“Offering a Child” – A Personal Testimony by Claire Bowles
A couple who has decided to make the offering of a child to another couple isn’t just making one offering. They don’t just go to the prayer room, make their offering, bow and go out victorious. That is the first step into a new world of feelings, inspirations, challenges and joys of which they have no prior experience of. It is an offering that they will be making again and again in their hearts.
This testimony is being written to give some moral support, advise, sympathy, and guidance to get you through some uncharted emotional seas. And it really is the emotions that are in the center of what you will read in these pages. We all must learn to guide our emotions firmly with our heart and spirit, where our direct, vertical connection to God is – the place of peace, of all answers and of love. There is a river flowing upward to God and a river flowing back to us. The image of offering and receiving mothers is this: The offering mother places her baby into his wonderful upward-flowing river to be swept away to God; the receiving mother receives her baby the same way, from the downward-flowing river, put there by God, not the giving mother.
I offer this testimony that it may help prepare you for emotions that may surprise you and give you hints into dealing with emotions and thoughts that you may not know how to handle.
Making the Decision
It is important that no one pressure you into making the decision to offer a child to a childless couple. You cannot allow this to happen, and if you start to feel that pressure is being put on you, you can politely ignore it or politely tell the person that it really is a personal matter. It is important because another person should never take upon himself your eternal destiny. You are the only person who can prevent that from happening, so you must make sure that if you feel any pressure, it’s coming from God.
It may seem needless to say, but make sure your husband (or wife) is as enthusiastic as you are. It still deny it but my husband felt that I made the offering before he was sure – he felt I was moving too fast for him. Of course, by the time we started trying to conceive for the other couple we were fully united, but although I had made only early approaches to the other couple, I wasn’t sensitive to him. This child will be part of his body and soul, too – adoption can’t change that.
Remember that a hint a couple who has been longing desperately for a child for years can be taken very seriously. Before you say anything you must already by confirmed in your heart ad united with your spouse.
Making the Offering
There is a kind of spiritual etiquette for making and receiving offerings of blessed children. It sounds strange but it is true. Ideally, I feel an offering couple should make a gentle, tentative approach to the couple they feel called to conceive for. Unless the two couples have been “matched” by Heung Jin Nim. Bear in mind that even though you feel you know the other couple will, the responses and emotions you will encounter may be a surprise to everyone involved. The receiving mother may suddenly feel frightened. She may want to take time to pray or to discuss the matter with her husband. She may have received another offer, or she may not feel that she is ready to be a parent. Those of us who have children of our own might have experienced the similar feelings when that first home pregnancy test read positive – I know I did. In the case of adoption, there are even more things to think through and work on.
So the word of the day is “politeness.” Be delicate in both offering and receiving this precious bundle. Give each other plenty of room. Don’t worry about being too polite – there’s no such thing in this situation.
Ideally, the offering and receiving should already be settled before trying to conceive. Of course, in a few cases the offering mother was already pregnant when the offer was made. These were special cases and there will always be the special case. But I think it is smoother emotionally for everyone if you conceive specifically for another couple. You will be in the receiving couple’s thoughts and prayers and they in yours. You will be exchanging powerful energy and love. This creates a spiritual nest for the baby and connects the receiving parents to the baby.
Once the offering couple decides they want to contact the childless couple whom they have chosen, they can write a letter or meet them in a quiet place. In our first offering there was no offering as such-the whole thing rather grew, slowly at first and then quickly over several years.
I had two boys and was pregnant. I knew that I had to have a girl before I could offer a child. I basically said, “If this one is a girl, you will get the next one. If this one is another boy, I will offer you a child in the future if you haven’t received one by then.” It sounds selfish that I put conditions on the offering, but I knew my limits. There is nothing wrong with having limits and it is a good thing to know them. Fortunately for all of us, I had a girl whom I will always see as my special gift from God and further confirmation that God wants to use my body to give joy to others. This experience has been a great joy to me.
For all of you who are still considering offering a child to a childless couple I must say tat it was one of the most exciting incredible things my husband and I have ever experienced and I know we’re not alone – at least three of the offering couples I know have made second offerings. Offering parents have all had difficult experiences externally but the feeling of awe is the same. We have the power to give two people more joy than they have ever had; we have given them a messiah; and, most important, we have given God a new lineage. There is more power there than we can imagine. I guess we feel proud and glad, but mostly we feel awed. It outshines any initial or lasting feeling of loss that we may experiences throughout our lives.
