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Forever Grieving as a Birth Mother

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To be a birth mother you are made to feel you are not good enough to parent your child. You are made to feel you have to stay silent or feel shame if you talk about it… so just stuff it down and pretend it never happened is what we often feel we must do!

I felt I wasn’t allowed to grieve the loss of my daughter. I felt I had to grieve in secret. What a very traumatic experience; it was absolutely devastating. I have never been the same since that day.

The day I surrendered my parental rights — I remember that day so clearly. The pressure “to do the right thing.” The wording is so cruel on the paper work. A part of me died that day. I felt empty. What have I done? I was completely devastated. Something has always been missing since that day. She was missing.

Adoption is awkward in a way I can never describe to you. Being a birth mother you are constantly on egg shells. I always felt like a nervous wreck. You worry you will say the wrong thing and the family cut you out of the open adoption. You want to make sure to keep boundaries. I never wanted to come off as needy, or trying to “co-parent.” I understood she was their daughter.

Visits with my (birth) daughter were challenging. I would put on a happy face, when in actuality I was mourning her. After my visits with my daughter I would fall into a deep depression.

I would cope by falling back into bad habits. Restricting my food, abusing laxatives, binging and purging to the point of bloody knuckles… going days without eating.

She was so beautiful, she is absolutely stunning as a young woman. She has this porcelain doll skin, stunning red hair, beautiful blushing cheeks, gorgeous cherry red lips, almond shaped blueish turquoise eyes and long lashes. She is absolutely perfection.

I always had to pretend to be this person who was happy and OK with what was happening. I was always being told how lucky I am to be involved in an open adoption. How lucky I am to have found a wonderful family, how lucky I am they are willing to allow me into their life…Lucky?

I never seen this as luck for me. It made me angry I was expected to feel this way. I think it’s the family who adopted my child who are lucky.

They are lucky I chose them, they are lucky I kept my promises, they are lucky I’m a good person who comes from a good home and a great family. They are lucky I always shown nothing but respect and kept my boundaries. They are lucky.

I felt grief, so much grief. Depression and loss of dignity. So much anger….I hated myself and resorted back to eating disorder behaviors. I felt so ashamed, embarrassed, mourning the loss of motherhood, the loss of memories. I felt nothing but pain and disappointment.

Over the years I think how the hell I managed to make it through each day, sometimes thinking about her immobilizes me. It’s an overwhelming amount of sadness.

I would daydream about her all the time. Sometimes I would lay in bed and just daydream about what her nursery would have looked like, daydreaming about seeing all her firsts. Daydream about life with my child.

You begin to experience identity issues, severe depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, PTSD and constantly worrying about your child, hoping and praying they won’t hate you.

Thinking that the others are right, and maybe she really is better off without me. Being made to feel your own flesh and blood is better off with anyone else in this world but you.. her mother. I wasn’t good enough. How awful it made me feel. I felt worthless. I felt unlovable and as if I was some toxic person. The shame is a constant reminder. That shame has never left me. It’s forever.

Adoption — even open adoption is bittersweet. She deserved the very best life. I have been a birth mother for 16 years in an open adoption. I have never shared on social media or in person about it — I have been silent. Sixteen years kept it to myself, never really even talk about it with friends or family. (Very few who genuinely care or ask.) Why? People, women especially, don’t care because it did not happen to them… or all have some ignorant “I’m better than you,” comment. Or the famous “oh, I could never have given up my baby.” When I decided to place my baby through adoption the last thing I did was “give up”… she was not a piece of trash I threw away. Whenever I hear that I honestly have to hold back wanting to go off on that person. It makes me cringe.

After that was said to me I stoped talking about it for good. I lied about not having a child when asked, or I said yes I have a child but did not tell the person I placed her. Others will never understand the feeling of leaving the hospital empty handed after giving birth, with lifelong grief. Your body goes through all the stages every woman goes through after birth, my body wanted to nurse and care for my child. Your arms ache for your baby… you are broken. You go into tunnel vision, severe denial and depression. Imagine mourning your child who is alive… oh, but I “gave up.”

There is not enough support for birth moms to heal or try to come to terms with what happened. All we get is stereotyped by others and shamed. It’s very real. Not all birthmothers face addiction or are bad people. I should not have to justify my why. I put her first, as any mother would do. There is no moving on or forgetting. Open adoption does not make it easier.

Open adoption changes over the years.

Visits become less and less, updates and pictures become almost non-existent. I get it, I respect this; things change over the years. I guess I wasn’t prepared for this yet.

I have had some priceless moments in this open adoption, more than most birth mothers get. No matter what the last 15 years we celebrate her birthday, which is Christmas Eve.

They flew to Key West, Florida for my wedding and my (birth)daughter was a bridesmaid. I was at her baptism, a couple plays at her school, talent show, a dance recital, a few family functions. These moments, her parents sharing this with me… I am forever grateful they shared those.

Her Mom and Dad are good people.

What matters most is the love this family has for her.

She has a life I would have never been able to give her.

Image via contributor

Originally published: May 6, 2021
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