Grief and loss have always been foreign to me: something that I knew existed, but I didn’t really have tangible experience with. Of course, I’ve been through things in my life, just as most people have. But true, soul-deep, agonizing grief was something that I just did not understand or think very much about until I became a birth mother, and it was suddenly as much a part of me as the color of my hair. Birth mother grief became ingrained in me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not miserable or sad. I don’t spend my days curled up in a ball, refusing or unable to be a contributing, emotionally sound member of society. Those who see me on occasion would not know I am anything but happy all the time. I joke a lot, I love to laugh, and turn things into a punch line. I think that life is better when you’re laughing. Most wouldn’t know the side of me that feels awful sometimes.

Since placement I have learned a lot of things about grief. Grief is part of life, albeit a very unfortunate, unpleasant, and let’s face it, unwelcome part; but it’s a part just the same. When I placed my son I thought that grief would consume me. I became convinced that life wouldn’t feel full ever again. It would press in on me like this dark, suffocating cloud the moment I woke, and if I were lucky, I could sleep for a few hours to avoid it. It wasn’t pretty or fun, and I wanted to be free of it so badly. But I took the advice of those around me, and I just let it wash over me. I let myself feel it because that was the healthy thing to do. Granted, at the time, I didn’t think for a second it was. I wish I’d let myself feel it for as long as necessary. However, after a few weeks, I forced myself to “get a grip,” to put a smile on my face, and just dive head-first into the adoption community. I joined every birth mother group I could find on Facebook. I posted quotes and songs and chose to view everything about my adoption situation with rose-colored glasses because I thought that was how I was supposed to “move on.”

Except I didn’t move on. I shut it in and decided to go the “fake it ’til you make it” route, I didn’t tell his parents how I felt. I didn’t talk about it. I told myself and others I was great until I actually believed it. Then April and May hit, and in those two short months, more like 6 weeks, the adoption was finalized, he was sealed and blessed, my first Birth Mother’s Day came, and he turned a year old. Leaving his birthday party, I was done. I made up an excuse about losing my sunglasses so I could turn around. Going home, I cried. I wanted him with me, I missed him. I NEEDED to be near him. I realized my happiness was solely dependent upon my birth son and his parents. If I spoke to them every day, if I saw him often, I was great and life was fantastic. If things got busy and we lost touch for a few days as we went about our lives, I got moody, and second-guessed myself far too much. I realized that I was making someone else responsible for MY well-being. I was yielding control of my own life without even realizing it. Nobody wants that kind of control over anyone else.

Last night, I finally talked to his mom and just told her the truth. I needed a break. I needed to be something other than a birth mother. I asked not to receive a visit this month, and after she asked, I asked not to receive pictures for now, as well. And I opened that door of grief. That dark, all-consuming hurt, anger, sadness… it all came rushing to the surface until I just cried myself to sleep. Yet today, I felt lighter. Like a weight had been lifted. I miss him terribly, I will ALWAYS miss him. But I have to let myself heal or else it will eat away at me until I am a shell of myself.

I am more than a birth mother, and I have to find my identity outside of that. I have to find who I am after placement. I cannot just exist. I cannot fake it: I need to actually FEEL it. Some won’t understand why a break was needed. Some will be shocked that I could “turn away” from B, and I know that can be hard to understand. I’m not turning my back. I’m not walking away. I love him more than ever. But I also have to take care of me and be there for the son I parent. B has wonderful, loving parents who love, take care of, and protect him, so I need to let him go and let him be loved, taken care of, and protected by his parents. I will always be his birth mother… but I am no longer his mom. So I have to create that distinction in my own heart and focus on the little guy who DOES call me mommy.

I’m a mother, a student, a sister, and a writer. I’m complex yet sometimes so incredibly simple. I’m a good person, despite my flaws–maybe because of them–and I have chosen to feel the grief and stop hiding from it. Does it hurt? Oh, it does. So much sometimes that I feel I can barely breathe through the weight in my chest. Is it necessary? Absolutely. And after a few weeks of space and reflection and letting myself feel things, maybe I’ll be ready to get those pictures and have those visits. For now, I can’t do that. And whoever doesn’t understand, that’s okay. My birth son’s parents understand, and I understand. And that’s all I need.