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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Hanai

A year ago in October the BIB Team had the opportunity to spend some time with our VERY FIRST birth mom that joined the Big Tough Girl Community...We loved Kristina and her family so much.  They invited to stay in their home, we went and got our toes done and we spent some of the last precious days of Kristina's pregnancy with her.  It was one of the most memorable weekends of my life.  To watch her prepare for the days ahead, wishing that I could save her from some of the pain that was coming...seeing how brave she was and how willing she was to share her story with us was so amazing.  One thing that touched us so much was the love of her family.  I see so many birth moms that go through so much of this process alone but Kristina was surrounded by family that loved her and encouraged her and supported her.  Her mother was one of the most generous women that I have ever met, a woman of true integrity and virtue, with faith and a testimony that could not be shaken...even in the darkest of times.  {you can read about our trip to Arizona HERE}

I received an amazing email from Dru sharing her thoughts of the past year watching her birth-grandbaby grow up around her and shared her incredible testimony that she wrote not long after the baby was placed.  She has given BIB permission to share it!  We love their family so much and are so touched by all of their updates!  We love Kristina and she will always be a VERY special part of the BIB Family! 

{This is so incredible and I love her for allowing me to share it!}

Dear Family and Friends,

One year ago (November 1st) marked the day my daughter gave birth to and gave her baby to another family to be adopted. I haven’t said much about the situation, and I thought that there really wasn’t anything to be said. But a conversation with someone this last week made me realize that I had taken for granted that the peace I came to about this situation was universal…or understood by those closest to me. But it is not.
My daughter’s baby was adopted by a family in our ward. Our family was already very close to theirs. They had adopted their first two children, and my daughters were their sitters but the two children considered them more as big sisters. A string of spiritual confirmations accompanied this event which someday may be appropriate to share. Neither family thought we would ever be in the situation we now found ourselves…they having direct contact with the birth mother/family and we watching someone else raise our child/grandchild.
I came across a testimony that I had written shortly after the baby’s birth. I have chosen to share it in hopes that it will communicate understanding and peace even if your experiences have not been the same as mine.

The Hanai
Ida Drucilla Heaton
November 2010

“We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.” For me, these words penned by T.S. Eliot describe an insight I’ve gained on the nature and eternal life of a family. I desire to state my testimony on this matter. At times, I will speak directly to members of my own family and to members of my own faith and ask you to consider, and perhaps, even reconsider your beliefs.

The maxim which states that we shouldn’t judge another until we have walked a mile in their shoes, I believe, doesn’t suggest our ability to do so but serves to illustrate the impossibility of such a thing. The truth is that we cannot walk a mile in anyone’s shoes and, therefore, it is less about the footwear and more about who walks that mile with us.1

It would be incorrect for anyone to extract from this description of my experience over the last nine months and more especially over the last few days any idea that I believe every young single woman should give their baby up for adoption. I believe that God is the perfect teacher, and a curriculum of life experiences is designed uniquely for each one of His children. No matter the subject, the aim and end of our education is to know Him and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.2 Why or how we arrive at that conclusion is as different as each person. The only desire I had for my daughter throughout this process (which is the same that I have for all of my children) is to know that God is real, that He lives and loves her, and to experience that peace which passes all understanding3 through an intimate relationship with Him.4

It isn’t my place to relate my daughter Kristina’s adoption story. That is for her and others to tell. But I feel impressed to address some simple questions directed to me about this event which is impossible to do without first sharing something of myself and of the cultural influence of my mother who shaped me. My mother is partially of Hawaiian ancestry. She grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii on an island influenced by warrior chiefs and royal kings. The most profound impact in my life carved out by my mother’s culture is the Polynesian bond of family.

Even as I attempt to describe it, it remains impossible to explain to people who have never experienced it. It’s somewhat of a joke that to Polynesians everyone is an uncle or an aunty; and it’s true. You can meet someone for the first time and you greet them with a hug and a kiss and you call them “Aunty” or “Uncle” from that moment forward. But although Polynesians give this intimate title rather easily, they do not give it lightly; at least, my mother never did. I was full grown before I came to realize that many of the people I was taught to honor, to respect, and to love (to which I referred in this special way) were not my blood relatives. It was impossible to tell. Likewise, the concept of half-sister or step-brother didn’t exist in my family either, although many people would insist this to be the proper vocabulary to describe my sibling relationships. Understand if you can, it wasn’t merely the absence of the words; it was the banishment of the very idea. Family. O’hana.

Years ago, long before the idea of adoption was any part of my personal experience, I remember reading the autobiography of Queen Lili’uokalani and was emotionally struck at the description of her birth. The Hawaiian custom of hanai fascinated and resonated with me at the same time. It explained, as much as possible, the bond that my mother perpetuated -a bond greater than blood and one that even transcended prejudice. Hanai was the practice of adopting children away from their natural parents at birth. It was thought to cement the relationships of rival chiefs and showed the most profound respect. By natural birth, Lili’uokalani, was already alii, of the royal class, but her position was elevated through the adoption. This exchange was not the plight of a single woman with-child out of wedlock nor did it involve a feeling of desperation at an unexpected pregnancy. This practice was a deliberate act of peace and the ultimate expression of trust. The thought still makes me pause.

