When New Birthmothers Try to Mitigate Adoption Pain
I belong to various Birthmother Support groups on Facebook and I have been bothered by something recently. Sadly, there are always brand new birthmothers joining and they are so happy to have a place to come to for advice. Here’s the thing; I have seen more than a few ask :
“What can I do to help my healing process.”
Now maybe I am jaded, but the way I read into this is that they believe it is up to them to find a path to heal from relinquishment. They believe it is possible and I am going to assume that it is because the adoption agencies are telling them some new version of “process your grief and find peace in your decision.” Actively seeking out ways to heal is somehow empowering? And these new birthmoms are being proactive in looking for advice?
Setting Birthmothers Up to Fail; Healing
This makes me so angry.
It’s bad enough that the adoption industry is still promoting that somehow it is OK to relinquish a baby to adoption and that the long term effects of relinquishment on birthmothers does not exists despite all the scientific research to the quandary. But by putting the impossible task to “healing from relinquishment” on the actual birthmother; they are also setting her up to fail.
I don’t care if she manages to focus on the positives. I don’t care if she has a great relationship with the most wonderful adoptive parents in their whole universe. I don’t care if she has fabulous support. I don’t care if she really wasn’t in any condition to be able to care for her baby.
Losing your child to adoption is still going to hurt like nothing else ever before.
There is NO escaping that. No mitigating. No deep breaths or journal writing is going to make it really go away.
By putting the onus on the birthmother to heal, there is a whole new crop of mothers coming thorough with some kind of weird checklist of healing activities and searching for the Holy Grail of Adoption Peace. But it’s NOT an Indiana Jones movie and the snakes are not at the bottom of the pit! And the problem is that she can do all these things that are recommended, but chances are she is still NOT going to feel much better! And then, when this adoption grief rears up and pokes it’s ugly head out of its black hole again, like so many birthmothers before her.. she is going to feel surprised and think that SHE did something wrong because she’s really not better! She is going to think that there is something wrong with her that she cannot get past the pain and grief. She is going to think that it’s her fault, that she is messed up, that she has failed again because she can’t get past the pain of the loss.
But it’s NOT her fault, it’s just adoption and it’s too damn late to get away from it.
There is NO Healing in Adoption
Oh, you can call me bitter. You can tell me that not everyone feel like I do, but I have already drank the Kool Aide and spit it out. I spent over a decade looking at the positive. I have processed. I have read the books. I have gone to the support groups. I have come out of the closet. I have put my energy to good use.
I have not healed.
Oh, I thought I was pretty good. I really DO have a very good degree of control. I am very aware of my adoption feelings and yet, I am still, over six months later, shocked at the depth of the emotions that came forth when I had to leave that kitten behind in the SPCA in April and it triggered a major adoption breakdown.
“We make it out the double glass doors and I burst into hysterical tears. Not weeping, not crying, but gut wrenching hysterical deep soul crushing sobs. Rye looks at me shocked, I am beyond all logic.
I make it about ten steps to the car, and then turn around….sobbing, tears flowing down my face, I go back in with the invention of telling them how wrong it is to do this to a person. I am not sure what I said. It was like I had stepped on an emotional land mind and now all this shrapnel of myself was just flying.”
Yeah, I learned. No matter who much “work” I have done, no matter how much I am aware, no matter how much I process, I was still completely knocked down, shoved face first into the grief mud and hit by a huge dump truck full of adoption relinquishment angst. It hurt like hell. Over 25 years after the fact and it still hurt like hell.
Adoption Birthmother Angst
As I sit here, writing now, it is the day before Max’s birthday and I am struggling with the residual emotions. Like really, I am crawling out of my skin , annoyed, irritated, and really need to just cry. Of course, and I think only other birthmothers can relate to this, the fear is if I start crying I will NOT be able to stop. Need I remind you that my adoption experience was really NOT bad, but rather was actually exactly how domestic infant adoption was supposed to go down in 1987? And overall today, I am a very happy person and I have exactly the life I want to have; except that I am still a birthmother and it still sucks.
I am completely reliving the horror of knowing that I relinquished my baby and a simple signature changed my whole life. Yet, my kids are home from school, dinner is on the stove, I will finish this post, fold laundry and somehow keep it together. Yet. I. Could. Start. Screaming. Any. Second.
I’m not exaggerating. I am not looking for it. It’s just what is. I tell you relinquishment is a physical aliment. Literally, my UTERUS hurts! And if I could really ignore this all and focus on something pretty like rainbows and butterflies to make this feeling GO AWAY I would, but I cannot. It is just there and SO very close to the surface. There is a constant mental, emotional and willful battle happening right now to keep the cover on it all and NOT act like I am losing my mind.
What Advice Can I Give a New Birthmom?
So how can anyone believe they can heal from relinquishment? I can’t tell any birthmother that she will heal. All I can say is:
- You get more used to living with the constant pain and loss of adoption.
- You learn that these feelings are normal for birthmothers and you are not alone.
- You learn to accept the grief when it comes and you learn to ride the waves of birthmother grief and hopefully not drown.
- You mourn the loss of your baby and their childhood and the relationship that you could have had.
- You mourn the loss of the woman / mother/ person you would have been.
- You become used to and accept this new you who will never be the same.
- You maybe, if you are lucky, learn to forgive yourself for thinking that adoption was a good idea.
I Do Not Believe a Birthmother Heals
But we do not heal. Sometimes the wound scabs over. Sometimes the scab gets thick and deep, but it can always be ripped away. And underneath it is still as raw and horrible as it was the day you walked away with empty arms. We just learn to avoid it better. We learn our triggers. We cushion the wound with bubble wrap. We wrap it carefully and try not to bump into things like rough corners that make it bleed and ooze. We bury it deeply, We drink the Kool Aid and stay in denial. We try to focus on the positive and say how happy our children are at our own expense.
But, there is no check list of post relinquishment activities . The stages of grief do not apply to birthmothers. The truth is that what a birthmother feels the day she leaves the hospital and on that first night that she cries herself to sleep will be with her to the end of her days.
It is always with us. It is always with me. Yet, I fear telling a new birthmother these things less she is so distressed by the lack of hope….
So we lie and say “It gets better over time” and ” The first year is always the hardest”…but it really doesn’t get better and the first year is just one of many.
Nothing will ever be the same again. Welcome to Birthmother Hell.