A Letter to Birth Moms Who Are Hurting After the Reversal of Roe v. Wade
On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 50-year-old decision that gave those who could get pregnant the constitutional right to choose to have an abortion. Now what? How does the country cope? How do we cope as individuals? How do we cope as mothers who lost our children to adoption and still live with the complicated grief that has resulted?
As I have talked about here, adoption is not a humane substitute for abortion. People who place children for adoption may do so voluntarily or against their will, but either way many are impacted forever, constantly wondering about the children they lost. Also, the children often deal with consequences that lead to mental health struggles.
This is an open letter to birth moms who for whatever reason did not get an abortion or raise their child, and are now living with complicated grief as a result of relinquishing a child.
I see you. I feel your pain. I understand your confusion. I know your anger. I know you are trying to put on a brave face for those who do not understand, but you are beginning to falter. I know because I am one of you.
As a first (birth) mom myself, I know how you must be feeling with all this talk about abortion and adoption. It is everywhere and there is no escaping. It is even in our safe places such as mom groups on Facebook. I am disturbed by the talk that if you do not want your baby or cannot care for them, you should do the “easy thing” and place them for adoption.
As we know, there is nothing easy about adoption. Adoption is a trauma for both the child and the parent that is lifelong. We never just place and move on. The child is always on our minds, and we are grieving tremendously for healthy reunions. I still long to see my child walk into her first day of kindergarten and that will never happen. You cannot get back that moment in history.
Many of us were lied to by parents, friends, family, religious leaders, doctors, the adoption industry, and many others. We were told that we will be fine to move on with our lives and that we can leave this all in the past. The reality is that we are grieving. That we are stuck in that moment that we lost our child.
We have an experience of complicated grief no one talks about.
Many of us are living with something called complicated grief disorder. Complicated grief disorder (CGD) applies to who are significantly and functionally impaired by grief symptoms for at least one month to six months after the initial loss.
I know you cannot focus on much else but your adoption experience, and this news being everywhere is not helping. You have persistent yearning for your relinquished child and feel shame and guilt. You did nothing wrong, but you may feel that way. I know the experience has caused me to feel suicidal at times and that life is not worth living.
This is a direct result of having a child we are no longer raising. It is the result of having a child grow beneath our heart and having them ripped from our arms.
Now anti-abortion advocates are saying this is a victory to save all these babies. They are giving no consideration for us, the moms who birth these babies. They are saying there are families at the ready to adopt these children and now people who are infertile can make their forever families (let me be clear, they are not looking for Black and Brown babies). They do not recognize that this is at the expense of the birth parent and the child.
I know all this talk is stressing you out. I see your posts on social media, and you fear this conversation is only going to get worse. That others will be lied to. That this will become a mental health crisis for our country and you.
So, what can you do about it?
1. Take a nap. You deserve it. There is no shame in it.
2. Surround yourself with like-minded people who are not in the adoption fog (aka think adoption has no negative consequences).
3. Journal just for you and contain it.
4. Write your feelings and share in safe groups on social media and elsewhere.
5. Segregate your social media into spaces that are safe for now.
6. Write your child a letter. (I set up an email for my child and I periodically send her emails that she can see when she is older.)
7. Share with your family or social network about your real experience around adoption. It is the Each One, Teach One model. You may successfully change some minds.
8. Do advocacy such as make a TikTok video about your experience, start a blog, work in your state to change the adoption laws, support abortion laws, educate others about the risk of adoption and the true experience, hold adoption agencies accountable, give money to adoptee groups, vote.
9. Seek out adoption-competent therapy (not a clinician in the adoption fog). If you do not have the financial access, seek out birth mom support groups. If there is not one in your area now, many of them are virtual so you can attend from anywhere in the country.
You can take your power back. Adoption does not have to make us victims. We do not have to remain silent (but we can if we need to for now). There is significant stigma, and it looks like it is up to us to change the narrative.
I read the following in a birth mom group that I belong to and it meant the world to me. I’m sharing it with permission below.
Take a read:
Dear Birth Moms,
Be kind to yourself. Understand that this is a lifelong journey of healing and you will never be able to go back to the person you were before the grief and trauma. Yes, I MEAN trauma. You lost a child and no matter the circumstances behind that you deserve to know that this isn’t something you ever ‘get over.’ You will find a new normal, probably pockmarked with triggers and grief processing for the rest of your life. Find a good trauma therapist. Get EMDR, do hypnosis, cranial sacral, acupuncture, whatever you think might give you some momentary relief or insight. Understand that all your big moments will feel tainted by loss. That’s OK to acknowledge and feel, but you will still have big and good moments. You are not alone. I’m sorry you must go through this too.”
— From a fellow Birth Mom
I care for all of you. I know we are hurting right now. I see and understand your pain. Reach out. Do not struggle in silence. You are not alone.
P.S. You are Mighty Strong Moms!
Getty image by Maskot