As a birth mother, I struggle with feelings of shame over my decision to choose adoption for my son. Even though I have no regrets, I still feel shame that I couldn’t handle raising a baby.
When I chose adoption for my son eight years ago, I knew it was the best decision. However, it’s such a paradox — to be so proud of myself for the choice I made, yet still holding on to shame for doing so. When I decided that it wasn’t fair for me to keep my baby, I felt confident that more able adults would be able to offer him a better life. I was right, and I’m ever so grateful for the adults who call him “son.”
The question I ask myself now is, “Why do I feel shame as a woman who placed her baby for adoption?”
Am I Less of a Woman for Choosing Adoption?
It is written all over history, religion, and even our modern culture: Woman have babies, raise them and care for them. It has been ingrained in me, at least, that women have babies. Of course, the reason that we so readily embrace this “ideal” is because of how we are naturally made.
It is perfectly normal for any woman to desire children of her own blood to take care of. Of course, there are also many women who feel that having a child is not something they are biologically driven to do. There can be happiness on both ends of the spectrum.
So, knowing that there is nothing wrong with not having children, where does birth mother shame come from?
Growing up as a child, I never dreamed of being a mother, but that all changed when I learned of my unplanned pregnancy at the age of 20. I was still working toward my undergraduate degree and had very little support in my life that could help me raise a child on my own. However, I decided to keep my baby and raise him using all the resources I could get my hands on.
After six months of being a mother, I choose adoption. In my mind, I had failed as a mother.
That’s the fear: Adoption means failure. I believe that shame in choosing adoption comes from a fear that, somehow, birth mothers have “failed” at parenting. This is as far from the truth as is the sun from the moon, but our insecurities take our minds there anyway.
The truth is that it took a lot of courage for me to stand up to my friends and family and tell them that I was going to gift my son a better life through different parents. It took guts to move forward in the adoption process, although it meant I was going to lose very precious lifelong relationships. It took strength to move forward when so many people were trying to pull me back and convince me to keep my baby. It took grit to look my family and friends in the eyes and tell them that my decision for adoption was mine and mine alone.
Is My Fear of Failure Keeping Me from Healing as a Birth Mother?
Fear is a funny thing. Fear makes us believe negative, self-condemning and critical lies about ourselves and our relationships. However, fear can also drive us to make the hard decisions, knowing that if we don’t follow through, catastrophe could follow. Fear can be healthy and keep us safe when we listen to our intuition about situations we may find ourselves in. Fear can also be unhealthy when it tells us we are worthless failures in the eyes of ourselves and others.
Am I less of a woman for choosing adoption? No.
Do I feel like less of a woman for choosing adoption? Sometimes.
Affirmations and Meditations for Birth Mothers Feeling Shame
If you are reading this and feeling shame about an adoption decision in your life, please allow me to offer two practices in self-love:
First, feelings are not facts. Feelings come and go within us as they please, reacting to our every thought. It is not necessarily that we must control how we feel; it is more than we adjust our thoughts and our responses to them in our behaviors.
One of the most helpful exercises I have partaken in is meditation. Meditation can be done on any thought, at any time, no matter what you are doing. Meditation is used in so many practices and in so many ways around the world that I couldn’t begin to cover it all here. So, here are a few links to meditation practices for beginners:
- Tame Feelings of Shame with this 10-Minute Practice
- Releasing Shame — Guided Meditation
- Meditation 101
Second, self-care is crucial to every human, whether they are walking a path of healing or not. Exercise, healthy eating and hygiene are obvious components to self-care, but we also must remember to take care of our mental health, as well.
I know how bad it feels to be distracted by the shame of choosing adoption. But, this is something that can be addressed by integrating affirmations into our lives. I love positive affirmations and how practicing them daily brings me more self-confidence.
Here is an affirmation I wrote that you may use to begin healing the self-shame that can be brought on by choosing adoption.
My name is , and I love myself. I love that I am beautiful inside and out. I love that I have courage and strength. I love that I am brave and determined. I love that I am a woman. I love that I gave my baby a better life. I love my child’s parents. I love myself. I am selfless. I am a selfless birth mother. I am a selfless birth mother who offered everything for my baby.
Here are a few links to other affirmations:
There is no “one way” to heal. If you find a healthy healing practice that makes you happy, then go for it!
If you find that you cannot achieve some level of peace on your own, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help. If you become too overwhelmed, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 and ask for resources in your area.
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption eight years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.