Would You Place Your Baby with a Family Member?

Whenever we counsel women who are pregnant or recently gave birth, we talk to them about all of their options, including placing their child with a family member. But even though we always ask them whether anyone in the family might want to adopt the baby – and sometimes there is someone who wants to do that – women don’t always choose that option. Why?

Too Close for Comfort?

Most women tell our birth parent counselors that they don’t want to place their baby for adoption with someone they know for two main reasons. The first is that placing a child for adoption is extremely painful even when it feels like the right choice, and many birth parents feel that seeing their child at every family event they attended would be difficult. The impact of an adoption decision doesn’t end after placement, but it is important for birth parents to return to their daily life and find their “new normal,” which can be tough to do if their lives are still very much intertwined with their child and that child’s family.

Boundary Blues?

The second main reason that most women give for not wanting to place with someone they know is that they worry that the boundaries of their relationship with their child and with the family member would be too blurry. After a birth parent places their baby with a family unrelated to them, they are not responsible for that family’s well-being; but what if a birth parent placed their baby with a family member, and then that family member got into financial trouble? The birth parent might feel like they had to help out, even if it meant straining themselves financially. Birth parents also tell us that it would be stressful to regularly see someone else parenting their child because everyone has a different parenting style, and if they found themselves disagreeing with any of their family member’s parenting methods, they wouldn’t know whether or not to speak up.

A Perfect Solution?

All of that said, placing with a family member is a wonderful option for some people, particularly if they want to have an extremely open relationship with their child and their child’s family. In a typical open adoption with Adoptions Together, birth parents see their children once or twice a year; if a birth parent feels strongly that they want to be able to see their child every month, speak with them on the phone regularly, or spend holidays with them, it is unlikely that we would be able to find an adoptive family who felt comfortable with that arrangement. In cases like these, where the birth parent really wants to have a level of openness that won’t work for most parents looking to adopt through an agency, placing the child with a family member can be a great way to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.

Did you consider placing your baby with a family member? What did you decide?


This Time Around

Every pregnancy is different – but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Back in July we posted about becoming pregnant again soon after placing a child for adoption. Today, we’re talking again about pregnancy after adoption, but this time we’re focusing on birth parents who make an adoption placement and then gave birth to another child several years later, rather than soon after the placement. If you become pregnant again a few years after placement, the embarrassment and shame that many birth moms feel when they get pregnant again right away isn’t as likely to come up – but that does not mean that your adoption journey won’t play a role in this pregnancy.

Memories.

While you are pregnant (and in the days and weeks afterward), you will likely find yourself thinking a lot about the child you placed for adoption. One birth mom told us that after she gave birth, she accidentally referred to the baby by her other child’s name! Thinking a lot about your adopted child might lead you to feel more curious about them or more eager to have contact than you were before. On the other hand, memories of your adopted child could make you feel like you need some space so that you can focus on this unique pregnancy. Both reactions are natural and normal.

Painful feelings.

As you go through many of the same physical changes that you did the last time you were pregnant, you might also find yourself re-experiencing any feelings of anxiety or guilt that you had back then. These emotions won’t last forever! If they are particularly stressful or painful, you might decide to distance yourself from your adopted child and their family for a little while. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself during this pregnancy, but don’t sever the relationship entirely – if you do, you will definitely regret it later on.

Choices.

There are probably many people in your life who don’t know that you made an adoption plan in the past and who will be happy for you and excited about this pregnancy. A well-meaning friend might give you pregnancy tips, assuming you’ve never been pregnant before; your boss might write you a card that says “Congratulations on #3” not knowing that this is your fourth pregnancy; even a complete stranger at the store might touch your belly and ask, “Do you have any other kids?” It’s your choice how you want to handle these situations. If you want to tell your story, that’s wonderful – you will probably feel relieved afterward, and maybe you’ll find that you have another support person in that individual. But if you don’t want to tell them, that’s okay too. You are not being dishonest or sneaky if you choose to keep your adoption story private; it’s nobody’s business but yours.

Regret.

Many birth moms who don’t have another child until a few years after placement are feeling more emotionally and financially stable this time around. This is great news, but it can also create some feelings of regret as you consider whether you would have been capable of parenting the child you placed for adoption. This happens most often with couples who did not feel stable in their relationship at the time of the adoption, but ended up working things out. It’s normal to wonder about what could have been, as long as you are not too hard on yourself. Remember, we all have to make decisions in the present, without knowing what the future holds; the only option we have is to do what seems best right now. Trust yourself. You made a decision that felt right to you at that time – and that’s all anyone can ever do.

