It is no surprise that adoption is a life-altering experience that can result in long-term emotional changes. For birth mothers, there may be a sense of loss and grief associated with child placement. Even after making the selfless decision to seek a better life for their child, they may still struggle afterward.
If you find yourself dealing with post-adoptive emotional challenges, note that you are not alone. The psychological effects of adoption on birth mothers are real. Let’s take a look at these effects and how you can cope with them moving forward.
Psychological Challenges Birth Mothers Face
While every adoption experience is different, they all share one purpose: a desire to seek a better future for a child. Despite the circumstances that led to a child’s placement in a new home, the adoption process is an emotional journey filled with complex feelings that may resurface from time to time.
According to MentalHelp.net, “there can be ongoing grief feelings that birth mothers feel over the loss of their child.” Do note that feelings of grief can vary. No birth mother will experience the same level of sorrow after an adoption. One woman might accept her feelings of sadness, while another might try to force herself to “suck it up” and move on. Need to say something about the effects of grief in general, not that these are just adoption-related effects. Here is a sample of the possible psychological effects of adoption on birth mothers:
- A loss of identity
- Feelings of loss
- Guilt and shame
- Loss of energy
- Trouble maintaining relationships
- Lack of concentration
- Fear of judgment
- Feelings of anxiety
There are a few things to consider when trying to understand the emotional journey a birth mother endures. For starters, complex feelings may vary depending on whether a woman is pregnant or has already delivered a child. Women who discover they are pregnant may feel shame and embarrassment.
In the United States, the reported rate of clinical postpartum depression in new mothers ranges between 10% and 20%. Around one in seven women can develop postpartum depression (PPD). Those who have already placed their child up for adoption may also experience symptoms of postpartum depression.
How Birth Mothers Can Cope With Adoption
Now that you have a better understanding of the psychological effects of adoption on birth mothers, it is time to discuss coping strategies. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself when dealing with adoption-related emotions:
Give yourself time
The most important thing you can do for your inner peace is to give yourself time to process intense feelings. There is no established timeline for women to heal and “move on” from their emotions. Sadness and grief can re-emerge, even when you least expect them. Be kind to yourself as you move forward in your life.
Surround yourself with loved ones
In times of emotional distress, the last thing you should do is deal with your emotions alone. Friends and family members can offer a safe space where you can discuss your feelings without feeling judged. In a Baylor University resource article, Dr. Elissa Madden stated that friends and families should use active listening to become mindful of what mothers are experiencing. It’s important to spend as much time as possible around supportive friends and family as non-supportive individuals may disrupt mental health processes.
Sometimes, confiding in loved ones is all you need to come to terms with your adoption experience. Some loved ones may be grieving this process alongside birth mothers and an open and loving dialogue can help everyone process their feelings.
Seek counseling services
While friends and family can offer comfort and support, sometimes it’s better to seek professional help. When loved ones are grieving as well, sometimes it’s easier to talk to a third party. A well-qualified support person can train you on coping mechanisms, help you adapt to life-changing circumstances, and offer reassurance in times of emotional distress, or just be a sounding board if that’s what you need. More importantly, your counselor should have significant training in adoption counseling/services. Often in smaller towns there is a shortage of adoption counseling trained professionals. It’s best to look instead for someone who specializes in loss and grief.
Speak with your doctor
If you start noticing a strong intensity of emotional distress or experience symptoms of depression, speak with your doctor. While they may not provide counseling services, a doctor can prescribe forms of treatment to combat feelings of depression. Further, a psychologist, psychiatrist, or OB-GYN may be able to prescribe targeted medication. Those looking for talk therapy will find it in a counselor.
Select open adoption
Open adoption can be incredibly helpful if you want to maintain a relationship with your baby. For some birth mothers, remaining in their child’s life, and watching them as they grow, is more than enough to give them peace of mind. Not only will it help you be at peace as you become comfortable with your decision, but you will also remain a vital part of your child’s life.
Seek Support From Texas Adoption Center
The psychological effects of adoption on birth mothers are nothing new. The important thing is to recognize your emotions, give yourself time to heal, and move forward with your life. If you need coordinated assistance, we are here to help! Texas Adoption Center can provide you with expert-led support that is personal and catered to your needs.
We offer post-adoption counseling services so you can regain control of your emotions and move forward with a sense of self-appreciation.
Contact us to get started!