The “birthmother” is not moving on…

05 Jun


I am acknowledging I have no direct experience in what I am saying below. My experience is different, but I do believe there are parallels between the two experiences.

For all those new adoptive parents in a domestic infant open adoption who feel that the “birthmother” is not dealing with her grief, and moving on appropriately X number of months in, please read my story below which has nothing to do with adoption, and everything to do with the expectations of moving on. Please understand that I have been, and always will be a survivor, and “carry on” has been my mantra and the post below shows that sometimes “carrying on” takes time to get there.

When my son passed the grief was all encompassing and the rawness long-lasting. What I would have done for one more minute, one more day, one more chance to nurse him, hold him. I don’t remember the first week other than flashes of people at our home, and then going to my in-laws and lying in their spare bedroom in both mental, and physical agony because I had no babe to feed my milk too, because he was gone. The condolence cards that poured in were left unopened, and still are to this day a quarter of a century later, because the pain was so big that it was destroying me inside, and today it is still too painful to go there. I have no idea who planned and arranged the memorial service, and the only memory of it was I wore the only dress I had that fit me – my maternity dress.

As I was the only one working at the time and rent coming due, I tried to go back to work probably about a week after the service, but with my many clients knowing I had returned from maternity leave, they asked about my babe. After far too many explanations of what happened over several weeks I gave up trying to maintain and quit. My husband found a job in another city and thought it would be good to try to move on by getting away from the memories. I know I packed things up, moved, unpacked, got a job, went to work everyday, but other than flashes of pictures in my mind, I have no memory of that – I was just carrying on. I know that shortly after we got there my husband found a better job that required another move, and I was left alone to give notice, pack things up, and move again which I did – because I always carry on. I arrived, unpacked, and settled in and then I just couldn’t “carry on” anymore, so I sat at the table each day for several months, and during that time I wrote letters to a friend that were pages long, and quite likely made no sense, but it was me grasping to maintain a semblance of normalcy. The few times I ventured outside were spent wandering alone in the forest with only my cat walking by my side. Finally, about 6 months after my son passed, I got up one day and went and found a part-time job, and it helped, I was starting to feel like me again, but I needed to be busier so I got another job, this one full-time. I kept busy because if I sat and allowed myself to feel all I wanted to do was cry because I wanted my baby back. That job lasted probably for about a year until I was able to move back close to my family again.

I have few other memories of that time and it wasn’t until about 2 years had passed before I felt my old self emerge, not really my old self because now I had empathy. Empathy only learned through having gone through that. Empathy that made me realize that what I experienced had to be similar to what my mother, and every other mother who has lost a child through adoption must have had to go through – the degrees and timing will be different because we are all different – but the grief will still be part of the process, and time will be required.

New adoptive parents in open adoption – please take my story and then apply another layer, a layer where you can still see your babe, hold your babe, all the while knowing that each time you have to turn your back and walk away again. Each time you will also fear it that will be the last time, because you realize you have no rights.

Please understand that grief and pain like no other doesn’t disappear in 3 months, 5 months, or ever, although the rawness of the pain will go away, and you find a place for it to live inside you and a new normal sets in. A new normal with triggers that catch you unaware. Grief does not have a time-table despite how strong a person is – grief listens to no man and can take you to your knees.

You as the adoptive parent will be the one to experience all the firsts of that child, be parent to that child for life – view the whole picture, not what is happening right now. I know that you understand that you would not be the parent of your child, without another one suffering the pain of not parenting her child. I know this is a heavy burden to ask anyone to carry but do your best to show grace, show mercy, find a way to work together to help each other – whatever that looks like, and not hinder the process of grief she is going through by throwing up walls that will throw fire on the grieving process. Help her through your empathy, be the giver, maintain what you agreed too. Your child, and the mother of your child deserve that effort on your part. I know you just want to be a family, but open adoption, especially domestic infant adoption the first year, or even two, will be harder than you expected. Be kind, be gentle, don’t expect her grief to meet your expected timetable. Will it make it harder on you? Quite likely. Will you be a better person because of it? Yes. Don’t try to create boundaries, try to create harmony by gentle words, actions, offers of help and actively coming together to find what works best for all of you – your humanity in creating an agreement of unity will work in everyone’s favor in the long run.


