If you have decided to go through the adoption journey, it’s possible that you may be feeling a certain string of emotions such as grief, shame, guilt, sadness, depression, anxiety, and so many more. Even though these emotions are very normal, you need to understand that your mental health matters. You made a wonderful decision to place your baby with an adoptive family, especially if you are not in a place to raise a child on your own. No matter what anyone else says, you did not merely “give up” or “abandon” your baby. You chose life for your baby and that is such a beautiful thing. That being said, you may be feeling like you’re drowning from all these emotions coming in waves. Healing is incredibly important after your adoption is over.
Hopefully, the information in this article can help you to heal and move on. Every adoption story is unique, which means that everyone in the adoption triad (birth family, adoptee, and adoptive family) is a unique person. People change their minds and they can have gaping wounds that need to be soothed. Wherever you are in your adoption journey, you need to make sure that you’re being seen and heard.
What Are Some Examples of Support that You Have Access to?
When you go through an adoption agency, you will usually have access to multiple types of support. If you’re in the process of choosing an agency, it’s important to do research and see how they can help you. For example, the Gladney Center of Adoption has so many brilliant resources for birth families. Whether you’re a birth mother, father, or grandparent, you can get access to counseling to help you sift through the emotions that are bringing you down. According to their website, “The ‘Family Loving Decisions’ workshop helps family members learn about the adoption process and how to support a mother during pregnancy and after placement.”
Another resource that Gladney has is the “Next Steps” program. Just because you are going through the adoption process doesn’t mean that your life needs to be put on hold. Through the “Next Steps” program, you will get assistance with making goals for yourself and steps on how to reach them. Were you thinking about trying to find a career that you would enjoy doing? This is a great resource to take advantage of if you’re wanting to take the next step of your life. You can absolutely do anything you set your mind to. Don’t let anyone tell you that having a baby and going through adoption is going to ruin your life and stop you from reaching your goals.
If you’re pregnant or if the adoption is already over, you can talk to someone who has been down the same road that you’re walking down. Birth family support groups will give you an opportunity to listen to people who went through the same struggles that you may be going through right now. This is a great way to get help and support through your own community. You may be thinking that support groups are cliche, but it may be a great resource to help you realize that you’re truly not alone. That being said, if you’re still hesitant about joining a support group, you can talk to a birth mother one-on-one if that’s more comfortable for you. You will get in touch with another birth mother and will be able to answer any questions you have and can even offer advice. It’s great to go to counseling and get help from a licensed professional, but there’s just something about talking and listening to someone who can legitimately be empathetic and knows exactly how you feel.
Should You Go to Counseling or Even Get Medication?
It may be daunting to have the courage to admit that you need help. The negative emotions can pull you down and even drown you. Postpartum depression is a very real concept, and on top of that, the other emotions you may be feeling can make it feel even worse. If you’re going through depression or maybe even having suicidal thoughts, please get help immediately. There is hope and healing with the help of people who want what’s best for you.
Counseling or therapy is so much more than just talking about your feelings. I can attest that once you find the best counselor for you, they will make you feel heard and cared for. Of course, they will need you to open up so that they can know how to best assist you and so that you can learn to have healthy coping mechanisms. When anxiety or depression are hitting at their hardest, it can be extremely difficult to get yourself feeling normal. This is when you can turn to a good coping mechanism, such as deep breathing, journaling, or just practicing self-care.
In some cases, your doctor or therapist may want you to try out medication. Maybe your knee-jerk reaction is that it’s completely out of the question as there is a stigma for taking medication for your mental health. Think about it this way: someone that doesn’t struggle with anxiety or depression has the chemicals needed in their brain to help them cope and come back down to earth when circumstances get hard. For those (like me) who struggle with mental health, their brains aren’t able to help in that aspect, which means they just need extra help to get back to feeling normal. If you’re wanting to try more holistic options, that’s totally great. However, if you start feeling worse, contact your doctor immediately. Finding the right medication that works for you may be a struggle, but trust me when I say that you will feel so much better once you get the right one. I’m not saying that every single problem can be solved with some pills; instead, it’s possible that this extra help will be extremely beneficial in the long run, whether it’s medication or other approaches. Don’t let the stigma stop you from getting help.
