Gracious. Of all of the fears I have as a birth mother, this one is pretty high on the list. While they are all valid fears, I spend more time debating the reality of this from one of my sweet kiddos in the future. I am not only a birth mother, but I am also an adoptee, so I know how adoptees can think- especially how they’ll think in different seasons of life. I mean, I was a BRAT from 13-25 so I have wrestled with a lot of different feelings regarding my birth parents, my mom and dad, and my adoption in general. As a birth mother, this has helped me process and unpack my fears in a more productive manner, but I still definitely have plenty of worries when it comes to my children and how they will see me and their stories. When I was a teenager, I struggled a lot with my closed adoption. I often wonder if it would’ve been better for me if the adoption had been open, but it really would be hard to even know if my birth mom would have consistently shown up for visits anyway. Also, going down the “what if rabbit hole” is never anything more than hypothetical wondering it never gets me anywhere because we will never know “what if”. However, this brings me to my first thought in how to help your adoptee process their story in a healthy manner.
Open and Semi-Open Adoptions Help
Having some kind of connection to your child is beneficial for them. They realize that they were and are still wanted, they get to see who they came from and hear the stories of the biological tree, they get to have the positive reinforcement that their story is normal and acceptable, and they get to decide if they want to continue that relationship with their birth parents as they get older. There is never that moment of life-altering change because they know that this is the background to their story and they don’t have to wonder to fill in the gaps, they can just simply find out for themselves, provided everyone is on board with that. Not only does this help the adoptee, but it also helps the birth parents heal and feel closer to their child. Which in the long run also benefits the adoptee because they get to see their birth parent be intentional with them and how they can grow from everything as well. As a birth mother, I always knew that I wanted to have a relationship with my kiddos. It was a non-negotiable for me because I didn’t have that as an adoptee until my 20’s. I knew the things that caused gaps for me and that could have been resolved differently if open adoptions were a thing back then. Also, if I would’ve had a different situation with my birth mother, but that’s aside from the point. I never wanted my kids to wonder where I was or if I still cared. I never wanted them to have to guess if I loved them or if I even thought of them. I get to show them through our open adoption plan that they are still and will always be the most important people to me and that I love them abundantly. Because of this, they have pride in their adoption story. I remember a while back, my daughter’s mom let me know that my girl had faced some negative feedback regarding her being so open about her adoption story. Some kids had told her that because she was adopted, that meant that she wasn’t wanted. I almost broke down in the parking lot. Kids can be so mean sometimes. “She knows that is far from the truth, right?” Her mom then said, “Oh, Katie, she knows exactly how much you love her and that you definitely want her in your life.” She knows that because I live it out every single moment, I am with her and my son. They know that I will always be a part of their lives and that I cherish every single second of moments together. I personally believe that the positive reinforcement of this makes a difference. I believe that even if they decide that they don’t want to see me because they are too busy doing teenage things, or whatever the lack of time together might be, that they will still always know I will drop everything to be there for them. How could a child find resentment from that kind of intentional connection? But I get it, I still can find the anxiety in “Ok, that’s great, but what if even still they resent me later on in life?” The other thing that I have always been big on is being transparent about my story.
