The Different Types Of Guilt In Adoption And How To Cope

As a birth mother, I know guilt all too well.

Lindsey Olsen January 13, 2017
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I can’t speak for everyone in the adoption triad, but as a birth mother, I know all about guilt in adoption from placing my son. There is a myriad of reasons I’ve felt guilt, from not knowing his favorite movie, to wondering if he’s going to feel that I didn’t want him. The guilt I’ve felt spans from the little things to huge, life changing things. It also doesn’t go away just because the placement process is over. As time goes on, as my son grows, and as I introduce more people into my life, I constantly feel new waves of guilt all the time. It all stems from knowing my decisions don’t just have an effect on me; they alter the lives of everyone close to me. The good news is there are so many ways to cope. Every horrible pit in your stomach can be dispelled if you so allow.

My Son

The most obvious form of guilt I’ve felt is towards my son. There are times when I feel I’ve abandoned him; I’ve opened up reasons for him to feel unwanted. Every ounce of logic tells me that is the exact opposite from the truth, but knowing he could think that about me makes me feel terrible. To combat my guilt, I do my part in maintaining a wide open adoption and spending time with him when I can. It’s not always easy with work, school, and my small family to care for, but if I want to alleviate the guilt and make sure my son never feels that I didn’t want him, I need to personally remind him by giving of my time and love.

My Family

Another form of guilt I feel is towards my family. My son is the first grandchild for my parents, and I placed him with another family. He’s the first nephew for my brothers. The list of family members this affected could go on and on. They, too, get to spend time with him now and then, but it’s my fault they don’t get to see him on a more regular basis. The guilt I feel for this eats at me all the time. To beat this guilt, I share most of the time I get with him. I can count on one hand how many times it’s been just me and him.

My Husband

The guilt I’m reminded of the most is towards my husband. He’s the one that has to comfort me when I’m upset, or sad, or scared, or angry, or any other emotion I can feel about the placement. He dealt with me when I was pregnant. He comforted me when I felt alone after my son was no longer attached to me. He listened to me when I tried to communicate my feelings to him between sobs. I will always feel guilty knowing he waited for me, and I didn’t wait for him. He will always need to be strong for me when I feel weak. I know this isn’t how he saw his life going. Men don’t grow up wanting to marry a woman with baggage that won’t ever go away. In order to work past those feels of guilt, I try to listen to him. I do what I can to help him when he needs it. I essentially try to be for him what he is to me, and it makes me feel like I’m at least trying.

My Daughter and Future Children

The guilt I haven’t yet felt, but anticipate is explaining to my daughter, and any other kids I have, why their half brother doesn’t live with us. Why they don’t look the same. Why they are told to live certain standards when their mother didn’t live that way. My kids may grow up thinking I’m a hypocrite. The only thing I can think to do in order to prevent that is to let them spend time together, show them all equal love, and answer their questions honestly. I may have done some things I shouldn’t have, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn from it.

I’m sure there are other forms of guilt I’ve felt and will feel, but it’s important not to dwell on them or look for reasons to feel bad. Adoption is a beautiful thing that happens to have ups and downs. If you find yourself feelings guilt, you may need to find your own ways of getting past it. Don’t try to do it alone, don’t think you deserve to feel it for the rest of your life, and don’t wallow in it. You deserve to be happy, just like the life you placed for adoption.

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Lindsey Olsen

Lindsey Olsen is a birth mother from sunny California, where she currently lives with her husband Steve (also referred to as Bud). She loves singing, going for walks in warm weather, looking out the passenger side window on long road trips, and eating. . .everything. Her favorite things are her family, her faith, her cowboy boots, and food. She has aspirations of becoming a marriage and family counselor so she can help other birth mothers find confidence, comfort, and beauty in their identities as the amazing women they are.


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