Navigating Life After Adoption: 9 Tips for Birth Parents
Adoption is a lifelong journey, one that brings many emotions, challenges, and precious moments along the way. If you have recently placed your baby for adoption or are considering making an adoption plan, know that this decision may change your life, your child’s life, and an adoptive family’s life forever. But by being open, honest, and staying true to yourself, you can make this lifelong journey a positive one.
Read about one woman’s experience after adoption, as she lights the way for expectant/birth parents who are trying to find their “new normal” once again.
How To Find Your New “Normal”
Navigating through life and finding your new “normal” after you place your baby with their adoptive parents is not easy. There will be days you find it hard to get out of bed and times where you feel alone. I will never forget when I came home from the hospital without Aiden*. All I could think about was how I am forever changed. How will I ever be happy again? How could I ever ‘“go back to life”’ after my maternity leave and feel “normal”.
This is still new to me and I am still finding my way. That being said, there are a few important lessons I have learned these past 11 months; through my own experiences and through talking to other birth mothers who have gone through and are going through the same thing as me. Here are a few lessons you need to know in order to find the strength to keep moving forward, and to navigate through this new “normal”.
1. Have Confidence In Yourself and Your Decision
This is the most important rule. In order to get up out of bed in the morning you need to have confidence in yourself, and the decision you made in order to give your child the best life possible. I have found that the reason I have more better days than not, is from my confidence.
When you make the hardest decision of your life: adoption for your child, what a lot of people do not realize is all that goes into making that decision. I did not place Aiden with his adoptive parents because I did not love him, or thought I could not be a great mother to him. I made a decision to put my son before myself and do what I felt would give him the best life at the time.
I knew from the second I found out I was pregnant, that I would never feel a stronger bond and would never feel more love in my life than I do for my son. I also knew that I would be an amazing mother.
I could have easily raised Aiden (I say that with hesitation, because I know raising a child is a difficult job, but you get the point). I had to think realistically about how Aiden would grow up between two biological parents who have no chance of ever getting back together, and between two very different families. I did not want Aiden to have a lifetime of disappointments from his biological father. Then— not to mention my biggest fear, custody battles, that could have taken place in his future. I had to trust myself that I knew what was best for Aiden, and I went with my gut.
I have confidence in the parents I chose to raise Aiden, confidence in the open adoption plan Aiden’s parents and I agreed on, and confidence in the beautiful life Aiden will have with his adoptive family. The most important thing I have confidence in, is my relationship with Aiden. I know that Aiden will grow up always knowing me, knowing where he came from, and NEVER questioning that I did not love him from the second I knew he existed.
I am able to get out of bed and find joy in everyday, because I am confident that I did the right thing for my son, and that the decision I made for him came from the deepest place of love you could ever feel for someone or something.
2. Allow Yourself To Cry When You Need To
Not all adoption plans are the same; every plan is special and unique to the child and their families. When I met my son’s adoptive parents, I made it clear that I needed a very open adoption where I would see Aiden often, and be involved throughout his life. Luckily, I am beyond blessed with an effortless relationship with Aiden’s parents. We have blended our families in such a special and unique way, that I know there is no possible way for Aiden to not constantly feel my love. We have spent holidays together, met for Sunday brunches, weekend barbecues, and even the occasional random night for pizza after work.
Although there is nothing I would change in my decision for Aiden and the relationship I share with my son and his adoptive family, there are still times I find myself struggling to get through the day. It is important to let yourself feel your feelings. We are human. Not every day is going to be easy. On multiple occasions I have been overwhelmed with my feelings; especially when I go to bed at night and am alone with my thoughts.
Just because you have confidence in your adoption, does not mean you are not allowed to let yourself feel any emotion that might come your way. When I catch myself getting emotional, it is never for my son, because I know he is exactly where he needs to be. To be completely honest, I pity cry for myself. And guess what: THAT IS OKAY TOO!
No one ever dreams of having their first child, or any child for that matter, and then placing them with an adoptive couple; not raising them yourself. I’ll find myself crying missing the little things that I am not a part of in Aiden’s every day. I’ll find myself crying from a flash back of my pregnancy and feeling so alone. I’ll find myself crying because I miss Aiden, and I wish I could kiss him up and play with him all day every day.
