Five Simple Ways to Break Your Birth Mother’s Heart

Navigating a relationship based on trust and hope.

Marilee Hicks May 10, 2014
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5. Cut off contact with the birth mom’s family.

Unless the birth family is a physical or emotional threat, please relax. Your child cannot have too many people to love him or her. This includes lots of possibilities, but talk to your birth mom! Follow her lead and trust her judgment. If your birth mom has exercised sound judgment in the past, your birth mother’s nieces and nephews are probably going to enhance your lives. The aunts and uncles who love your child only add to the experience of family.

This is also a great way for your child to grow up knowing their heritage. While I love adoptive parents who dive head-on into learning about a child’s culture and try to replicate aspects of it in celebration, my son should be able to discover Knoephla soup from someone who makes it well.  If you ask politely, my grandma might teach you how. We can make it a bonding experience!

4. Make grand promises about the future without following through.

Birth mothers remember every little thing that we are promised. I could run through the entire list of promises that have been broken in my adoption, but we would be here all day. Identify the bare minimum of what you’re willing to offer. Then cut some of that. Then make your promises. Birth mothers will hold onto any and all promises that are made, even if they aren’t legally binding. Something as small as the promise of a dog when the child turns 5 will stick in their head. If you promise a birth family that their child will get to ski in Tahoe every winter, they will wait expectantly for pictures every year and updates about when their child will compete in the Olympics.

3. Lessen contact with birth parents unexpectedly.

Oh my goodness. I cannot count the number of stories I’ve heard about birth mothers, many of them friends of mine, losing contact with their children and their adoptive families. While this goes along with breaking promises, this is the ultimate breech of trust.

Please think about the bare minimum you’re willing to offer as an adoptive parent. Consider what you find realistic. Talk it through with your partner. Can you handle monthly visits? Do you think you’d be able to keep up with a monthly letter? Perhaps you can handle one letter every six months through the agency. Be realistic. Be honest. If you don’t think you’ll be able to handle seeing the birth mother, be up-front. Realize that this birth mother is putting her faith in what you’re promising her and will sit and wait and hope that the contact will continue.

I was promised lots of pictures and updates during my son’s first year of life. I was met with radio silence. My emails went unanswered. My calls to the agency were “redirected.”  I didn’t exist to the people who were holding the cards. Do not become the adoptive parents who cut out a birth mother once you get what you want. You cannot have enough people who love your child.

2. Deny your child’s origins

Even if you don’t have contact with your child’s extended family, find ways to embrace his or her culture and history. Although a lot of this article focuses on what adoptive parents can do to strengthen a relationship in an open adoption, this applies to situations across the adoption community, from foster care to international adoption. Whether it be cute traditions like wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day or learning different types of Persian dishes, there are lots of ways to embrace your child’s differences and add a little spunk to your own household.

Blended culture households are amazing things, especially in the adoption community. Take time to embrace it instead of just assimilating a child into your own culture. Not only will your child learn more about what makes them special, you get a crash course in different cultures!

What a fun way to create new traditions.

1. Accidentally invite a birth mother to events or meet-ups.

If we are invited to see our children, most of us would walk over broken glass while juggling hot coals to make it happen. Even if you casually mention a get-together and throw some dates out there that would work for you, a lot of birth mothers will clutch onto those dates for dear life, beg co-workers to switch shifts, and start gathering gifts for their children.

Even if it is a casual mention of a possible meeting, a birth mom will hang onto that. If you don’t know if you’ll be able to follow through, don’t mention it.  Meetings that don’t pan out are the fastest way to lose a birth mother’s trust. Please don’t ruin a relationship just because flaking seems simpler. If visits are promised at the beginning of the adoption journey, please take them seriously. I’m amazed by how many times I’ve been casually invited to an event by my son’s adoptive parents and either not received a response when I confirmed or was told that they weren’t expecting me to be able to make it.

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Marilee Hicks


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