Adoptimist Adoption Blog
December 2, 2015

Being a Birthmother is Bittersweet


Until I became a birthmother I rarely heard and had probably never used the word bittersweet. But now I think it is a perfect word that accurately describes what it is like to be a birthmother, particularly a birthmother in an open adoption. It just really describes the ups and downs of being a birthmother in one single word, like no other in the English language.

According to Your Dictionary, bittersweet is defined as “a combination of both bitter and sweet, or an emotional feeling that is a mixture of both happy and sad.” Sounds like an accurate description of being a birth mom in an open adoption to me. Don’t read me wrong, I am so grateful, blessed, and lucky to have an open adoption and I don’t take that lightly. But I also acknowledge that being a birthmother is emotionally painful. There are sweet moments of joy and happiness that are often and quickly followed by low moments of sadness and grief.

For me personally…

Sweet is giving life to a precious baby boy and spending unforgettable moments with him in the hospital. Bitter is placing him into the arms of his adoptive parents and watching him drive off in the opposite direction, just three days after his birth. 

Sweet is getting to see him, talk to him, or mail him birthday presents each year. Bitter is not being the person who throws birthday parties for him and his friends. 

Sweet is getting to be a part of his life and watching him grow up. Bitter is watching him run to someone else when he is hurt and hearing him call someone else Mom.  

Sweet is getting to watch him and his brother (the child I parent) bond. Bitter is two brothers living in different households being raised by different parents.

Sweet is getting to visit my son. Bitter is saying goodbye after a couple of hours. 

Sweet is buying him Christmas presents and having a Christmas visit or calling him on Christmas day to find out what Santa brought. Bitter is not getting to decorate the tree together or bake holiday cookies with him, or hang his stocking with the others on my mantel, or seeing the excitement on his face Christmas morning.

Sweet is getting to hear about how good he does in school. Bitter is not being the person who helps him with his homework, school projects, or encourages him on a daily basis. 

Sweet is receiving a short video of his first band concert or the speech he made when running for President of his school’s student government. Bitter is not being there rooting for him in person.

While I’m glad to have the sweet moments, the bitter ones are sad and painful. But they are just a part of the grief that I have learned is a typical part of being a birthmother. I’ve learned in life that you have to take the good with the bad. So I’ll take the bitter moments in order to relish the sweet ones. After all, it’s better to have the sad feelings afterward than to have neither.

About The Author

Coley Strickland

Nicole “Coley” Strickland has become a strong voice for expectant mothers and birthmothers. At the age of 25, she became a birthmother, lovingly placing her three-day-old baby boy into an open adoption and the arms of his adoptive parents. She and fellow birthmother Leilani Wood went on to found BirthMom Buds, a website and nonprofit organization that provides support to birthmothers.

Coley has further given a voice to the bittersweet turmoil of birthmothers, becoming an active member of the adoption community, writing, speaking and sharing her story with others. In addition to her numerous blogs, she has also been featured on a number of radio programs, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as in the books: How to Create a Successful Adoption Portfolio by Madeleine Melcher and A Personal Touch on Adoption by Peter Berlin. In addition to her many other roles, Coley has been blessed to parent her special needs son Noah, who along with the son she placed, is the love of her life.

Visit Coley's site at
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About This Adoption Blog

The Adoptimist blog features advice, tips, and inspiration for adoptive parents who are actively pursuing adoption connections online.

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