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40 responses to “The “birthmother” is not moving on…

  1. kellie3

    June 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, TAO. I know this post had to have cost you, and I thank you for sharing.


    • TAO

      June 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      Thank Kellie – it was a long time ago but I did shed a fear tears remembering…

      Just so sad seeing posts about it and knowing that the next step they will take is likely to close the adoption just hurts too bad. Hopefully it makes one person see things differently.


      • eagoodlife

        June 6, 2013 at 12:04 am

        I hope so, there is so much in this post to make that possible. The loss of a baby is unlike any other loss and I’m so sorry you have had to experience it. Adopters seem so woefully unprepared for what adoption is really about.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. JavaMonkey

    June 5, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    That was so sad. I’m sorry for your loss.


  3. Sheila

    June 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing this and I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious baby. Relinquishment is an everlasting hell that is branded on your very soul for life. It is not of God and I often wonder how any woman lives through it. I too birthed a precious, stilborn baby girl 20 years ago. I often felt even God couldn’t touch my pain. Relinquishment left me feeling the same way. I often felt as though I was falling through Alice’s hole with no one to catch me. I love your advice. We all should strive to treat people with grace, love, compassion, and respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      June 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm

      Thank Shelia – I can’t imagine the pain of a stillborn little one, how incredibly heartbreaking.


      • cb

        June 5, 2013 at 11:36 pm

        (((Sheila))) I’m so sorry. Your story sounds like my first mother’s story. 8 years or so after I was born, she had twins that were either stillborn or died right after birth (am unsure) and I can’t imagine how hard it would have been for her. My family said she never talked about them but I’ve spoken to friends of hers who said that she did to them which makes me feel better that she had talked to people about them. She never did have another living child. She died while I would still have been at school so will never get to meet her.

        I do have to admit that I still find it hard to believe that she might have thought about me but if I depersonalise it and think about her missing “a child” rather than “me”, that does make it easier to understand that how hard it must have been to relinquish her child. I do find it easier to think of how much she must have grieved her twins.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dana

          June 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

          I’m sure she grieved all the more. There she was, all ready to raise children, thinking “finally it will happen for me” and then that happened instead. An even crueler blow. And it likely brought flashbacks of her experience with you, too.

          My second child lived (she’s eight now) and I *still* had a hard time when she came along. She asks about her big brother a lot now, who was adopted by my ex-in-laws, and it’s easier for me to deal with it now but still not pleasant. I feel myself cringing from the emotional blow if he turns 18 next year and she wants a relationship and he doesn’t.


  4. christycanuck

    June 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    TAO, I’m so very sorry for your loss.


    • TAO

      June 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      Christy thank you – it was a very long time ago. I just hope talking about it here can make a difference.


  5. cb

    June 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    ((((TAO))), that made heartbreaking reading. I had to stop a few times before continuing.


  6. cb

    June 5, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    As for adoptive parents, you would think that the grief they go through with their infertility would help them feel compassion for birthmothers (and, to be fair, many do). However, after reading some posts on forums and other blogs by APs, PAPs, I get the impression that because much of their grief is around having planned for a child and those plans not coming to fruition, then they are not able to feel compassion for women who have unplanned pregnancies and are considering adoption (not realising that in many cases, the “unplanned” status is used against these women during counselling, along the lines of “your child deserves parents who have been planning to parent”)) and thus they assume that the bmother has just made a choice along the lines of “I’m can’t be stuffed parenting – should I abort this kid or give it to someone else. And if the bmother has considered abortion – well, she’s fair game. They can’t see that a woman can grow to love the child inside them.