The image of the rivers flowing upward and downward is the essential feeling of an offering and receiving mother. This vision will help you in stressful times. I found visualization of this vertical flow upward a wonderful protection from my fallen nature and fallen responses.
Relationship With the Other Mother
Keep in mind the vertical image of offering – this will be the key. A woman who has never been pregnant cannot understand the special problems a pregnant woman has and the offering mother is making a big mistake if she thinks she can make the receiving mother understand. Don’t try, unless you are good friends.
Likewise, an offering mother can never understand the emptiness and feeling of inadequacy an infertile woman has, so don’t feel bad if you try to explain and the offering mother does not comprehend. We may both want to understand each other but there will always be limits. When the offering mother is exhausted beyond sensibility or the receiving mother is overcome with envy or guilt, remember that this is a vertical gift.
It is difficult to understand the blessing that is coming to you and it always spoils a blessing not to have given yourself unconditionally. The receiving parents can never give too much to the offering couple: prayers, support, help whenever they can, love towards the offering parents own children, even financial help or gifts, if possible. However, the offering couple should make their offering to God rather than the other couple. They can then direct any struggles, difficulties, or needs to God, and not to the other couple. I think it’s okay to ask for help if you really need to but remember that the offering was made to God and it’s too easy to unintentionally cause the receivers to feel overly-indebted or guilty. Emotions will probably be running close to the surface for both of you.
You may not know each other very well at first – hopefully you will be good friends by the time you reach the end of this year-long journey. One way to help the friendship grow freely is to respect each other and to see God in each other. Keep it vertical.
During the last month, a respectful distance from the offering mother – from her emotions – should be maintained. She will be going through things and processing feelings that are her responsibility to work on. She and God have to deal with many things that even the most prepared birth mother will feel. She may want to talk about it with the receiving mother or she may not. She my wan time along with her husband. Don’t worry, she hasn’t changed her mind; she’s working. I see this as “active offering.” If, as True Father says, there are as many different ways to reach perfection as there are human faces, then there are as many wars of making this offering as there are women’s faces. It’s a time to be very sensitive, kid and loving.
You may want to be near each other the last 3 or 4 weeks so you can go together to the hospital. The receiving mother may be able to take time off from her mission or job to be of help to the offering mother, especially if there are children in the home. The offering mother may really need help those last weeks, so all effort should be made to serve her wherever and however possible. If it is impossible to help her externally, at least express your desire to be with her. It may sound funny but words are almost as good as actions. A pregnant woman about to deliver is a different person than when she is not pregnant. She is almost always more sensitive during pregnancy and even the most businesslike of us appreciates words of love and kindness.
The relationship of each “team” of parents will be very different than any other. Some will have tensions; some will be best friends. Some will be strangers before, but none will be strangers after. No matter what your relationship is with the other couple, it really doesn’t matter, does it? What you are doing (both offering and receiving) you are doing for God.
Practical Advice: Vocabulary
I found that one way for me to prepare myself for the final offering was to change my vocabulary. For example, I never said or thought my baby. I never thought, “I’m giving away my baby.” I had thought this out long before I got pregnant with the Kayadu’s baby. I had a full house already and was purposely preventing pregnancy because we didn’t feel that our family should be expanded just then, so in a very real sense the baby wouldn’t have existed if not for John and Elizabeth Kayadu. Because of them this child came into being – he is fully theirs. Therefore, the correct possessives naturally came to be used. Other words in terms that were inappropriate were also substituted for new words. This made it a lot easier to prepare for the birth and parting.
I also indulged in thoughts that I could not have thought had I been pregnant with my own children. I could think, “Boy, I’m glad this one’s not mine” at a particular harried moment. I wasn’t being negative – I was joking, but I would never have thought, “I wish I didn’t have to have this child” when I was pregnant with my own babies.
If I felt wistful about the baby, I’d think, “I can’t wait to have one of my own again” instead of, “I wish this baby was mine.”
These exercises and more like them helped me to make sure my mind and heart were kept pure and that no thoughts crept that I knew were against God’s purpose.
It is never good to be whiny and complaining and especially not in a situation of making and receiving this kind of offering. It is a very holy process and complaining about it will only take away some of the beauty. Even though we have lived ten or twenty years I the Principle, sometimes we still have trouble with complaining. During the pregnancy, whether you are offering or receiving, you should make a real effort to catch yourself and stop it. This may not be easy because there is always a lot to complain about when you are pregnant. A blessed child is a treasure and treasures usually are not easy to come by; so when the hart times hit, bite your tongue. If you absolutely cannot stop it, then at least only complain to your best friend.
