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.
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman
Oct 2014: You may speak freely, but please try to use words that everyone can hear about your individual story or view. If you don't, those who can actually benefit won't hear it, I want to see change in my lifetime. I may refuse to approve certain comments.
Elvis Presley ( 1960 ) Elvis Presley completes his two-year stint is discharged from the US Army. Bank Holiday to Save Banks 5th March ( 1933 ) : To help stop the run on US banks U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced a four-day "bank holiday" . All U.S. banks would close effective March 6 to help stop Americans from withdrawing their money […]