Birth mother, birth parent, first mother, biological mother—each woman prefers a certain terminology when sharing their adoption journey. Regardless, the woman who gave birth is a mother.
I was never fond of being called a birth mother, but I was so saddened by the entire experience and felt like I didn’t have a voice, so I just stuck with birth mother. It’s as if I felt guilty taking the title mother, but also felt disrespected like I was some baby-making machine.
There are not enough stories about birth mothers—not enough support to heal mentally and emotionally.
No one talks about all the birth mothers who experience secondary infertility. Once I decided many many years later to have a baby, I had multiple miscarriages. It sent me into a dark depression. I felt like I was being punished. For what? I don’t know. I eventually became pregnant with my rainbow baby.
The stories you often hear are fictional stories, and the birth mother is a young woman who either has challenges with addiction or is very young and cannot mother a child.
But birth mothers are strong, selfless, beautiful humans.
They give someone the ultimate gift, something they were unable to do. I was able to bless another person’s family with a beautiful baby.
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Perhaps birth mother stereotypes exist because some are shamed into remaining quiet by others who view adoptive parents as a savior. Not all birth mothers feel this way, but many do.
But this is my raw truth as a birth mother.
Her birthdays are the hardest. The most painful.
Waking up from the emergency C-section on that Christmas Eve morning in 2004 and seeing my daughter in the NICU for the first time, but knowing this first time seeing her would soon be my last, I studied every single inch of her face. I counted her toes and fingers. Held my face gently close to hers so I could try to remember the sound of her breathing.
I named her Faith.
The hospital gave me a birth certificate with the name I had given her, but she would be getting a new birth certificate, with her new name and new parents.
I appreciated the fact that her new parents agreed to having her middle name be Faith. I really respected them for that—they didn’t have to do that for me.
I left the hospital childless with a fake birth certificate and the tiny little hat she wore. I kept that hat with me as I slept for months. I still have the hat, folded away in my dresser. I’ve never washed it.
She was born at 26-weeks, and holding her was bittersweet. At that point, I had agreed to the open adoption, but nothing was set in stone. She was still mine.
I remember weeping to the nurse who handed her to me when I went to see her in the NICU. She comforted me as she knew I was choosing adoption. The entire experience was traumatic. I didn’t want to leave her.
Knowing the date I was being discharged was like a countdown . . . a countdown to a painful reality.
It doesn’t get easier and time does not heal all wounds—maybe for other birth moms it does, but not for my journey. You just learn to put a bandage over your broken heart. You are told to move on, go about your life. I didn’t know how to.
As each birthday passes I think, This is it, the year I am at peace with it all, I can move on with life.
Her 17th birthday just passed. This year was difficult.
Every year is hard, but sometimes it hits differently—I was overcome with so much sadness.
Yes, this is my life and I had an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock. Yes, I take full responsibility for my choices. Yes, I was young, but I was still an adult—I was 21 years old and in a toxic relationship.
I say all this because no matter what, there will be people who are judgmental, insensitive, and lacking any empathy. No matter what path I would have chosen, some would judge me.
If I had chosen to keep her, I would have needed government assistance and other accommodations to get by.
Others say, “I could never give up my baby.” As if she were a piece of trash I threw away. This enrages me because giving up is the easy way out. The path I choose to place her for adoption was selfless and the most difficult decision I would ever make.
Being a birth mother has been a very painful experience. I feel like I live a double life, and it’s a strange feeling.
I have let the grief consume me. It has made me feel so dysfunctional at times over the last 17 years. I’ve really struggled through my journey. I’ve struggled to come to terms with what happened, to accept what my reality was. I still struggle with adoption.
Adoption is hard. Open adoption is hard.
Being a birth mother is a feeling like no other, a feeling I wouldn’t want anyone to ever feel. It truly changes you.
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Being a birth mother is not something you plan to be . . . you want to be a mother.
I never envisioned this.
The feeling of sadness when your heart literally aches—you’re heartbroken. You feel that knot in your throat trying to contain the emotions.
I miss her. I miss everything I lost with her.
I feel like I failed so many, not just her.
Now that I am older, wiser, less vulnerable, and more educated, I have realized some will say whatever it takes to convince a birth mother her child is better off without her so someone else can have a baby.
My adoption agency glorified open adoption as a choice. What they didn’t tell me is that there is nothing set in stone with open adoption. Once you surrender your parental rights, it’s over . . . that’s it. You put all your trust and hope in the adoptive parents not to do you wrong. You have no rights.
There can be many broken promises and a lack of support and therapy for the birth mother. I was handed a book called “How To Say Goodbye To Your Baby,” a book on open adoption, and some pamphlets. Then, they sent me on my way. They wished me well and scooted me out the door.
There is this awkward and unusual feeling—loving my birth daughter so much, but not even knowing who she is.
Even saying that out loud pains me deeply. It’s hard not knowing things a mother should know about her daughter. I knew more about her when she was little when I saw her more than I do now.
That’s what can happen in open adoption. I would love to have continued a close relationship, but as years went on, the phone calls stopped, visits stopped, and getting updates and photos were mostly non-existent.
I couldn’t tell you her favorite color, her favorite season, her favorite book, or her favorite subject in school. I don’t know her favorite meal or favorite dessert. I couldn’t tell you what she aspires to become in life. I don’t know her favorite holiday, I don’t know her favorite song. I don’t know her favorite movie. There is so much I don’t know.
They say the baby doesn’t remember being separated, but according to Adoption.org, “Experts have considered separation from a child’s birth parents, even as an infant, a traumatic event. Which means every adopted child will experience early trauma in at least one form. Everything the child had been used to, even in utero, the sights, sounds, and smells are gone.”
I was looking at old photos of my birth daughter and me. In these photos, you see me giving a forced smile. I was miserable. In these pictures, she was still just a newborn.
I can still feel the pain I felt in that moment.
I questioned if open adoption was right for me. Every time I saw and visited her, it was like opening up that wound, over and over again, never healing. Every visit was a trigger. But I had to stay involved because I didn’t want to lose her again. I wanted her to know who I was.
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I learned to become numb to the pain over the years. In these photos, I was only about 6-weeks postpartum. Of course I wanted to see my birth daughter, but it was very uncomfortable. I was depressed, mourning my child, still healing from the C-section, still binding my breasts to help stop milk supply, my hormones were raging, and I was experiencing postpartum depression.
I know under all the hurt, sadness, and pain that I did what was best. I wanted her to have a beautiful life.
To all the birth mothers who are still in pain and even to those who are at peace, you are amazing, don’t ever forget that.