Behind the Curtain: Jessalynn Bills Speight

There’s an article going around from the Huffington Post. It’s entitled, “How Do Women Feel After Placing Their Baby For Adoption?”  The article was written by  who is the co-founder and CEO of an organization called Binti which claims it “uses technology to improve the adoption process and encourage empathy and understanding among members of the adoption triad.”

In this article, Curcuru interviews two first moms who have written a book called, “Birthparent’s Guide to Grief: A 12-Step Process.”  This book was written by Jessalynn Bills Speight and Alysia Foote. I’ve seen the article circulating in some adoption communities and support groups. Each time it pops up I cringe.

I’ve read the article. In my opinion, 90% of it is absolute garbage and is not applicable to the majority of first moms more than 5 years into an adoption. There was a lot the article left out, as far as a background on Jessalynn, a background that many don’t know about but that I’ve heard from friends who have had personal run-ins with this woman. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Jessalynn starts the article by sharing her story. This isn’t the first time Jessalynn has made her way into major media outlets touting her “birthmother rainbows.” In March of 2014 she was featured in an article in Cosmopolitan. For the subject of this post, we’ll focus on the HuffPost article.

The biggest red flag was when Jessalynn was asked about the father of the child she relinquished. She states that he and his family were against the adoption and there is no other mention of him after this. No, “He eventually came around and realized it was what was best.” No, “He was a very bad man and his rights were involuntarily terminated.” The fact remains that the LDS church has a long history of ignoring the rights of fathers when it comes to adoption. They will conceal, deceive, and lie, if needed, to facilitate an adoption. Utah, the state that has the highest population of LDS believers, even has the most horrible laws for adoption, especially for fathers. Women who are planning an adoption, where the father opposes, are often times sent to live in Utah, paid for by the adoption agency, to supersede the rights of the father as he would be problematic if the mother remained in her home state and the adoption would be threatened. So, when Jessalynn made no other mention of the father of her child, other than how he opposed the adoption, many questions came to mind. I do not know her story and it may be that everything was done ethically when it comes to the father. However, it does seem odd that no other information is given. One can’t help but wonder how that all went down.

The second thing I took issue with is this statement: “My birthdaughter calls me Jessa. She knows I’m not her Mom.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Adoption does not erase the fact that you are someone’s mother. You may not be their active parent, but you are still their mother. DNA doesn’t lie.

There is another quote that makes me, literally, ill. “I see so many birthparents who struggle to move forward because they are still thinking ‘I’m the parent’ and then they see the adoptive parent is using a certain brand of diapers and that bothers them. They can get hung up on different decisions adoptive parents make. They may still call themselves ‘Mom’ to the child.” I am the mom to my child. I wonder why Jessalynn spends so much time making sure that moms who relinquished understand they aren’t a mom anymore.

And again: “You are no longer the Mom. You are the birth mom.”

Thou doth protest too much.

The scariest statement in that article? “Jessa is also a Binti Birthmother Advisor, where she is a mentor to expectant women considering placing their child for adoption and other birthmothers.” You may wonder why. It’s terrifying to think of Jessalynn advising or counseling anyone considering adoption.

When I began to get involved in the adoption community, I slowly became aware that there was a “queen bee” in the LDS adoption world. Her name was Jessalynn and those who would cross her would pay dearly. Her power was contained, mostly, to moms who had relinquished in the LDS community. She had formed strong alliances with powerful adoptive parents and made sure to fully invest herself into the lives of these first moms. Under the guise of “helping” she would obtain contact information about their children’s adoptive parents and often be a “go-between” for the parties to come to a mutual understanding to facilitate openness. All of this sounds good, right? Well, for one, Jessalynn’s way of facilitating, as its been told to me, was to put the first mom in her place. She renders her powerless and totally at the will of the adoptive parents, no matter what promises had been made. Then there is the more pervasive side to Jessalynn.

I’ve had three first moms share their stories of Jessalynn. The variation in each mother’s story is minor. For the most part, it is pretty much the same story. Often times first moms need to vent their frustrations, their struggles, their insecurities. Sometimes this involves being mad at adoptive parents and sometimes with good cause. Not because they “don’t like the brand of diapers they’re using” as Jessalynn claims. Sometimes the need to vent is because contact is being withheld because the adoptive parents don’t like that the birthmom has come out of the closet as lesbian/transgender/transexual. Sometimes the venting is because a certain level of openness was promised and the adoptive parents are not keeping up their end of the deal. So, yes, justified anger. So, we have these women venting in these private groups sometimes. We have Jessalynn, with contact information of adoptive parents. Then we have open adoptions slamming shut in first mom’s faces because Jessalynn feels the need to run back and share screen shots from these private groups with these adoptive mothers. Yes, you read that right. As it’s been told to me, Jessalynn’s favorite pastime is finding negative comments by first moms and then finding out who their child’s adoptive parents are so she can send it to them and damage the relationship. I even caught her, under an assumed and fake name, in a group I admin, a while back, doing this same thing. Of course she denied it wholeheartedly.

I wonder if she feels it’s her duty to put every first mom in her place. I wonder where this passive-aggressive deceitful behavior comes from. Then I remember that all the rainbows and glitter she keeps showering on herself has not allowed for the truth to be present in her life. Maybe that’s why. I know of at least 3 first moms who have had their openness with their children greatly diminished or cut off altogether as a direct result of Jessalynn’s meddling. It’s truly vile.

