Grief is a natural sense of sadness we experience anytime a major loss occurs in our lives. Birthmother grief is unique. I call it unique because it is unlike most other grief. Typically, when we think of grieving over someone, it is usually someone who has passed on. With birthmother grief, you are grieving the loss of your everyday parenting to a child who is still living, just with different people.
After carrying her baby for 9 months, a birthmother places her baby for adoption, entrusting the baby to the adoptive parents. She leaves the hospital empty handed with a hole in her heart. This is the start of her grieving process, although a birthmother’s internal struggle can begin during pregnancy as she prepares for placement. I think it most definitely hits you when you leave the hospital without your baby.
Some of the normal feelings associated with birthmother grief are denial, disbelief, confusion, shock, sadness, humiliation, despair, and guilt.
• Denial and disbelief. You do not deal with the situation. You push the feelings aside and do not want to talk about it or think about it. You try to rush back into everyday life like the birth of your child never happened.
• Confusion and shock. Everything still seems very surreal. It is hard for you to comprehend what has happened. You have moments when you cannot believe that the pregnancy is over and the baby was born and placed for adoption.
• Sadness and humiliation. You feel depressed and embarrassed about your situation. You feel as if you have hit rock bottom.
• Despair and guilt. You feel guilty for getting pregnant and may even feel guilty for not being able to parent. You question your decision making ability.
A grieving birthmother can feel a roller coaster of emotions. Feeling in control and reasonable one minute and feeling out of control and emotional the next. Birthmothers are also experiencing post-partum hormones which add to it. It’s a lot for anyone to handle. Below are some suggested ways to cope with birthmother grief:
• Maintain contact with supportive friends and family. Now is not the time to have negative people in your corner. Avoid those who do not agree with your decision and loudly make it known. Talk with your friends and family when you are feeling down.
• Express your emotions. Do not keep your feelings bottled up inside. Talk with someone you are close to. Write in a journal. If you are angry, hit your pillow or scream. If you are upset, it is ok to let yourself cry. Get it out.
• Take care of yourself. Be sure to follow-up with post-pregnancy doctors’ visits. Eat regularly, drink plenty of fluids, and get plenty of rest. Now is not the time to be slacking on taking care of yourself. Your physical health also influences your mental health.
• Join a support group or seek out other birthmothers. BirthMom Buds or Big Tough Girl are two such groups. Having others who have made it past the post-partum stage of adoption to support and encourage you is very important for your morale. You need to hear: “You can do it”! They made it and so can you.
And please, if you feel your grief is getting out of control and too much for you to handle alone, seek out the help of a professional counselor or therapist.