After writing the post 5 Things You Should not Say to a Birthmother, I posted a link to it on the BirthMom Buds Facebook page. I received responses of some hurtful comments that other birthmothers shared that I didn’t include in my first post, so I thought we’d take a look at those additional comments and why they are painful.
As I said in my last post, I know people don’t say these things to be intentionally hurtful. I realize they just don’t know what to say, so they say something.
“You’re not that child’s mother,” or “You shouldn’t call yourself a mother,” or some variation indicating that a birthmother is no longer a mother. A birthmother placing her child for adoption doesn’t make her less of a mother. She was and is that child’s first mother and will always be that child’s mother, loving, caring for, and thinking about that child from a distance. Adoption doesn’t sever the love she feels for that child. In fact, if you want to be supportive, acknowledge her as that child’s mother. So few people acknowledge our motherhood as birthmothers.
“Are you going to get him/her back?” Unless it’s within the allotted time allowed in some states (this varies, as some states have no revocation period while other states have up to thirty days), it’s not possible for a birthmother to reclaim her child once she has signed relinquishment papers terminating her parental rights. This statement is painful and a moot point.
“Wasn’t that hard?” Truthfully, the smart aleck in me really wants to say, “Duh!” in response to this, but I usually hold back. Placing a child for adoption is undoubtedly the hardest thing I have ever done in my thirty-something years of life.
“Isn’t it hard to see him/her?” This is said in response to finding out that a birthmother has an open adoption. It is hard to see your placed child, but open adoption is more about the child than anyone else. You can continue on, even though it’s difficult.
“Who does the child think is his or her ‘real’ mother?” This is another one often said in response to finding out someone is a birthmother participating in an open adoption. This one makes me chuckle a bit because both my son’s adoptive mother and I are real people. Neither of us is a pretend, imaginary person. Children raised in open adoptions typically grow up with the understanding that their birthmother is who gave them life and continues to hold a special place in their life via open adoption. Their (adoptive) mother is Mom, plain and simple.
So you’re probably wondering, what should you say in response to finding out someone is a birthmother? Honestly, there’s not a lot you can say unless you are another birthmother and can truly relate to that pain. But I just like it when someone asks me about my child in a nice way, like asking his name, if he looks like me, and so on. That acknowledges my motherhood and makes me feel as normal as possible about the whole situation. I asked several of my birthmom friends the same question, and they pretty much all agreed with me.