The position first parents are put in to be heard…

14 Mar

I was thinking last night about the position parents by birth are forced into by some in adoption, both adopting parents and professionals.  The position doesn’t make any logical sense when we are talking about normal human emotions we all have, or capable of feeling in the same situation.


They are happy to have chosen adoption, and any grief seems to be compensated by knowing they created a family, they have little to no regrets, and they’d choose adoption all over again.  They see adoption as beautiful.  They only speak in glowing terms about adoption and downplay any tough feelings as not so bad, because it’s so worth it.  These are the first parents held up as the exemplars by adoption agencies, asked to write their stories, are the ones interviewed, quoted from.  They are the ones allowed to speak in the adoption world, they promote adoption.  They are the ones hired by adoption agencies to be ‘birthmother mentors’ to expectant mothers, who will only become a ‘birthmother’ if they sign the papers.  The same ones that show up on ‘birthmother panels’ to speak to prospective adoptive parents, which may create an expectation of how their ‘birthmother’ will feel, act.


They must need counseling, because they don’t see the beauty of creating a family at the cost of their own.  They obviously consented to the adoption, so why are they struggling with feelings that shouldn’t exist because they choose it, no one forced them to sign away their rights.  Instead of grieving their losses, they should celebrate the gain of another family.  They need to deal with whatever they are feeling because they are making others uncomfortable.  They are relegated to the segment of those ‘few’ who had a bad experience, had a bad professional, they are an anomaly, because, others don’t feel that way, most birthmothers today don’t feel that way.

What makes it okay to need a mother (and/or father) who lost their child (because that is what happened, regardless if they signed the papers, and/or if there is openness) to a predefined, required, mindset when you are talking about an unspeakable loss?  Why can’t a first parent hold dueling emotions like the rest of us?  Why must they always only see/feel the good, never the bad?  Why must they be the only ones that aren’t allowed to up one day, and down the next?  Why must they believe adoption is best, better than they would be?  Where is the humanity that people can’t see that having chosen adoption, doesn’t make the loss any less?  Why isn’t it okay to vehemently state that they wouldn’t have chosen adoption, if they’d felt there was a viable alternative?  Why does the last statement make people think they are against every adoption?  Why is saying adoption should be the last resort bad?  Why?  Why can’t we see them capable of holding regrets, grief, peace at knowing their child is loved, happy, and still sad the adoption had to happen?  Why can’t we see them speaking out as education that not all professionals act the way they should, not all birthmothers will be able to tell the parents who adopted their child, how they really feel, because sometimes, too much honesty, closes the adoption.

Why can’t it be both/and?  Why must first parents be held to a different standard?

To me, when I hear first parents talk about having no regrets, or grief, I hear they didn’t want their child.  That’s my lens as an adoptee, and a mother whose baby passed away.  When I hear first parents struggling over not having been able to see a viable path to parenting, but wanted to parent, that child was wanted, I hear warmth, despair over what happened.  When I hear about being worn down in many systematic ways to follow through with ‘the plan’ it makes me mad, it should make you mad too.  When a first parent turns to a professional to help them go through their options, the assumption shouldn’t be that they willingly chose adoption because they sought out a professional to help them.  The assumption should be that they turned to the professional to help them during their crisis.  I believe that professional has a duty to do no harm, and that means, first, looking to every way of helping the parent, parent, and only when every avenue is closed, should severing the child from the family be looked at.  Yes, that last sentence was blunt, probably makes some reading this cringe, it was intended to do that.  To strip away the pretty picture and stating the stark reality, adoption severs the child from their family.   Adoption can be a good solution, even the best solution.  It also comes with a steep cost to many.  Never forget that, and if you are honest, don’t you think you’d be grieving the loss of parenting your child the rest of your life?  Different levels of grief over time, but grief nonetheless.  If you feel that way, then don’t expect first parents not to feel the same way you would.

I leave you with this snippet from a paper you need to take the time to read if you think I’m wrong.