Then there are the times I sit and let myself have a good selfish cry that I never got to experience the complete happiness and joy that comes with pregnancy; planning out your child’s nursery, having someone throw you a baby shower, indulging in your pregnancy cravings with your partner and eating a whole pizza with bags of sour patch for dinner while watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air marathons.
There are a million reasons where I find myself crying, and a million more reasons that will come in my future where I will need to have myself a good cry too. My advice to you is: cry when you need to. Let yourself feel your emotions, no matter what they are, and do not ever feel silly about it. Take them as they come and know that there will be a time where you will find peace with your adoption, and that peace will eventually trump the sadness and pain you might be feeling now.
3. Keep Your Faith: Everything Happens For a Reason
I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason. You were meant to bring this child into this world; God chose you. I would not have been able to get through my pregnancy, and I would not be able to continue living my life if I did not believe that.
Some days are hard and I have to remind myself to keep faith. I have to remind myself that this all plays into a bigger plan, and that God’s plan for me and my son are greater and more beautiful than anything I could ever imagine. I grew up in a home where my parents would constantly tell me and my brothers that our lives are like tapestries. We look at them through the bottom and see all these random strings and colors that do not make any sense to us. While we look up and cannot figure out the picture, God is looking at it from the other side and sees a beautiful masterpiece all complete and perfect. I am convinced that one of the most beautiful pieces in my finished tapestry will be the part where Aiden came into this world.
This is the life you and I were given; it is important to accept and embrace it. Feel special knowing that you are a part of such a beautiful miracle and story. Your life does not end here. You think God spent all this time bringing your baby into this world to then just leave you and end your story?? No way— he’s still working… keep the faith.
4. Weed Out The Negative Relationships in Your Life
This is a hard lesson to learn, and sometimes comes with heartbreak. Sadly, you need to be prepared for the ‘haters’. Not everyone is going to understand your decision of adoption. Some people will come out of the woodwork and feel the need to give you their opinions,
“But, you will be an amazing mother!”
“Well, let me play devil’s advocate…”
“But, have you thought of what would happen if…..”
Again, back to rule number one: Have Confidence In Yourself and The Decision You Made. OF COURSE you have thought of the “what ifs”, and that you very well could be/will be/ and are an amazing mother. You have been drowning in your own thoughts of how to make this work in your child’s best interest since the day you discovered you were pregnant. You need to wrap your head around the fact that you and only YOU are going to know what is best. You might lose some people along the way of this journey that you expected to be holding your hand through all of it, and I am not going to lie, it hurts.
You will have your few haters, but you will also be surprised to see the people who have your back and stand in your corner. You will be amazed at how much stronger your friendships will grow, and how close your family can become.
I lost, what I thought were, some crucial relationships during my pregnancy. However, in return I gained the most beautiful relationships I never even knew existed, or were possible. My group of girlfriends paused their lives in order to be a support system for me. I had family that I was not as close with before my pregnancy wrap their arms around me, stand up, and fill those crucial roles I felt I had lost.
You have already gone through what will most likely be the hardest decision of your life. You have experienced what it feels like to truly love someone, and put their needs and best interests 100% before your own. You really cannot explain these kinds of feelings to anyone in hopes that they will ever understand what it meant for you to make the decision of adoption for your child.
However, if you have family and friends who are willing to try to understand, willing to be there for you to listen if you need to talk, or willing to throw their arms around you and give you a hug when there might not be any words: those are the people you need in your corner.
Surround yourself with as much love as possible. I mean come on; you made the most selfless decision ever. Why would you want to waste your time with people who are not like minded? Everyone else who is not there to support you, your child, and the decision that you made in your child’s best interest… BYE! It’s that simple.
5. Let Go of Grudges
This is not an easy one to do. Luckily for me, I had a lot of support from my friends and family throughout my pregnancy and after I placed my son with his parents. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I got in touch with the biological father to let him know. We met up to talk about every option we had in order to give our baby the best life possible. After a few initial conversations and talking through our options, the biological father made it clear he wanted no role in this pregnancy, decision of adoption/raising a child, or in a future relationship with my son.
