Giving your baby up for adoption is not an easy decision. In fact, it will likely be one of the hardest decisions of your life. I’ve worked with many expectant mothers and have witnessed the range of emotions that come with the adoption process. Sadness, guilt, even feeling stupid, are all common feelings. The following are descriptions of the main emotions you might feel when going through this experience and ways on how to work through them.
At the end of your pregnancy, you will have carried your baby for just under a year. During those months, you’ll likely have developed some type of bond with the child. The thought of giving the baby up for adoption can lead to immense sadness. This sadness can be linked to many things including thoughts of what it would have been like to raise the child, post-natal hormones, and adjusting to moving on with your life.
Allow yourself to feel the sadness as it is a natural part of the grieving process. If you think the sadness is progressing into depression (you can’t sleep, you’re having nightmares), consider counseling to learn how to effectively cope and recover. Speaking with other birth mothers that have gone through the adoption process, your family, and friends can also help you work through your sadness.
“How could I have been so stupid?!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. I said it myself when I got pregnant. Many women face an unplanned pregnancy without the support of the baby’s father. They frequently face the consequences alone, making some of the most important decisions of their lives. It’s natural under these circumstances to ask how you got there, to ask yourself “what was I thinking?” Remember that this is a normal reaction. It’s healthy to assess your choices, including the ones you consciously make and the ones you make without thinking about them first. Self-reflection is a form of taking responsibility for your choices, and it can lead to better decision making. Just remember that you need to forgive yourself in order to move forward.
Even though you chose adoption for good reasons, you may still feel guilty about not keeping the baby. This is all part of the range of emotions during the adoption process. Some women describe it as feeling as if they have let their child down by not being ready to parent. This is totally normal. Many birth mothers also report that down the road, they’ve been able to move past the guilt. At some point, they come to grips with the fact that they put their child on a better path and embraced the opportunity to make something of themselves and make their child proud.
There’s another type of guilt, however, that is unhealthy. Do NOT go forward with an adoption if you know it isn’t the right choice and someone is pressuring you to do it. Women in these situations feel they cannot change their minds and parent because the guilt from adopting parents, attorneys, and agency social workers is so strong. I’ve spoken with women who have described how hard it was to keep their baby (and they did!) because the adopting parents had been in the delivery room and held him. It’s okay to feel sad about disappointing someone, but don’t let your feelings of guilt drive you to make a decision that you know isn’t right for you.
Isolation (the most common!)
If there was one emotion that I think every birth mother has felt at some point, it’s isolation. No one really knows or understands the challenges that a woman faces when simply considering adoption, let alone after placement. Chances are she doesn’t know anyone who has been through the experience. Birth mothers rarely have someone to turn to who truly understands what she’s going through. I’ve spoken with birth mothers who placed children decades ago and who tell me that I’m the first birth mother they’ve ever spoken to.
If you’re feeling isolated, reach out to someone who has experience counseling birth mothers. You can find support online through public and private groups on Facebook and other social media. There are a few groups around the country who provide community and support for birth mothers as well.
One emotion many birth mothers don’t feel comfortable voicing but that is completely normal is relief. There are a few good reasons for this. First, many women report that once they’ve chosen a family and put a plan in place, they can stop worrying about what will happen to their child. Second, the stress of planning and telling people and making the decision is to place or not is complete. For some, the relief leads to the beginning of sadness as you start anticipating delivery and sending the baby home with the adoptive parents. Don’t be ashamed of these feelings. They are natural and normal and can help reaffirm that adoption was the right choice for you.
Regret (how did I get here?)
When the day in the hospital arrives to send the baby home with the adoptive parents, you may feel regret. This regret can come from thoughts of what could have been. Most likely, it is regret about getting pregnant in the first place. Many birth mothers report that feeling regret can be confusing because they don’t regret the decision to make an adoption plan. Typically, their regret is around the choices they made that got them there. While this sense of regret is normal it often passes. However, if you’re strongly second-guessing the decision, take a little more time to make sure that adoption really is the right choice before continuing in the process.
The range of emotions in the adoption process are wide and completely normal and you’re not alone in the experience. I’ve been there and I can help. Call me if you have any questions or just want to speak with someone about your options.