I didn’t have time to delve deeply into the first mom study in my last post. Today I want to talk about what it said to me, but before that, I want to reiterate some of my feelings on first moms and domestic infant adoption.
Conservations with adoptive parents have told me that many would be offended (different degrees) if their child’s first mom had regrets on choosing adoption. That surprised me in so many ways because for mom, just thinking about any of our mothers having to make that *choice* devastated her, so while I never asked her how she’d have felt if any of our mothers had regrets, the logical response I’d expect from her would have been – how could they not have regrets. I’m still pondering on how adoptive parents could be upset to know their child’s first mom regretted not being able to parent their child. Perhaps it comes down to taking it as a personal affront (when it isn’t) and not seeing the first mom as a fellow mom.
The study was open to mothers who had relinquished their parental rights in the last 25 years. The results: on a scale of 1-5 “How satisfied* are you with your decision of relinquishment” 3.11 was the average level of satisfaction*. The * is mine because the term satisfied just seems wrong to use regarding a mother relinquishing her parental rights to her child. Surely there could have been a different term found for an act that tears my heart apart just thinking of it happening.
Below is what I took from what they were saying – read the study to make sure I’m correct in my framing.
- Satisfaction regarding relinquishment was not static over time.
- Distance from/time since relinquishment had an inverse relationship with satisfaction levels.
- Education and income level had an inverse relationship with satisfaction levels.
- Working full time had an increase with satisfaction levels.
- Current contact with their child had increased satisfaction levels.
- Over time age had an inverse relationship with satisfaction levels.
- You should not conflate grief and loss with satisfaction level.
The above mirrors what I’ve seen over the years, and honestly, how people in adoption treat an expectant mom to shortly after signing to five years later – the let down from being lauded (reinforced she did the right thing everywhere she turns) to pretty much old news get on with your life – what do you expect to happen. Then combine that with the reality for some sets in that they could have parented, and instead, got sucked in while they were in crisis and feeling unworthy…
I want to highlight the recommendations for adoption professionals as a result of this study.
All of these recommendations should already be practiced by adoption professionals today (except perhaps the last one). The question though is how can they become required instead of just recommended. For anyone reading that is adopting – take the time to sit back and read the recommendations in the study and ask yourself if an expectant mom was your daughter, would you demand they be followed? If yes, then demand your adoption professional follows them, not just something they say they do, do your due diligence and find out if they walk the walk. Ask to speak to mothers several years out to see if the services are given follow the recommendations, ask general questions, listen to what isn’t said in their answers.
The quotes below are snippets that don’t do justice to each recommendation, you must read them in totality at the link above to fully understand the why and intent.
Urging adoption professionals to return to non-biased counselling and exploring all options open to the expectant mom: “expectant mothers are counseled on the full range of options available to them, including termination of the pregnancy, parenting, exploring kin supports, and adoption.”
Adoption professionals to make sure an accurate and full understanding of the laws and her rights (or lack of rights) once she signs: “Agencies should also ensure that expectant mothers are provided with accurate information on all state laws relating to open adoption arrangements”
They want mothers to really understand that it’s not just feeling sad and you’ll return to normal after a while and that you may never get over it: “need for adoption professionals to be transparent and honest about the impact of relinquishment on a birth mother’s immediate and long-term wellbeing.”
“ensure that birth mothers have access to ongoing postrelinquishment support services, such as counseling and the availability of in-person and online support groups, that are not restricted by artificial time frames.”
“Given the known benefits of fully disclosed adoptions for all members of the adoption triad (Grotevant et al., 2013; McRoy et al., 2007), adoption professionals are in a unique position to encourage and facilitate fully disclosed adoptions from the outset of the adoption process rather than suggesting mediated contact that is more cautious in nature and that is structurally more likely to extinguish over time.”
“Furthermore, to ensure that the rights of expectant mothers are fully protected, adoption agencies and attorneys should be mandated to provide expectant mothers with a stipend, determined by local market rates, to hire independent legal counsel to represent the mother during the relinquishment and all preceding negotiations involving postadoption contact.”
This would be great but unsure how it could be enforced: “In instances in which a mother elects to have a closed adoption, agencies should consider adopting practices that allow birth mothers a set time frame postrelinquishment (e.g., 6 months or a year postrelinquishment) when the mother has the option to change her mind and request contact.”
I think they missed a recommendation.
To make sure the expectant mom understands the baby isn’t just getting a golden ticket to a life filled with nothing but joy, opportunity and happiness. To understand that each will process what it means to be adopted, some will struggle with it, some will struggle with it at points across their life. That the seven core issues still apply to open adoption adoptees. We all deal with being adopted in our own way, but there are common themes that an expectant mom should learn about.