to be vulnerable with you, I am trusting His timing.  I have a little recovery thing that says, “We can accept love from others when we get rid of the mask of perfection we hide behind and forgive ourselves for being human.”  These last two years I have become aware of how heavy my mask of perfection is.  I’ve worn it for the past 25 years.  I’ve been a member of this church for over 20 years.  I know and am known by many of you to the extent that we have allowed each other to be known.

But, God has been doing a great healing in my body, my mind and my spirit, and the mask no longer serves me and I no longer need it.  I finally forgive myself for being human, for making costly consequential mistakes and poor choices.  But I now know that I am not a mistake.  Twenty–five years ago this October I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  I wasn’t married and my college boyfriend abandoned the relationship when I wouldn’t have an abortion.  I contemplated suicide as a way out of the pain, but I didn’t attempt it because of my understanding of God and who He is.  I had no support system that would allow me to keep my baby, so I chose to place her for adoption.

For a fleeting moment on a New Year’s Eve, I chose to go against my value system and the cost has hurt me for years and years.  Only my parents, brother, sisters and later may husband, knew this secret.  I had learned the “no talk” rule earlier in my life and continued to practice it to keep from feeling the loss.

Two years ago a wonderful counselor said, “Grace Ann, we are only as sick as the secrets we keep.”  So after much prayer, I decided to share this information with my two other children, believing that they had a right to know the real me, their family history and that they had a half-sister somewhere.  This was scary because I always wanted to be this “super mom” and to be perfect in their eyes.  But my fears were unfounded, because it only brought us closer.  It made me more real to them and not so perfect, which allowed them to be perfectly imperfect.

With their blessing and that of the most wonderful man in the world, my husband, this past March I registered with the National Birthmothers Registry.  It is a registry that lets adoptees who are seeking contact with their birthmother and birthmothers who are mutually seeking to register.  Three months after I registered, the agency called to say that my daughter had also registered.  We have been writing letters to each other since June, sending pictures and taking our time getting to know each other and building trust.  We realize that this affects more people than just the two of us and we want to be real sensitive to them.  My daughter’s name is Cecilia Anne.  She goes by “Cece.”  She is precious, beautiful and wonderful.  She is a social worker at a children’s shelter.  (Why, I wasn’t surprised to hear that!) I am going to meet her soon, so I solicit your prayers for us and for our family.

I am sharing this to praise God for closing a deep, empty hole in my heart.  He forgave me a long time ago, but I am just now forgiving myself.  I am His precious child and I am no longer wounded by paralyzing self-hate, “what if’s” and the need to hide behind a mask.  Dealing with all of this is restoring my relationship with my children that I had damaged due to me hovering over their lives and my thoughts that if I didn’t protect them that somehow they would also disappear.  It has restored a love for myself – for being real and honest.

To close, I would like to read a letter that Cece wrote five years ago in her journal, never knowing that I’d ever see it or of its impact today:

Dear Birthmother,

I’m not really sure how to go about writing this letter.  It will be one of the hardest letters I have ever written and probably will ever write.  Then again, it will be one of the most meaningful ones I write.

As I sit and contemplate my ideas, I find it difficult to decide where I should start.  I do hope that you considered me a beautiful baby.  In my heart, I have confidence that you did.  I will begin by letting you know that I was placed in a very good home.  I must express my gratitude to you for giving me life and not aborting me as many mothers choose to do.  For any reasons that you may have had for putting me up for adoption, I respect them and I assure you that whatever reasons you did have, I have had an excellent life with my adoptive parents.  My deepest thanks must be expressed to you though because you allowed me to live in this world.  For this I love you even though I don’t actually know you.

I am very content with my life, more now so that I have ever been.  God has blessed me graciously.  Rest assured that I have had a good life and have not been deprived in any way.  Once again, I want to express my appreciation and’ love to you for giving me my life. That is the greatest gift of all.

And finally, I’d like to share the words God gave to me to send to my daughter on this her first birthday that I have actually known her name.  I calligraphied it and put it in a little tiny accordion fold book and fussed over it as you can imagine and I’ll be mailing it to her Monday.

While I wasn’t watching, God had His Hand on you.

With blind faith, I asked Him to do what I couldn’t do.

He kept his promise faithfully and grew you kind and strong.

He matched you with two other hearts longing to share a home.

Never did I dare to dream, that we could someday reunite.

But in His mercy and graciousness, this gift is now in sight.

Happy Birthday, Cecilia Anne”

Used with permission from Grace Ann.

Also Found In: Resources for Birthmothers