Life post-placement doesn’t work like the fairytales. Adoptive Families and birth parents don’t just ride off into the sunset with “Happily Ever After” scribbled in the clouds. There is as much grief as there is joy in adoption. It is important that we remember that adoption will affect every member of the triad differently—but probably for a lifetime.
To The Birth Parents
1. Process Your Feelings
Make the counseling appointment. Call your friend. Sit with it. The adoption process is nothing short of exhausting—especially for the person who just carried, delivered, and relinquished a child. Although you may feel alone in your experiences up to this point, know that there are many women like you who have left the hospital empty-handed. Find community in those who can empathize and support your through your grieving process.
For some, it takes time for the reality of adoption to set into their lives post-placement. Your body and mind are both adjusting to the major changes it has just undergone. Give yourself time to work through that process as it comes and goes. Find those who you feel safe being vulnerable with.
Looking for an adoption agency that offers free lifetime counseling to the birth mothers they work with? The Gladney Center for Adoption is here to support you before, during, and after your adoption experience.
2. Learn About Your Personal Boundaries
Before placing your child for adoption, you made plans for continuing relationships with your child and chosen adoptive parents. Be patient in implementing these plans. Post-placement, you may need time and space to recover from the placement process. The adoptive family may need time to bond and form attachments with the child (learn more about cocooning). Communicate your needs and preferences as they change over time. Open adoption looks different for every family. Remember that mutual respect and support of personal boundaries after placement will be the foundation for your relationships going forward.
3. Take the Next Step
For some birth parents, this means returning to parent a family you’ve gone through the adoption process with. For others, it means going back to school or work. Some birth parents may still be contemplating post-placement plans. Wherever you are, know that you’re not alone in taking those next steps. Work with your counselor and support system—communicate your needs going forward and as they change. You may also want to share your adoption plans with your employer and request maternity leave
To The Adoptees
1. Process Your Feelings
Children adopted as infants or toddlers will need several years to grow into processing their feelings about adoption—but it is just as important as older children who may have been adopted from foster care or by a family member. Counseling and/or therapy are just two options for adoptees who are learning about their feelings toward adoption. These emotions may change over time, so be sure to check in, reassess, and explore how a slowly maturing perspective on the topic may be affecting your life.
2. Embrace Your Identity
While adoption is a part of your story, it is not your identity. Who you are is not based on a label, your genetics, who you grew up with, or who you choose to spend your time with. Identity tends to be something that adoptees in particular struggle to define and embrace. Work with your support system or counselor to communicate your feelings on the topic and work toward a healthy relationship with yourself and your family members as you embrace your identity.
3. Make A Plan
As an adoptee, you will be faced with questions about your adoption experience, opportunities to develop a relationship with your biological family, and milestones that are unique to adoptees. While you can’t possibly prepare for everything that will come around—and perhaps the things you do prepare for never happen. However, you can learn now how to answer the questions that may be asked. You can develop healthy relationships with those in your life as they come along. And you can work to understand how to process and cope with milestones as they approach.
To The Adoptive Parents
1. Process Your Feelings
Domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and adoption from foster care all have one thing in common—it’s hard. It’s hard on the birth parents, it’s hard on the adoptees, and it’s hard on the adoptive parents. Remember that every member of the adoption triad may need a little extra help and support throughout the process. Do not rule out counseling for yourself or your family members who are adjusting to the new changes you’re experiencing. Share your burdens with those you trust and accept help. Accept help.
2. Call in Your Village
One more time—accept help. Raising a child takes more than one person alone. Call on your community, your friends, your family, your support groups, or whoever is around ready to help—communicate your needs and receive the help when you need it and when you don’t. This support is needed beyond casseroles at the newborn stage or babysitting during the terrible twos. It extends to late-night venting, carpooling for early morning drop-off, and everything in between.
3. Celebrate Your Family
There is always grief in adoption. We remain sensitive and reverent to the pain that led to the adoption of a child into a forever family. That pain does not need to translate to guilt that deters you from celebrating your forever family and taking a joyous step forward into the future. As opportunities come to introduce your child’s culture—take them. As opportunities come to talk to your child about their adoption story—take them. As opportunities come to share your personal adoption story with others—take them.