Understand that the birth mother needs to experience and process her grief in order to work through it.
A woman who has made the decision to put her baby up for adoption is a selfless, courageous woman. It’s important to use the right language to describe a woman’s choice: she isn’t putting a baby up for adoption; she’s making an adoption plan. Many women make the sacrifices they need to in order to ensure the best future for both their babies and themselves. It takes tremendous strength to resist our maternal instincts for what she believes in her heart is best for her child.
Honor this woman, but never overestimate her strength to the point where you forget to give her the support she needs to get through this.
People often believe that, once the decision is made, a birth mother is always at peace with her decision. They wrongly believe that she’s ready to move forward with relief and joy, putting it all “behind her.”
Rarely does a woman put her child “behind her,” though. A birth mother carries her child forever in her heart, along with some level of guilt, sadness, longing, questions, and wondering whether she truly made the right choice. She will never forget her child. Show her that you haven’t forgotten either.
Whether this woman is your daughter, relative, friend, significant other, or even the woman who has enabled you to have a child through open adoption, your instinct may be to try to help her forget, or to tell her that her feelings are not the right ones. Of course, your heart is in the right place, but the best thing to do is allow her to experience her feelings. Acknowledge that this is a difficult grieving process.
With loss comes grief. This is normal, and she doesn’t need to run and hide from it, but she does need a lot of support.
Agree that life is not always fair. Let her know how brave and selfless you believe her to be, and that you understand why she won’t always believe this of herself. Remind her that she has value and worth, and how important her own life is, in addition to the life she gave to her birth baby. She gave life by carrying and birthing the baby, but also made important sacrifices to give her baby the life she wanted for her or him.
Stressing her bravery and worth is so important, because these are things she may question perpetually. If she begins to withdraw or provoke arguments, understand that she is questioning whether she deserves love or relationships of other kinds after making a difficult choice for her own baby. Assure her that she does.
Ignoring grief makes it fester and persist. Encourage her to face it and she will heal, though the grief will resurface throughout her life, just as grief resurfaces when we think of friends we’ve lost touch with or people who have died. We get through it by letting it in. Allow her to do the same.
Help her find support from a therapist experienced with birth mothers, as well as other birth mothers who are going through the same thing. While family and friends are invaluable, those who are so very familiar with her situation can offer a special kind of comfort.
I have been there and I can help.