Birth Mothers matter to me. There are 4 women close to me who gave their baby up for adoption. Both of my genetic grandmothers and both of my sisters. Therefore, when I was at the VeryWellMind site yesterday, another article caught my attention. >LINK Putting A Child Up For Adoption Impacts Mental Health, Stigma Doesn’t Help by Sarah Fielding.
The story reveals that when Janice Wright was 16 years old, she became pregnant, and her fiancé dumped her. The most significant struggle she faced came from the lack of mental health care provided to explore her feelings and prepare her for the difficult process. After she gave birth, the doctor who suggested adoption to her loaded her up with a three-week supply of pain pills to help her ‘numb’ her way back to life afterward. Wow.
Without a person in their corner, birth parents can feel even more traumatized by the process. Such was the case for Wright, who felt incredibly alone after putting her child up for adoption. “I had to bear it alone because no one wanted to talk about it,” she explains. “Maybe friends and family were afraid to bring it up, and no one talked about it.”
Both of my grandmothers had some months (6-8 months) with their first born before they lost them to adoption. My maternal grandmother never had anymore children. My paternal grandmother went on to have 3 more. My sisters lost their babies almost immediately. I believe my youngest sister had a bit more time (days, weeks?) with hers than my middle sister did.
Dr Bethany Cook, a psychologist, an adopted child herself and author of For What It’s Worth – A Perspective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting Ages 0 – 2, notes that “Contemplating putting your child up for adoption is a very traumatic experience regardless of whether or not you believe the choice you’re making is the right one.” She adds, “An individual may feel anxious, sad, fear, confusion, frustration, happiness, and even relief. Many times there are people in your life trying to influence your decision one way or another creating even more angst and dilemmas. Along with natural hormones influencing mood and thoughts, it’s typical for an individual to go back and forth about their decision several times throughout the pregnancy. Even after the adoption has gone through, some biological parents still struggle with their decision.”
Whether made as a teenager or as an adult, unlike many other decisions, adoption is forever and can feel incredibly overwhelming in its finality. The all things adoption community I belong to often refers to this as a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” They encourage unmarried expectant mothers to at least try to parent their child before taking the irrevocable step. >LINK Saving Our Sisters is an organization devoted to supporting and encouraging that choice. I didn’t know about them when my own sisters were going through this. It was years before I knew the sister closest in age to me had given up her daughter. However, I was the only family member aware of my youngest sister’s choice and was alongside her during her decision making process. Unfortunately, I didn’t know then, what I know now.
Each birth mother’s circumstance is different and so, the decision is incredibly personal and unique to the individual. Here’s another story – Kira Bracken, who put her child up for adoption in January 2019. “The fact I have an open adoption helps for me to know when he has questions, I can answer them,” she says. However, turning again to the vast experience in my all things adoption group, it has been proven time and again, that the intention to have an “open adoption” all too often fails and this intention turns out not to be legally binding.
After unexpectedly becoming pregnant, Kira felt that the compounding factors of being a single mom to a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, recently leaving a marriage, and her mother’s passing of cancer, led to her decision to place her child into an adoption. Bracken felt sad and grieved the life she and the child could have had, “You lose the right to be the mom they turn to when they are sad or get hurt, just the everyday life things.”
Bracken attributes the stigma she felt for giving her child up for adoption to a lack of understanding. “Adoption is so complex and happens for a multitude of reasons. Birth moms go back and forth constantly until they sign those papers on whether this is what they want to do. It’s not an easy decision, and I wish people would stop acting like it was and that one answer fits all scenarios,” she says. “We beat ourselves up enough for the both of us, so instead of criticizing our choice, be there as a friend to help in whatever way we need.”
“The best thing you can do is be a non-judging, validating place they can turn to vent and process their conflicted feelings without fear of filtering what or how they share their core emotions,” says Cook. This includes validating their feelings, listening to them when they’re upset, and providing regular support. A therapist can also help some people sort through their emotions long-term.