A vital need in the field of adoption is for a contemporary theory of birth-mother adjustment across the lifespan, particularly regarding resolution of grief and loss. Indeed, there is not a satisfactory definition as to what “grief resolution” should look like in a birthmother. Must the birthmother show no signs of suffering or sadness regarding the placement for her to have resolved her grief, or is this perhaps a misunderstanding of the nature of birthmother grief? Can we truly expect the loss of a child to adoption to be “resolved” in this sense, or will the resolution look different – like birth-mothers who are still sad and perhaps remorseful, but who have built a “safe place” for that grief in their lives?
From “Evolution and resolution: Birthmothers’ experience of grief and loss at different levels of adoption openness” by Susan M. Henney, Susan Ayers-Lopez, Ruth G. McRoy, and Harold D. Grotevant

Posted by on March 14, 2016 in Adoption, adoptive parents


Tags: , ,

13 responses to “The position first parents are put in to be heard…

  1. Susie

    March 14, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cb

    March 14, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    This thesis may also be of interest:

    Click to access Phillipa_Castle_thesis.pdf

    It consists mainly of interviews with about 15 birthmothers from Victoria (Australia). I thought it was good at showing the complex views that many bmothers have.


  3. Dannie

    March 15, 2016 at 2:03 am

    YES. Really that is all. The older my daughter gets the more I feel for all the losses!!!


  4. billie

    March 15, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Thank you so much for such a humane and compassionate article.


  5. Mimi

    March 15, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    As adoptive parents, we can be so uncomfortable with any expression of thought that indicts us as part of the system. We have to be empathetic to the perspectives of adoptees and first parents in order to show that same sort of empathy towards our adopted children when they begin to demonstrate their own grief. It’s not always pretty, unlike what many of the brochures would have you believe.


    • TAO

      March 16, 2016 at 12:09 am

      No, it’s not always pretty. I’m not sure it is an indictment, I’m sure it seems that way and sometimes based on the individual it could be meant that way, I see it as just their story…it all just gets so complicated doesn’t it…


  6. valentinelogar

    March 19, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    As an adoptee who has known my birth family for over 25 years, it is impossible to not understand the dual nature of their feelings toward adoption. My birth mother raged every year for 25 years, until she and I met. My birth father blamed her for the adoption, for not being given a choice. They both wished their had been a different better choice, even while knowing in 1957 and in different circumstances my mother would not have chosen as she had. Yet, she comforted herself with the idea I was loved, I had parents who would give me a better opportunity than she could at the time.

    I have a sister, my youngest from my birth-father. She gave up her two children for adoption. At the time, it was the right answer. I wish I had known, maybe I could have given her a different option, I didn’t know I wasn’t in her life. It was supposed to be an open sibling adoption. The adoptive parents have disappeared, it is tragic. My sister is heartbroken. There is no dual nature to her feelings.

    Yes, we need to recognize both sides of the coin. Humans can feel both. To ignore this is to ignore our shared humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. onewomanschoice

    March 22, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you Tao. I would not want to appear happy that I chose relinquishment. What is so happy or satisfying about that? Whether we were part of the BabyScoopEra, or somewhere in between there and now, whether we willingly did so out of selfishness, ignornance or desperation, or coercion in blatant or subliminal ways, our child was separated from their mother and family. How can we be happy we chose to handoff, leave, abandon, give-up or relinquish our own flesh and blood. I do love and respect my son’s adoptive family and of course my son. And while I don’t get to spend everyday with him, I do get to be a part of his life. I accept this reality but I know all too well that it is second best for me. And despite my open and positive relationship, I think it is wrong and unethical to use a mother of birth/relinquishment to promote an agenda. Sometimes there may be a need to support an adoption but supporting adoptions and promoting them are two very different things.


  8. onewomanschoice

    March 22, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Reblogged this on One Woman's Choice and commented:
    Good Post…


  9. Lynn Assimacopoulos

    April 6, 2016 at 12:09 am

    My new book called “Separated Lives” is a true story about the adoption of a baby boy and years later a friend taking him on a fascinating but uncertain journey to search for his birth parents. It is available from Dorrance Publishing (in Pittsburgh, PA), Barnes & Noble and
    Author: Lynn Assimacopoulos



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