Did you become pregnant again a few years after your child’s adoption placement? What was it like for you?


How Writing Helped ANOTHER Birth Mom to Heal

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image c/o livingonthefaultlines.com

Yes, we talk a lot (a lot) about writing as healing, but we swear we did not pay Elsa to post on BirthMom Buds about how writing helped her find “a path out” of her depression after placement.

In our original post on this topic, we described writing is a way of moving energy, which sounds kind of silly — but we swear that it’s true! As Elsa explains in her post, “When I wrote, I finally released everything in my chest that I had stored up there.” We can’t move past pain until we give it somewhere to go — like onto a blank page. When Elsa did this, she was able to begin to recover from her depression.

What we love most of all about Elsa’s post is the quote she shares from Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” It might sound scary to confront your pain by writing it down, but it could be your first step to letting go.

Don’t take our word for it — head over to BirthMom Buds and read Elsa’s post for yourself! If you’d also like to take a look at our previous posts about writing, you can check them out herehere, and here.

 


Reuniting Children and Birthparents

Sixteen states, including Maryland, have now opened or partially opened their sealed adoption records. This means that adults who were adopted in these states can see either their original birth certificates or their adoption records (depending upon the state) and search for their birth families if they want to.

Not all birth parents want to stay in touch with their child and their child’s adoptive family, and the unsealing of records does not mean that they have any obligation to communicate. It is possible, however, that a birth parent who has not been in contact with their child for many years could receive notice from an adoption agency that their child is searching for them.

The age at which a child is legally permitted to search for their birth family depends upon where they were adopted. In Maryland, the age is 21. A young adoptee might dream of going to their adoption agency on their 21st birthday, getting their birth parents’ names and phone numbers, and calling them up to arrange a joyful reunion with hugs and tears all around – but it’s not quite that simple. Adoption agencies themselves cannot release information about birth parents; the unsealing of the records has to happen through the state, which involves an application process and at least one counseling session. Once that’s been accomplished, the agency must reach out to the birth parent – which can be very difficult or even impossible – and send a social worker to meet with them to find out how they feel about the possibility of a reunion.

It is then up to the birth parent to decide if they are comfortable with opening up the lines of communication. If they are interested in doing so, the agency social worker will assist both parties in beginning to communicate with one another via letters and photos. Eventually the birth parent and adoptee may get to the point where it makes sense to meet in person, but it can take years to get there. Think about it: Getting in touch with a long-lost relative means inviting a new person into your life who you know nothing about. It is certainly very exciting, but there is also a good chance that each of you will have different expectations, which will need to be worked through so that no one gets hurt.

What would you do if you find out that your child wanted to communicate with you? Would you jump at the chance, or would it be too difficult? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!


This Birth Mom Wrote a Play About Her Pregnancy

Mariah MacCarthy is a playwright, rapper, storyteller, burlesque artist, and birth mom.

In a society that is quick to judge women who choose adoption, it’s pretty rare to meet a birth mother who shares her experience with more than a few close family members or friends, let alone performs a play about it. But that’s exactly what Mariah did; last night she premiered her solo show, Baby Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Give Her Child to Gay People. Below is a clip of the show before it premiered.

In the clip and in the interviews she’s done to publicize the show, Mariah doesn’t share much information about why she chose adoption. She has spoken a great deal about what she calls the “invisibility” of birth mothers and how few people have actually met a birth parent or heard their story. We think it’s great that she wants to educate people about being a birth parent, especially because she does such a beautiful job of exploring both her certainty about her decision and how painful it was to make.

One thing we find confusing about Mariah’s sharing of her story is that even though she talks in her interviews about adoption language and the important difference between saying “place for adoption” and “give up for adoption,” she doesn’t follow her own advice! She regularly uses the phrase “give up” in her interviews, and goodness knows other birth parents are tired of hearing that.

Also sure to be controversial among birth parents is Mariah’s use of humor to tell her story. She’s pretty in-your-face about it, and although it’s clear from watching the clip that she thought very carefully about her adoption decision, we have a feeling that quite a few people will not appreciate how light-heartedly she seems to approach the topic in her retelling.

What do you think? Is it appropriate for Mariah to use humor to tell her story, or does it make light of too serious a subject? And how do you feel about the language she uses?


