1. She might be trying to move forward.
I, as a birth mom, have never tried to “move on.” Sadly, it’s advice I have received from many well-intentioned people. I’ve heard many of the following: “Just ‘move on.” “It’s been a few years.” “It’ll be healthier for you.” “I don’t know why you’re still hanging onto this.” However, birth moms might pull away from these actions.
These people are trying to help, but it’s incredibly insulting to the birth parents as well as the child. Birth moms might pull away at this. There’s no such thing as moving on from the loss of a loved one. Just learning to live with their absence. When someone is trying to move forward, to me that means finding the balance between the initial grief and a healthy relationship with everyone involved.
I used to wake up early, hoping to get an email update first thing on Sunday morning. Constantly checking my e-mail and waiting. Sometimes being upset when it didn’t come by 9:00 AM.
But since trying to move forward, instead of anxiously waiting for an update, I now am pleasantly surprised by one. There’s still a joy when I get to know what he’s doing, or when I get invited into his life via an update, but by moving forward there isn’t the anxiety in waiting for one. The adoption has closed in this manner since I no longer respond immediately, I no longer send texts asking for an update every week. Instead, I wait until it’s appropriate and feels natural to talk to them, such as at a visit. I haven’t moved on, I’ve moved forward.
How to handle it? Allow it to happen. Birth moms might pull away but be understanding. Continue with the openness as normal. Closing it immediately can cause a panic for the birth mother. I no longer receive weekly emails, but that’s because it was discussed between the adoptive parents and myself. I wasn’t suddenly cut off from them because I stopped responding.
2. She may need time to heal.
A person will never understand the pain of watching another woman walk away with your child, knowing that the child will fall in love with her the way he or she should fall in love with you. A person will never understand it unless they’ve gone through it.
My birth son is 7 now, and the pain isn’t as powerful anymore, but it’s not gone. When he was younger, he would fall, be hurt, and cry for his mother. He wouldn’t be crying for me. I carried him, I loved him, and my heart looks at him as my child, but he doesn’t look at me as his mother. Sometimes, it’s hard to accept that.
Even if he has what I always wanted for him, it’s hard to look at the situation for what it is—someone else raising my baby. That’s when I take an emotional break and pull away from the adoption. Taking an emotional break can be healthy. It’s not his fault, there’s no lessening of love felt for him. I just need space to recenter my life.
I’m lucky that his parents are understanding of this, the few times I’ve needed the space a simple email was all that was needed. I told them I love them, I love him, but where I am in my life is somewhere that I need space. I also ask that they’ll reaccept me when I feel prepared and they are always accommodating.
How to handle it? Tell the birth mom you love her. Tell her that you’re there, that the openness that you had before can be there when she’s ready. Taking away the pressure of “if it’s closed will I ever be able to have that openness again?” will help her feel better about the situation. It can help build up trust that is vital in this type of relationship.
3. Her lifestyle choices may change.
It didn’t take long after my son was born to slip into old habits. When I found out I was pregnant I stopped the party scene; I stopped drinking and smoking; I stopped activities that would be unhealthy for my body. It was all for him, I wanted the best for him and I was going to do what I could to provide it.
Then, he was no longer with me 24 hours a day. My heart was shattered, my soul was broken, and I had lost many friends after I was placed. Slowly, I began to sink into the depression. Before I knew it, I was so clouded by it that I tried anything to feel anything. My life was soon right where I had left it off before finding out I was pregnant.
Which was exactly what I was afraid of. I was worried I was going to be too weak to live what I felt like was a clean life and give my son what he deserved. I didn’t want him to see me fail, so I pulled away from the adoption. That lifestyle, luckily, didn’t last long for me. I ended up finding a counselor that helped me find who I was and clear the fog from my life.
How to handle it? This one is unfortunate. However, you cannot take away the agency of another person. You can find out what’s appropriate for your family and go from there.
Be there for love and support, tell the birth mom that you’re there when she’s clean but until then, the adoption can be “x, y, z”. Some adoptive parents are OK with keeping it open through emails, others want it completely closed until the birth mom’s lifestyle is one they’re comfortable exposing their child to.
What’s important is that you show the birth mom love. Birth moms might pull away but don’t be afraid to show love. You tell your child that she loves him, but the way she’s living is keeping her away. Tell him that she’s still a good person and mean it. If a child believes there is something wrong with one parent, he will believe there is something wrong with him.
4. Sometimes, life gets busy—and that’s OK!
I went from weekly updates via texts, calls, pictures, emails, Facebook, blog, etc, to not talking to my adoptive couple for a month simply from life getting busy. We were all in school, finals were all lined up with one another, I was dating, eventually planning a wedding, having a child and taking care of a newborn, and so on. Life got busy, quickly.
I still thought about my birth son daily, I always have and always will. I still love him, I still miss him. But life is busy, and I don’t need to see him every day. I don’t need the constant reminder that I made the right decision by placing him. I trust that he’s happy and I trust that he knows I love him.
There was never a formal, “can we please close the adoption a little” discussion, but we are at the point of happiness. The point where I call when I’m having a hard day and missing him a little extra, or where he calls me when he’s feeling the vulnerability an adopted person can feel. The adoption sounds closed, in the sense that we don’t talk as much as we used to. But it feels more open, simply from the trust that we have for one another.
How to handle it? Allow it to happen. It’s the last step in the grieving process, “acceptance.” This is the healthy place that I always hoped to be and now I am.