In past decades, adoption was a secretive process, whispered about in back rooms and never openly discussed. In our present time, adoption is better understood and accepted. However, for birth parents, there is still a great deal of shame. This crushing emotion can be a significant obstacle. Below, we examine some of the causes and offer some methods to work through these feelings.
When you tell people that you have placed a child for adoption, you will receive a wide range of reactions. Many will be positive, some will respond with curiosity, and unfortunately, some will be negative. Even well-meaning comments can be hurtful.
Common Reactions That Could Trigger Shame
How could you just give your baby away?
This implies that you thoughtlessly gave your child to someone. It does not consider the time, energy and strength it took for you to come to this decision. You didn’t hand your child to a random stranger. You carefully selected a family. This negative comment comes from a lack of understanding about the adoption process.
You did the right thing — the child is better off.
This is one of those well-meaning comments. They are trying to be supportive, but don’t understand that they have inadvertently insulted you by assuming you would’ve been a bad parent. Placing your child for adoption does not mean you are an unfit parent. People choose adoption for many different reasons, and plenty of birth mothers have children they are currently raising. To imply that they are somehow flawed parents, is simply incorrect and insensitive.
I could never do that. As soon as I laid eyes on my baby, I would love it too much and couldn’t let anyone take it.
This particular comment assumes that adoption is a result of a lack of love, rather than recognizing that the exact opposite is true. It also implies that your child was “taken” from you, rather than you lovingly selecting a family and selflessly placing your child with them.
You seem responsible. Couldn’t you have just raised your child?”
Again, this perpetuates the idea that birth parents are somehow inadequate. Many birth mothers are perfectly reliable people. There are numerous contributing factors to choosing adoption, and often times, it is the most responsible option.
So, you got yourself pregnant, and now you don’t have to deal with the consequences.
First of all, no one person “gets herself pregnant.” It takes two people to create a baby. An absent father is often one of the reasons a woman chooses adoption. Unmarried pregnant women are shamed, while their male counterparts receive little backlash. Often, people assume there are no consequences for the birth mother and completely disregards her grief and the enormous amount of strength required for the adoption journey.
Know Your Triggers
Figure out what causes you to feel shame. Some of these things will be obvious, while others may be obscure. You can find your triggers by knowing your behaviors. Everyone has coping mechanisms, which are triggered by the pain. So, if you know your typical behavioral response to shame, you can then examine what triggered the feelings. Once you discover your triggers, you can better manage them and your responses to them.
Shame comes with self-criticism, but being kind to yourself is a wonderful antidote. This battle is an internal one, and winning it begins with your thoughts. Treat yourself like you would treat a close friend or family member. You would never speak to them harshly, so don’t speak to yourself that way either. We are our own most scrupulous critics. It’s difficult to treat yourself with kindness when you are drowning in shame, so practice self-compassion before those feelings appear. This will help you get out of the negative emotions more quickly.
Break the Negative Cycle
Shameful thoughts often loop in your mind. They appear and reappear, strengthening their grasp on you. Challenge these thoughts by examining them and finding evidence to disprove them. For example, if your recurring thought is, “I’m a terrible person.” Look at your life and all the ways you are a good person. Make a list of things you have done recently to prove to yourself that you are good. Did you give a homeless person your spare change yesterday? Maybe you fed a stray dog? Or helped your grandmother clean her house? It doesn’t matter how insignificant the task may seem, it adds up and will break your looping negative chains.
Peel the Layers of Shame
Many people feel embarrassed or weak because of their shame, thus layering more shame on the original shame. This layering of negative emotions is exhausting. You might feel that you are supposed to be confident and have all positive emotions about your adoption decision. Understanding that all birth parents experience negative emotions, and especially shame, can help you release the shame about feeling ashamed.
Avoid Toxic People
There may be people in your life who reinforce your shame. You should avoid these people. You have the right to choose the relationships in your life, and you deserve to be around people who empower you rather than tear you down. You may already know who these toxic people are in your life. If not, once you begin to find your triggers, it will become more obvious which relationships you should keep and which you should dissolve.
Open Yourself to Support
Allow those who love you to be there and support you. Join local support groups for birth parents, or see a professional counselor or therapist. It’s OK to accept help, and even necessary at times. You have people in your life who want to help. While this may make you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable at first, it is crucial that you allow people to love you and support you through your journey.
Even though adoption is more accepted today than it was in the past, birth parents often feel ashamed. Here at destiny adoption, we provide ongoing birth parent support groups and work closely with our moms to support them every step of the way. We hope you find the information above useful. Please contact us for more information and assistance.
Author: Destiny Adoption Services
Destiny Adoption Services is proud to support and guide birth parents and adoptive families on the journey of adoption. We’re a state licensed nonprofit adoption agency with four decades of adoption experience, and our professional team of experts includes moms, adoptive moms and birth mothers who provide compassion combined with trusted resources and skills.