In her own words, Lili’uokalani, describes the circumstance surrounding her birth and upbringing:

“As was then customary with the Hawaiian chiefs,

my father was surrounded by hundreds of his own people,

all of whom looked to him, and never in vain, for sustenance…

“But I was destined to grow up away from the house of my parents. Immediately after my birth I was wrapped in the finest tapa cloth,

and taken to the house of another chief, by whom I was adopted.

Konia, my foster-mother, was a granddaughter of Kamehameha I.,

and was married to Paki, also a high chief; their only daughter,

Bernice Pauahi…was therefore my foster-sister. In speaking of our relationship, I have adopted the term customarily used in the

English language, but there was no such modification recognized

in my native land. I knew no other father or mother than my

foster-parents, no other sister than Bernice. I used to climb up

on the knees of Paki, put my arm around his neck, kiss him,

and he caressed me as a father would his child; while on the contrary,

when I met my own parents, it was with perhaps more of interest,

yet always with the demeanor I would have shown to any strangers

who noticed me…This was, and indeed is, in accordance with

Hawaiian customs. It is not easy to explain its origin to those

alien to our national life, but it seems perfectly natural to us.

As intelligible a reason as can be given is that this alliance by

adoption cemented the ties of friendship between the chiefs.

It spread to the common people, and it has doubtless fostered

a community of interest and harmony.”5

I feel the adoption of my granddaughter allows this sweet baby girl to be brought up in a family relationship where a father and a mother are not only committed to each other but have committed each other and their children, through the sealing ordinance and their covenants, to God. How can that be anything but the greatest of blessings to me? Additionally, it is miraculous to consider that this hanai has not only fulfilled the righteous desires of a family for a child but it has allowed us (the families involved) to witness the eternal connection that we, the Holmes and the Heatons, already have to each other in God’s eyes.

I think it is only natural for people to focus on what they see as a loss –my daughter’s loss of a child and my loss of a grandchild. For many “Mormons,” this idea is compounded in the doctrine that families can be sealed together for eternity. Eventually, this child will be sealed to another family. This would seem to elevate this event to tragic proportions because according to this thinking I have not only lost my granddaughter for time but for all eternity. I testify that this is not so. Looking through a glass darkly6 in that way, the beautiful ordinance of the sealing is misunderstood. To consider this circumstance as a loss is to conclude that the sealing power is exclusive in nature –that family not this family…their family not my family…yours not mine. With all my heart, I believe this idea is contrary to the teachings of Christ.7 To say that in temples families can be sealed together forever is true; however, it is ironically eternally shortsighted. In our relationships, we are commanded to love God first and then our fellow man -to view them like unto ourselves. There are no greater commandments than these, and every other aspect of the gospel rests upon this foundation.8 The opportunity to be sealed to our immediate and most intimate relationships on earth is merely a reflection of a much greater structure in eternal life. From God’s perspective, in the temple, His family is sealed to Him. From His perspective, the sealing power is inclusive in nature. As we ourselves adopt this perspective, we come to see that through Christ we are, if we keep our covenants, sealed just as much to the rest of mankind and to God as we are to our closest family members.

Finally, I feel impressed to share something as it relates to our parent/child relationships. Years ago, now decades, in the blindness of anger and immaturity, I remember complaining to God that all my struggles and mistakes were the result of my faulty upbringing -my parents, especially my mother. It was their fault I argued. They should have known better, “I’m the child!” After all, “they are the parents!” God answered me as He has so often in my life speaking to my mind. The words to a primary song began to play in my mind, “I am a child of God…”9 Yes, I thought. That’s right. But then something happened I wasn’t expecting. I could hear my mother singing, “I am a child of God…and He has sent me here…” The thought startled me; my mother … a child… a child of God? Of course, I knew this was true, but for the first time I saw my mother as a child like myself. My mother is my heavenly sister. In an instant, the anger was washed away in a flood of compassion for my sister who, like me, was doing her best as she traveled the journey of life. I try often to remember that our children are born more through us than to us. Far from positions of entitlement, the labels “mother” and “father” are a sacred stewardship and the opportunity for scholarship in lessons God can teach us no other way.

Uniquely prepared by my mother’s cultural influence, and even since her passing, I find that she continues to teach me, lead me, and guide me to embrace great joys in this life and hope, through Christ, in the life to come. Through her I have gained an eternal glimpse at the encompassing aspect of acceptance, understanding, and an expanded sense of family -even a more intimate connection with my fellow man. In the end, through this exploration I have come to see the bond of family again and again and again and again, for the first time.


1. “Footprints,” Margaret Fishback Powers

2. John 17:3

3. Philippians 4:7

4. Revelations 21:3-7

5. Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, Lili’uokalani, pages 3-4.

6. 1 Corinthians 13

7. Matthew 12:50, Luke 11:27-28, Moses 7:18

8. Matthew 22:36-40

9. “I Am a Child of God,” Children’s Songbook, pages 2-3.

Dru and Kristina-November 2010
Last minute Pedicures

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