Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Adoption Truth

Maggie at birth

Something has been percolating in me lately, and it has to do with birth mothers.

As an adoptive parent of an amazing six year old daughter through domestic open adoption, I would love to shout from the rooftops that adoption is beautiful. But, that is not the entire story. And I am not talking about adoption scams, failed adoptions, the cost, or any other roller coaster issue that often comes with open adoption.

The adoption of my daughter in 2005 is the MOST wonderful thing that has ever happened to me, and I am forever grateful to her birth mother for choosing us. Maggie is such a blessing in our lives, and I can't imagine life without her.

I am writing today about how difficult it must be for most birth mothers to place their children for adoption. I know there are probably some that don't struggle with it at all. But, I imagine that many, many birth mothers have an incredibly hard time placing their child for adoption. Even when every ounce of their being may believe it is the best thing for the child, I can't help but think how hard it must be to let go of something you love and is biologically a part of you.

My daughter's birth mother struggles with her adoption decision. At the time of my daughter's birth, I did not know how much she was struggling because she kept that private until years later when she revealed that she had asked the nursing staff to bring the baby into her room every time we left the hospital. We had always thought the nursing staff was pushing the baby on her because one nurse in particular did not believe in adoption. We were also so overwhelmed with new baby excitement that we might not have noticed the subtle messages she might have been sending. We certainly didn't pressure her, but I imagine there were many things in life that were pressuring her to place the baby for adoption (her age, lack of income, resources, and life experience to name a few).

Since our adoption, our birth mother has had two other children whom she is parenting with the help of her boyfriend. I can't help but think that she feels sad that she is not raising the child she placed with us for adoption.

As adoptive parents, we should dance in the streets with excitement when a baby is placed with us. But, we should also be aware that our blessing may mean our birth mother is experiencing incredible heart ache over her decision.

If we do the math, adoptive parent's blessing = birth mother's loss. 

I am not saying that adoption is bad or anything even remotely close. Even though our adoption in Louisiana failed, it was clear to our birth mother in that situation that she could not take care of the new baby, and she wanted a better life for him. She remained committed to the adoption plan until the end, and though she was committed to this plan, it was still clearly very painful for her. The baby's birth father stepped in and changed everything, so now she has a baby that she didn't think she could raise. I pray that somehow they make it.

Birth mothers have given so many of us the greatest blessings in our lives. It is not something that can be re-paid in anyway other than to do our best to raise the baby and to honor any promises made to a birth mother. Recently, I have read many birth mothers and adoptive parents speak about the adoptive parents cutting off contact or not honoring the adoption plan that was made. I imagine there are extreme circumstance where this might be warranted, but in the other 99% of the cases, adoptive parents should honor the adoption plan (maybe this is easy for me to say because we have a great birth mother).

Birth mothers deserve to be treated with respect and for us to honor our promises made to them. Most birth mothers pick us because they believe we are decent people who will do a great job raising their baby. That doesn't mean we should only act like decent people until we finalize our adoption. Not honoring the adoption plan is not right to do to the birth mother, and it is definitely not the right thing to do to your child.

One day our children will be old enough to really understand the circumstances of their adoptions. Let's hope we have not behaved badly in a way that our children will rightfully resent or hate us for betraying their birth mother.

I have the utmost respect for birth mothers. I can only imagine the amazing courage it must take to do what you think is best for your baby despite the heart ache you might experience.

Without my daughter's birth mother, my life would be so empty and incomplete. I am so grateful that she trusted us enough to raise her daughter and to maintain contact with her.

I look forward to the day when another woman will trust us enough to raise her baby, and will know she can trust us to do the right thing in our relationship with her, and her relationship with the child.

But, I don't ever want to pretend that it is easy for a birth mother. With our joy comes a birth mother's pain. And that's an adoption truth.


  1. Very nicely stated. You have a great understanding of how relinquishment affects us as birthparents.

    I have regret and grief. That doesn't mean that I don't trust that my child is being parented by wonderful people.