How to Write the Perfect Letter to Your Child

how to write the perfect

Obviously, we’re on a bit of a writing kick. We can’t stop writing about writing (ha ha). And today we want to talk about a different kind of writing: writing letters to your child.

Really, the title of this post is a little dishonest, because nothing anyone writes is ever perfect, and that’s a good thing. Marc Jacobs once said, “Perfection is just… boring. Perfect is what’s natural or real; that is beauty” (who knew fashion designers were so wise? Now if only his purses were affordable). The point is that when you sit down to write a letter to your child, there’s no use in agonizing over trying to make it absolutely perfect. Whether you have been writing to them their whole life or are hoping to reunite after a long period of absence, the important thing as that you’re writing, not whether the letter is “just right.”

To help ease the stress that comes from trying too hard to be perfect, here are some tips to keep in mind once you sit down to write.

Don’t overthink it. If you put too much thought into this letter, you run the risk of becoming so overwhelmed that you never even get started. Remember, even if you only write three sentences, those three sentences will still be more than what your child has right now. They don’t need you to give them the answers to life’s biggest questions; they just want to be able to hold up a piece of paper and know that it’s a letter their birth parent wrote especially for them.

Keep it simple. You and your child are certainly connected in a deep and meaningful way, but they do not know very much about who you are as a person, so just start with the basics: your hobbies, your family, your job if you have one. What do you do every day? Who do you see? What is your neighborhood like? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Think about when you were a kid and you met someone new. You weren’t interested in their deep-seated beliefs or their underlying motivations; you just wanted to know what kinds of foods they liked to eat and whether they enjoyed the same kinds of movies you did.

You don’t have to say it all. Many of our birth moms worry about telling their child about the difficult things that have happened in their lives. Some of them are particularly afraid to talk about their child’s birth father, especially if he was not officially a “partner” or if he was violent or abusive. There’s no reason to share things that you aren’t comfortable discussing. When you meet a new friend, you don’t tell them everything about your entire life in one fell swoop! First, you chat about the basics. Someday, when you know your child a little bit better and they are old enough to understand, maybe you’ll be able to talk about some of the hard times in your life and how they may have impacted your adoption decision. But right now is just the beginning.

Have you ever written a letter to your child? What did you write about? What advice do you have for other birth parents?


How Writing Poetry Helped One Birth Mom to Heal

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image c/o teenlinkseattle.blogspot.com

How timely! After publishing a post on healing through writing, we ran across this article on adoption.com by a birth mom who began writing poetry after placing her son for adoption. She says that writing poetry helped her to heal: “Anytime I would feel the grief beginning to surface, I would break out a pen and try to get my feelings on paper.”

In addition to the heartfelt poem she shares, what particularly sticks out to us about this article is the author’s differentiation between grief and regret. Folks outside of the adoption world tend to have a hard time understanding that grieving is a natural part of the process; they often think that when birth mothers are sad after placement, it must be because they feel they made a mistake. But as this birth mom explains, “I missed my little baby with every fiber of my being but I still did not regret the decision that I made for him. Expressing sadness is a part of the grieving process…Sadness does not equal regret, and it is perfectly acceptable to feel sad and cry.”

She is absolutely right. Feelings of loss do not prove that you made the wrong decision; they prove that you made a difficult decision. There’s a big difference.

The author of the post also explained that after writing “quite a few” poems, she found new ways to express her feelings outside of writing. We loved her point that even if writing isn’t the way you choose to express your feelings, the important thing is to find something that works for you, whether it is “something you think you are not good at” or “a talent you already have.” Our birth parent counselor always talks to the birth moms with whom we work about finding their own methods of self-expression, whether that means writing, drawing, singing, dancing, painting, or anything else.

Head over to adoption.com to check out the article and poem, and let us know in the comments section below how you took care of yourself during your healing process! 


Healing through Writing

anne frank quote

image c/o pinterest.com

Writing is a way of moving energy.

As you write, your emotions move through you and out onto the page. The emotions aren’t gone – but their pressure, their weight, has been transferred.

The beautiful thing about writing is that it is totally about you. You can share your story if you want to, or it can be yours and yours alone. You can even write to yourself. For example, some birth mothers write a letter to themselves while they are pregnant, explaining how they feel and why they are choosing adoption, so that they can go back and reread that letter later on when they are grieving or feeling especially emotional. Shannon at BirthMom Buds wrote a letter to herself before she went into labor, and later wrote a letter directly to her son. She has reread both many times. “I can tell you,” she says, “that if I didn’t find peace through these words I could have lost the war to pain.”