While we are on the subject, a very important point is to make a real effort never to complain about the other mother. Unless the sister is behaving in an obviously unprincipled way, don’t judge her. If you sense some serious problem, go to a mediator or counselor in the Blessed Family Department in your area.
The offering mother can use this checklist to keep her thoughts centered.
- Remember yourself before your first baby. When all is said and done, we were all pretty self-centered and unmotherly before our children taught us the meaning of the words sacrifice, work, selflessness, and perseverance. And we still have a lot to learn about these words. So don’t forget that this child is her messiah just like your children are yours. If she needs to grow, don’t worry, she will. Pray that the child will be the perfect messiah for her family.
- Actually, it is none of your business what kind of mother she will be. I know this sounds very harsh but it was my favorite way of setting myself straight. Which of us is a perfect mother? If not for her age or some medical problems she would be having kids without your – so you are just filling in a missing link. Every couple deserves and needs children. Pray that the child’s personality will be just right for this couple’s needs.
- You made this offering to God. If the offering was truly made, can’t He do with it as He wills and will He not take care of it?
These are some of the ways in which I dealt with complaint. Also, I have a very understanding best friend and if I couldn’t set myself straight, she did.
If the receiving mother feels like complaining about the offering mother or is worried about the baby for some reason, she can basically only pray for the baby and the offering parents and/or seek a mediator to help. She has her own checklist:
- This baby is deeply, spiritually connected to you, so don’t worry. When I got pregnant with the Kayadu’s baby, everything was different from my other pregnancies. First, it took 5 months of active “trying” to get pregnant. My own children were either conceived on the first try or when we were trying not to conceive. Second, I had morning sickness, which I did not have with my own children. Their, it was a hard delivery, which was not so with my own children. The Kayadus baby even looks different, with lost of brown hair compared to my bald-to-blond kids. There are many helpful confirmations which will tell you that this is your baby and that you are affecting it more tan you may think – and the offering mother is affecting it less than you may think. The baby may come out looking just like the birth mother but there will be other ways that you will see how God created this child for you.
- Am I trying to love the offering family as much as I can? Prayer for them, service where you can, and kindness always will get you some practice for when you have a child of your own. You are about to begin a mission which will demand, without mercy, that you change from your heart of hearts to your very face. You will have to smile when you feel like growling, work when you feel like resting, be awake when you feel like sleeping, be a good example when you feel like saying that secret four-letter word, and so n. So start now and serve and love you offering family.
- If you were pregnant, what would you be doing? You might have to use your imagination if you have never been pregnant before but you can ask sisters who have their own children what they did. They will probably tell you they bought a few maternity clothes, went to the doctor every month and then every two weeks and finally every week. They may have gone to preparation classes like Lamaze. They probably could not do as much and had to take it a little easier. Try, if you can, to make it possible for the offering mother to do these things. If you cannot baby-sit while she goes to the doctor because you live in another town, you can pay for the babysitter. If you cannot do either, tell her why and that you would if you could – this will help her feel loved.
I know our missions are enormously time-consuming but if you were pregnant, you would have no choice but to take the time. Elizabeth was an enormous help to me, often coming all the way from Barrytown to stay with the kids while I went to the doctor. When she could no, she felt very sorry. She was with me for three weeks before the birth and was a great help, cooking, ironing, and diapering right along beside me. She and “Uncle” John gave a special present to each of my children for Christmas. We both had our different spiritual work to do to prepare for the birth and we sometimes got on each other’s nerves but I really missed her when she went home.
At the Hospital
I have pretty strong views about the post-partum period in the hospital. The receiving mother should be the soul caregiver from the time of delivery on. During labor and delivery the offering mother is the one who makes the choices – who should be at the delivery, which doctor, and so on. But from the moment of birth the child should be with the receiving mother only. This does not mean the offering mother cannot hold the baby or ooh and aah over it, but out of politeness she should say, as she would to any new mother, “Can I hold her?” This will be such a thrill and deeply touching for the receiving mother! But there is more at play here than politeness.
1. Bonding. You all know that a child is designed by God to bond to the first face with which it has loving give and take. The first hours of life are a most spiritually open time. The baby will absorb with all its five physical and spiritual senses all the feelings of the mother and will respond with total trust and love. They “bond.” Breaking that bond is painful and spiritually disturbing for a child to go through.
