Adopting Families Should Expect to Experience Grief and Sadness Coupled with Joy
Potential adoptive parents feel a range of emotions prior to getting “the call”. They may fear being childless lifelong to happiness at the thought of a newborn swaddled in blankets lying in the freshly bought new crib. Feelings of loss abound too at the thought of a failed adoption. What potential adoptive parents never probably think about are the feelings of sadness for the birth family of the adopted infant. I know that I did not expect those feelings!
When I received “the call” to come pick up my baby from the hospital, I was feeling shock (was this really happening?), joy (this IS really happening!), confusion (what happens now?), nervousness (meeting the birth mother for the first time), and a solid feeling of walking on air as if in a dream. My thoughts ranged from picking up newborn essentials to buckling the brand new car seat in the car. Not once did I think about the birth mother’s misery…not until I arrived at the hospital. Please don’t find me shallow and insensitive. Understand that when someone goes through years of infertility, their thoughts are on having a baby. All of my friends and family members had children at young ages and here I was old and childless. Okay not THAT old but much older than they were when they had babies. Anyway a closed adoption was out for me as I wanted my child to know her birth family.
At the hospital, I headed to the birth mother’s hospital room and met her for the first time. She was happy to see me as the baby had been born quickly, the hospital wanted a name for the baby already! I was asked what name I had chosen for my daughter and then the baby was placed into my arms by her birth mother. The birth mother was all smiles as I bawled overjoyed with this tiny beautiful bundle. She told me that the baby was healthy and when the hospital said she could be released from the hospital. I felt a closeness with her that I had never known before. She, a complete stranger, had given me the most precious gift of life. Even though I could not have been more grateful, I knew better than to buy an expensive gift for her (state laws forbid it).
Not until the birth mother’s family arrived, did I see the sadness and loss in her eyes. I had to leave the room many times from the overwhelming feelings taking over me. My chest felt like it was being sat on by an elephant, the grief for her sat there for weeks after my daughter was born. I will never forget the tears I shed as I left the hospital with my new baby. How horrible can one feel when adopting a new baby? It was so hard to deal with the sadness for the birth mother coupled with the joy I felt at adopting my child. I was on a see-saw of emotions for weeks. Part of it was feeling guilt. Guilty that I was doing this to the birth mother when I adopted the baby. Of course this was not realistic but those feelings existed at the time. Guilt of being so happy when the birth mother was so devastated.
Not once did the birth mother say she wasn’t sure or that she wanted to change her mind. She knew what was best for the baby and for herself. My child’s birth mother was not a young teenager who got pregnant unexpectedly, no, she was almost my age. So she understood the ramifications of an adoption and knew what she wanted. Years later, she told me that out of all the adoptive parents that she could have chosen, she was ecstatic with her choice and would love to “have another one for me”. I am devoted to my daughter and love her as if I had given birth to her. Special needs and all, my daughter is the love of my life.
Watching the birth mother struggle with overwhelming sadness in the hospital, I also felt guilty that this was the happiest day of my life. Other families give birth to their babies and everyone celebrates. My child is born in a cloud of grief, sadness, and guilt. Our celebration day happened months later when the adoption was finalized in a court room. Isn’t that odd? Things are just different when you adopt a baby. Up until that moment, the birth mother could have changed her mind. I have been my daughter’s mother from the first hours of her life but she wasn’t officially “mine” until that court date when the birth certificate was amended to change out the mother’s name to my own.
Having an open adoption means that we visit and call often. My daughter knows her birth family and can ask any question that she wants, when she wants. As she gets older, this will mean more to her. Now she just wants to go visit. When we go visit, she is the superstar! She is treated as a celebrity and she knows this. The birth family has accepted me into their family as well and I feel loved by them. I have heard adoptive families complain that birth families are intrusive but this birth family has never been. Her birth mother actually said she never wanted to intrude or cause problems for my daughter. I could not have hand picked a better birth family. When rude questions are asked like if her birth mother was on drugs, I get defensive. How could anyone ask that? Her birth mother made a loving choice and did what was best for my child.
So now you know. Those emotions you will have at the birth of the baby when you adopt that you never expect. Or maybe you think that you do have an inkling of it…but really you don’t until you experience it. Trust me, I know!