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Emotional Issues for Birth Mothers


Most birth mothers and birth fathers have a difficult time emotionally when placing their child for adoption.

Emotional Problems and Adoption

Some birth mothers and birth fathers are able to go through the entire pregnancy, birth, and adoption process without difficulty and, in fact, feel a great deal of relief and pride knowing they have given life to a child and assured the child of having a safe and loving home.  However, the majority of birth mothers who are considering adoption do so with some doubt and emotional pain.

A woman who is pregnant is faced with the decision of having to carry the baby to term or to terminate the pregnancy.  Then, if she has carried the baby to term, she will have to raise the child herself, raise the child with the birth father, let family or friends raise the child, place the child in foster care, or place the child for adoption.  Any of these decisions have a life long impact on the birth mother, the birth father, and on the child.  And all of the decisions carry with them significant emotion impact.

For some birth mothers the decision to place a child for adoption is reached quickly because it is obvious to her that her emotional, physical, and financial place in life does not allow her to care for her child in the way she would want.  Maybe the birth mother's school or work situation does not lend itself to parenting a child at this time.  Or the situation with the birth father is far from what the birth mother would really like. Or this is an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy.  Or the birth mother does not have the financial resources to give her child what she believes the child needs or deserves.  Or, the list could go on and on.  Indeed there are very many good reasons for a birth mother and birth father to decide on adoption.

For other birth mothers and birth fathers the decision to place a child for adoption is not reached quickly or easily but only after much soul searching and only after a great deal of emotional pain.

Even after the decision to place the child for adoption has been made, emotional turmoil and depression are common.  In many cases it continues through the placement, through the ending of parental rights, and sometimes for a significant period of time afterward.

It is important to recognize that doubts, concerns, and even depression are common feelings accompanying pregnancy, the birth of a child and the adoption process.  Help with these emotional issues can usually be obtained from the adoption agency the birth mother contacts or from a psychologist or other mental  health care provider.

Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents

Depression is often the most common response a birth mother or birth father experiences in placing a child for adoption, but there are several other typical emotional responses.

Placing a child for adoption can cause a sense of loss that can begin with the pregnancy itself as the birth mother and birth father come to accept the reality of the pregnancy.  These feeling of loss can often be replaced with the hope that placing the child for adoption will result in a better life for their baby and for themselves.

The birth and the actual surrendering of the baby may prompt feelings shock and denial, as well as grief in the birth parents. All of these feelings are normal reactions to loss. When birth parents first deal with their loss, the grief may be expressed as denial. The denial serves as a shield to protect them from the pain of the loss. This denial may be followed by sorrow or depression as the loss becomes more real. Anger and guilt may follow, with anger sometimes being directed at those who helped with the adoption placement. While the actual physical loss occurs soon after the birth of the child, in some cases the reality of the loss does not take place until months later.  

Additional losses may occur as a result of the pregnancy and placement. In some cases, as a result of the stresses of the pregnancy, birth, and subsequent placement decision, the birth mother loses her relationship with the birth father and sometimes with her own family who may disapprove of her actions.  Additionally, the birth mother may lose friends who are not supportive or she may find herself loosing her job and colleagues.

Many birth parents find themselves dealing with guilt and shame for having placed their child for adoption.  This guilt and shame can be associated with the unplanned pregnancy itself or with admitting the situation to parents, friends, and co-workers.  After the birth of the child the birth parent may experience new feelings of guilt about "giving up" their child.  The guilt and shame is all too frequently supported by the secrecy surrounding the adoption process. 

Dealing with the Emotions

In general, a birth mother or birth father should actively seek out friends, support groups, or a qualified adoption agency or psychologist and openly share their feelings.  Being able to openly share feelings can be helpful in moving through the stages of grief and achieving some resolution.

Acceptance of the loss and working through the grief does not mean that you will forget you gave life to a child or that you will never again feel sorrow or regret for the loss. Rather, it means that you can go forward with you life and integrate this loss into your life experience.

For additional information you may find the Child Welfare Information Gateway factsheet Emotional Responses to Adoption Placement to be helpful.

Additional Information

For more information visit the website PregnancyandChildren.com and for additional help regarding child adoption, please contact us.

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