Dealing With Birth Mother Regret

What to do when the shoulda woulda couldas come around.

Annaleece Merrill March 27, 2017
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Advocating for adoption is a big part of my life. I write pro-adoption articles, I attend weekly support meetings for birth parents, and I often speak in public schools about the miracle of adoption. I tell people all the time how grateful I am for open adoption, and how much it has changed my life for the better. And it’s true–but sometimes I regret my decision to place my baby for adoption.

Sometimes I wonder how it would have been if I hadn’t placed. I would be the only mommy baby R knew. I wouldn’t have to watch her grow up through photographs. I would be the one who tucked her in at night. Maybe things would have turned out okay for us had I chosen to parent.

When the shoulda woulda couldas come around, many people tell me there’s no point in regretting it since there’s nothing I can do about it now. Others are quick to remind me of all the obstacles I would have to face as a single parent, and how much better off my birth daughter is without me. Personally, I find these ideas tremendously unhelpful. I have compiled a list of things that really do help to deal with regret.

1. Quit Judging Yourself

Regret is a totally normal part of life. Every mother has things she regrets–does she yell at her kids too much? Should she have chosen a different daycare? We all wish we could go back and do some things differently. At the end of the day, the advice I have for birth mothers is the same as the advice I have for parenting mothers–as long as you did the best you could, you did an amazing thing. Allow yourself to feel your regret. Don’t be so hard on yourself for feeling something we all feel every day.

2. Don’t Let it Consume You

Feelings are like visitors. We welcome them into our homes, chat with them for awhile, and send them on their way. Allowing an emotion to visit does not mean they can crash on your couch indefinitely, sucking you dry. Sometimes it’s tough–regret won’t want to leave. But you have to kick it out before it drains you of your strength and resilience. You own your heart. You get to decide who comes and goes.

3. Remember Why You Placed

Sometimes regret is a stubborn tenant. So you have to give it an eviction notice. My eviction notice is a list of all the ways adoption has blessed my life. This is NOT a list that details all the unfortunate circumstances that made placement the best decision. It’s a list of positives- adoption has given me a sense of purpose. It has brought some of my dearest friends into my life. It has given me a career path. Because I placed, two very deserving parents gained a daughter. Baby R gained a stable home, a big brother, and the overwhelming love of two families- birth and adoptive. Adoption has brought so much light into my life that remembering it all leaves no room for the darkness of regret.

Regret is a basic human emotion, a necessary part of the grieving process. Give yourself time to grieve, but remember that you are birth mom strong.

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Annaleece Merrill

Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.


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