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This is our second guest post written by Jenna Myers, a birth mother who placed her daughter with an adoptive family in 2009.
I remember it like it was yesterday: I was wheeled out of my room, and downstairs to wait for my ride home from the hospital. My nurse parked me in a line of women who were also waiting for their ride home, the only difference between them and me is that in their arms laid their sleeping newborns; and in mine, the baby blanket I unwrapped my daughter from before saying my goodbye. The cotton candy colored balloons on their wheelchairs floated happily through the air, announcing to everyone if they had a little girl or a little boy. That day was torture for me, and I’m sure many birth mothers have gone through a similar experience. I was lucky enough to have Lindsey, my counselor, at my side. She always provided me with so much support, and I honestly couldn’t have done it without her. I was her very first case since she accepted the position. She wasn’t sure what to expect, and neither was I. Together we crossed each bridge as we came to it, hand in hand.
I am not very close with my family, and wasn’t comfortable leaning on them for support, so my first weekend was scary for me. It would be the first time since I gave birth that I wouldn’t be able to talk to Lindsey during the day. I had her e-mail, and could call her in an emergency, but I wasn’t comfortable calling her over the weekend. Friday came and went and Lindsey gave me a book to read for the weekend titled Something Borrowed, Something Blue. I never read it. Still haven’t. The book was for leisure reading, and had nothing to do with placement. Friday night I woke up with a nightmare about Julia (my daughter). I dreamt that they took her from me before I could say goodbye, and wouldn’t let me see her. That’s when I started my search for information about what to expect post-placement. And that’s when I realized that there is no information out there.
Lindsey had explained grief to me, and what I should expect and how to handle each emotion as it came, and that was very helpful, but there was always a part of me that felt like she didn’t understand. I definitely went through the stages of grief. It was almost comical how spot on I was with certain things. But the stages of grief just made me feel guilty. I felt like I wasn’t grieving, my child was alive and well. My brother had just had a stillborn — he was grieving. I chose to place, what I was going through was my choice, and that meant I shouldn’t be feeling as down as I was. That was one of the more difficult things for me after placement, I felt guilty for hurting. If I have any advice for someone feeling this way it’s to feel what you’re feeling, as you’re feeling it. Don’t think of grief as a feeling after one dies, but rather the feeling after one loses someone close to them. For a mother, having a child that you won’t be parenting is a loss, and sometimes only other mothers will understand that. The emotions are healing, and you shouldn’t be worried about if it is or isn’t okay to feel how it is that you’re feeling. Of course it’s okay to feel that way. You need to feel that way at that time, in order to heal, so just let it happen! Guilt is probably inevitable, and I think it passes with time. Once you start to see how amazing your baby is doing, and the endless amounts of opportunities you have given them, I think it will wash away all of your guilt.
My second piece of advice would be to ask your counselor for the name, number and/or e-mail of other birth moms. The birthparent community is so warm, friendly, and open. I know of a few birthmothers who would love to talk to other birthparents, and give them some support advice if need be. Just ask!
My final piece of advice is what helped me the most. I bought a journal, and I wrote Julia letters every day, sometimes a couple a day. I would tell her everything I wanted her to know — things about me, goofy things about her father, quirky things about the family. I gave her advice, and told her stories. I explained to her why I chose adoption, and even wrote to her in the times when I yearned for her the most. It was so therapeutic for me to write that, because it documented everything I went through after placement, and I know I can always give it to her one day if she has any questions. It’s also always there when I want it, I can see how far I’ve come, or I can lend it to a birth mom who recently placed and let her read through what my feelings were. Here is some information about my healing after placement: I placed 12/14/2009; I had 30 days after that to change my mind: 1/14/2010. My first journal entry: 1/27/2010 — and I wrote multiple pages (6+) every day until 2/10/2010. My next entry is 3/20/2010 — and I tell her how much I miss her, and that “I feel like a huge hole was just stamped out of my chest.” I wrote off and on after that. My last entry was 5/21/2010, and by that time I was feeling much better with everything. I still had my hard days, I still do now, but they are few and far between now. Time will heal. I know it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true.