Can You Close an Open Adoption?
Sometimes when people are on their healing journey, they may feel that it is best to close their open adoption. This is a possible solution. Some birth families decide before the adoption is final to have a semi-open or closed adoption, but it’s very possible that you chose an open adoption and have changed your mind.
If you recall, an open adoption happens when everything is accessible and communication happens often. Some adoption triads are extremely close and the birth family talks to the adoptee and adoptive family very often. Others don’t talk often but it’s still open for when the birth family wants to communicate. The upsides are that a child will know their identity and why they were placed with an adoptive family, easily accessible medical records, and will already have an established relationship with the birth family. The downsides are that there may be disagreements as both families have their own opinions and ideas as to how to raise the child.
A semi-open adoption occurs when the communication between the triad goes through a third party, such as the adoption agency or an adoption attorney. The adoptive family will usually send updates and pictures to the third party, who will then send them to the birth family. Communication may happen between the triad occasionally, but it depends on how comfortable the birth family is. This is ideal if the birth family wants to be a part of the child’s life from a distance.
Finally, a closed adoption occurs when there is no communication between the triad whatsoever. All the records are sealed so there is a sense of privacy. Typically closed adoptions occur when there was abuse happening in the birth family and serve to keep the adoptee safe. However, some birth families choose to go through a closed adoption as a way for them to heal. They may feel that going through a closed adoption is starting fresh and will help them move on. Unfortunately, this can cause the adoptee to really wonder who they were and where they came from. The child won’t have the privilege of being able to talk to the birth family until they turn 18. All records in a closed adoption are sealed. If the birth family changes their mind and tries to find the child, it will be extremely hard to do so.
You may be wanting to close your open adoption for a variety of reasons. One reason could be that you feel it’s better for you and your child to not maintain contact with them due to you needing to move on. Another reason could be trying to focus on school or your career. It’s perfectly okay to have these feelings, but it’s imperative that you make this decision without haste. The state you live in really determines how your adoption can be closed.
Some states allow for legally binding adoption contracts. These enforce the wishes made by the adoption triad when the adoption took place. If you have an official open adoption contract, closing the adoption may be more difficult as it is technically illegal to do so. Still, these contracts can be lenient, allowing for more distance between the triad.
If your state doesn’t allow an actual contract, then it may be beneficial to talk to the adoptive family and the adoptee (if they’re old enough to understand) about what you’re thinking. As I stated before, most adoptive families really desire for you to have a relationship with them and your child. They’ll obviously have concerns, especially about the future of the adoptee. If the child is older, he or she may wrestle with the fact that they have this great relationship with you just for it to disappear. However, the adoptive family also wants you to feel comfortable and will probably leave the door open for you whenever you’re ready to come back. Since there’s no paperwork, it’ll just be a verbal agreement between the two families. Technically, you could still have an open adoption and just communicate whenever you feel comfortable.
Whether you’re at the beginning of your adoption journey and are weighing the options or you’re wanting to close your open adoption after a while, it’s not an easy choice. Make sure you really want to go through with this. Of course, you should want to heal and move on from your grief, but don’t make any hasty decisions about it. This choice needs to be well-thought-out and only be used if you think it’ll be beneficial for you and your child. If you need extra advice, talk to your counselor, caseworker, or even another birth mother to get their input.
Emily Perez is a stay-at-home mama to two sweet boys and wife to a handsome electrician living the small-town life in Idaho. She has a BS in Elementary Education from Eastern Oregon University and loved teaching 2nd grade. When she was younger, her parents did foster care and adopted 5 kiddos from all walks of life to be her siblings. She hopes to do foster care and adoption in the future. Along with adoption, her other passions include advocating for mental health and special needs. Emily enjoys being with family and friends, snuggling her babies, playing the piano, singing, reading, and writing. Coffee is her go-to drink for fuel and she loves anything chocolate!