Adoptions With Love Blog

What is Birth Mother Grief?

Placing a baby for adoption is a meaningful choice. It is a brave, loving, and selfless decision that involves putting your child’s best interests first. Making this decision takes time, thought, and deep consideration. Many birth mothers today find peace with their decision, knowing they gave their child the best possible life they could, at this moment in time. Many also find comfort in choosing an open adoption plan.

With open adoption, expectant/birth mothers have the power to choose their child’s adoptive parents. They may browse through the many profiles of hopeful adoptive families, meet them in person, and ask as many questions as needed. Expectant/birth mothers can rest assured that every adoptive family at Adoptions With Love has been thoroughly screened in the home study process, to ensure that every child adopted is placed within a safe, stable, and loving home.

Open adoption also means the birth mother may choose the form and frequency of ongoing communication with the adoptive family. Open adoption is just as unique as the birth mother herself. Frequent emails and text messages may be the perfect path for you, but phone calls and yearly in-person visits might be the best plan for another birth mother.

Selecting the adoptive family and creating an open adoption plan can help birth mothers coping with feelings of loss and grief after the adoption is finalized. Adoption is a beautiful choice with many benefits, but it also brings about feelings of grief for the birth mother. What is birth mother grief? Read on, as we explain what to expect and how you can cope with any grief post-adoption.

Birth Mother Grief, Explained

Grief is a natural sense of sadness experienced any time a major loss occurs in our lives. Birth mother grief, however, is unique, because it is unlike any other grief a person experiences. It is complicated grief, in that it is ongoing.

Most people know – and experience – grief over the death of a loved one. With birth mother grief, however, a birth mother is grieving the loss of a child who is still living. Specifically, she is grieving the loss of parenting this child. The baby continues to live, with another family, but the birth mother experiences feelings of loss after carrying the baby to term.

When a birth mother places her baby for adoption, she signs over consent to the adoption and surrenders her parental rights. It is a beautiful, yet painful experience. She knows that her child is in wonderful hands and will be loved and cared for by good people. However, it is still difficult to part ways. When she leaves the hospital or birth center, she may leave with a feeling of a hole in her heart. This often begins the grieving process, although a birth mother’s internal struggle can begin during pregnancy as she prepares for the placement.

A Natural Process

Experiencing grief is a very normal and natural part of the adoption process for a birth mother. In fact, the emotional response from pregnancy and childbirth is founded in science.

During the prenatal and postpartum months, the birth mother’s body experiences many changes. Many hormone levels are affected in the body during – and after – pregnancy. Several hormones play major roles during pregnancy, such as human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG), human placental lactogen (hPL), estrogen, and progesterone. During labor and birth, oxytocin – often referred to as the “hormone of love” – is released. This specific hormone is designed to help us feel good, and it triggers nurturing feelings and behaviors.

Between carrying a child for 40 weeks in pregnancy and delivering the baby, the bond built between birth mother and child is strong. A birth mother may know in her heart, and in her head, that adoption is the best possible decision, but the emotional response is something that is nearly impossible to avoid. It is human nature.

Over time, however, there is healing. A birth mother can overcome feelings of sadness with ongoing therapy and support. With this said, however, know that you may still experience fleeting moments of longing down the road. When milestones arise, like Mother’s Day, you may find yourself missing or grieving your child. This is normal. It is important to honor these feelings.

The Importance of Support

Although grief is natural, it is important that birth mothers find support. At Adoptions With Love, expectant/birth mothers are offered free counseling services before and long after giving birth. There are never any charges for these services, and there will never be a time post-adoption when a birth mother is turned away. At Adoptions With Love, expectant/birth mothers are a part of the family. There will always be someone to lend an ear and a comforting voice of support.

Over time, the birth mother grief you feel will subside. Thanks to a supportive adoption agency and an open adoption plan set in place, you will have so many positives in your life that you will start to let go of the pain and grief. Rather than experiencing hurt and pain, you will learn how to honor your feelings, honor your child, and honor the loving and selfless decision you made.

Here is what one birth mother said about coping with birth mother grief:

“I think the thing that helps me the most is looking at pictures of my daughter. I love seeing her photos and reading the letters her parents have sent me, because it reminds me of the amazing life she has and how much she is loved. It brings me peace to know that she’s a happy, healthy kid in a loving family. That’s exactly what I wanted for her. So even when I miss her, I know that she’s happy.”

If you are an expectant/birth mother and coping with post-adoption grief, it is important to take time for you. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel after adoption. Every story, every woman, is unique. Do what you feel you need to do. Give yourself space. Allow yourself time to heal. Try to understand and work through your feelings. Forgive yourself. Practice self-care. Do something to make you happy. Stay healthy.

And of course, you can always find support at Adoptions With Love. We can lovingly guide you through the adoption process and support you every step of the way. Call us any time of day, any day of the week at 800-722-7731, text us confidentially at 617-777-0072, or contact us online.

Download our free eBook to learn more about what emotions to expect after adoption.