That broke my heart. Not for me, but for Aiden. How could ANYONE deny him; this sweet, innocent, beautiful boy. After that conversation I never heard from him again. He never reached out to ask how I was, or more importantly, never reached out after the birth of Aiden to know anything about him or if he was healthy. That moment gave me the clarity I needed to know that I made the best decision of adoption for my son.
This is still new for me, so I am not going to sit here and pretend that the grudge I have for Aiden’s biological father is gone; it is not, but I am working on it. I am working on letting that grudge go. I know he is not a part of our adoption story for a reason and he ultimately has nothing to do with me, Aiden, or our family. I know holding a grudge will only make it harder for me to live a completely full and happy life; embracing this miracle of our special family.
6. Find a New Hobby
This is so important because after you place your baby with their adoptive parents you are going to have a lot of downtime to think on your maternity leave. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but it is important to make plans and stay busy.
It does not mean you are not thinking about your child or you are dismissing what happened, it just means you need to give yourself a break. You need to find something that makes you happy and can give you joy while keeping busy. You already did the hardest part; you made the biggest decision for your baby; a lifetime of happiness and security. Now it’s time to do something for YOU!
It can be a cooking class, an art class, riding a bike, going to therapy to talk out your feelings, writing in a journal, joining a kickball team, planning a vacation etc. For me, I picked up boxing. I have always been an athlete and sports have always served as some sort of therapy for me. After Aiden was born I wanted to try something new. I wanted to do something to help get me back in shape, and get back to my pre-baby body. I also thought that this would be a good thing to learn in case I never fully got over my own rule of “Let The Grudges Go”, and ran into the biological father…. just kidding 🙂
7. Meet New People
Put yourself out there! This goes hand in hand with rule number 6: Finding a New Hobby. After my maternity leave when I moved back into my apartment in the city, I made a huge effort to put myself out there. I joined the neighborhood volleyball open gym, a boxing club, and a few Social Boston Sports teams. You could say I gave myself no time to sit and self pity. That was the best thing I could have done for myself because through all of this I made a new close friend.
We met at one of the open gyms and completely hit it off. We realized we enjoyed the same type of workouts and together joined the boxing gym, and Social Boston Sports Volleyball and KickBall teams. I made a new friend that knew nothing of my past and what I had just gone through literally three months before meeting her. Every night after work we would meet up in our neighborhood and go do a new workout. After a few months of our friendship I decided I was ready to share my story with her.
Although I wanted her to know my story, I had built up all this stress as she would be the first person I would tell my story to after Aiden was born; she was the first person who was new in my “new normal”. One night on our way back from boxing, I told her the whole story and all about Aiden. It was the biggest relief. In that moment it felt like I never needed to work out again, because I lost all of my pregnancy weight I had been carrying (Ha- I didn’t, but it was that big of a relief to share my story with a new friend)!
It could not have gone better. She threw her arms around me gave me a huge hug. She was supportive and amazed at my relationship with Aiden, his parents, and what I had just gone through. Better yet, I have a new friend who has been added to the list of All The People Who Love Aiden.
8. Be Open To Love
Dating again and being open to finding love has been my biggest fear for myself. How will I ever meet someone who will understand and want to be a part of my unique family? How and when in the relationship do I share my story? I am afraid to be vulnerable, and I am afraid to open up my heart and take the chance that I can get hurt again. These are all things I do not know, but what I do know is I need to put my fears aside and be open to love because I deserve it.
9. Do You
After going through this adoption experience you are left with a whole new outlook on life. You just spent all of your energy focusing everything on your child and their future; but remember your own future is just as important.
Give yourself the chance to reevaluate your own life. Ask yourself what your dreams are. Ask yourself where you want your life to go. Ask yourself what is going to make you happy, and then go out there and make the change to do so.
If you can survive the adoption of your child, you can conquer anything else you are afraid of! This is your time to live. Drop the guilt, drop the embarrassment, drop the sadness, and drop your fears. Drop whatever it is that is holding you back, and get back out there and live. Live for your child, and more importantly, live and love yourself.