As a birthmother, you are made to feel you are not good enough to parent your child. You are made to feel you have to stay silent or feel shame if you talk about it. Stuff it down and pretend it never happened is what we feel we must do.

I felt I wasn’t allowed to grieve the loss of my daughter. I felt I had to grieve in secret.
What a very traumatic experience . . . it was absolutely devastating. I have never been the same since that day.

The day I surrendered my parental rights—I remember that day so clearly. The pressure “to do the right thing.”

The wording is so cruel on the paperwork. A part of me died that day. I felt empty. What have I done? I was completely devastated. Something has always been missing since that day.

She was missing.

Adoption is awkward in a way I can never describe. As a birthmother, you are constantly walking on eggshells. I always felt like a nervous wreck. You worry you will say the wrong thing and the family cut you out of the open adoption. You want to make sure to keep boundaries. I never wanted to come off as needy or trying to “co-parent.“ I understood she was their daughter now.

Visits with my (birth)daughter were challenging. I would put on a happy face when, in actuality, I was mourning her.

After my visits with my daughter, I would grieve her all over again, watching her leave with someone else, having to say goodbye again.

I would cope by falling back into bad habits. Restricting my food, abusing laxatives, binging and purging to the point of bloody knuckles, going days without eating.

She was such a beautiful baby. She has grown into an absolutely stunning young lady. She has this porcelain doll skin, thick red hair, beautiful blushing cheeks, gorgeous cherry red lips, almond-shaped blueish turquoise eyes and long lashes. She is absolute perfection.

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I always had to pretend to be this person who was happy and OK with what was happening. I was ALWAYS being told how lucky I was to be involved in an open adoption. How lucky I am to have found a wonderful family, how lucky I am they are willing to allow me into their life.

Lucky? I saw this as luck for me. It made me angry I was expected to feel this way. I think it’s the family that adopted my child that is lucky.

They are lucky I chose them. They are lucky I kept my promises. They are lucky I’m a good person who comes from a good home and a great family. They are lucky I have always shown nothing but respect and kept my boundaries. They are lucky.

I felt grief . . . so much grief. Depression and loss of dignity. So much anger. I hated myself and resorted back to eating disorder behaviors. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed, mourning the loss of motherhood, the loss of memories. I felt nothing but pain and disappointment.

Over the years, I wonder how I managed to make it through each day. Sometimes thinking about her paralyzes me. An overwhelming amount of sadness consumes me.

I would daydream about her all the time. I still do. I would lay in bed and daydream about what her nursery would have looked like. Daydream about seeing all her firsts. Daydream about life with my child.

You begin to experience identity issues, severe depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, PTSD, and constant worrying about your child, hoping and praying they won’t hate you. Thinking that the others are right, and maybe she really is better off without you. Being made to feel your own flesh and blood is better off with anyone else in this world but you . . . her mother. I wasn’t good enough. How awful it made me feel. I felt worthless. I felt unlovable and as if I were some toxic person. The shame is a constant reminder. That shame has never left me. It’s forever.

Adoption, even open adoption, is bittersweet. She deserved the very best life.

I have been a birthmother for 16 years in an open adoption. I have NEVER shared on social media or in person about it—I have been silent. For 16 years, I kept it to myself, never really even talking about it with friends or family (very few who genuinely care or ask). Why? People—women especially—don’t care because it did not happen to them, or they have some ignorant “I’m better than you” comment, or the famous. “Oh, I could never have given up my baby.”

When I decided to PLACE my baby in adoption, the last thing I did was “give up” . . . she was not a piece of trash I threw away. Whenever I hear that I honestly have to hold back. It makes me cringe. After that was said to me, I stopped talking about it for good. I lied about having a child or I said yes, I have a child but did not tell the person I placed her.

Others will never understand the feeling of leaving the hospital empty-handed after giving birth, the lifelong grief.

Your body goes through all the stages every woman goes through after birth. My body wanted to nurse and care for my child. Your arms ache for your baby . . . you are broken. You go into tunnel vision, severe denial, and an overwhelming amount of grief to the point you can’t go on. Imagine mourning your child who is alive . . . oh, but I “gave up.”

There is not enough support for birthmoms to heal or try to come to terms with what happened. All we get is stereotyped by others and shamed. It’s very real. Not all birthmothers are druggies or bad people—I should not have to justify my why.

I put her first, as any mother would do. There is no moving on or forgetting. Open adoption does not make it easier.

Open adoption changes over the years. Visits become less and less, updates and pictures become almost nonexistent. I get it, I respect this; things change. But I guess I wasn’t prepared for this yet.

I have had some priceless moments in this open adoption, more than most birthmothers get. Every year for the last 15 years, no matter what, we celebrated her birthday, which is Christmas Eve.

The family flew to Key West, Florida for my wedding and my(birth)daughter was a bridesmaid. I was at her baptism, a couple of plays at her school, a talent show, a dance recital, a few family functions.

These moments her parents shared with me? I am forever grateful. I’m grateful I can have those memories to look back on.  

Her mom and dad truly are great people. They love her so much. What matters most is this child has an endless amount of love and people who care for her. 

She has a life I would have never been able to give her. I hope one day she sees that, as hard as I understand it may be for her. 

woman in wedding dress with teen girl
Image via Jacquelyn Binford

Jacquelyn Binford

My name is Jacquelyn Binford. I am a wife, birthmother and mother. My beautiful daughter is 16. And my son is 3. Hoping to share my adoption story for other birthmothers.