Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents

Coping with Grief

All birth parents must deal with grief. Many are sad about not being able to raise or have a relationship with their child. Some have said that they eventually adjusted to the loss of the child, but that the pain and grief lasted a very long time. Others have said that life was never the same after placing the child. Birth parents' whole lives are affected.

If you are a birth parent whose adoption was arranged confidentially, you may have many questions. You probably do not know what became of your child. You don't know if your child's life with the adoptive family is happy and if the child is loved and treated well. You may wonder if the adoptive parents ever told the child he or she was adopted. If so, you may wonder how they spoke about you. You may question what it would have been like to have raised your child. Unanswered questions such as these can be very difficult to deal with.

Most people at some time in their lives experience grief when they are separated from a loved one. However, in adoption, there are no standard grieving processes or approved rituals to help birth parents cope. When a well-liked co-worker accepts a new job in a new city, there is often a going away party. When a loved one dies, there may be a religious service, a wake, a funeral, and visits to the survivors' home by friends and relatives. But birth parents' grief is distinct from most other types of grief, because it is not always socially acceptable to talk about what happened.

Unresolved grief can cause problems in a number of areas. It can affect romantic relationships, parent–child relationships, the ability to work effectively, and a person's feelings of happiness and usefulness. If you are having trouble in your life, it could be related to your not having fully grieved for the child you placed for adoption.

For most birth parents it takes time to move past the initial grief of placing a child for adoption. Some realize they need professional help to deal with the emotions that accompany the loss. Others feel fairly positive from the beginning about the adoption decision and accept that the decision brought with it certain consequences. But just about all birth parents wonder how their son or daughter is doing, especially when the child has reached the age for important events such as starting school, graduating from school, getting married, or becoming a parent.

Romantic Relationships

According to Merry Bloch Jones' book, Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories, many birth parents report difficulty in their romantic relationships following placing a child for adoption. As a group, birth parents seem to do things in extremes. Either they marry the first person who comes along so that they become "respectable" members of society, or they stay away from a partner for years. Some divorce and marry, again and again. Some marry an abusive partner, subconsciously punishing themselves. Some marry a rich partner they don't love so they will have financial security and never again be in the position of having to give up a child because of the lack of money. Some may even marry a decent, loving, supportive person, but get so caught up in their unresolved grief that the marriage falls apart.

Some couples who planned the adoption together get married and have other children. Other birth parents choose not to get too close to any one person ever again. They go from one relationship to the other on purpose, because to them intimacy and loss are always linked.

A third of the birth mothers that Jones talked to said they have happy marriages. The marriages are happy because their partners continue to be supportive of their need to talk about the birth parent experience and of their search for ways to help them grieve. Some who don't get it right in their first marriage do get it right in the second one. They say a large part of getting it right is learning to forgive themselves.

Resource:  National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.


Parenting Issues

Birth parents also often reflect extremes when it comes to parenting. Many have children immediately after getting married, others not for years. Some have only one other child, others more than three. Some are overprotective with their child, because they are afraid something will also happen to this child. Others are distant from their children, because getting close reminds them of the child they gave up. Almost all believe that placing a child for adoption affected the way they parent and the way they feel about their other children.

Some do not have other children, either on purpose, because they don't want to be reminded of their adoption experience, or because they or their partner cannot get pregnant again. Some marry partners with children, therefore becoming stepparents. Some even adopt.


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