Christmas trees, Thanksgiving turkey, friends and family gathered together to avoid the cold, etc. The holidays bring with them hustle and bustle, and plenty of emotions, good and bad, for all who experience them. As a birth mother who is still processing grief and sadness, the holidays can be very challenging.
Here are some tips to help a birth mother successfully navigate the holiday season:
Stay close to those you trust while at family activities.
There are so many different dynamics for every family. Every person plays a different role. While all families argue, they can typically come together for holiday meals, especially around the holidays. However, some families may have a more challenging dynamic. There are always certain people we are closer to in our family over others. Some members of our family are emotionally safe people to interact with, while others don’t feel as safe due to them expressing judgement over our decisions or just being unpleasant. Keep close to the people that you trust over the holidays. Perhaps it is a cousin, or an aunt, and being around them makes you feel comfortable. If that’s the case, let them know you are in a fragile place emotionally and would like to hang around them during family activities. Being a birth mother, especially in the first few years after choosing adoption, means that some family members may judge us for our decision. If you find there are certain members of your family who don’t agree with your decision, it may be best to have as little interaction with them as possible.
Excuse yourself if you find that you need a break.
If you find yourself feeling emotionally charged during the holiday activity you are participating in, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself. In fact, it may be wise to have an exit strategy. This way, if you find you are overwhelmed and just can’t handle the holiday activities, you have an appropriate way to excuse yourself from them. Remember not to be rude, as it is not your family members who desire for you to feel the negative feelings you may be going through. Not every family member will be understanding of what you are going through, mostly because they haven’t gone through it themselves. Make sure that whatever reason you come up with for taking a break or removing yourself from the situation is appropriate, and won’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable. You can choose simple reasons, like needing to call a friend, having another event, or even just simply saying you need a mental break from the activity.
Don’t overcommit to activities, but don’t avoid them.
My family takes on quite a few activities during the holidays. There is always someone hosting a meal, someone baking, or someone playing with the kids. I have a large extended family, and we all come together during the holidays. I have noticed that it is easy to overcommit when you have so many activities going on. Perhaps you feel obligated to attend too many activities for whatever reason. Just because you are invited to something, though, doesn’t mean you have to commit to attending the activity. Don’t overcommit to activities if you know that you are going to be processing a lot of emotions over the holiday season.
Do something special for your birth child.
One of the best things about post-placement life in an open adoption is the knowing that you can have some level of contact with your child. I encourage birth mothers to ask their adoptive families if it would be appropriate to get her birth child holiday gifts. Consider what is age-appropriate for your birth child. Take time to craft a thoughtful gift, like making a photo book or handwriting a letter along with a few gifts. Not only will your birth child have something that you put time and effort into, but it may also help you in a therapeutic way towards healing. If you don’t currently have open adoption contact with your child, you might still choose to make a gift or write a letter to keep for them for the future.
Keep gratitude close to your heart.
I know it sounds cliché, but remember the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. They can be as simple as having food to eat and a roof over your head. The great thing about gratitude is that once you start with the attitude of it, it will eventually become easier to remain grateful. You might have a crazy family and complex emotions regarding adoption, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come together with other members of your family and celebrate the holidays with them.
My best tip for the holidays is to remember to not be so hard on yourself. As women, we feel the need to take care of everyone else first and then tend to ourselves. However, if you don’t take care of yourself first sometimes, you won’t have the internal resources to be there for others. Don’t expect to do holidays perfect. Expect to make them positive and be full of gratitude.
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption 7 years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.