Deciding to place a child for adoption is not a decision that is made overnight. Birth parents are extremely strong individuals that sacrifice so much for their baby’s future, but just because they are strong it does not mean that they do not need support during the adoption process. Sometimes when a expecting mother shares her adoption plan with family members, she doesn’t receive love and support. This blog post will explore those situations and provide expecting mothers who are choosing adoption with other ways to receive care and support during their adoption placement.
When Family and Friends Don’t Understand Adoption
Telling your family you are pregnant can be an overwhelming task if you don’t feel you are prepared to parent. Will they support your decision to consider adoption? Will they want you to raise the baby on your own? Will they want to raise the baby? There are a lot of questions rumbling around in your head before having that conversation with your family and it is important to know you are not alone. There are great resources available online like this one that can help you figure out the best way to broach the topic with your family members. They might even benefit from online resources too. Pages like Adoptions From The Heart can provide family members with a wealth of information about adoption and how to be supportive through the process.
Comments from family and friends like, “I could never give up my child because I love them too much,” are extremely hurtful. It is important to remember the real reason you are considering adoption- you want what is best for your child because of how much you love them.
Sometimes it is helpful to understand why friends and family might be saying intentionally hurtful things or feeling uncertain with your adoption plan.
Why There Might Be a Lack of Support After Placement
Before and after placement, it can be hard for your family and friends to really relate to your thought process and what you are going through. Kacey Bailey a contributor for Adoption.com, outlined some reasons why they just might not be understanding you in one of her posts. Here is what she gathered from her own experiences:
1. They’re afraid to feel what you are feeling or what you’ve felt.
The first time I attended a group of birth mothers was when I was pregnant. I sat there, staring at these girls, terrified to be where they were in just a few short months. Pain was written in their eyes and I was literally afraid to feel that way. I had no words for them. I yearned to reach out and comfort these precious souls, yet was terrified to open myself up to them as they were doing for me. The reality of what birth moms have done for a child, to willingly allow another person (or persons) to stand in her shoes, is unimaginable. It seems unfair of birth moms to expect their friends and family to attempt empathy, especially when it’s so frightening to be that distressed.
2. You’re an individual.
The story of how I became a birth mom isn’t too exciting, nor is it uncommon. Girl meets boy. Girl and Boy become friends. Girl and Boy have a one night stand. Boy leaves when Girl gets pregnant. While it’s so very basic, it’s also exceptionally complex. Allow me to be selfish while I say that what I experienced was different than what anyone else will ever know. My personality led me to where I needed to be, my thinking process is what guided me to my son’s parents, and my pain was felt in a way that nobody else will feel. I’m an individual. Take anybody else whose story lines up with mine in every manner, and we will have two different experiences. Birth moms should not expect someone who hasn’t experienced a similar situation to try to grasp the amount of hurt that is endured daily.
3. They wish they could help more.
I had many friends abandon me when I became pregnant. Others stood awkwardly at the sidelines. It’s been 5 years since placement and I know now that most of the reasoning behind it was simple. They wanted to offer me the world. They wanted to offer me food, a job, a place to stay, a way to provide for me. In my pride, I refused it all and they were left not knowing how to help. It’s one thing to tell them “just be there for me” when nobody knows what “there” is. They gave the advice they would have given to themselves and since they couldn’t do it all, some did nothing. Not out of spite, or anger, but rather out of fear. People fear what they don’t know. Let them know that you just need a shoulder to cry on. When that’s all they offer you, be appreciative.
4. Everyone handles grief in her own way.
Yes, there are the 5 stages of grief that we all experience after a loss. How we work through them are different. There was a fellow birth mom who dived into school just days after placement. I laid in my bed and cry for a few weeks, then stood up one day and went back to my life as well as I could. Some people may start up a new hobby while others will invest themselves into an old one. There are many ways to cope with loss, everybody is unique. Thus, there aren’t any people out there who know how I handled the loss of a child—nor how I’m handling it right now. My friends don’t know that my sudden outbreak of tears is actually a healthy release. It’s certainly not fair for me to expect them to know, that while my tears are a sign of frustration and longing, they’re also a sign that my healing process is an ongoing process.
5. Sometimes, they think you need to “get over it.”
I have been told to “move on” from this child more times than not. As I stand there, in tears, I see a friend roll her eyes and look away. It’s not as if my pain is interrupting her life. It’s more that her healing process is different from mine, and she doesn’t understand that. While there’s part of me who wants to cut those people out of my social group, there’s a smaller, smarter part of me that uses this as a teaching opportunity. I explain, and while explaining, I heal. Talking has always helped my mind to organize emotions. While she may scoff and respond with, “I just don’t understand why you can’t move on.” I just smile and say, “I don’t want to”. That child is my heart and soul. He is part of me in a way that he will never be part of somebody else. I hold him sacred in my heart and if I were to cut ties with his memories, I would lose part of who I have become.
A lot of what Kacey felt and still feels is not uncommon for birthparents. If your family or friends don’t understand, it is important to realize that sometimes…they just don’t understand and then to explore options for other types of support during your adoption journey.
Finding an External Support System
When you place through an adoption agency, many will offer some sort of continued support for birth parents before, during and after placement. Taking advantage of these resources might not always feel natural or like something you want to do, but it has proven successful for so many birth parents. In a previous blog we discussed the importance of support. One AFTH Birthmother remembered the feelings she had surrounding her first support group meeting:
“I didn’t want to go at all, but I knew deep down that I needed to go. I reluctantly RSVP’d. I dreaded it and looked forward to it at the same time, knowing it was out of my comfort zone. My feet and heart were heavy when I walked into my first meeting, which was only 2 months after I placed my daughter. I was a ball of nerves with a pocket full of tissues. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to talk, but I thought hearing other stories could be helpful. I teared up as soon as I walked in the room and saw the other women who had done the same thing I did. It made adoption even more real for me, if that’s possible. It helped me realize that it affects many women from all walks of life and that I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.”
Whether you need support before or after placement, there are options for everyone. Use links like this one to find support group meetings or counselors in your area. Birthmombuds is another great online resource where you may find support. And if you get the courage and are brave enough, share your story. Often times, people don’t know who they can turn to for support and you might find other birthparents or others who have been touched by adoption who will then become your support.