    I am just a mother without her child. I am glad I feel that way because it proves that I loved my daughter enough to choose something different for her. Not because I didn't love her.

    I wish all adoptive couples had your same level of respect for the relationship that a birthmother can have with a child. Our relationship with your child takes away the mystery and can allow your child to love you completely without the wonder of origins and why they are in a family other than the one they were born into.

    I also agree that not all birthmothers understand boundaries, but I will say that many of us do. We want you to be the parents of our child. We chose you.

    I don't think any of the birthmothers who are like me would ever want to interfere with your role as parent.

    Treating us with respect, honoring our unique role in your child's life, and being thoughtful of our feelings makes the adoption relationship the beautiful thing it can be.

    Relationships are tough. Marriages are hard. What makes us think adoption relationships would be any easier? But if we all act in love and compassion for one another, most of the bumps in the road can be overcome.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post.

  2. Hear, hear!

    "That doesn't mean we should only act like decent people until we finalize our adoption. Not honoring the adoption plan is not right to do to the birth mother, and it is definitely not the right thing to do to your child."

  3. A wonderful message. I agree wholeheartedly!

  4. good luck to both of you. i hope you are blessed with another angel soon.

  5. Wonderful article. It's like you took the thoughts from my mind & put them on paper.
    Thankyou :)

  6. Thank you for writing this. My husband and I are in the midst of adopting a 2 1/2 year old little boy. In the process of falling in love with him, I have started to grieve for his family. He is so beautiful and a wonderful human being. What heartache it must be for them to have to give him up. We are doing an open adoption, but I think only the aunt and grandmother will be in contact from what we are experiencing. With them, he will have history, additional family, and stories about him as an infant, and people who look like him. I hope another child finds you soon:)

  7. Thanks for reminding us of this! It's easy to get wrapped up in the happy emotions we experience and forget the heart ache of the BM. Check out my blog at www.thekingsareadopting.blogspot.com. I would love to have someone to talk to who has gone through this before!

  8. I think a lot of these parents who re-neg on the relationship with their children's birth parents (when there's not a safety issue) do so because they're insecure about their own roles as parents. My mother-in-law is so quick to speak ill of her daughter's birth mom and we don't bring our children around her because of this.

    Three and a half years out of the gate with our own open adoption, I realize that there is a very real feeling of 'who does this child belong to?' My family used to say that the 'real' mother was the one who gave birth, then after I became a mom they said it had to do with who raised the child. I disagree with both.

    A 'real' mother is whomever loves the child more than they love themselves. I love my daughter so much I am overjoyed that I get to share her love with Carri. Carri loves my daughter so much that she decided to do what was best for Julia even though it was so painful for her. I love Julia as her mother, the one who changed diapers for three years, wipes her nose and cuddles on the couch during "my little pony." Carri loves Julia as the mother who kept her next to her heart, made her, kept her safe, loved her, sang to her, spoke to her and told her that she loved her more than life itself for ten months and five days. I can't love my daughter like that, I didn't do it. I wasn't there. Do you know how profoundly grateful I am that she did that? She loves Julia in a way I never can. It makes her Julia's mother in a way I won't be. And you know, I celebrate that.

    Carri is beyond a best friend, she's our family. She is finally comfortable enough to tell me when she's hurting and I say what I can. She has every single right to hurt. It doesn't mean she regrets her decision, it doesn't mean she wants Julia back, it means she wishes we could both have a Julia. But since we can't do that, she mourns that things weren't different. I wish things had been different for her. I grieved when we were in the hospital with her. Part of me wanted her to say she'd changed her mind because I couldn't stand the fact that if it was so hard to watch her pain, she must be in agony living it. I grieved for weeks and punished myself because of it.

    Life is better for her now. She's happily a mother, joyously engaged and teases me several times a day through texts. Open adoption is wonderful, I just wish there was more of a way to prepare adoptive parents to help with the grieving birth parents.

    Wonderful post. Thank you!

    Good luck on your journey to grow your family!!