What I want you to know about motherhood after placement

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Anonymous. 

I am a birthmother. But I'm not here to talk about my pregnancy, decision and placement. Instead, I want you to know what being a birthmother has looked like for me almost a decade afterwards.

I want you to know that each year has been different. The first year was full of crying, depression, anger at every pregnant woman and baby that came in close proximity to me, nightmares about having to give away my child over and over again, anxiety, and withdrawal from friends, family, children.

I want you to know that I still had to deal with that grief, those emotions, with counseling and support groups even though I wasn't coerced into my decision, even though I think it was ultimately right for our situation.

I want you to know that the next few years were calmer, but brought their own difficulties, especially as the updates slowed down.

I want you to know that being a birthmother defined me for several years; as I introduced myself to new acquaintances and friends, one of the primary things on my mind was "At what point do I tell this person I gave my child up?" And I won't even go into what that meant for romantic relationships.

I want you to know that I did turn my life around and eventually got married to a good man who supported me, who is successful and always trying to understand. In the same month that our first child together would be born, I received the last update we were supposed to have.

I want you to know that I was at peace and prepared for that moment, that being a birthmother was no longer my identity, that I was ready to parent.

But I want you to know that this isn't the fairy-tale ending of the story; it's not as simple as: emotionally unstable, drugged up high school girl gets unexpectedly pregnant, stable, happy, successful couple can't have children, adoption, girl grieves, couple celebrates, child grows, family moves on, girl turns life around, gets married, has children and moves on, everyone is happy and well-adjusted, dreams come true, hearts are warmed. Win-win-win.

My husband and I have two children together, we have a stable life, good future, we're Christians, I stay at home with my children. On top of that, surprise, our adoption changed from semi-open to open and I want you to know that I always wanted it to be open, that I am at peace and let the adoptive parents take the reign, that I'm happy with my own family as well.

But mothering doesn't come naturally for me. I often wonder "What is love?" because I can never seem to grasp it completely. Attachment doesn't come without unnatural effort and energy. I love my children but find myself unable to relate to most mothers I speak with. I fantasize about the kind of mother I thought I would be in those years after placement and before my marriage. I want you to know that after placement, all I desperately wanted was to be a mother.

But then my children are born, then I try everything I know to foster attachment and when my energy is running out and my frustrations build, I begin to wonder if the reason I could give my child away in the first place is because I'm actually heartless. I wonder if the birth father's family was right; that I'm "incapable of love."

And then I open up to other birthmothers, vocal ones who are parenting now and seem to be overflowing with motherliness and they reluctantly admit that they know exactly how I feel, and I begin to wonder if my struggles are instead a result, not the cause, of the placement. 

Perhaps there are more wounds than I thought I healed. Perhaps this is just the beginning. Perhaps there are lifelong negative consequences to my decision, regardless if it was a decision that made sense and also had positives.

I want you to know that I carry a heavy burden. I feel guilt. Shame. Embarrassment. Anger at myself. Anger at women who are so sweet and genuine and loving and productive. Anger that I can't be the wife and mother my husband imagined I would be. Confusion about myself. Fear for the future. Fear as a birthmother for how my son will grow up to feel about me, how he will be affected by adoption, and now fear as a mother for how my other two will feel about me, how they will be affected by my detachment. Anxiety that I won't be able to pull it together. Bitterness that I can't be who I want to be. Guilt. Shame.

I want you to know that I feel less than a woman, less than a mother. I feel selfish, not selfless, I feel desperate, not heroic, I feel confused, not complete.

I want you to know that nothing is black-and-white, that adoption can't be generalized, that not the adoptive parents, not the birth parents, not the adoptees can know the extent of how they will be affected.

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