How I Invalidated Adoption Consequences

How I Invalidated Adoption Consequences
GabPRR/Creative Commons

Do you hear it? That voice, the one in your head. It starts small, with just a whisper, but straining to hear the words only encourages the voice to grow into a loud, mean hiss.

My little voice cycles through various accusations of incompetence, selfishness, fault, stupidity — whatever the insecurity of the day.

When I was in the process of making my adoption decision, I wrestled with the doubts this voice constantly threw at me. Posing as a helpful conscience, the voice barked, “You are just copping out of your responsibility by giving him for adoption. Babies are a lot of work and you just don’t want to do it. You’re trying to erase the slate and start over as if this didn’t happen, as if you can run away from the consequences of your bad choices.”

The voice hinted that my baby was a punishment I was trying to escape. It told me I was a coward for even thinking about adoption. It labeled me a bad, self-centered mother.

Here on the other side of my adoption decision, I shake my head at this voice. Unlike what the voice professed as truth, adoption is not an “escape” from my baby. I did not push the “easy” button when I signed over my rights.

But when I was in the thick of it — pregnant, doubtful, ashamed — I thought there was a chance I was being a coward for wanting to give him to another family.

A “consequence” is a result of any action. Sometimes these results are negative, sometimes positive. So when I call my pregnancy a consequence of my bad choices, I am not casting disparaging remarks at my baby; rather, I am observing the natural order of the universe.

The voice that told me I was ducking consequences never acknowledged this definition, or validated the consequences I accepted through adoption.

Like other mothers, I live with the insecurity of my ability to parent, doubt about whether I made the right decision, and scrutiny of my motherhood from others. The context is specific to each mother and child, but these core consequences still exist.

Since the voice preyed on my common fears, I was unprepared for the difficult, unique consequences of adoption.

As a child grows, a parent cares for him or her in different ways. Babies need to be changed, fed, amused, held. Toddlers begin learning to care for themselves, and by the time they are teenagers, children are hopefully ready to transition into adulthood. In this way, the “burden” of childcare shifts and even lightens as the child ages. The parents’ responsibility and quality of care may not change, but with most children, the intense, hands-on caregiving will eventually stop.

I’m sure as Dominic grows that our relationship will evolve, but since I am not holding his “burden of care,” I fear that what I do carry will grow heavier instead of lighter. The weight of missed moments will sit on my shoulders for the rest of my life. We will always be separated. These consequences are not anything to be diminished or overlooked.

When that voice pipes up these days, I confront it with the truth. No, I am not the one on-call 24/7. But I am living with consequences as his birthmother.


How do you think the birth of a child creates consequences for those involved in his or her life? What consequences has adoption brought to you? Birthmothers, did placing your child make you feel like you were ducking responsibility? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

11 thoughts on “How I Invalidated Adoption Consequences

  1. Jerry

    Emily, we all have that “voice”. Confronting it and focusing on truth shows great maturity. I congratulate and admire you.

  2. I’ve read a little of your blog, and I love it for many reasons. One, my parents adopted four of my siblings when I was nine (after a tumultuous year with foster kids)–bringing our family of four to six. Two, I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II as well (I hint at it with this post and have had the ups and the downs. I’ve been misdiagnosed more for over a decade before finally receiving the proper care. Three, Neil (from the little I’ve read) reminds me of my husband of 13 years. Life is still a rollercoaster, even with meds and therapy but now that I understand myself more, the ride isn’t so scary.

    • Emily

      Thank you so much for sharing some of your personal struggle, Clarissa. Your blog post is well-written and insightful. I appreciate your vulnerability.

  3. ” I did not push the “easy” button when I signed over my rights.” Damn straight you didn’t. You’re right. Every action/decision has consequences and either way, they are not to be downplayed. You did a brave thing. And though you will miss “moments”, you made it possible for another woman who really wanted this to have them.

    Thank you for allowing us into your heart and mind. xoA

  4. It’s a wonderful thing you are doing by sharing your experiences. Other birth mothers’ voices of insecurity and doubt will be silenced. Making the right decision is often the most challenging. Well done.

  5. Emily — you continue to amaze me with your open, honest ability to put your feelings into words. Thank you for sharing your journey. I hope there are others in the wider world that can find your blog — I think it could show them a path forward.

