Birth Mother Grief
It is only natural for expectant mothers to experience stages of grief or a sense of loss when they choose to place a child for adoption. But the grieving process is not a bad thing; it is crucial and fundamental to mental health and wellbeing. Though difficult, it is healthy for the birth mom to allow herself to feel that pain.
Still, that doesn’t make the pain any less real for both the birth mother and the adoptive parents. Even during difficult times, such as an unplanned pregnancy, it can be helpful to know there are support groups. They can help deal with the tidal wave of emotions that sometimes feel as if they will overwhelm us. An adoptive parent who has gone through the open adoption process with the mothers can play a big role here.
Of course, adoptive mothers may find themselves empathizing so much with the birth mother that they are unable to experience the joy a new child brings them. This is particularly true when the biological parents and the adoptive parents become close to one another prior to the adoption. Adoptive mothers may feel guilt at their own happiness when they realize just what a sacrifice the birth mom has made.
Adoptive parents should remember that while the grief is very real it doesn’t diminish the reason the birth parents chose adoption. It is also good for adoptive families to remember that the birth mother chose them out of all other available couples to raise her baby.
A birth mother who chooses open adoption does not have to stay separated from the child as is the case with closed adoptions. This ability to see the child grow and thrive makes the grief process easier to navigate for everyone involved. It also lessens the amount of time the birth mother spends in sadness.
Birth parents choose the adoptive parents for a reason. They spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and love picking the best parents for their child. The adoptive mother should remember this when her feelings of sadness for the birth mother begin to overwhelm her. She should take the time to remind herself that the birth mother felt she would be the best possible mother for the child.
Understanding the birth mother’s grief can help the adoptive mother to connect on an even deeper level with her child. As the baby grows, the adoptive parents can share with him or her the feelings that were experienced by everyone before, during, and after the adoption.
Undoubtedly, the child will feel reassured knowing that both biological and adoptive parents put so much energy and emotion into the adoption process.
The birth mother will move through the grief process to healing. She knows that she made the right choice with adoption and with the parents chosen for the baby. In an open adoption, she also knows that she will be a part of that baby’s life in the way that everyone agreed upon. Understanding all of these things will help birth mothers move on with their own lives in a positive and healthy way.
The adoptive mother may continue to have feelings of guilt and grief interspersed with her feelings of happiness. She should not berate or belittle herself for feeling these things. Instead, she should attempt to acknowledge and understand them.
Instead, she should also remind herself of the beautiful sacrifice made by the mom. She should live to honor that choice by raising the child in a healthy, stable, and loving environment.
It’s helpful for adoptive mothers to discuss these feelings with partners and extended adoptive family members, trusted companions, other family and friends, and even the birth mother herself. She may also need to consider a counselor if these feelings persist. She should simply remember not to let her own feelings overwhelm what is most important: providing love to her new child.
Lifetime Adoption: A Domestic Adoption Agency
Lifetime Adoption Agency has helped many birth mothers, birth fathers, and adoptive families transition through the adoption process since 1986. As a domestic, open adoption agency, our focus is on helping birth mothers make the best choice for themselves and their children.
We have free resources for women seeking to place their child for adoption. Our nationwide adoption listings feature profiles of families waiting to adopt. We also help families looking to adopt and provide a free online adoption application.
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.
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