When Elizabeth and I learned that the hospital had reneged on all its promises – one day before the baby came – we were both shattered. I would have to choose either Elizabeth or my husband to be at the birth; Elizabeth would not be able to hold or nurse the baby either at birth or during the three days in the hospital; there was no “rooming in” so there was no way for Elizabeth to bond to the baby. Our first thought was to have the baby at home. Elizabeth, a nurse who had attended deliveries and even delivered a few, could deliver this one. My births had always been straightforward and easy, so we seriously planned it. Suddenly all the children of the house (five) began to fall ill with a virus. We cancelled the home-birth plan. With broken hearts we decided there was no way to have the kind of birth we both wanted – no hospital but this one took my particular kind of insurance. As much as I wanted Elizabeth to be there, I knew I needed my husband for the delivery. If I had to choose only one, there was no question about it for me.
I also had to decide something else: not to care for the baby. As much as this would hurt him, I knew it would hurt him more to bond to me. The hospital nurses are, as a rule, very busy and efficient. They do not have time to love a baby or even look one in the eyes, which in our case was all the better. Poor baby lay there untouched and unloved for three days. We cried about this, but now Elizabeth sees this time as the baby’s three days in the tomb, like Jesus’. I knew in my heart that he should bond only to Elizabeth. We both talked to him through the glass and explained to him but how much could he understand? I hope none of you end up in a 1950s style hospital like we did. And I never will again? Elizabeth an the baby bonded beautifully once she took him home from the hospital – hers was the first loving face he ever saw.
A friend of mine who is pregnant with an offering baby called me for a little advise. She wanted to know what I though to of her nursing the baby for the receiving mother during the hospital stay so that the baby could receive the healthy colostrums from her breasts. She felt that she would have no trouble with this, not being a very emotional type, and really wanted to give all she could for the baby’s health. Possibly this particular sister could do this without adding stress or pain to herself. But I had to advise against it because of the importance of bonding to the receiving mother and the heart of the receiving mother.
2. The heart of the receiving mother. The feelings of the receiving mother are important. She already had to deal with things she would probably rather not talk to you about – jealousy being a major one. I doubt if even the most God-centered receiving mother could look at her new, adopted child being nursed by the offering mother without feeling great pangs of jealousy. If you both feel it is very important for the baby’s health, and the offering mother is willing, express the colostrums with a pump and let the receiving mother give it to the baby. Remember that if she expresses the colostrums, the offering mother’s milk will come in with much more force than if she doesn’t. This is no picnic! It is not just the breast that bonds us to a mother. God made a baby bond to a round shape with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth – not a breast. Breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby, but it has been found that mother’s love is communicated through her face. An adoptive mother will bond to her baby no matter what she feeds him. And the baby will bond to its mother no matter how he is fed.
Those adoptive mothers who want to should contact the Laleche league to find out about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding an adoptive child is possible and has been done many times all over America and in Europe.
3. The offering mother’s heart. Offering a baby is already difficult to do. It takes years of thought and months of spiritual preparation to part with a being which grew from the love that you and your husband feel for each other – a being that moves in you and is connected to your husband and your children. You are not only offering a baby, you are offering a year of your live, a year taken from your family, in a way. Some women, more than others, feel the physical drain. I remember being so exhausted that all I could do was watch my children run around naked, and feed them cold cereal for lunch and dinner! I cannot explain this kind of tiredness to anyone who has not been pregnant. It was then, in tears, that I realized this was not just my offering but my whole family’s! Fortunately, I usually “carry” easily and have enough energy for everyone.
If you allow yourself to become attached to the child you are only bringing more pain and tears upon yourself. You have done enough, and it may even cause the receiving mother some extra pain. One receiving mother felt so much sympathy for the offering mother’s pain that she actually, if only momentarily contemplated giving the child back!
So find a hospital which will accept the receiving mother as the “significant other” and will treat her as such. Find a hospital which will share in the experience and feel the joy of it. The receiving mother should care for the baby in the hospital and be at the hospital to take the baby home.
There are also many alternative birth centers around the country which, insurance allowing, will probably be much more open to our new kind of expanded families.
The Feeling of Loss
There is no way to separate yourself completely from the child. A feeling of loss is to be expected. A wistful moment does not mean you have made a mistake. This offering will be made again and again. Barbara ten Wolde, who made an offering seven years ago, said it is a “continuous offering.” This does not mean that she regrets it – not at all! In fact, she recently made a second offering.