  6. Natalie

    Pregnancy and birth create consequences for many people in their lives. Becoming a parent is a massive commitment, one of the largest ones anyone will ever make in their lives. Identifying when your child is going to be better off without you, than with you, is the most difficult decision of all. It is a decision no mother should ever have to make. That said, there will be mothers who just do not have the capacity or desire to parent their child/children. I’m sorry you were one of them.
    Adoption loss affects every single element of my life – and not in a good way. When you are coerced out of your child because of family fears, inept social workers, biased welfare agencies, desperate potential adopters, ie, dysfunction on every level, there is no way this can be processed as anything but negative. Children are often lost to adoption not because of the inability of their mothers/fathers to be good enough, but because of the systems around them that convince them they are not good enough. They are preyed upon – their fears and uncertainties, their lack of money, their age, their immaturity, their mental health…. those with power and money prey upon vulnerable mothers, using the child and his/her needs as a pawn in the game. It is in very, very few cases that a child is genuinely better off being raised by anyone other than someone in their natural family – preferably their mother/father. If not mother/father, then extended family. In Western societies, there should be very few cases where a child is raised by someone other than their parents, or extended family. Unless there is significant, trans-generational disadvantage or dysfunction, then we should be outraged when people consider strangers raising their children. This is not about the child, this is clearly about the needs of the adults. This is supply and demand at work.
    Losing my child through adoption was not about me, and what I wanted, unfortunately. It was about the systems around me – family, agencies, community, adopters who ensured I was railroaded into a ‘decision’, playing upon my vulnerabilities, youth and fears. I would have given everything I had to parent my child. I should have parented my child. I was young, but I was functional, from a stable home, committed and totally in love with her. If those predators were not hanging around the edges of my life, once they got news of my pregnancy, then I would never have considered giving her to possessive strangers. She is my daughter, my flesh and blood. Giving away your children is abnormal. It should not be celebrated. It should not be promoted. It should not be funded. It should not be normalized. It is wrong on every level. That said, there should always be permanency options for children who absolutely cannot live with their natural mother and father, for what ever reason. If their parents are unable to care for them, then extended family should be the next option. If extended family are unavailable or unsuitable, only then should long term care be found for the child. In those rare cases, the child should still not be severed legally or emotionally or physically from their natural family. There should be a blending (where this is safe) of the two unrelated families, so the child still has their original identity and an ongoing relationship with their natural family. After all the work that has been done on attachment and identity, the fact we continue to push relinquishment and adoption as an appropriate way to care for children is outrageous. If there was no money in adoption for the baby sellers, adoption would fizzle out significantly. The supply would dry up as mothers and fathers with unexplained pregnancies would able to freely explore the range of options open to them, without big industry (adoption agencies and potential adopters) pushing their agenda onto the parents. Adoption is an industry, not a caring, compassionate option for an unplanned pregnancy. If permanency is sought for a child who has no parents, or parents that have no capacity or desire to parent, then permanent care or guardianship might need to be considered. These would be very rare situations.

    • Emily

      Natalie, I’m sorry you had such a terrible adoption experience. It’s certainly deplorable when pregnant women are pushed into an adoption, and I’m sorry that happened to you. I did not choose to place my son because I lacked the personal capacity or desire to parent, but because of my situation. I think perhaps it is important to remember that we, as humans, can only make choices given the information we have at the time. I imagine it’s been hard for you to look back and see that you were pressured and duped, but I hope you will extend compassion to yourself for making the decision you did. Best wishes.

  7. Natalie

    I’d love to know more about your ‘situation’. I do wonder if you regret or feel you were mislead. Yes, it’s true people can only make ‘decision’s’ about their future at any one point in time. Appropriate decisions can only be made if people have all the information at hand that they need. A decision is not a decision when one is coerced – I think you missed that part of my post. I think you’re saying that you don’t think you were coerced but I’m suggesting there are larger factors at play that played upon your fears and vulnerabilities and these led to your child being lost to adopters. If a mother doesn’t have adoption rammed down her throat as an option, then no mother would ever consider giving away their child. The thought is abhorrent.

    • Emily

      I think we perhaps disagree on some fundamental elements of adoption. It sounds like your experience has been very different from mine (I write about my “situation” in the “My Adoption Story” tab at the top of the page), which I know will, of course, yield different views. I’m sorry you were not given the support you needed when you needed it. Through this blog, I try to show not only how difficult adoption is, but also how positive it can be, but I can only base these things on my own experiences. No doubt some mothers feel coerced into placing their children, but other mothers do indeed choose adoption with a clear head. My hope for you and for all birthmothers is that we each find peace, regardless of the circumstances of our placement and our adoption.

  8. Liz

    I agree that there’s a lot of manipulation in the adoption world. It makes me sad and angry too. Pregnant women in vulnerable situations are definitely taken advantage of and this leads to so much pain and trauma. I’m definitely pushing toward adoption reform as well as supporting women and showing them how they could parent if they desire. However, I also believe we can only truly know our own story. There may be women out there who make their own choice and feel they were empowered to do so and although they live with their consequences, like this post talks about, they feel they made the right choice. I definitely wish I had been shown my options in a less biased way. I definitely hurt for my child and wonder if I should have kept him. But I know that’s MY story, not anyone else’s. Choice is important. And not shaming others for making a choice, even one we ourselves may not agree with, is the best way we can support each other through all of this. I’m so sorry for your loss and hopefully we can make change to prevent that from happening to others.

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