    Note that I am not talking about all APs/PAPs but only about those whom I’ve seen express the above attitudes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. eagoodlife

    June 6, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    Please read this moving post by TAO about loss and moving on.So fw adopters and potential adopters seem unprepared for what adoption is really about – loss and how to best handle it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. teradanielle

    June 6, 2013 at 1:00 am

    TAO…what an incredible and eloquent post…I’m so sorry for the loss of your little one. Would it be alright if I reblog this?


    • TAO

      June 6, 2013 at 1:28 am

      Hi Tera – feel free…


  9. keri

    June 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    we all have stories….thanks for sharing a part of yours….i remember choosing china because it was nice and clean with no birth parents involved….and a separation of half a world away kept me safe….safe from what…..i don’t know……where did this fear of birth mothers come from……….i was so naive and stupid then….i have been reading books by xinran who journals the stories of birth mothers in china….putting a face and a heart and soul to the words of these women…… is heartbreaking………….

    Liked by 1 person

    • teradanielle

      June 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      It means a lot Keri that you are able to say acknowledge your former many are never ablr to do that and it only perpetuates the heartache. Thank you.


  10. Heather

    June 7, 2013 at 12:25 am

    A very powerful read. Thank you TAO.


  11. Valentine Logar

    June 8, 2013 at 12:51 am

    Tao, thank you. I remember once in the early days of my meeting my first mother and my siblings, she said to me “I screamed for you every day for a year, on your birthday I cried over again.” My sister directly beneath me in age told me, “I always felt I had to be you, even though we didn’t know who you were.”

    I think you have defined the terms of mourning and letting go so eloquently.


  12. wsbirthmom

    June 9, 2013 at 6:27 am

    TAO, I am so sorry for your loss. Add the fact that relinquishing doesn’t give the mothers of adoption loss an ‘open’ time to grieve, a ‘service’. People and ‘work friends’, those in my professional life will never know. At least not anytime soon.
    You have described perfectly why we have been cut off from our son. I wasn’t moving on. I’m still not. I am hell bent on not letting another mother be sucked into thinking that they aren’t enough, that they aren’t what’s best for their baby. This, I spoke about openly with those who have my son now. I celebrated a ‘save’ as I call them with them. I never hid my feelings, after all, we were family, or so they said, and my 9 year old was in a relationship with them.
    Then, the request from the agency came for me to call them from their ‘post-adoption’ support person. Everything went quiet prior to this for about 3 weeks. So, I honestly wasn’t surprised, as something was obviously up. I made the call, she ‘read me a letter’ they wrote. I asked her to repeat the words slowly so I could write them down. They were reducing us to only receive pictures twice/year. Two days later, I miscarried my son’s full blooded sibling and I haven’t been able to conceive since. The trauma of losing him all over again was too much. Telling my daughter she was losing her brother yet again was too much. She still cries for him months later. And we have yet to receive any twice a year pics.
    This, is how many (not all) open adoptions go when the natural family is not grieving the way they are expected to.
    Sadly, it’s more often than it should be. Maybe those families just needed some help to stay together in the first place. And those who have the children see it, and aren’t willing to have it in front of them everyday (even though they look into the eyes of those blood relatives when they look at the children).

    I often wonder about them attempting to come back into our lives. How can I protect my daughter who has suffered so much agony over cancelled visits, being cutoff after being told we love you and we are family forever bound by your brother. The cruelty of this is completely mind boggling to me, and I can’t believe that I ever allowed myself to trust them.
    I have done this because I can’t move on, because I didn’t have all the information that would have confirmed to me that it wasn’t necessary for me to separate us from my son.

    No, I’m not moving on, not for a while…..if ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. wsbirthmom

    June 9, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Reblogged this on wsbirthmom and commented:
    My thoughts are in the comments…


  14. Melynda

    June 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Adoption loss is one that is most definitely considered an ambiguous loss. Essentially this means there is no ability to have “closure” because there is always the “what if?” and “perhaps…” There is no moving on from ambiguous loss, there is only learning to live with it, and hopefully learning to live well with it, despite its ability to continually wound us.

