The first thing you should know about birth mothers is this: no two birth mothers are alike. There is no “typical” birth mother, so shake any stereotype you might have. Their experiences with adoption are all unique, but no less valid. That being said, most birth moms will share a few common threads.
Most people who have never been touched by adoption don’t know these things about birth mothers, and it can be frustrating for birth moms (and everyone in the adoption triad) to see misconceptions being circulated. So here’s your opportunity to learn.
These five things may seem simple, but it’s important that you understand this about birth mothers:
1. Birth Moms Love their Children
Never for a moment are children placed for adoption unloved or unwanted. Their birth parents love them. Their adoptive parents love them.
Birth and adoptive families have always loved their children and will always love them. Choosing adoption wouldn’t be possible if birth moms loved their children any less, because adoption means putting the needs of your child above your own. Birth moms never stop thinking about their children, nor do they stop loving them.
2. Birth Moms Don’t “Give Up” or “Give Away” their Children
“Giving up” for adoption is a common phrase, but in no way does a woman “give up” when she chooses adoption for her child. These are hurtful phrases that make it sound as if birth moms carelessly set aside their children, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
When a woman decides to place her child for adoption, it’s after a great deal of thought, heartache and painstaking consideration. She then carefully chooses the family who will raise her baby. Never make it seem as if this were the easy choice for birth mothers, because it was the hardest choice.
3. Birth Moms Will Grieve
Most birth moms will, in time, find peace and acceptance with their decision. They’re happy that their child is being raised by loving parents. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t still grieve the loss of their child. Remember that the birth mom’s entire family (her parents, grandparents, siblings, other children, etc.) all lost out on the chance to love and know this baby, and may grieve that loss, too.
There are so many joys in adoption, but there are also losses experienced by everyone. One of those losses is the loss of the birth mother’s opportunity to raise her child. That loss never goes away, and birth moms may grieve in different ways, and in their own time. Understand that even though a birth mother may not regret her decision, she can still grieve her loss.
4. Birth Moms Sometimes Have a Relationship with their Children
Today, 9 out of 10 adoptions are open, meaning birth parents have some kind of contact with their child and their child’s parents. An open adoption relationship usually sparks a lot of questions from people who don’t know much about adoption.
Open adoptions can mean whatever the people in that adoption want it to mean. For birth moms, it absolutely does not mean that they’re trying to step on the toes of the adoptive parents. Everyone involved can benefit from a positive open adoption relationship, especially the child, and that’s what’s most important.
5. Birth Moms Worry You Won’t Respect Them
Placing a baby for adoption is still fairly stigmatized. Birth moms may have faced pressure to raise the baby themselves, or to have a family member raise the baby, when they already had their hearts set on adoption. She may have made this difficult choice without the much-needed support of her friends, family or community. She may still keep her brave journey a secret because she’s worried it’ll change someone’s opinion of her.
More than anything else, birth moms want their children’s adoptive parents to speak well of them to their children. Many birth mothers fear that their child will not understand why they were placed for adoption. Some birth moms worry that their baby’s parents won’t talk about her at all — that she’ll be erased from their family’s story. Birth moms hope that their children’s parents respect them, and that they talk about adoption (and birth parents) with their child with a tone of love and respect.
If you don’t have any experience with adoption, please continue to learn about this common way families come together. Birth mothers (and all members of the adoption triad) will thank you for speaking respectfully and from a place of education about adoption!
Want to learn more about what adoption is like from the eyes of a birth mother? Follow ‘Thoughts from a Birth Mother’ for one birth mom’s perspective.
Check back at the Considering Adoption Blog soon to find out what adoptees want you to know and what adoptive parents want you to know.