Each situation and person is different but below are some common emotions people experience during and after the adoption process.
- Depression. Depression is often the most common emotion a birth mother or father experiences when placing a child. It is very important to speak with family, friends or your adoption counselor if you are feeling depressed.
- Disappointment. Even if you know you are making the best choice for both you and your baby, you may feel a sense of disappointment. Disappointed that you were not in a situation to raise your child.
- Loss. Placing a child for adoption can cause a sense of loss that may begin with the pregnancy itself. The feeling of loss often is replaced with the hope that placing the child for adoption will result in a better life for the baby and themselves.
- Grief. Grief is a normal reaction to loss and may be expressed as denial or shock.
- Anger. Anger sometimes is directed towards those who helped with the adoption placement. The anger sometimes does not take place until months after the relinquishment.
- Guilt. Many birth parents may find themselves dealing with guilt for placing their child. The guilt may be associated with the unplanned pregnancy itself or with admitting the situation to people. Guilt is frequently supported by the secrecy surrounding the adoption.
Dealing with the Emotions
If you are placing your child through an adoption agency, there will be a support system within the agency. Some support groups may be available or your social worker can get you in contact with a birth parent who shares or has been through a situation that you are in. Being able to openly share your feelings can be helpful in moving through the stages of grief.
Acceptance of the loss and working through the grief does not mean that you will never feel sorrow or regret for the loss or even that you regret your decision. It simply means that you can integrate the loss into your life experience and live a life that will make your son or daughter proud of you.
Understanding Birth Parent Grief, Loss & Healing
When considering adoption you should understand that it stems from a loss on both ends. The birth parents have incurred a loss in a child that they may have hoped to have raised. The adoptive parents may have incurred a loss in the idea of giving birth to a child. Either way you should understand that the adoption process, especially the relinquishment of rights, involves a grief process unlike other types of grief such as death or separation. Below are the types of grief you may experience after the relinquishment of your rights.
In the midst of the physical and emotional strain of having given birth, you also face the decision of relinquishment and the loss this decision involves, all in a very short space of time.
Numbness & Denial
Making such an important decision in the middle of intense emotional upheaval after giving birth can lead to a period of shock, numbness, confusion and at times denial. Denial is a primitive defense mechanism and needs to be respected. Denial can result in birth mothers having little recall of the events that happened which can result in guilt. As stated, it is a primitive defense mechanism and normal.
Eruption of Feelings
As the shock, confusion, and denial wear off, floods of intense feelings may erupt without any specific trigger. You may experience a range of feelings such as sadness, fear, anger, panic, guilt, shame, helplessness, emptiness, loneliness, and anxiety. Feelings could be expressed indirectly through physical symptoms such as headaches, nightmares or stomach pain. Gradually these emotions will decrease in intensity and become connected to triggers associated with memories or loss.
Accepting the Adoption Decision
Some women and men will feel this acceptance immediately, while others may go through a longer grieving process. When men and women who place their child for adoption are in charge of their decision, they generally have an easier time adjusting to life after relinquishment. The sense of responsibility of making the decision does not necessarily lessen the grief process but may help lessen the feelings of anger or blame in the years to come.
Living with the Relinquishment
Birth parents will find ways to live with the repeatedly sensitive areas such as the child’s birthday, others’ pregnancies, future pregnancies, baby showers, and other losses. Birth parents will find a way to answer such questions as “Do you have any children?” or “You’ll know what being separated from a child is like when you have children of your own.” Every situation is different but with open adoption and the help of an adoption agency’s social workers and counselors you can overcome any difficulties you may experience.