Let’s talk about the holidays. Most of us think about joy and family and giving. Our senses are overwhelmed with the reminder of “celebration”. We see the twinkling lights and the candle flames from the kinaras or menorahs, smell and taste the holiday baking, hear the sounds that accompany each special day, and of course hear the age old song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. But for you, the birthmom/firstmom, this isn’t all love, peace, and joy. For some of you, it is filled with a complex collision of negative and positive emotion and memories. As with Mother’s Day, the holiday season can be full of triggers, pain, confusion, loneliness, shame and regret and also joy, peace, laughter, love, and light. Our hope at Destiny is to help bring comfort to you and to assure you that the kaleidoscope of emotions you are feeling is not unusual or uncommon. We want to provide the space and framework to support and encourage you through your journey of the next couple months.
We have been wrestling with the concept of “both and” vs “either or” and we want these paragraphs today to give you, the birthmom/firstmom, permission to feel BOTH the negative AND positive and embrace them as a natural part of the journey to wholeness and life.
The Hard Stuff
For many, the negative or difficult emotions of the holidays simply starts with internally or externally acknowledging that you have indeed placed a child for adoption who is experiencing this season within the context of another family and their traditions. If you are struggling with coming to terms with this, it is helpful to remember the original reasons and desires that you had for your child when you made the choice to place them for adoption. Also, you don’t owe anyone around you an explanation including other siblings. You can choose if you talk about it or what language you want to use. This empowering moment can be another landmark in writing your own story and being the author of your future.
You are going to feel grief and sadness. It might not look like anything or anyone else but chances are you will feel it in your emotions or thoughts or body. You might even think that grief and sadness are the only thing connecting you to your child and therefore it feels dangerous to let it go. Remember, grief is like rest stop on the highway. It feels like a waste of time but it is a necessary moment in your path. It might even give you time to allow your heart to release some of the pain that it inevitably is enduring along the way. But like the rest stop, take the time to rest, recover, sit for a moment and then get back on the road of life with some clarity and peace for what is ahead.
You might feel regret. Your regret might be centered around making the decision to place your child for adoption. It is vital to understand that life is a chapter book filled with seasons and our story is always evolving. If today or in the future you feel that regret, go back in time to the season you placed a child for adoption and find your peace in the idea that based on what you knew and understood YOU DID YOUR BEST. We can only hold ourselves to the idea of our best and you did the best thing for that chapter of your life and your child.
Finding Your Love, Joy, and Peace
We have been helping birthmoms/ firstmoms like you find the beauty in the middle of “the hard stuff” for years and we know you can do it. Here are some things you can do to find the “both and” in the midst of the difficult moments:
1. Private Time.
Plan quiet time to be alone with yourself. Think and reflect on all that’s happened and who has been involved … your boyfriend, your parents, your friends, doctor, counselor, hospital staff, baby’s new parents. Think of yourself, who you were and who you are now. You’re between roles… a mother, yet not exactly a mother. So you begin to call yourself a birthmother and refer to your baby’s adoptive mother as “her Mom.” You don’t exactly know how to act…just like before? Only you’re not exactly just like before. It’s kind of scary, trying to figure out who you are now. As you feel mixed up, CRY. Crying helps get out the sad and the mad.
2. Social Time.
Plan for shared time with trusted others. You might really need your own “mom” now, like a little kid. Choose your friend selectively to be your sounding board, to listen to you ramble and work out your feelings. Forget about people who say, “How could you!” You can deal with them later when you’re stronger. Talk with other trusted, supportive people… the baby’s father (maybe), clergy, your obstetrician, your favorite nurse or hospital social worker. Join a birthparent support group for that special understanding you get from only another birthparent. In other words, TALK. Talking it out is a key factor in grief work.
3. Busy Time.
Take action. Do something. Be productive.
4. Help Others.
As you heal and become less sensitive, you will be able to talk more about your experience. As you share your experience and decision making with others, they learn from you and get comfort from you. You may share in a birthparent support group. You may be a guest speaker for a community conference or meeting. You may be interviewed for your views for a newspaper or magazine article, or a T.V. special. Or, you may help others privately one to one… just one friend helping another.
5. Ask for Help.
Tell others what you need and when you need it. They can’t read your mind and it’ s not fair to expect them to understand your feelings if you don’t try to explain. If you feel stuck in any one of the stages of grief, with prolonged, immobilizing or hurtful behaviors to yourself or others, ask your counselor for help. She may be able to help you help yourself over that hump. She can also give referrals to therapists who have expertise in helping grieving birthmothers.
At Destiny, we are here for you and wish more than anything that you can experience some wonderful things in the middle of the difficult journey. Please reach out if you need anything, and consider finding extra support from our Birthmom Support Group, The Ohana Project (click here). It’s online so we can get you connected from anywhere.