Adoption allows couples and singles to become families when they may have never thought it possible. However, adoptive parents can get so caught up in the excitement of a new arrival that they give the birthmother very little attention or thought. Placing a baby for adoption is a sacrifice like no other and takes monumental strength and selflessness. Even if a mother knows that this is the best thing for their baby and have found the perfect adoptive parents, feelings of grief and loss will often still surface.
Many adoptive parents simply don’t realize that birthmothers grieve their child post-placement. The lengthy process of finding a successful connection, creating adoption plan, then carrying and giving birth to a baby they know they cannot keep can put an unimaginable strain on birth mothers. Combine this with the sudden onslaught of emotions post-placement and the birth mother can be left in a very dark place. Some of the common feelings birth mothers face include:
Feelings of Denial
You may have heard the phrase ‘denial is the first phase of grief’, and this is often true in the case of birth mothers. Birth moms can find themselves denying their new reality without their baby. Sometimes these feelings can be so overwhelming that they simply can’t be faced, leading to the birth mother repressing them and seeking to numb the pain.
Feelings of Anger
Once the pent up emotions build up enough, the birth mother can feel angry. This is an act of defense against the painful realisations made as reality sinks in. They many feel angry for little reason, may feel angered that because of their life situation they had to make the choice of adoption, or may be lashing out because of feelings of guilt surrounding the adoption.
This stage is referred to as bargaining, and is characterized by the birth mother punishing themselves by reflecting on what they may have done differently to allow them to keep their baby, even if these choices were an impossibility at the time. These ‘if only’ thoughts are a typical way that birth moms try to come to terms with their experiences and cope with their pain.
Feelings of Depression
Sometimes birth mothers are so overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions and feelings of loss that they slip into depression. This is a natural part of the grieving process, and at this stage it is important that the birth mom has a strong support system around her.
Acceptance and the Future
The grieving process has no time limit, and sadly some birth moms never get over the experience of placing their baby for adoption. However, with the right support most mothers are able to achieve a healthy form of closure regarding their adoption experience. While there can still be ‘what ifs’ and down days, given time a birth mother can usual come to terms and peace with placing their child for adoption.
Spare a Thought
If you’re taking part in LGBT adoption or have adopted domestically, spare a thought for the birthmother of your child. Find out how you can support her and correctly thank her for the gift she has so selfishly given you. For many birth mothers, the support of the adoptive family can help to greatly ease the grieving process.