The Birthmother Shift – 12 Years In an Adoption Fog

Pondering Milestones in an Adopted Child’s Life and The Affects on a Birthmother’s Loss

shifts in birthmother understand and adoption lossesA long time ago, when I was still new to AdoptionLand, I tried to create a sort of Birthmother flow chart that detailed the different “kinds” of birth mothers and how our feelings ebb and change.  I think I was still trying to make sense of all the varied feelings that birth moms had towards the adoptions of their child as my own feelings were going though the process. I couldn’t believe that not everyone felt like me and had a similar experience.

Understanding the Time Line of a Birth Mother

The birth mother flowchart had two main points of entry; either a BSE forced adoption or a later adoption that was “chosen”. Then The BSE spilt into moms that buried the whole experience or moms that were fighting mad from the get go.  The buried moms had a point, usually around reunion, where they split up and could join the fighting mad moms, where on the “choice side” there were different points of exit; from right away to when the “open” adoption was “closed” where they too could leave the Kool Aide crowd and join the righteously angry. All roads lead to Rome and a mom who felt adoption sucked. I still maintain that given enough time and truth, the majority of mothers will not see the loss of their child in a positive light.

I played with this concept for years and have finally given up. No matter what the similarities for the relinquishment journey, forcing us to fit into some preconceived flow chart can’t account for the many variables. However, I am still fascinated a trying to understand the changes; the shifts in birthmother  cognizance for over a decade now. Are there patterns? How come some of us “wake up” earlier than others? Why the Birthmother Kool-Aid has stronger power over others?

When Does the Adoption Fog Lift?

For a long time now, I have been noticing that when the adopted child gets to about ages 10 to 15, something changes with moms.  Sometimes I say that is when the adoption Kool-Aid wears off; maybe it is a ten year shelf life? Maybe it is the decade of life experiences that give us a better sense of what we are capable of; increasing our own self worth and providing a foundation of understand that we could have successfully parented our children lost to adoption? Maybe it is the act of having other children and seeing the bond that teaches us that we have value and shows us what we lost? I don’t know why I hunt for these illusive answers, but I search for understanding about myself in others birth mothers.

I have listened to many mothers “come out” of the adoption closet or fog. Watched them struggle with understanding, facing the reality of the losses, noting mentally at what ages, what time frame this tends to happen.  I have had informal discussion and asked the question outright in groups; what precipitated the shift? What  was the time frame? And over the last decade, I have notices that there is almost an organic shift in a birthmothers feelings and understanding about the adoption and relinquishment loss around year 12.  Sometimes a few years before, sometimes after closer to 15 or so; but give a mother with a story much like myself- thinking we were doing the “right thing”, everything else going along as “planned” –  many “happy” birthmothers go “bad” after a dozen years.


Why Does it Take 10 or 12 years for the Birth Mother Kool-Aid to Wear Off?

Often, the deeper I think about one thing, the more it eludes me, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that a possible understanding came from a conversation had that had nothing to do with adoption.  Sometimes the brain gives that light bulb moment in the most unexpected places when it is allowed to roam freely.

Anyway, I was talking about Scarlett and Tristan, in the midst of birthdays and getting older. These are the “babies” – yet she just turned 13, he is a firm 11 1/2 and they are babies no longer.


At or around age 12, childhood is over.

The End of Childhood

It’s one thing to think about the care of a baby and to  be separated from a “blank slate”. Another thing to realize that one is missing out of important milestones of a child’s life and not to be there for the first word, the first step, the first day of school. When a child starts having double digit birthdays and puberty is right around the corner, the fact is that a huge portion of the parenting is over. The needed influences, the hands on parenting, the shaping of this small person,  is done and often, we just have to hope that we paved a strong foundation as they venture into the teen years and  start developing their own sense of self and become more independent.

And for birth mothers, it is obvious that we missed the whole thing. It’s over. Our child is in the final stages of growing up without us. Their whole childhood is gone. They grew up without us. It’s done.

And so, while there is no hard and fast version of the “Birthmother Rules” that we can all fit into – I do believe that the end of childhood does add a certain sense of finality to a birthmother’s life. I think the dawning of our child’s teen years and the end of childhood can trigger a response where we are more apt to look back and see the complete loss of a child’s life in a new way. The losses, rather than simple milestones, become a complete picture and we wonder; what did I do? How did I think it was a good idea to let all this pass me by?  We understand it is all gone now and those years, the whole life of our child , is something that we can never get back.

And it is a loss that becomes more profound in it’s entirely and so the questions begin.

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Claudia Corrigan DArcy

About Claudia Corrigan DArcy

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.
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2 Responses to The Birthmother Shift – 12 Years In an Adoption Fog

  1. Suz says:

    Much like Lorraine – I was pretty fighting made from the day I surrendered her. My anger was only compounded when I sought my first psych consult (she was 6 months old at this time) for the crying baby that would wake me at night and I would look for, the suicidal ideation and more. That consult found me in the office of a psychiatrist who told me he did not understand why I had a problem….I should be thankful and appreciative someone took the child born to a “girl like me”. He refused to see me but referred me to a student he had assigned to him. I kept it all buried and to myself (while putting on the happy productive upwardly mobile face for the rest of the world) waited until she was 18 to really look.

  2. Judy Thompson says:

    I wish to God I knew why it took me so long to come out of the fog. At 48.5 years old I woke up, fired up the computer, went to the website of my adoption agency, asked questions, opened up my file and because I get my OBC this year, I am waiting to start my search. I have been out of the fog since (let me go find that first email) since June 6, 2013 and then I THREW the shackles of adoption completely off and I am ready to change my name to the name my mother named me. I wish I could explain why or how I could make such a 180° in a matter of hours. I am mad at myself for not waking up sooner. Why, why, why, why did I not do this sooner? My state offered the ability to contact the first mom since I was 14. I could have had my mom back before my awful marriage and the birth of a child I did not want.
    The other thing I do not understand why it is so hard for others to understand that I WAS the well-adjusted adoptee and that well-adjusted adoptees want their first families. Nobody seems to understand how pro adoption I was before all of this change. Adoption seems to be as an emotive topic as religion, politics and abortion. It’s crazy and I hate it. I wish I never was adopted. I could have had just as magical upbringing as my adoptive cousins, but like them, I would have been raised by my first family.

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