Your adoption story doesn’t just end after leaving the hospital or when the adoption becomes final. Adoption is a lifelong journey that’s just starting now, and life after adoption looks different for every birth mother.
While it’ll take a few weeks to recover physically from giving birth, the emotional recovery can be a whole other story. Many birth mothers find that the first few weeks are very difficult, and need post-adoption support. Emotions are raw, and the feelings of grief are intense.
Even though you found the perfect adoptive family for your child and placed your child with them, your adoption journey is far from over. You will still deal with emotions and look at life after adoption differently.
Adoption will always be a part of your story as you move forward in your life. That’s okay because you’re not alone in your journey. You can find comfort in knowing many birth moms have gone through what you are. They have grown stronger and more confident that they made the right choice.
What Changes Will You Experience?
Every birth mother processes life after adoption differently, but there are some typical changes most birth mothers experience. Here are some emotions you may experience after placing your child for adoption:
- Guilt or anger: These are very normal feelings of grief that often accompany adoption and will pass over time. If you have an open adoption, this will lessen your feelings because you’ll get to see how loved and cared for your child is with their new family.
- Relief: Many birth mothers feel relieved after placing their child with their loving adoptive family. They feel happy to know their child will be well cared for, and they can move on with their lives.
- Peace: It’s common for birth mothers to feel peaceful. Over the past nine months, you’ve been through a lot and may feel emotionally spent. Life after adoption allows you to rest and feel a sense of calm that you’ve made the right decision for your child and for yourself.
- A sense of loss: Most birth mothers feel a sense of loss. You may also experience feelings of loneliness. Be sure to keep in touch with your Adoption Coordinator at Lifetime and reach out to her if you need counseling. She will connect you with a licensed therapist who can help.
- Hope: Life after adoption produces a variety of emotions. Many birth mothers say they felt hopeful after the adoption because they saw how loved their child was by their adoptive family. You can rest assured your child will grow up happy and healthy.
- Joy: It’s normal to feel joy because you can now continue your life. Many birth mothers step out into a new life. You may want to return to school or start a new job. Perhaps it’s time to move and start all over. Whatever you choose, you can feel joyful that you have made the best choice for your baby and for yourself.
What Does Contact With the Adoptive Parents Look Like?
You may have heard that with modern adoption, your contact and relationship with the adoptive parents is more like extended family. For example, one of our birth mothers was getting married, and she asked for her daughter to be there. Not only was her daughter there, but the adoptive parents were there, and the adoptive father actually walked her down the aisle. You can read her story here: What Does Open, Modern Adoption Look Like?
Many birth moms have found that it helped them to get updates, emails, and photos from the adoptive couple. With open adoption, you get updates on your child as they grow up. You might even choose to visit in person with them. We recommend that you exchange photos and emails with the adoptive couple if you feel comfortable with it, and it’s something you need.
You may be in closer contact sometimes and less frequent during others. Some women don’t want to hear from the adoptive family right after the adoption, but later decide that they need to know how their child is doing. Others need photos and emails right away, but decide they’re OK with the amount of contact reducing later on. It’s up to you. No two grieving and healing processes will be the same.
Life After Adoption – Women Share Their Experiences
It’s good to be prepared to handle the changes you’ll go through after the adoption. To get more of an understanding of the emotions you’re facing, you might wonder who you can talk to. The best person to speak to is a person who has already done it before: a birth mother.
Talking to a birth mother gives you insight from somebody who has been in your shoes before. This person has navigated the same waters you feel lost in now. That means they can provide you with an understanding you cannot get from anybody else.
Through Lifetime, you can receive access to different support systems, including one that is made up of birth mothers with first-hand experience.
In addition, here are five women’s journeys of going through what you’re experiencing right now. Here’s what they say helped them in their life after adoption:
Don’t shut down
“At times, I felt so alone. Trusting a couple of close people to listen to or be a comfort really helped. My Adoption Coordinator was also a big help after the adoption. She arranged for me to talk with a counselor and with another woman who chose adoption. Talking with people who understood what I was going through really helped me.”
Ask for help
“Sometimes I felt like I had to have all the answers. I learned to reach out before I felt overwhelmed. Speak up when you need information, a helping hand, or direction for the next step. People want to help.”
Focus on the good
“I thought about why I chose this plan and all the things I gave my son through adoption. It helped me to know I would stay in touch with my boy and his adoptive family. I like knowing they think of me and that I’m a part of their lives. It’s like we’re a big extended family!”
Write a letter
“It helped to write to my daughter and her family, even if I didn’t send it to them. I’d write about my feelings of love, my dreams for her, why I was thinking of her, what I want her to know about me or my family…whatever was on my heart.”
“I had to give myself the grace to go through things at my own pace. I took time for my feelings and experience. Through my daughter’s adoption, I learned to be kind to myself and set healthy goals for my life.”
Scholarship for Birth Mothers
The Lifetime Adoption Foundation awards scholarships to women who have lovingly chosen adoption for their child using Lifetime and other adoption agencies across the country. They grant these scholarships in recognition to birth mothers who have made an adoption plan for their children. After all, it’s you as the birth mother who allows a childless couple the chance to become parents. In choosing adoption, you’ve also created a future, not only for the adoptive couple, but also for your child, for a lifetime. It’s wonderful to be able to see birth moms going to college with a scholarship!
Learn more about how you can further your education through scholarships for birth mothers at LifetimeFoundation.org.
Are you unsure of how to navigate life after adoption? Call or text us at 1-800-923-6784 to learn more about the resources available to you.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 29, 2016, and has since been updated.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.