When I see these articles featuring the “great birthmom” Jessalynn, I can’t help but puke a little in my mouth knowing the damage she has done in so many people’s lives. Advising expectant mothers? She says in the article. “Every woman has the right to choose. I am pro-informed choice. I believe every woman needs to be fully informed on all her choices: abortion, adoption, single parenting, and married parenting. Our job as citizens of the world is not to decide for them. You can say, ‘I know about this topic, here was my experience,’ but don’t force a decision or judgement on us. I know lots of birthmothers who had people from their communities try to influence their decisions.” Oh how I laughed. Jessalynn is a master of coercion. Reportedly she is a master at finding babies for prospective adoptive parents and actively farms them for people. Choice? Informed choice? Seriously?

The adoption community has remained silent about this woman for too long. Jessalynn Bills Speight is dangerous. She will be sunshine and rainbows to your face until you threaten the adoption machine that she is running. The machine now includes royalties for interviews, money from her organization, Tied at the Heart, and now a book. The book should be entitled, “12 Steps to Stay in Your Place So I Don’t Show Your Child’s Adoptive Parents That You’re Not Being a Good Little BeeMommy.”  Jessalynn is now profiting off adoption. Behind the scenes who knows what is going on. We do know, supposedly, as its been told to me, for some twisted reason, she destroys open adoptions, and helps find babies for people who are looking. We know she’s written a book. We know she does interviews for fancy magazines and newspapers. We can assume some things given that.

I fully expect to receive backlash from Jessalynn and her cronies after publishing this. Jessalynn isn’t the sparkling, squeaky clean, beemommy she portrays herself to be. Her hands are dirty. Don’t let her fool you. She is cunning, deceitful, and full of it. And she certainly doesn’t speak for me or the majority of first moms out there.

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Unconditional Love

A love that will stay and persist without limits, without prerequisites. No matter what. To show unconditional love is to put yourself aside for the well-being of someone else. A sacrifice of one’s self because of this love. To voluntarily endure pain, hurt, disappointment, and more in the name of this love. To put someone else above yourself.

-Astrid

This is my definition of unconditional love.

Unconditional is defined as “not subject to conditions.” Love is defined, by man, as “an intense feeling of deep affection.”

Furthermore, God defines love as patient and kind, free of envy, boasting and pride. It is not dishonorable, self-seeking, or easily angered. It also keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices with TRUTH and does NOT delight in evil.

If you are a believer in God then you know that you are required to try your best to love one another in the way he has described, unconditionally. However, let’s take the layman’s view and assume you don’t HAVE to love EVERYONE unconditionally. You are free to just “love” people, no qualifiers required.

If I asked you how you were supposed to love your child, based on what I’ve written above, what would you say? Unconditionally, right? Of course. That’s how we’re wired. It’s how it’s supposed to be. We are supposed to love our children in a way that puts their needs above our own. Even if it hurts us. Isn’t that what it is all about?

The act of giving my daughter up for adoption was not selfless. I cannot say that it was because to claim that would be to imply that parenting my other children (all unplanned and coming at times that could be considered “crisis”) was selfish. And it wasn’t. However, when I relinquished her, it was because I was willing to suffer a lifetime of pain or never knowing who she was if that is what she wanted. If she never wanted to speak to me, ever, in her life, I was okay with that so that I would not cause her any emotional pain. Yes, it would hurt deeply, but I love my daughter so much (all of my kids really) that I would take that hurt so they didn’t have to. Wouldn’t we all? Wouldn’t we all take our kids hurt in a heartbeat if we could so as not to see them suffer? Of course we would, if we could.

What if you could? What if you COULD take that hurt away and make it a little better. What would you do?

What if you are an adoptive parent of a teenager. What if this teenager of yours is having a REALLY rough time emotionally? So they’ve asked to send their birthmother a letter. You let them write the letter and many things that are said in the letter hurt you. It’s only human to face insecurities. However, you know that sending this letter and hoping for a response back would be something to help a little with the healing of your teenager, even if it hurts you. Even if the thought of losing the child you’ve nurtured from infancy was almost too much to handle. Would you be willing to let your child continue to suffer and hurt so that you could make yourself feel more secure about your place in their life? If you answered “yes” then you do not love your child unconditionally. You do not love them selflessly. You are not willing to sacrifice yourself for them. Regardless of how many late nights you have stayed up with a sick toddler, regardless of how many bedtime stories you have read them, regardless of how many recitals you have been to. None of that stuff defines the true meaning of being a parent, a mother, a father.

The very definition of motherhood should be unconditional love. As a birthmom, I am willing to love my child unconditionally. I am willing to accept her for all of her faults and for all the things she may do that would make me feel bad. I will love her no matter what and do what is best for her. I will live with an unbearable grief for the rest of my life because I thought I was giving her a “better” life, even if that turns out to not be the case. My actions were in good faith at the cost of great personal pain and sacrifice, at the very high cost of great personal pain of my other children and family members. I did all of this because I loved her so. I let her call someone else “mom” because of this. Because I loved her and thought I was making the best choice I possibly could then.

It baffles me beyond reason how a person would not be able to do the same for their adopted child in return. Why they wouldn’t be able to suck it up, swallow their pride (“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”) and help their child heal. Not leave their child thinking they have been rejected and ignored. Are you that insecure that you would sacrifice your child’s well-being for it?  You would lie (“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”)

Adoptive parents who choose to break promises and cut off birth families for any reason other than they are DANGEROUS, I have this to say to you:

If you think that cutting off communication between your child and their birth family is the way to go – Don’t be selfish. Do the selfless thing. Do the loving thing. Put your child’s needs ahead of your own so that they can have a better life. A life that includes all of their family. You are not giving up your child. You are placing her in a healthy environment that includes knowing her roots. Remember, you are in control of the adoption so there is great power in that. Don’t abuse it.

Don’t ya like how all those things that we were told during our “adoption plans” can also be used for you?