Post-Placement Workbook: Expectations of Yourself

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Dave Pelzer, in his book, "A Man Called Dave," writes, "All I can do is maintain my vow that I took years ago when I was eight years old, immediately after my mother had burned my arm on the gas stove. From this day forward I will never give up. From this day forward I will give everything my all. As an adult I expect nothing less from myself."

Pelzer, after living a childhood wrought with extreme abuse, made this vow to himself for survival. While we, as birthparents, made our decisions of our own accord and without abuse (hopefully), our expectations of ourselves very much mirror what Mr. Pelzer expected of himself.

To never give up. To give everything you’re all. To expect nothing less of yourself.

List five expectations you had for yourself before your pregnancy:

Have those expectations changed and why?

Many birthparents experience a shift in their outlook on life after placement. They lose interest in their friends, they feel separated from their peers, and the things that mattered most to them before placement now seem to have little meaning. These feelings are normal. When anyone is experiencing a life change, a great loss, or an emotional shift in their thinking, the way they view the world also changes.

List several things that have changed for you since placement:

Before you place any expectations on yourself, it’s important to know how you feel about yourself and how you feel about the world around you. Before placement you may have expected yourself to graduate from school, go for a certain new job, move in with roommates, etc. Your goals may now have changed. Before you continue forward into the things you expected to happen before placement, evaluate their importance to you now.

Goals and Expectations I had before placement:

Evaluate the above and carefully look at the direction in which you were previously moving. Do you still feel the same way about the plans that you once had? Influences are an important factor in discovering your self-expectations. Here, list what influences you had in creating your goals and expectations before placement:

Are those influences still important to you? If yes, which ones? And why?

*Example: before placement you were planning to move in with your significant other and continue schooling while working. Now, however, your relationship with your significant other is not working out and you’re emotionally not prepared to start school right away.

In order to create goals and expectations you must feel emotionally and physically prepared to follow through. Otherwise, you will fall prey to feeling as if you’ve failed, you may experience unnecessary depression and anxiety, and you will hinder your ability to move forward when the time is right. List four expectations you have for yourself currently:

In order to fulfill those expectations, what needs do you have that must be met?

Check the following:

____ I have and am currently in post-placement counseling
____ I currently attend a support group
____ I have a guidance/career counselor
____ I allow myself periods of grieving
____ I am able to talk about my child often
____ I have found adequate emotional support
____ Those I work with are aware of my relinquishment
____ I am aware of my emotional needs and can meet them
____ I do not feel rushed to move on

If you checked less than three of the above it is important that you evaluate how you expect to recover from relinquishment before you begin placing any kind of expectations on yourself. If you checked less than three of the above, I suggest that you look at them again and choose one or two to work on.
One of the keys to meeting your expectations is knowing how you intend to meet them. One birthmother said in a recent support group, "I’m tired of feeling this way, I didn’t expect it to be so hard!" I asked her, "What did you expect?" She froze, lifted her shoulders, and replied, "I don’t know, just not this."

Fill in the following: (the word "by" at the end of each statement is not to imply a physical date or a time period, it is meant as an insinuation of how you will accomplish something.)

I expect myself to be successful by...

I expect myself to feel emotionally healthy by ...

I expect those closest to me to be supportive by ...

I expect myself to work through recovery by ...

One of the most difficult aspects to recovery begins not with working through post-placement issues, but rather it begins by knowing and understanding yourself. You cannot place expectations on yourself that you cannot meet.

Check the following:

____ I am goal oriented and let nothing stand in my way.
____ I am a people pleaser and enjoy seeing others happy.
____ I have a hard time forgiving.
____ I hold grudges.
____ It is difficult for me to talk to others.
____ I can easily share what I’m feeling.
____ I tend to feel judged.
____ I have high anxiety in large groups.
____ I don’t do well under pressure.
____ I thrive when challenged with something.
____ I learn more from reading than listening.
____ I am a hands-on learner.
____ I feel better about myself when I’m helping others.
____ I tend to stick to my own.
____ I have trouble making decisions.
____ I am easily influenced.
____ I am very rarely peer-pressured.
____ I get depressed easily.
____ I am physically active.

Recovery, for birthparents, while leading to the same overall outcome (peace, acceptance, understanding, growth in your relationship with the adoptive family, healthy relationship with your birth child) is attained in different ways. Each of us recovers differently, based on our unique personalities and needs.

If you checked that you tend to feel judged, have high anxiety in large groups, and that you tend to stick to your own, joining a support group may not be in your best interest. You may instead consider taking part in one-on-one therapy. However, if you checked that you can easily share what you’re feeling, are a hands-on learner, and are rarely ever peer-pressured, a support group would benefit you. Knowing the type of person you are and what needs you have are extremely important.

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