Silent Voices Herd Impact of the Natural Mother's Experience
Then and Now
Birth Mother Losses
|innocence||acceptance||"self" and self-worth|
|confidence||spontaneity||ability to grieve|
|courage||education||"good girl" status|
|virginity||control||right to motherhood|
|excitement surrounding pregnancy and birth|
|childhood, humor and happiness|
Clearly, the losses associated with the birth mother experience are numerous and far-reaching, and undoubtedly impact the birth mother in some way today. The pregnant young woman of yesterday becomes today’s unacknowledged mother.
- Educate. Perhaps the most important tool is education. Education provides knowledge, and knowledge offers insight. This insight and the understanding of one’s experience is what facilitates healing and provides the opportunity for personal growth and empowerment.
- Search. Search activity may represent an attempt to resolve this significant loss. While search cannot achieve restitution of the surrendered child, it is an important step towards connecting with the lost part of yourself.
- Reunite. The journey of self and reunification with one’s child can be a profound and intense experience. Think about how you would like to look back on the memorable day a reunion finally occurs. Planning a reunion, in some respects, can be like planning a wedding day. It is a poignant beginning. Preparation is critical. Unlike a wedding, however, you may want to delay the involvement of family and friends, at least initially, to permit a relationship to develop that will promote healing. If the reunion is not all you fantasized it would be, you can still know that a great deal of healing will occur.
- Reach out. The journey a birth mother embarks on when searching for—and, if successful, finding— a child relinquished for adoption can become all-consuming. Although search and reunion can be fulfilling and rewarding, they also dig up feelings and issues from the past. Friends and family rarely understand the depth of this personal journey. Therefore, it is vital to reach out to those who have had a similar experience. Support groups are very beneficial, and provide a way of connecting with others in your situation—especially those in search and reunion. Consider attending local and national conferences and workshops.
- Read. A number of good books discuss the birth mother experience, search, reunion, and the adopted person’s journey. Suggested reading is listed at the end of this article, or you can contact ASCC or your local support group for a book list. The AAC Web site also contains lists of suggested reading.
- Find specialized counseling. Therapy with other birth mothers or triad members can be empowering. Individual counseling can be a means to address the past, to incorporate the past into the present, and to move into the future with a sense of clarity and purpose. Search and reunion counseling or consultation by a knowledgeable specialist is undoubtedly beneficial as a way to prepare for an upcoming contact or reunion, and to avoid common pitfalls.
- Believe. Know and believe that you are a mother to this child.
- Forgive yourself. Above all, forgive that younger part of yourself. Know that you did the very best you could, given your age, knowledge, support, choices (or lack thereof), and societal expectations at the time you relinquished.
- Forgive others. Parents, birth fathers, significant others and society are all a part of the past and parcel of your experience. Consider letting go of the blame you may feel. And, if the forgiveness doesn’t come right away, that is okay; in time it may.
- Accept. Forgiveness is often hard to achieve as a birth mother. That is okay. Work towards acceptance of "what is, is." It’s not possible to change this piece of history, but it is okay to accept that you did the best you could in a traumatic situation. No one told you what possible consequences there might be down the road. After all, you were supposed to "forget."
- Remember. Remember it is not so much the experience in and of itself, but rather, how the experience is interpreted individually, that is important. Thus, it is beneficial for birth mothers to understand their own interpretations of their experience. Only then can the birth mother begin to recognize and appreciate the strengths and gains that were developed to survive the experience. These same strengths are used today.
Birth mothers’ voices deserve to be heard. Their losses deserve to be recognized. As parents, birth mothers deserve to know how their children have fared. They deserve to be acknowledged as mothers—because they are.
Reading suggestions for birth mothers:
Carol Schaefer, The Other Mother (Soho Press 1991)
Heather Carlini, Birthmother Trauma (Morning Side Press 1997)
Merry Bloch Jones, Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Children for Adoption Tell Their Stories (Chicago Review Press 1993)