    Thank you for this beautiful and honest post, TAO. I know it was many years ago, but I am still so very sorry for the loss of your precious baby.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. gooddaytocry

    June 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I lost a baby to still birth and my first to adoption. To have people say adoption is a miracle, good, rescue etc hurts emensly. There is no way to morn. The anger of the gross injustice stays squarely.with the injured because the takers do not ever want to face the life threatening life long anguish they have imposed. By the way only one person told me I was lucky to have a stillbirth. Public perception of this gross injustice does make a difference

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Debbie

    June 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Tao, your heartfelt words were written very well. May they reach the eyes and hearts of all involved!!!! Your words, no doubt, will make a difference in someones life! Even after reunion, our loss of all that we missed is still there. We go on but not with the baby we lost. Someone else is “MOM”. The child is now an adult, usually older than we were when relinquishing legal rights. We move on. Hopefully, with a valued friendship but generally, nothing more. (The giver of Life, does need a little more!) Thankful we finally know the outcome of the “closed adoption” but the pain still surfaces and it will no matter how well our lives seem to be. Modern day “open adoptions” need more rules for the “BEST interest of the child!* Like marriage vows, the promises stated should be followed by both adoptive & birth families. If not, the adoption should not take place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • KPMominTexas

      October 5, 2022 at 5:14 pm

      Well said. After 40 years I was reunited with my daughter. The grief I had buried as a teen came back in full force. Even now 4 years in reunion I grieve what we missed (she does too). The grief is not as all consuming as it was the first two years in reunion but like many have said, triggers bring it back to surface unexpected. I’m very grateful to know her now and so honored that she even has started calling me Mom more often than not. And I get the privilege of being Grammy to her kids (My husband they even call Papa like their half cousins).


  17. kendracyrus007

    June 12, 2013 at 4:46 am

    Your post is powerful and moving, Tao. It brought tears to my eyes. It’ll certainly help people opting for an open adoption to think just a little bit more before going through with the process.

    Edit: removed url


  18. lisaanne119

    June 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    This is so eloquently stated. There is so much I wish I could say, but the truth is you descibe grief so well. And as a birthmother my grief will never be completed with closure. Because there is no closure.

    I am so sorry for your loss. What a horrible difficult thing you lived through and still live with. So many of us understand what it is like to “never be the same”.


  19. Dot Girl

    June 14, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Thank You TAO..I am so sorry for your loss. I placed my son 24 years ago because I was young, poor, naive etc, then a few years later I was married and pregnant again and at 32 weeks my daughter stopped moving. I went to the doctor and after quickly being rushed to ultrasound we discovered our daughter died while in utero. I had to deliver her, my milk came in and there was no baby to feed, no baby to hold and the grief was consuming. What added to my grief was my son’s Amom who told me it was “God’s WIll” that my daughter died as I had sinned when K was conceived. I spent years blaming myself, feeling like God punished me..and the truth is she had a stroke before she was born and there most likely was nothing I could ever do to prevent it.

    24 years later I still grieve the loss of my son, 22 years later I grieve the loss of my daughter there is no timetable for grief. I must admit that I mostly go on with my life, I no longer am consumed by the pain of my losses. The worst pain of my life I will admit is when the adopters closed the adoption without warning. They became evangelical Christians and did not agree with my Catholic faith and felt I was not a good influence on my son. I went form being family to being an outcast in a day (he was 8 at the time) I beg adoptive parents to never do this to their child’s mother the pain of losing them all over again is almost unbearable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      June 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      I’m so sorry – just no words to say how sorry.


      • Dot Girl

        June 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm

        TAO ..your blog is is wonderful to read. I want to thank you for your posts, you have no idea how much your words have touched me.
        I have much to look forward to as my son and I have connected thanks to facebook and we are reuniting soon in person..I am scared but this will be healing for both of us to meet.


