Adoption is a very emotional decision. Whether you are pregnant and considering adoption, or have already given birth and made an adoption plan for your child, you have likely felt – at one point or another – scared, sad, and overwhelmed. Of course, you know in your heart that adoption is (or was) the best possible decision for your baby at the time. It will give your child the opportunity to grow up and thrive, in a safe and loving home. It will give you the chance to pursue your own dreams and goals. That is not to say that adoption is easy in any way. As an expectant/birth mother, you still need time to grieve and heal.
An important part of the adoption process is taking care of yourself – not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well. You must take care of yourself throughout your pregnancy, during the adoption process, and in the years following the adoption. Birth mothers who choose adoption often feel great peace of mind in choosing a family for their baby; at the same time, however, many also experience feelings of loss and grief. This is totally normal to feel this way.
The month of May marks Mental Health Awareness Month. As an expectant/birth mother, this is the perfect time to check-in with yourself, your emotions, and your well-being. Here, we will share tips for how to stay positive throughout the adoption process and how to cope with your baby’s adoption and placement. We will also discuss how you can stay connected to your child through open adoption, and the peace of mind this can bring you over the years.
While many understand that, for birth mothers, there is an initial sense of loss immediately following adoption, the years following often go overlooked. Those who have never placed their baby for adoption may not understand the ongoing emotional process that must be dealt with over the years. Make no mistake about it: Adoption is a positive and rewarding choice. It is one that offers so much to all involved, but it is also a life-changing experience.
In this day and age of mental health discussions and openness on social media, more light is being shed on this important topic. One aspect that is not as openly discussed, however, is birth mother grief.
While it is hard to generalize what women go through when they place a child for adoption, because each experience is unique, many birth mothers share feelings of loss. This feeling, for a time, can feel all encompassing. It is completely normal to feel this way. You should also know that this grief does ease up with time and ongoing support. It is important to meet with a professional counselor in the years following adoption, to help you cope with this choice. For example, Adoptions With Love offers free counseling and post-adoption support even after the placement is finalized; for a year after placement. There are birth mothers that still contact and stay in touch with Adoptions With Love, even 20-30 years later. There is no cut-off date for communication, as this journey can be a lifelong experience. We are always here for you.
Birth mother support groups are also very helpful resources, in addition to your own personal support system of friends and family. When asked about her support system, one birth mother explains:
“I have people on my side who genuinely care and want to help and would bend over backwards to listen if I wanted to talk. But when I talk about it, while they are understanding, they don’t actually understand. That’s why this birth moms group [at Adoptions With Love] has been so amazing. It’s this whole group of women who literally know what you went through, and how weird the adoption process sometimes is, and how complicated your emotions get, and are on that same rollercoaster ride of emotions you are. And they truly understand, and don’t try to insert their opinions into your story. They don’t tell you what you should do or judge what you’ve done. They just let you share your life, and they share theirs, and there’s a mutual understanding. So they’re who I talk to mostly. About relationships, about our kids, about our kids’ families, and most of all our emotions on all those subjects.”
In addition to counseling and support groups, it may also help to read about other women’s experiences. Some birth mothers choose to share their feelings with their adoption agency, such as Adoptions With Love, for example. As one birth mother describes it:
“…So many emotions ran through me; the strongest emotion at the time was anger. Anger at the father for leaving me alone to make this decision. Anger at myself for ever having to make this decision. Anger at God for ever allowing me to make this decision. Slowly, those feelings have begun to fade away, and a much stronger emotion takes the place of the anger, and that is love. Love is such a powerful emotion. I wanted to be selfish and keep my son because I love him more than anything imaginable, but in my heart I knew that I could not provide him with the life that he deserved.”
This mother’s heartfelt words hit close to home for so many women who have placed their child for adoption. It is important to remember that you are going through this journey for one reason: To offer your child the best possible life you can provide at this time. You are not taking an “easy way out,” rather, you are brave in your quest to provide your child with opportunity and safety. This notion alone should give you hope: Hope that your child will be loved, well cared for, and grow up to live a great life.
You can also look to a future wherein your child has grown up, having been loved and well cared for, knowing that you made an incredible sacrifice to ensure s/he had incredible opportunities and a lifetime of happiness. Most children in adoptions, who know they have been adopted, are very happy. Most are read to and sung to every single day. Many enjoy family vacations, a great education, and very good health. Those in open adoptions express the most satisfaction, growing up knowing and loving both adoptive and birth parents. This is an amazing gift that should be celebrated.
Most adoptions today are open. In fact, every adoptive family at Adoptions With Love agrees to at least a semi-open adoption. This means that there are lines of communication, in some form, that remain open long after the adoption is final, such as letters and pictures. Some families choose to keep in touch via email, phone or video conversations, or even in-person visits. The level of communication can be determined by you, the birth mother, and written out in a contract with the help of your adoption agency. The form of communication may evolve over the years, to accommodate a growing child. This gives birth mothers peace of mind, knowing that the birth is not goodbye, but only the beginning.
You may take comfort in knowing that you can remain in contact with your child’s adoptive family, or even with your child directly. You may also think about your own future. Not only are you providing your child with a better life than you could offer, you are keeping the windows of opportunity for yourself open. Instead of becoming a single mother who struggles to support a family, you will be able to continue to work toward your personal and professional goals, all while knowing your child is safe, loved, and happy. As one AWL birth mother (in an open adoption arrangement) writes,
“Adoption has been (and sometimes still is) an emotional roller coaster, and you have these moments of unbearable sadness and intense joy, and you have all of these incredible experiences you never imagined possible. I think of adoption as such an amazing and loving and beautiful thing, and I wish people knew that it is emotional, but it can also be wonderful. I have held my daughter and talked to her, have had conversations with her parents, have seen pictures of my daughter on almost every holiday. I plan to be a part of her life, and I have by no means “moved on” from the experience. It’s a part of me and my life, of who I am, and that’s never going to change.”
If you would like to learn more about the adoption process, please do not hesitate to reach out to Adoptions With Love. We are available to chat, confidentially, any time of day and any day of the week. You are not alone, and Adoptions With Love will help you remember that for the many years to come.