Navigating Post-Placement Waters as a Birth Mother – Thoughts from a Birth Mother
No relationship is perfect, no matter the type of relationship it may be. This includes the relationships within the adoption triad.
The adoption triad consists of the birth mother or birth parents, the adoptive parent(s), and the child who was placed for adoption. No adoption triad is the same, as there is always variation in the relationships’ dynamics. However, every relationship within the adoption triad is special, even if it can be challenging at times.
Post-placement relationships can be as amazing as they are challenging, especially as a birth mother and adoptive parents get to know one another and learn to respect boundaries through communication. There is no perfect answer to any relationship issue, but if you can solve problems together, you get one step closer to building a firm foundation on which to move forward on. For a birth mother and her chosen adoptive parents, learning to navigate post-placement waters is a process, and it takes time for all parties to get to know each other.
When the post-placement life is good, and there seem to be no problems — enjoy the ride. There is no reason to mess up a good thing, and sometimes in life we must learn how to enjoy ourselves. I have had smooth sailing for a good portion of my post-placement relationship with my son’s parents. From the start, I was transparent and respectful of boundaries. While it has not always been wonderful to navigate, most of the time that I have known my son’s parents has been an incredible blessing. I highly encourage you to cherish the good moments. Capture the memory and hold it tightly, because those moments will help you when things get tough, as they do from time to time.
When the storm is coming into shore, and the water turns green and the waves start crashing, you will probably get scared as a birth mother. I know many birth mothers, including myself, who carry a silent fear: “What if something happens and I can’t continue to see my child?”
To me that is a terrifying thought, but there have been times in which communication has been poor between my son’s parents and me. What I have learned to do when this happens is to remain calm. The worst thing I can do is freak out and jump to the worst-case scenario in my head. The best thing I can do is listen to any boundaries being communicated and respect them to the best of my ability. In my opinion, respecting boundaries is the best way to navigate through rough waters in a post-placement relationship between a birth mother and her child’s adoptive parents.
The start of a post-placement relationship happens the moment a prospective birth mother meets her prospective adoptive family. From that moment, boundaries should be set, communication is created, and the earning of trust and respect commences. The best place to start preparing for a happy and healthy post-placement relationship is at the moment you meet your child’s prospective adoptive parents.
Here are some tips moving forward with navigating a post-placement relationship between a birth mother and her child’s parents:
- Always go back to your post-placement agreement. A post-placement agreement is created before the child is placed with their adoptive family. A birth mother who is developing her side of the post-placement agreement will determine before the adoption is finalized if she wants an open, semi-open, or closed adoption. She will also determine the degree to which she may or may not want contact, and she must be specific in her requests. During the life of a post-placement relationship, there may be times in which the adoption triad veers off the path of the original agreement. This may mean the parties have more or less communication than initially agreed upon. If you find at any time that the relationship needs to get back to the original agreement, communicate that to the other party. If talking with the adoptive parents doesn’t seem to be making headway, then reach out to your adoption agency to see if they have any additional helpful tips.
- Set and respect healthy boundaries. While it may be hard to set boundaries, it is crucial for any happy and healthy relationship. When boundaries are presented, it may be hard to honor them, especially if you don’t agree with them. Whatever you do, don’t disrespect a boundary. You wouldn’t want your boundaries violated, so be sure to show the adoptive parents the same respect. Also, don’t be afraid they will reject your own boundaries. You can’t ever know what someone else is going through or thinking, and a little communication can go a long way.
- “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). If you find that throughout post-placement life, you are not getting what you need from the adoptive parents, then ask them for it. I know this seems simple, but there have been too many times in my own life where I have had a need that I never communicated and became hurt when my expectations weren’t met. I’m sure you can think of a time in which that scenario happened to you. Well, it’s no different for any relationship, including the relationships within the adoption triad. If you need something, ask for it. The worst that someone can say is, “No.”
Post-placement relationships are just like any other relationship when it comes to the need for communication, transparency and boundaries. If you find navigating rough waters becomes too challenging, then I highly encourage you to seek out someone you trust. Considering reaching out to your adoption agency, a member of a church, a therapist, or a supportive friend or family member. Remember, no matter how it might feel in the moment, feelings are temporary, and this too shall pass. If it’s great, and you are enjoying the terms your post-placement relationship is on, then enjoy the ride!
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.