Jenna, one of Adoptions Together’s birth moms, also wrote letters to her daughter. In a previous post, Jenna explained that writing in a journal was the best piece of advice she could give to other birth parents. After she placed her daughter, she wrote her letters every day in a journal she’d bought: “I explained to her why I chose adoption, and even wrote to her in the times when I yearned for her the most.”

The longer you sit alone with your feelings, the more painful they can become, because they don’t have anywhere to go. Writing them down is a way to keep them from festering; it moves that negative energy out and onto the page. You might be surprised by how much lighter you feel after the first time you sit down and really write from deep inside yourself.

Has writing or journaling been a part of your healing process? In what other ways do you take care of yourself when you’re feeling down? Share with us in the comments section below.


For Birth Moms Who’ve Experienced Sexual Violence

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Dear Birth Moms,

At Adoptions Together, we have worked with numerous birth mothers whose pregnancies resulted from violence, which is unsurprising given that the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that there are over 17,000 U.S. pregnancies a year resulting from rape. And since one in every six women has experienced sexual assault, many women whose current pregnancies are not the result of a sexual assault may have experienced one at some point.

For women who have experienced both assault and pregnancy, being pregnant can be extremely traumatic. Your changing body serves as a constant reminder of what you suffered through, which can make emotional healing very difficult. Some women are reluctant to seek prenatal care because the associated medical examinations and, later, the process of labor and delivery can trigger painful memories and feelings. These triggers can happen even for women whose pregnancies did not result from their assault.  Since women who have been assaulted are three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, we know that whether or not a woman’s pregnancy was the result of her assault, related factors may still play a role in her decision to parent her child. For pregnant women who are in abusive relationships, many other emotional and physical considerations also come into play.

All women have an absolute right to make decisions about their pregnancies free from pressure and based solely on what they feel to be right for them; and for women who have been sexually assaulted, it is especially crucial that you feel fully in control of your decision making process. Many women with whom we have worked who became pregnant after a sexual assault and chose to place their baby for adoption felt at the time that they didn’t want to make these decisions- like choosing the adoptive family or planning how an open adoption might work. Understandably, it felt safer to separate themselves from the pregnancy and the traumatic experience associated with it.

You know better than anyone how to take care of yourself and what you can and can’t handle, but it might help you to know that many women who initially rejected playing any role in their baby’s life after delivery but changed their minds told us later that they were happy that they took an active role in adoption planning. Making decisions like naming your baby, choosing an adoptive family, and planning for open adoption can actually help you feel more in control when your child is born and for many years afterward. If you make these choices now and leave the door open to receive updates or be in contact with your child, then even if you are not ready yet, you might find that you are less likely to look back and have regrets.

We hope that those of you who are considering placing a baby for adoption, or who made adoption plans in the past worked with an agency that supported and respected you. If not, and if you feel like you want/need some support, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline either online at www.rainn.org or by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE. This resource may also be helpful for you if you are currently pregnant and worried about how your experience being assaulted will affect you during labor and delivery (they may be able to put you in touch with a birth doula or other professional who specializes in maternity care for survivors of violence). We know that, frequently, sexual assault is not an isolated incident, and we will be posting more in the upcoming weeks about pregnancy and intimate partner violence, but for now, if you are currently in a situation where you are being harmed by your partner, you may want to check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline at www.thehotline.org or 1-800-799-SAFE.

Stay safe and strong,

The Adoptions Together team


What Was Your Hospital Stay Like?

 

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image c/o benin2009.com

Right now the Domestic Infant Program team here at Adoptions Together is getting ready to do several trainings for hospital staff in the DC/MD/VA area. We address a number of topics in our trainings, from basic information about open adoption to the different types of adoption professionals to how to handle adoption cases in a compassionate and caring way.

The purpose of these trainings is to help the staff at the hospitals where our birth moms deliver to be knowledgeable and sensitive about adoption so that birth parents can have the most comfortable experience possible. In order to train them, we’d love to hear from youwhat was your hospital stay like? Did the nurses, doctors, or social workers do anything that made the process especially smooth or difficult? What do you wish would have happened differently? Tell us in the comments section below!