Grief and Loss: Emotions of "Giving Your Child Up" for Adoption
How it Feels to Place a Child for Adoption
If you are pregnant and considering adoption, you have a lot on your mind. In addition to thinking about what will happen at different stages of your adoption process, you’re likely wondering how you will feel at those different stages. In fact, some of the most common questions our adoption specialists hear are, “How does it feel giving a child up for adoption?” “If a mother puts her baby up for adoption, how is she going to feel after placement?”
There’s no simple answer to this question, as every woman’s feelings are different. But adoption is rarely an easy decision to make, and there can be a significant emotional impact when “giving up” a baby for adoption.
While there’s no “right” or “wrong” way for parents to feel when they “give up” a child, there are some common emotions reported by birth mothers who have been through the adoption process. One of the most common of these is the grief of giving a child up for adoption. Here’s what you need to know about this common — and complex — emotion of “giving up” for adoption.
How it Feels to “Give a Baby Up” for Adoption
Women who are considering adoption have asked us, “How do birth mothers feel after adopting a baby out?” You may have heard of people experiencing the seven stages of grief after the death of a loved one or a failed relationship, but did you know women who face an unplanned pregnancy and choose adoption experience a similar grief and loss process? This process of grieving and healing is how you’ll begin to feel at peace after placing a baby for adoption.
If you are thinking about placing your baby for adoption but feel a sense of fear, guilt or anger, understand that these are normal emotions of "giving your child up" for adoption and do not mean that you are headed down the wrong path.
Reaching the “acceptance” stage is the goal of every person moving through the grief and loss process. You will begin to find acceptance as you continue to get to know the adoptive family and receive picture updates of your baby being safe, happy and in a good home. You know you’ve reached the acceptance stage when you find peace with your adoption decision, and the rest of these emotions begin to fade away.
However, you may still experience some sadness or even anger after finding acceptance, which is normal and just part of being a mother who loves her child.
The following are the seven stages of grief and loss and what they might look like if you pursue an adoption plan for your baby. Remember, these stages can be experienced in any order, some more than others and some not at all. Everyone will experience their own emotions when “giving up” a baby for adoption in their own time, so don’t be surprised if your individual grieving process comes in starts and stops. However, you’ll likely experience at least some of these seven stages on your way to finding peace with your choice:
Some women feel a sense of denial when finding out they are pregnant, especially when the pregnancy comes as a complete surprise. While denial is often cited as one of the first stages of grief, it’s common to think, “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” at any point during an unplanned pregnancy and the adoption process. It’s important to acknowledge this common feeling of “giving up” your child for adoption so you can move forward in a healthy way through the grief process.
It is common for women to feel anger and resentment when learning of an unplanned pregnancy. This anger can be directed toward the father of the baby, who may be unsupportive of your adoption decision or unsupportive of you altogether. It could also be directed toward other people in your life or even your adoption specialist. Being angry about your situation is natural; just make sure you express your anger in healthy ways.
Shock is the feeling many women get when they first find out they are pregnant and are unsure of what to do next. Finding yourself in such a situation and facing a life-altering decision can make you feel frozen in your decision-making process.
Everyone experiences situational depression, but the thought of someone else raising your baby can elicit a much greater sense of depression. Many women who choose adoption begin to feel their depression subside once they begin looking at potential adoptive families. After selecting a family and getting to know them, a woman’s depression can sometimes turn into excitement when thinking about her child’s future life. It’s important to talk to your adoption specialist, a trusted friend or family member, or a mental health professional about any feelings of depression about placing your baby for adoption, especially if those feelings are interfering with your ability to function.
If you have any thoughts of death or suicide or if you need immediate help, call 911 or the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately.
For many women, an unplanned pregnancy is downright frightening. The prospect of parenting at this stage of life can bring about deep feelings of insecurity and fear, while the thought of your child living in someone else’s home can bring about a different sense of fear. This feeling will begin to go away when you learn about the adoption process and become comfortable with the adoptive family.
Some expectant mothers feel guilty “giving a baby up” for adoption. The guilt associated with a birth mother giving a child up for adoption can come from others around you who are ignorant about today’s adoptions and who may call you “selfish” or “irresponsible” for putting your baby up for adoption. Even the language that society uses to talk about adoption can create a shameful or guilty feeling of “giving up” your child for adoption or “giving your baby away” — but those feelings of guilt and shame are unfounded. Choosing adoption is not “giving up” on your baby in any sense; it’s a brave and selfless decision made out of love. This guilt will often subside when you know you made the right decision for your baby, whether that is choosing adoption or parenting.
Acceptance is a gradual process that happens over time. Contact with the adoptive family, such as receiving pictures and letters or exchanging emails, can be very beneficial in reaching the acceptance stage because it will be a reminder that your child is happy. Knowing and accepting that your child has a great life is often considered the end of the process of grief after giving up a baby for adoption, but adoption is a lifelong journey. How people feel after “giving a baby up” for adoption can continue to shift and change over time.
American Adoptions offers free adoption counseling to women throughout every stage of the adoption process. Adoption specialists are available at any time online or at 1-800-ADOPTION for you to discuss any of these feelings, talk about how to deal with adoption grief or postpartum grief when placing a baby for adoption, or answer your adoption questions after finding out you are pregnant.
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