Please Don’t Erase Birth Parents From The Adoption Narrative

There are three sides to every adoption story, and they all matter very much.

Annaleece Merrill September 01, 2017
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When you google “adoption quotes,” you get thousands of results saying things like “Family requires love, not DNA,” and “I didn’t give you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you”. When the topic of adoption comes up, I usually hear people say “Oh, I know this family who adopted!” or “So and so was adopted, I think that’s so cool.”

This is all wonderful, and so true . . . but what about the birth parents? Behind every sweet, wonderful adoptive family you know there is a birth mother who gave the gift of life along with a  piece of her heart. A woman who went through a difficult pregnancy, labor, and delivery only to go home with empty arms.

All too often, I see birth parents being left out of adoption discussion. Sometimes being a birth mom makes me feel like a nameless, faceless silhouette. We mattered when we were pregnant. The public and the agencies called us heroes, about to give a wonderful gift to a waiting family. Once we gave that gift, we couldn’t benefit the agencies anymore. The adoptive families had their baby. So we weren’t needed anymore.

My birth daughter is not a gift, she’s a child. A person whom I love fiercely and miss deeply. I did the best I could for her. I wasn’t what she needed at the time, and I’m not there in her day-to-day life. But that doesn’t mean I don’t exist. My story and my grief matter. I matter.

As humans, we like things to be wrapped up in neat little packages without loose ends or raw edges. In the adoption narrative, I am the raw edge. Something must have gone very wrong for me to be in a position where I could not raise my beautiful, beloved baby. This makes some people uncomfortable. So my place in the story is oversimplified and covered up with a bow. “She did the right thing for her child, so she’ll just move on with her life.”

In reality, adoption is far from the story you often hear. Beneath the shiny wrapping paper, there are adoptive parents who have shed countless tears over infertility and financing the long road to adoption. There are birth parents who face a bitter reality and lifelong grief. Adoptees who feel lost, abandoned or confused. Adoption is beautiful, but it’s not perfect.

I matter. Like it or not, birth parents cannot be erased from the narrative. We will ALWAYS be a part of the adoptee, because we made them. We are the reason they exist. I don’t ask to be heralded as a saint or a hero, but I do deserve to be talked about.

Every birth mother deserves to be treated the way I am treated by little R’s adoptive family – with kindness, appreciation, and love. I know that I matter because she knows I matter. She will grow up being surrounded by my love, even when I’m not there. She is told by her parents time and time again who I am, and that I love her.

To every birth mother I know – you matter. Whether or not your agency, your family, or the world knows, I know. You gave your baby the best life you could. It doesn’t matter if that was a month ago or fifty years ago. You never stop being important.

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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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