Yes, you read the title correctly, birth mother anger. As I Googled this topic, I was surprised to find that there isn’t anything out in internet-land about it. There were two blogs in which birth mothers expressed their anger, but the articles quickly turned to adoptee anger at birth mothers. There were pages and pages of those articles. Surely someone must have studied the anger that birth mothers feel.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. In my almost 32 years since becoming a birth mother, my openness has been met with confusion, strange looks, and even, “You shouldn’t talk about that!” Certainly there have been those who have supportive and kind, and many are very curious and want to know more, but if I had a dollar for every negative reaction to my experiences . . . well, you know how that goes.
Before I move forward, I need to clarify some things. First of all, not all adoptions are by choice. There are many women around the world, and, yes, even in America who have been forced or coerced into placing their child for adoption. In a previous article, I explained the psychological consequences of placing a child, which includes Complicated Grief Disorder (CGD), Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (March, 2014). For those who were forced or coerced into adoption, I am certain that they deal with these psychological issues x10.
I want to stress, however, that not all adoptions happened because of force or coercion. For many birth mothers, we became birth mothers simply and truly, 100% by choice. No one forced or coerced us. Some have regrets about their decision, while others do not.
I am a birth mother by choice and have no regrets whatsoever. Even so, I have struggled with all three psychological disorders that commonly affect birth mothers. I have also experienced intense anger. Frank Herbert once said, “How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him.”
In the months and years after my son’s birth, I found that I was more easily angered than prior to his placement. My anger was also often more intense than normal. While I was never in a complete rage or not in control, I did not like this part of me and became very frustrated when it occurred. For a while, I blamed post-pregnancy hormones, but you can only get away with that for a few months. Three years after his birth, the anger was as quick and intense as ever, but I began to not be okay with it. I was naturally not an angry person. Sure, I got angry, but I wasn’t a naturally angry person; yet, that anger seemed to be just below the surface. I wasn’t obviously angry all the time. My friends and family often said that I was sure dealing with things really well. They didn’t know that I was about to boil over.
In the month of my son’s third birthday, I was, as they say, a hot mess. The anger could not be contained. I kept snapping at people and had absolutely no patience. I muttered and complained and stomped around. My roommates asked if I was okay. I angrily said that I was “FINE!” I snapped at my parents when they called. I even was short-tempered with my fiancé (now my husband). After a short-tempered conversation, my fiancé asked, “When was Joey (my birth son) born?”
“It’s November. Could that be what’s going on?”
I acknowledged it could be. After the phone call, his words would not leave me. I was always sad and a bit moody in November, but everyone was saying I was mad all the time. Was I angry? If so, why? I didn’t have anything to be angry about. I had made the choice to place my child myself. No one had hurt me or forced me in any way. I knew that it had been the right decision not only for him but also for myself. I was in college, pursuing a lifelong dream. I had the most amazing friends I had ever had. I was getting married to a wonderful guy in a few months. I had parents who loved and supported me. I was strong. I was healthy. I was smart. What was wrong with me?
It then dawned on me. I was angry with me. I was angry that I had gotten pregnant in the first place. I was angry that because of my stupidity I had to tell my fiancé that I had a child. I was so grateful that he loved me and stuck with me in spite of my past, but I shouldn’t have let it happen in the first place. I was angry that I grieved. I was angry that people treated me differently when they found out. I was angry that I wouldn’t know my son or his family. I was angry that I had to mature before my classmates. I was simply angry.
Anger and happiness cannot abide in the same space. It occurred to me that I was holding myself back from a world of joy. Until I forgave myself and loved myself for who I was—and why I was that way—then I would walk through life pretending to be happy but not really being happy. I then realized that because of my upcoming marriage, it was possible that I could be a mom in a relatively short period of time. I didn’t want my children to have an angry, unhappy mother. I needed to forgive myself and let go.
I wish I could say it happened that instant—that I was able to forgive myself and be instantly happy. I wasn’t. What I was able to do, however, was begin to work on it. Little by little I found myself again and realized that I actually liked myself. I got married and had three children of my own, which brought inexplicable happiness. Then, on that sacred day decades later, I was reunited with my first son. Because I had let go of self-anger, all that has been left of that particular part of my story is absolute pure joy.
Herbert, F. (1990). Dune. New York: Ace Publishing.
March, K. (2014). Birth mother grief and the challenge of adoption reunion contact. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 409-409.