Life after placement can seem like an impossible destination. When I labored, gave birth and held my son in my arms, the world stopped spinning and I was suspended in time. Two days, just two precious days were all I allowed myself with him. Any less, and I never would have forgiven myself for not soaking him in. If it had been any longer than two days, I would never have signed my relinquishment papers.
After two days and signing those papers, I felt as though I should jump back into life. However, I didn’t know what “life” was anymore. I had attended a birth mother’s support group while pregnant and there were some birth mothers among us expectant mothers. Birth mothers who had graduated college, gone on to form families of their own, or who were living lives of wonder that included traveling and working their way up the corporate ladder. Birth mothers that somehow figured out what life meant for them after placement. While adoption is a major part of who I am, it doesn’t have to play a major role in every birth mother’s life.
I went back to college. Very boring, but for me, very necessary. I had my Associate’s Degree before I was pregnant and just two years after placement I had my Bachelor’s. I can’t say this wasn’t driven by the adoption; my main reason for going back to school was to give my son someone to be proud of—and a birth mother that is a college graduate felt like a good start. I obtained my degree, which opened doors to jobs and started a chain reaction to give me a life outside of the adoption world.
I’m not saying I didn’t properly mourn my son, but I saw how other birth mothers in my support group were living. They lived a life not overwhelmed by grief. Their lives were fulfilling and although I could see that loss existed in them, they weren’t controlled by that pain.
After college, I began working. I married my college sweetheart, we bought a house and started a family. My son was always in my heart, but not at the forefront of my mind. I would do things, such as try to excel at my career, in the hopes that he would be proud of me, but also for a sense of pride within myself. I stayed active in my church, continued to find hobbies and friends that help bring happiness into my world. Life is a series of choices, and I wanted to make mine good ones.
I attend birth mother’s support groups once in a while. Grief comes and goes in waves and I will sometimes find myself needing help from others who understand. After one particular group meeting, there was a young woman who was expecting and she confronted me. She asked how I could possibly have my life together. She didn’t understand how someone could experience loss and still be able to continuing living. Suddenly, a surreal epiphany that hit me; I was now “that birth mother” who had her life together. After my anguish and grief subsided and allowed me to move forward, my life had somehow come together. My years of hard work, hoping to find that peace that resided in other birth mother’s, had finally paid off. Like I said, grief comes and goes in waves, but because I took one step at a time, my life fell into place again.
My process started with baby steps, simple things like taking a few classes at a local university. Before I knew it, I was a college graduate. I had a career which I was moving up in quickly. I had a family, a home… a life. Adoption is important and it is part of my very core. But it is vital to my life that I have more meaning behind it than what I experienced over 5 years ago, on placement day. It seemed like an impossible destination, having a life to call my own, without the son I carried. My hope for all women considering adoption or who are having a hard time finding your place in this crazy world again, is to realize that life doesn’t end at placement. Grief happens and it should. But so does growth, and you will find happiness once again. It may seem impossible, but I was once pregnant, single and afraid. I Looked at veteran birth mothers who had their life together and was envious that it wasn’t me. Now there are others looking to me as someone who has found a life after placement, and hoping it will be them someday. And it will be. It will take time…but it will happen.