  20. sjb4djustice

    June 18, 2013 at 5:53 am

    On the subject of birthmothers “moving on”, I am a birthmother whose child was literally stolen from me and adopted out for federal adoption incentive money. BEFORE anyone says, “yeah right, you must have done something wrong or else CPS wouldn’t have been in your life.” see our story and more at You don’t “move on”, ever. Even in an “open” adoption, the bond between mother and child are unseverable, biologically, and it only gets worse for the birthmother, especially if she does not get to visit or if the visits are limited or stopped. You can’t heal that pain and loss knowing your child is out there somewhere. If my child passed away, even unfairly such as by a drunk driver or something, there would be some closure, but wondering if they think about you, what the adoptive parents are telling your child, is your child being treated well…too many families are being forced to separate and its just not good for humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. lea

    September 5, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I nevr had parents and I never knew my birthparents

    not one person has ever loved me or accepted me why does me the adoptee get treated so badly by people

    I have nevr had one person lok like me or think like me its so unfair and mean its awful why does the adoptee always get treated badly

    the adoptee doesn’t move on either I nevr knew my birthparents and I never will and its not by choice I don’t understand why I nevr had birthparents like everybody else its not fair

    (admin just combined all recent comments made on this post into one comment)


  22. Rozi

    July 16, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I am adopted, and it hurts me to think of my mother. She now has a son, I’m afraid that she loves me, she loves him and not me. I want to ask you mothers: what do you feel when you give the child up for adoption? I read that many mothers write “I really love my son.” But what do you feel concretely for this child? My mother was happy to know that I’m okay, and that I seek her, but relatives say she was a bad woman, who did not care much about his children.
    Answer me please, you do not grow the children that you gave up for adoption, so I want to ask you: why do you love this child? what you feel for him? you worry for him? if hem die or has an accident do you worry as they worry her adoptive parents?
    the relationship that a (birth) mother has with her child is not the same relationship that you have with a child that you grow for a lifetime. My (adoptive) mother worries a lot to me, she loves me, she knows my character and how I react to events, my (birth) mother does not know anything about me, so why she should love me? i don’t judje, but think about that hurts me so much, i want to understand, i want to have a testimony from a (birth) mother.
    Update: What would you do for that child? would you kill urself for him? I think that love we must built, as well as the relationships, just maternal instinct isn’t enough……


    • Heather

      July 16, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Rozi, I think of my son who is adopted every day. I love him. I love him as I love my other children. My heart aches for him and misses him. He is unique and irreplaceable. I have always wanted a relationship with him, I want to know him as he grows up, it is insecurity and fear that keeps us from knowing each other. I worry about him. I haven’t seen him since he was five. He wanted to know who I was but his APs lied to him and told him I am nobody. He will be ten next month.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Lara/Trace

    July 29, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    I am devastated reading this. I am so sorry for your loss, Tao.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. KPMominTexas

    October 5, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    TAO What a descriptive explanation of grief. I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious babe. You empathy enables you to understand the sameness in the grief of adoption. I have very little memories of my daughter’s birth and the following months. I do not remember signing the adoption papers. (I did receive a copy in 2020 after two years into reunion and saw that I had indeed signed them). I met my daughter when she was 40!!! I still grieve what I lost and no one gets it-I have her back in my life so shouldn’t I be over it? She gets it though, because she also grieves what we missed. It is true that we think about the what-if’s and why did it have to be this way. Yet we can’t go back so we try to move forward and support each other when triggers tell us we are not enough. Strange how adoption has effected her in similar ways that it has effected me, which breaks my heart. Thank you for your story. I pray others will read it and have a little empathy for birthparents and for adoptees.


    • TAO

      October 8, 2022 at 1:12 pm

      Thank you KP. Appreciate that you understood the intent behind the post.



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