After having placed a child for adoption, how on earth are you supposed to switch mindsets form birth mother to parent? This was something I personally struggled with continuously until my daughter was about six months old. Admittedly, there are days when I still catch myself wondering when I’m going to have to place her, too. It’s a completely different persona we take on that contradicts everything we forced ourselves to feel when we gave up our parental rights for our placed children. How does one parent after placement?
Being A Birth Mom
I can only speak from my own experience, but I’m absolutely sure I’m not alone. In January 2011 when I found out I was pregnant with my son, I knew I had to place him. I trained my mind over the next nine months to love him, but in a distant way. When he was born, the papers were signed, and I went home empty handed. I felt a void both physically and emotionally. My body was telling me I was a parent, but my mind told me I wasn’t.
For some time, I had it in my mind that I wanted children to fill that void. However, when I was finally in a situation where children were actually an option, I had separated myself so far from the idea of being my son’s parent, that I went too far–convincing myself that I wasn’t worthy of being a parent at all. If I wasn’t good enough to be his parent, I could never be worthy of being any other child’s parent.
Parent After Placement: Parenting My Daughter
Obviously, I got pregnant with my daughter. I knew it was right, but I was still in birth mother mode. I could not, for the life of me, bond with my child. I couldn’t retain the idea that she was really mine. I wouldn’t fathom being called mom. I truly could not compel myself to accept her as my own. I went to therapy, doctors, scholarly articles and studies, but nothing could convince me otherwise: I wasn’t going to be this child’s parent.
Fast-forward nine months and my daughter is about to be born. It’s just me and my husband in the delivery room instead of me, my mom, and my son’s adoptive mother. A car seat is already installed in our car instead of someone else’s. I have a baby-bag full of things for me and my child instead of things for just me. I am going to be the first person to hold her instead of someone else. We are going to have her in our hospital room instead of being in someone else’s. People will be congratulating me for being a new mom instead of someone else. But none of that felt real. I loved her just like I loved my son, but from a distance.
Breaking The Wall
Having my daughter with me night and day, for months, breaks down the wall. Because I hadn’t found a way to bond with her while I was pregnant, it took some time to really come to terms with my new identity. Knowing she relied on me for almost everything, all the time, is what really allowed me to feel close with her. Again, it took months because it was a complete switch of roles, but time helps me simultaneously manage my identity as a birth mother and a parent.
To sum everything up, don’t try to force it. You are literally reprogramming your brain and body to react to a traumatizing experience differently. That is neither natural, nor easy to do. Seek help where you can, and maintain a support system, but most of all, serve your child. Service is the key to developing love for anyone. Your child will–quite literally–need you, so serve them the best you can, do it with a positive attitude, and let the love grow. Being a parent after placement is possible and can be beautiful.
Lindsey Olsen is a birth mother who placed her son in 2012. She is also a parent to a beautiful little girl, and wife to (who she thinks is) the most amazing man in the world. Her favorite things are her faith, her family, and her country.