Sharing Why and How Matters
I have never hidden my story from anyone; I mean, obviously, that’s why I write these articles, but I really do find it important to be authentic and forthcoming about what I went through and why I chose adoption. My son and I have the most open adoption out of my two kids. My son was adopted by my parents so, I see him almost daily. I have always told him the background to why I was faced with an unplanned pregnancy, why I decided to consider adoption, and that it was never about me wanting to stop being his mother, because I never have stopped wanting that, but rather it was about what I wanted for his life from that day forward. I knew I couldn’t do that for him, and I didn’t think it was fair to him for me to not provide the best for him until maybe his teenage years. But that’s back with the swinging doors of what-ifs. I will never know if he would’ve been just as happy in the circumstances surrounding us at the time of my decision, but what I do know is his wellbeing was better off with the decision I made for him. When my daughter came along, I was in a better place, but I was not in a financially stable, nor ideal season of life that I wanted to raise a child in. Again, would she have been happy in our situation at that time of life? Possibly, but I knew she deserved more in so many other areas that I couldn’t bring to the table for her. I chose adoption. You see, I have read a lot of adoptee voices especially out there on social media. There is a strong storyline from some adoptees that shares adoption was not what they would have wanted for themselves. I’m going to be a tad controversial, but I often wonder what these adoptees’ circumstances look like. Did they have a closed adoption? Have they reunited with their birth family? Do they have a positive connection with their birth family? Do they have a positive relationship with the agency they placed with? Do they have a positive relationship with their parents? There are so many factors that I believe matter in these storylines. While their hurt and frustrations are valid, I don’t see it as a cause for a blanket statement to be made that adoptees will resent or disagree with their adoption story. The birth mother story matters because the child should know why she chose to make that decision which changed the child’s life. It is that adoptee’s right to know why their story began how it did. It is also an adoptee’s right to disagree with it someday, or to agree. While I think that there are adoptees out there who resent things, I believe that there is so much more to the story that matters in relation to that feeling. So much more to unpack than just the resentment.
As an adoptee, I have had those moments of confusion, frustration, and hurt. My expectations were never really met when it came to my birth parents. I mean, I was handed a doozy of a story. So, I want to share a tad of it with you in hopes that you can see what has shaped my opinion on if your adoptee will resent you. I was raised in a closed adoption, so I made a lot of conclusions on my own growing up about who my birth parents could be, or where they might be, and how they thought of me. I assumed love was the reason that I was placed for adoption, which is a pretty “stepford wife view” an adoptee often comes upon because adoption is often described as love and rainbows. I never heard about the icky stuff or the hard stuff regarding adoption growing up. In fact, it wasn’t until I was considering placing a child for adoption myself, that I realized there was so much more to the story of adoption behind the happiness. People didn’t tell me about the loss my birth mother experienced or that she’s probably super sad that she missed out on so much. I bring this up because as a kid, we don’t grasp these things. Adult emotions. The complex stuff. But I think it would have been beneficial for me to know that my birth mom was hurting. It sure would’ve prepared me better for reunification with her. When I finally decided to go and find my biological roots, I was met with the rude awakening that my birth mother was an addict and that she was really struggling and had been my entire life. I not only found that out, but after years of searching and DNA kits later, I also found out that my birth father (well we narrowed it down to two brothers, so one of them is him) has an even worse story and reputation than my birth mom. I mean, go ahead and think the worst scenario and up it by ten. It is devastating news. I told you, I got a doozy of a story. I really should write a book, but I digress. I have been met with so much disappointment and hurt that it would be so easy for me to resent my birth parents. And honestly, I was really angry with my birth mother for a long time. But it had nothing to do with the fact that she placed me for adoption. Rather, I was angry that she didn’t go and make something of herself when given an opportunity to turn her life around. She just wasted it and I still believe that. However, with time, maturity, and a whole lot of Jesus, I forgave her. I chose to love her for the life that she gave me because it was clearly evident that it was the right choice and my life was better because of it, but also, I love her because she showed up for me with such strength in that decision. I also honor her grief and know it so well as a fellow birth mother. I realize that what she did was hard and that she is scrutinized for her decision and that the world is not always kind to women like her. I respect that she pushed forward through the pain and made a selfless decision that changed my life forever. There are so many valid reasons I have to hate her- to resent her, but they are outweighed by my love.
So, fellow birth mother, you wonder if your adoptee will resent you? The truth is, it’s possible, but I really believe that there is so much you can do to show up in their life and make it evident that you did the best you could at that moment because you love them. Love is a powerful thing, and it can move hearts to forgive and to see things in a different light. Don’t focus on the what-ifs, rather focus on the present and be intentional in your relationship with your child. Sometimes we just have to take a leap of faith and hope that we will make the difference that counts. I’m hopeful that it will count.
Katie Reisor is an adoptee and birth mom who is passionate about adoption advocacy and breaking stigmas around birth parents. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and hanging out with her dog, Chloe.