6 Feelings to Expect After Placing a Baby for Adoption
If you’re in the process of making an adoption plan, or if you’re just beginning to consider adoption for your baby, you may be anxious about how you’ll feel after placement. That’s understandable. Placing a child for adoption is a deeply difficult thing, and you want to know if you’ll be okay or if you’ll regret choosing adoption. With time and support, you will be comfortable with your decision and be able to accept it in the years to come. After placement you may experience any range of emotions, in varying combinations and to varying degrees. You’ll likely go through your own version of the seven stages of grief. Everyone handles loss in their own way and in their own time. However, shortly after placement, birth parents have most commonly expressed feeling:
Guilt“Was this the right choice?” “I should have tried harder to make parenting work.” “He’s going to hate me someday.” No matter how much others may remind you that your child will love and accept you, and that you did the best you could in your situation, many birth parents still feel guilt or shame after placement. Try to be kind and patient with yourself. Remember, you chose the path that was best for you and your child at the time, and there is never any shame in that.
Relief“Is it wrong for me to feel relieved?” “I’m glad she’s going to be taken care of, but I’m glad that I don’t have to raise a baby right now — does that make me a bad parent?” “Is it okay for me to move on?” It’s not wrong if you feel a sense of relief after placement. You went through a lot to make sure that your child had the best future possible, and the last several months have probably been some of the most difficult you’ve ever faced. You deserve the same peace and happiness that your child will have.
Loss“There’s a hole in my heart.” “I feel empty.” “Nobody around me can understand what this feels like.” You’ve suffered a great loss. Every birth parent will mourn that loss differently, so try not to compare how you process this to anyone else’s experience. However, do make sure that you don’t feel alone and that you practice self-care. Talk to your spouse, family and friends, your adoption specialist, religious leader, or join a support group for birth parents.
Anger“If I had more support from my family or my adoption specialist, I could have raised my baby, I’m sure of it.” “It’s not fair. Why should they get to raise a child and not me?” When we’re in pain, it often comes out as anger. It can be tempting to find someone to blame — the adoptive parents, a birth father, the adoption specialist, or yourself. But remember that, even though you’re experiencing pain, there’s no one at fault. Explore healthy ways to express your anger, so you avoid lashing out at anyone (including yourself).
Sadness and Grief“It’s hard to feel like anything will be okay again.” “I miss my baby.” “I don’t deserve to feel happy again.” However you experience your sadness is okay. Whenever you need to cry, let it out. If you express those emotions through art, immerse yourself in that. Remember to continue reaching out to others as you grieve. At your own pace, try to incorporate new things in your life to help deal with sadness. Explore a new hobby, write about what you’re feeling in a journal, or challenge yourself to daily fitness routines with a friend.
Hope“They’re a beautiful family. I’m happy for them.” “I’ll be excited to see photos of him.” “It’ll be nice for my future kids to meet her someday.” Give yourself permission to feel hopeful and joyful, whenever the emotions come. There’s a lot of joy in adoption, and there will be a lot of joy in your life outside of adoption in the years to come. Many birth parents have said that, even in the sadness of parting with their child that first time, they felt hope for the life that he or she would have. Your child will have a life full of love, and you deserve the same.
Finding Acceptance Will Take as Long as It TakesFor some birth parents, feeling at peace with the adoption decision happens fairly quickly. For others, it takes a long time and involves a lot of work. No two journeys to acceptance are the same, and none are wrong. This can be frustrating when you just want to stop hurting over the loss of your child. But continue to stay patient with and be kind to yourself. If you feel like you’re “stuck” and you just can’t make progress toward acceptance, you might benefit from the help of an experienced counselor. Together, you may be able to talk through emotions you might be struggling with and about how you can begin to feel more at peace.
Post-Placement Feelings Can Resurface Throughout the YearsPlacing a child for adoption is, in many ways, a traumatic event. And, throughout your life, certain experiences may “trigger” some thoughts and emotions, even if you haven’t felt them in a very long time. For example, for some birth mothers, giving birth to a child after placing their previous child for adoption can make them miss their older child more than usual. Many birth parents feel both sad and happy around their child’s birthday each year. If you do re-experience difficult feelings, reach out to your support team for comfort. Talk about your feelings with other birth parents. Do simple acts of self-care. Take time to relax and reflect. Do whatever you need to do to acknowledge your feelings, and keep taking care of yourself.
Birth Parent Support is AvailableTake advantage of post-adoption support whenever you need it. Some birth parents feel alone after placing a baby for adoption. But remember that you’re never alone. Some options for post-placement support include:
- Professional counseling with an adoption-competent therapist
- Birth parent support groups (online or in person)
- Your former adoption specialist