I wanted to make you aware of some resources that I recently discovered that may be applicable for some of you, or for your birth mothers if you are an adoptive family. Please pass these on to anyone you think may benefit from them.
A Birth Mom's Labor of Love
This is a blog from one of Tina Tyra's former birth moms who is very pleased with her adoption decision and wanted to provide a forum for birth moms looking for information and support for their decision.
Helping Kids Cope Positive Choice Award
This is a grant for birth mothers who have already completed their successful adoption plan.
I know this music video has been around for a while, but I recently rediscovered it and thought I’d share it with you. Mark Schultz is a Christian musician who was adopted as an infant, and this song and video shows you just how grateful he is to his birth mom for making the very difficult decision to make his adoption plan. I think that this is an excellent example of how adopted children succeed in life and understand that their birth parent(s) did what they did so they could. Almost all of our birth moms express concern that their children will think they were abandoned or that their birth moms didn’t love them, and we assure them that this is not the case. Our adoptive families have the highest respect and appreciation for their birth moms, and know that the process of making an adoption plan for their child must be excruciating. Adoptive parents, always remind your children that they have not one but two families that love them very much, and you can never have too many people loving you.
Everything to Me, Mark Schultz
A very happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there – adoptive, biological and birth mothers. Please do remember all the birth mothers out there who may not be celebrating this Mother's Day quite like the rest of us, and if any of you birth moms are reading this post, thank you. Without you, there are many adoptive moms who would not be celebrating this day.
A lot of adoptive parents wonder how they should handle birth parent grief, especially when they are so excited to finally be parents. Everyone experiences grief differently, so you have to be prepared for the spectrum. Particularly when in the hospital, if your birthmom wants to see you, be there for her. She may break down and cry, or she may be stoic, or she may be genuinely happy and relieved that it's over. Regardless of how she reacts, support her. Grief for birth parents after the baby is born and they are out of the hospital is more complicated. Placing a child for adoption is not painless, and the grief will not just go away by itself. Just as adoption is a lifelong commitment for adoptive parents, it is a lifelong commitment for birth parents as well. The difficulty for birth parents is often that they have no proof of their grief. In a sense, there is no body to bury. They know that their child is safe, secure and cared for by a loving family, often one they carefully chose, but it still feels like the child has died, or gone horribly missing. This is why it is important for adoptive parents to be open to sending pictures to the birth family – it provides comfort and assurance that the child is doing well, yes, but it also provides a concrete object for them to mourn. Some adoptive families give the birth family a gift at the hospital, such as a picture album, a necklace, or a figurine, or any other memento that would mean a lot to her. This is a reminder that the birth happened, she has done an impossibly hard thing, and she has a reason to grieve. As adoptive professionals and adoptive parents, it is important to recognize birth parent's sacrifice, and acknowledge it openly. While each birth parent shows grief differently, be assured they are grieving, and it is excruciating.
Grief is a subject intricately intertwined with adoption. All three members of the triad will have to experience and work through it. This includes adoptees, and it is somewhat heartbreaking for adoptive parents when they realize they cannot protect their child from this grief. All parents, biological and/or adoptive, have to come to the realization that they can't protect their child from everything, but adoptive children do have to come to the realization of their adoption and that it means that someone had to make the decision to place them for adoption. For some adoptees this is not as difficult (relatively) but for others it is very emotionally gut wrenching. Birthparents of course must grieve the child they lost, and often are surprised to find that they grieve throughout their lifetime. What is sometimes surprising for adoptive parents is how much and when they grieve. They too may be grieving throughout a lifetime, particularly those who have experienced infertility. As you watch your adopted child grow – the child you love and cherish – you sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have a biological child and watch them grow. This does not mean that you don't love your child, quite the contrary, it's clear you relish every moment. But do not be surprised if all of a sudden it hits you, and you need an occasional good cry. It's also okay to talk to someone about it, a trusted friend, your spouse, a pastor, or a counselor. But remember, all this grief you experience pales in comparison to the joy your child brings you. So do what you need to do to heal yourself – and it is extremely important that you pay attention to yourself – and then get back to the business of being a parent.
One of my clients recently related a remark made by a family member over the Thanksgiving meal regarding their adopted infant. While I won't repeat the actual comment, it included a reference to the birth family as the "real" family, and insinuated that having a relationship with them was highly undesirable.This adoptive mom was gracious in her response, both for the benefit of her family and her son, but it illustrates the difficulty in dealing with stereotypes and misinformation that's out there regarding adoption. Many of you will have similar experiences over the upcoming holidays. While, like my client, you will do better to graciously educate rather than fly off the handle, do not be afraid to point out that A) you are the "real" parent, and B) it is not a bad thing to have contact with the birth family. Stereotypes about adoption are hard to break, which is why you must be all the more vigilant to educate people gently about how wonderful it is. Many people assume that if you have contact with the birth family it will confuse the child, or that the birth mom will hunt you down later to take back your baby. Of course, this doesn't happen often, and you are proof that open adoption is not only possible, but really it is better for the child in the long run. It is also important that you maintain your composure for the sake of your child, as you want your child to view his/her birthparents positively. If every time someone mentions their birthparents you react negatively they could pick that up, even if you are defending the birth family. So keep on smiling, even if you are gritting your teeth to keep a smart retort from jumping out. Happy Holidays!