Every Birth Mother has a story to tell about the decision to create an adoption plan for her child. While there are a variety of circumstances and experiences that shape this decision, they all share a common theme: they had the interests of their child first and foremost in the mind, and their current circumstances did not create a situation where they could achieve that for either the child or themselves. Chances are, as a Birth Mother, your story falls within that frame... and you are certainly not alone.
It is important to remember that there is no wrong choice in making these difficult decisions. As long as you are making a fully informed choice that puts aside your wants for the sake of the child, you are making a correct one, whether you choose adoption or not.
One crucial thing you should know as you head into the adoption process is that you will experience a range of emotions, both expected and unexpected: you may feel some of them now, or you might not experience them until after the adoption has been settled. Either way, it can be difficult to predict how you will feel until it actually happens. This article will shed some light on some emotions you may anticipate as you make the adoption decision and head further into that process:
1. Crisis of Identity
A common problem faced by Birth Mothers, particularly after the adoption process is completed, is what their emotional and physical relationship to the child should be like, and how that affects her identity. Questions about whether you consider yourself a mother and about whether you should feel that connection with your child may begin to preoccupy you. In a closed adoption, this is difficult because you have no physical presence to relate to, and you can only look to yourself for answers about how you mentally and emotionally relate to your child.
In an open or semiopen adoption scenario, this can become even more complicated because it involves discussion with the Adoptive Parents about what your role in the child’s life should look like. In this case, you may easily identify what role you want to play, or it may take you a lot of thought to figure out what that relationship should be like. As the years go on, you may also experience some tough emotions and questions about your identity if you feel yourself growing distant or wish to alter the course of that relationship. The important thing is that you continue to ask yourself these questions, and not let fear repress them.
2. Complicated Feelings of Loss
You may experience feelings of loss that may feel just as extreme as if a loved one of yours has passed away. These kinds of feelings of loss are complicated by the fact that there is no death involved, but an absence that remains, all the same. Making the decision to put a child up for adoption does not mean that the birth mother is free of sadness about losing a child. There is a general misconception that because the mother has made the choice to put her child up for adoption, then the resulting feelings should only be of peace and happiness because it was a good choice. And while some Birth Parents do experience those feelings, it is also common for Birth Mothers to feel degrees of loss and absence, which are often only intensified because of the ambiguity of that mourning process.
This sense of loss can also be felt from other similar causes: the Birth Mother may feel as if she has lost motherhood itself, and may grieve over a perceived lost sense of identity and meaning. Birth Mothers may also feel these kinds of losses during multiple stages as the child grows older: they sometimes feel like they are constantly losing the child if they are not there for moments of their life, and may experience this kind of loss again and again as they are reminded of the child and for a perception of what “could have been.” These kinds of feelings especially tend to be solidified in closed adoptions, when the birth mother can only visualize or fantasize about the child and can not experience more closure in their feelings about the adoption.
3. The Stages of Grief
Along with the feelings of loss, Birth Mothers may often undergo one or more of the five stage of grief as they process the adoption: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. These stages do not feel the same for everyone in all situations, and you may notice that you feel some intensely, while you do not feel others quite as much, or you may feel them in a slightly different order.
The “anger” and “bargaining” stages are often felt in Birth Mothers as a result of feeling a loss in control. During the adoption process, you might feel that you are the person with the least amount of power, and might feel angry and anxious over this loss of control. It is perfectly normal to feel angry, and sometimes the best thing you can do is allow yourself to feel your anger and always communicate how you’re feeling to the Adoptive Parents, if the circumstances allow it, if you’re in open discussion with them.
4. Guilt and/or Shame
While your choice to make an adoption plan for your child is a valid and great choice, there are still cultural stigmas around issues of adoption and more generally around kinds of families who don’t follow the perceived “traditional route.” While we all know that every family looks different and there is really no such thing as a “traditional family,” this myth still predominates in the minds of many, and this leads to an unfortunate veil of shame and secrecy that exists over the process of adoption. You might find this affecting you, especially if there are external sources in your life that are pressuring you about your adoption decision.
Shame is a little more difficult to deal with than guilt, though they are often thought of as the same word. Ultimately, the idea of guilt tends to suggest that one has done something wrong, while the idea of shame suggests that you yourself are wrong as a person. Guilt is much more individualistic, while shame comes much more from external forces in culture. Since guilt usually stems directly from an action that an individual knows to be wrong, it is a little easier to deal with. Shame, on the other hand, stems less from the act itself and more from how we see ourselves in society. It is more common for birth mothers to feel shame because of the previously mentioned social stigmas surrounding adoption.
It can be difficult to chase these feelings away, as embedded into culture as they are. Even though you know you have done nothing wrong, and have in fact only acted out of love and in consideration for your child, be aware that those feelings may still linger. Remember that your feelings are coming from external sources who are not connected to you, your decision, and your relationship to your child, and that those three things are much more important than any societal backwardness.
5. Fear of Judgment/Difficulties with Openness
This falls in with guilt and shame, though the common fear of Birth Mothers is that they will be judged. Birth Mothers are often afraid to tell people who they have grown close to about their adoption plan because they are afraid they will be judged, and thus negatively affect their relationship with that person. This may lead you to feel like you can’t be entirely open with people because of the abovementioned feelings of shame and guilt.
Some Birth Mothers also may approach these feelings differently and may want something to replace their relationship with their child after adoption. This may lead them to jump into unhealthy relationships very quickly in order to chase away these feelings. It is important to anticipate the possibility of these feelings and to be very aware of them as they happen.
6. Peace and Fulfillment
Not every emotion is going to be negative! In fact, many Birth Mothers find adoption to be a very rewarding experience. That final reward may involve jumping over a lot of emotional hurdles to get there, but it is helpful to keep your reasons for doing this at the forefront of your mind. Whether you are in contact with the adoptive family or not, you may feel at peace knowing the child is in good hands. In an ideal situation, you will have power and support over what happens to your child, and in the end, you have the final say. Let that fact bring you some security, and you will end the adoption process feeling satisfied and at peace, knowing that you have made an excellent decision for your child and provided a family with the ultimate GIFT of life.
There may always be a bit of sadness in your heart that circumstances for you were not different. Amy, an eighteen year old Birth Mother once said "Any remorse or sadness that I once felt, was replaced with the joy, warmth, love, security, and financial stability that my adoptive couple will provide for my child. I can now plan to reorganize my life and create a future for myself. I could not have accomplished this without the support and concern of the people at Adoption Network Law Center." Contact ANLC 24/7 for FREE support from women who are genuinely and passionately caring of you and what you are going through.
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