Today's post comes from Monika, who is a birth mother through domestic adoption. At Give1 Domestic, we like to support all corners of the adoption triad to learn and grow from each other. Today's post is for any expectant mothers who have relinquished or are considering making an adoption plan (and also those of us who are APs or PAPs to learn from). You can find more of Monika’s writing on her blog, Monika’s Musings (www.musingmonika.com).
I was asked to write about resources for birth moms. Unfortunately there are not a lot of resources, but I do have some tips for dealing with the wide range of emotions common to the journey of being a birth mom.
Whether you’re new to the grief of being a birth mom or whether you’ve been a birth mom for a while, it’s most important to realize that you’re not alone and that it’s okay to grieve no matter how long it has been since you relinquished your child. I hope that your child’s parents have realized the importance of you in their child’s life and have continued a relationship with you past the time of your child’s birth and relinquishment. If you have a relationship with your child and his or her parents, that’s wonderful. If you don’t, I’m very sorry to hear that. If you're a birth parent and it was your idea to walk away, I encourage you to reach out to your child and his or her parents. If you are an adoptive parent, I'd consider attempting to contact your child's birth parent(s).
Even if you have an open adoption and are at peace with your decision to relinquish, the grief will never disappear. You will have days when you feel like you’re at the bottom of a deep dark pit, and you will have days that go smoothly. There will be events that you will expect to trigger at least a certain amount of grief and there will be times when your grief comes out of the blue and knocks you to your knees.
Come to terms with your decision. It is very important to come to terms with your decision for the best healing. Even if you feel you were forced into the decision to relinquish, forgiveness is important. Forgive the people you feel controlled your adoption, most importantly yourself, whether you felt in control of the situation or whether you felt like someone else was controlling the situation and outcome. I know from experience that birth moms struggle with self-loathing because they aren’t parenting their child. Though in my own situation I’m at peace with my decision and I was not coerced into making that decision, I still struggle with self-loathing at least occasionally. I’ve found the more forgiveness you can give yourself and others, the more it helps you in your grief journey. You don’t have to confront the people with your forgiveness. Write down how you feel they wronged you. Then write down that you forgive them and mean it. Once you’ve done that, destroy it so you can let that part of the situation go. The same concept and application applies to forgiving yourself.
Reach out and find other birth moms. I didn’t really start healing until I found other women that had been through very similar experiences. Obviously no two experiences are exactly alike no matter how similar the circumstances. However, every birth mom shares the experience of carrying a child in our wombs and then giving that child to someone else who will call that child their own. My caseworker at the agency through which I relinquished told me about BirthMom Buds. Though BirthMom Buds has resources for expectant women considering adoption as well as some resources for adoptive parents, the main focus of the website and group is helping connect birth moms no matter where they live. The founders both live on the East Coast, and I live on the West Coast. I’ve still found that connection with other birth moms that was lacking in my life. You can find BirthMom Buds on their website at http://www.birthmombuds.com . The forums on that website are limited to birth moms, so you have the capability of talking about anything in complete privacy and confidence. Through the forums there is a hosted chat on Monday nights, even though the chat room is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. BirthMom Buds also has a Facebook page that is open to anyone: http://www.facebook.com/birthmombuds . For anyone that would like insights into the thoughts and emotions birth moms may face, I suggest liking BirthMom Buds on Facebook to keep abreast of events and blog posts, and also you can subscribe to the quarterly newsletter.
Start a local support group. Unfortunately there’s online support, but not many in-person support groups. There’s a small list on the BirthMom Buds blog, but it’s solely lacking. If you do start a support group that even meets semi-regularly, I’m certain BirthMom Buds would love to know and spread the word about your group. It doesn’t matter how big or small your group. It can be you and one other birth mom. If you spend time together supporting each other, that’s what defines a support group. I’m fortunate enough to have access to a group through a local LDS Family Services office (though I didn’t relinquish through them and I’m not LDS, they’ve been welcoming). Until recently we would just get together and talk randomly about whatever was on the minds and hearts of the people there that particular evening.
Write. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, I would also suggest starting a journal. You don’t have to write complete sentences and paragraphs. You can write out single words – whatever comes to mind. You could draw, scribble, or paint. All of those are forms of journaling and I know from experience that keeping a journal is immensely therapeutic. If you find you enjoy writing, you can start a blog. When you start a blog, there are online communities of writers talking about their experiences. I’m unsure if there’s a general forum for the birth moms that blog about closed adoptions, but there is one for birth moms living open adoptions. It’s called Open Adoption Bloggers (http://openadoptionbloggers.com/) and it’s actually a gathering place for all members of the adoption triad – birth parents, adoptive parents, and even adoptees. Our leader, Heather, provides occasional writing prompts and an extensive blogroll. She’s actually an adoptive mom, and she and her husband have open adoptions with the birth families of all three of their children.
Hopefully the tips I’ve shared with you have been helpful. If anyone has other thoughts, I’d love to hear them!