I experience a feeling of loss now and then but for me it is pretty simple; I lost a baby; Elizabeth had a baby. These two events were coincidental, not cause and effect. They happened at the same time but they are not related.
I can feel sad, if I need to, and as happy for Elizabeth as I would be for anyone of my friends who had a baby. My sadness is not directed at Elizabeth or the baby. I simply place it in that upward-flowing river and offer it with an open heart.
It is easier because I have my own busy life with three very demanding children, a husband, home-making, plans for work I want to do and children I want to have. Barbara ten Wolde said that “the easiest time to make the offering of a child is when you couldn’t possibly handle any more of your own.” That may be the easiest time to make this offering but God may call you to do it when it is not the easiest time. Do not be afraid to feel the loss, to cry. These feelings, which are partly hormones and partly your heart, are very natural. It does not taint your offering if you let these feelings flow upward and out.
When I was in the hospital, I cried a lot. My best friend came and straightened me out again. She reminded me to direct these feelings to the Universe and to let all my sadness and tears wash away not only the agony of a single infertile family but the misery of all the childless women throughout history. “You can make this offering as small or as great as you want. Don’t waste the tears and sadness – use it as a balm to take away God’s historical resentments, anger, and sorrow.”
A Problem That Might Arise
It might surprise you, but of all the many emotions which the receiving mother will feel the most difficult is the fear that the offering mother will change her mind and take the baby back. You never thought you would feel such a thing. You probably have no reason to have such a thought and wonder where it comes from and how you can shake it. Or, it may be nothing more than a passing thought that does not bother you at all. Whichever, it is probably there to some degree.
A counselor friend of mine with a degree in psychology says that it may come, in part, from the feeling of receiving an “undeserved” blessing. If we think about it, there is a lot of indemnity attached to the birth of a child, especially a blessed child. Your ancestors died and your country suffered for this. Part of all your suffering in the church was probably for this. And a pregnant woman spends nine months paying for this.
Let me say something about indemnity. Everyone was shocked when I wanted to name my second son William Indy Bowles. The name Indy I derived from the word “indemnity” (Not Indiana Jones or the Indianapolis 500). Not a very nice name, everyone thought; rather like naming your child “suffering” or “fasting.” But I have a different understanding of indemnity. Indemnity if a beautiful, wonderful blessing that works for us, not against us. It gives us power, makes us perfect, and purifies everything. Indemnity is a gift from God, a show of His great love; a way to come back to Him. Without indemnity, there would be no hope. Indemnity is never only suffering for the sake of suffering. Indemnity usually kills a lot of sins with one stone, and raises us up at the same time.
A mother pays a lot of indemnity by having to wake up all during her pregnancy – to go to the bathroom, to get comfortable again, to throw up, to just lay there unable to sleep. This does several things for her: It prepares her for waking up every 2 or 3 hours to feed a hungry infant; it builds up her perseverance for all the trying times ahead; it allows her to pay indemnity for the child, and thus builds a healthy spiritual nest for the baby. It also makes her more deserving of the child. There are plenty of little discomforts, pains, and illnesses: fat feet to headaches, heartburn to heartaches. All this plus the birth – one might say they are physical sensations that exist in only two places: a medieval torture chamber and a delivery room. For this reason Barbara ten Wolde emphasizes that the receiving mother should attend the delivery – to experience the birth even vicariously.
When a mother receives a baby without taking part in all this, it is like something great falling into her lap. She can easily feel that she does not deserve it. But it is so beautiful, so wonderful!
Here is another checklist that can nip these feelings in the bud, at least to some degree.
- Help the offering family bear the burden of indemnity during pregnancy through prayer, conditions, love for the baby and the offering family. These things will not only help pay some of the usual indemnity but will so powerfully bond you to the baby that when the child is placed in your arms you will probably feel like its mother. You will feel that you participated in his creation.
- Again, serve the offering mother whenever you can. Go out of your way for her – suffer with her and for her. This will bond you to the baby and create love between you and the offering mother. If you cannot be there, letters, cards, and calls can express love to her as well.
- Remember that this child is a gift of God. I pray the same prayer at each of my children’s 8-day ceremony; “Father, let me keep this child one year, I beg you. After that, every day is a blessing and I can’t ask for anything more. He is yours to take.” I may not be able to keep all my children that first year because God’s vision and will are perfect, but my hope is that he may live a long and healthy life if it is God’s will.