Birth Parents & Adoption
Last month, I discussed the short term and long term issues experienced by adopted children. Today, I wanted to share some research and feedback based on the issues and feelings experienced by the birth parents who give their child up for adoption.
Based on an article on the Adoption Network site, there are common experiences felt by many birth mothers (and fathers) including mourning loss, remorse, embarassment,questions about one’s own character, and family and friend influences in the decision.
Embarrassment could be a feeling that birth parents feel, since they might be afraid to tell friends and family in fear of their responses. Additionally, once the baby is born, the birth parents can feel remorse, like they’re bad parents for giving up their child, “…no matter how thoughtful the decision or what the circumstances of the adoption.”
Along with the possibility of “feeling like a bad parent,” birth parents can also have a tough time calling themselves parents. Once they give their child up for adoption, they can feel childless, and going forward, they might not be acknowledged as parents in the future. Their roles as parents can feel like a grey area, as the child will have legal adoptive parents, and depending on the type of adoption, the birth parents can wonder how their child is growing up and if they are happy.
Birth parents can feel that they are mourning the loss of their parenting roles. There could also be loss of relationships due to the decision of adoption: possibly loss or stress on the relationship between the birth mother and father, possibly loss or stress on the relationship between the birth mother and her family or the birth father and his family.
In regards to “the birth and the actual surrendering of the baby,” the article stated, “this particular type of loss is different from a loss through death, however, because there is rarely a public acknowledgment…” When I read that birth parents can experience loss, I tried to relate to the feeling of loss via feelings of loss through death. But those feelings of loss are completely different. Birth parents can have trouble expressing these feelings of loss of their child, especially because they fear others will not understand, or as the quotation explained: there is not usually an announcement or public acknowledgement. I can relate to that fear (again, loss through death is not the same loss), because I have been in a place where I didn’t think others could relate to me. I lost a close friend to suicide when I was seventeen and that was an extremely difficult experience to get through; I’m still trying to cope with it today at twenty-six. But at seventeen, I did not have many friends that could relate to losing another friend at such a young age, and therefore, I felt that they wouldn’t be able to relate to me. Eventually I found support within my community, family, and friends, and today I can look back and see that things do get better. So I can completely understand that a birth parent can feel a certain type of loss that they feel no one else will understand. And that can feel dark and lonely. To feel like no one gets you, to feel like you’re the only one going through something; that can really be scary. Because of that, it’s really important to get the help that you need.
The article listed a lot of great ways to help birth parents prepare themselves for these possible feelings and how important it is to find support and strength from family and friends. For example, entrustment ceremonies, commemorations, research, expression, registering on sites, and patience can really offer support and offer outlets for their voice.
“Some birth parents describe a ritual or ceremony that took place when they entrusted their child to the adoptive parents. In many cases, these entrustment ceremonies took place in the hospital. These ceremonies allowed the birth parents to say good-bye to their child and to maintain a sense of control over the placement. Such ceremonies may help with the later grieving process.”
Birth parents can do things to commemorate their adopted child and celebrate that child in a happy way: to acknowledge that the parents love the child, to remind the parents that they are parents, and to acknowledge that the adoption happened, because acknowledging rather than ignoring can help with the grieving process. Birth parents can write their birth child a letter on a special day or plant a flower in their honor.
Some other ways to help birth parents in dealing with an adoption is to do some research and read other people’s’ stories. This also might help the birth parents to feel like they aren’t alone. Expression, maybe through art or writing, can really help release feelings you might not even know you were feeling. Birth parents can register on different adoption sites, too, to let their children know that they can find their birth parents. Patience is also a good thing to remember, as it does take time to heal, and this experience will never just disappear. Time and patience can help birth parents to figure out how to deal with their feelings and “integrate this loss into their ongoing lives.”
“Acceptance of the loss and working through the grief does not mean that birth parents forget their birth child and never again feel sorrow or regret for the loss. Rather, it means that they are able to move forward with their lives and to integrate this loss into their ongoing lives.”