Post-Placement Workbook: To Be a Birthparent

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As you begin to move forward after placement you may experience feeling as if being a birthparent and being yourself are two separate worlds. This is very common. After placement you naturally are required to continue life, whether that is to go back to school, to work, or to simply "merge" back into friendships and family relationships as they once were. Relinquishment is a very personal and intimately emotional experience and many in your life will not "see" what you have undergone or what you are currently dealing with. Therefore, because they cannot "see" it, they will not be able to relate to it or acknowledge it unless you make it a point to help them do so.

This may leave you feeling as if you’re leading two lives. One life will take you take you back into the world to continue on with others and in surroundings that you will not be able to discuss or share the facts and aspects of being a birthparent. The other world will take you to support groups, therapy, visitations with your child, and many a night alone in your room crying.

While the grieving and acceptance of your being a birthparent is truly only something that you can do, and naturally will leave you feeling somewhat separated from society and those in your life, it is unhealthy for this separation to last too long. There will come a time when these two worlds merge and you will be able to be both, birthparent and self, all in one.

Several things will take place. The first is your grieving the loss of your child and the acceptance of your decision and your new role, the emotional "work" that you must do for yourself in order to have a peace and an understanding of your decision and your role as birthparent. The second is your grieving the loss of the life you led before pregnancy, and your acceptance of how you have changed.

  1. Understanding who you are as a birthparent and how relinquishment has changed you.
  2. Understanding that the world around you and those you know and love will either need time to "get to know you" or may never understand you.

How You Have Changed

One of the most important things in your life is now your child. Again, because others cannot "see" your child or "see" you as an active birthparent, they will not be able to truly grasp the meaning of who you are.

Write about a time when you either had pictures of your child and wanted to share them but didn’t, and why: Or, write about a time that you did share them and the reactions you received:

Write here any significant responses you have had from others after you revealed that you were a birthparent:

Have family members and/or friends treated you differently since placement? And how?

Have family members and/or friends not treated you differently since placement? How has that made you feel?

Besides in a support group, with the adoptive family, the adoption agency, or the other birthparent, when have you had opportunities to acknowledge your having a child? What were the responses from others when you took these opportunities?

Do you ever think about sharing the fact that you have a child with others, but choose not to? Why?

Over all, how do you think family and friends feel about your choosing to relinquish?

Do you find yourself trying to justify your decision to those who appear to think negatively about it?

How do you attempt to justify yourself and your decision?

Have you ever found yourself getting angry when others re-act negatively or respond with statements that cause pain to you? Explain:

It is important to go back through your answers to the above questions and to examine how much emotional influence others in your life have on how you feel about your decision. It is normal to need validation and support from others, and it is also very normal to take their responses and statements to heart. Often times you may have felt doubt about your decision based on what others had to say to you. You may have attempted to justify your decision only to be shrugged off. You may even have felt judged, isolated, and angry.

List here the times you have felt this way and who caused it:

Now, look at what you’ve written above. What is important for you to know is that you are truly the only one who knows what being a birthparent feels like and means. More important than what others think of you is how you think of yourself. Your response, emotionally and verbally, to those who may judge you comes from how you feel about your decision and how you feel about being a birthparent. The better you feel about yourself and your decision, the less likely you are to take hurtful comments or snide judgments to heart. You will be able to shrug them off, or respond to them in a healthy manner.

Respond to the following as if you are engaged in conversation with someone:

You hear, "You know, you could have kept your baby, in this day and age it’s easy."
Your response:

You hear, "How could you just give up your baby, wasn’t it hard?"
Your response:

You hear, "The best thing for you now is to just move on with your life."
Your response:

You hear, "Don’t you regret what you did?"
Your response:

When people ask questions or make comments our emotions are automatically triggered. It is difficult to not be tempted to justify our decision. But the reality is, no good can come from our trying to justify our choice. It’s important to look at several things:

  1. Is that person a long time friend or is the relationship meaningful?
  2. Is the situation just a passing moment, and you are not likely to ever see or converse with this person again?
  3. Will your responding provide you with any type of emotional reward?

Being a birthparent means that you are strong enough to walk the path of most resistance. It means that when others say rude or hurtful things, you have the ability to dismiss them without taking it to heart. Being a birthparent means being aware of your choice often, through your actions, through others comments, and through the on-going relationship you have with your child and the adoptive family.

Respecting your Emotions

There are and will continue to be times when you experience great emotional pain. This may occur often and come out of nowhere, or it may occur infrequently and be triggered by specific things of which you are aware. Regardless, you will learn to handle and respect your emotions when they arise.


Answer the following:

After placement I grieved by:

I cried a lot / a little / not at all

I talked about it with:

What helped me the most was:

I’m usually feeling okay until:

After the first year you will become more aware of certain triggers that cause grief to revisit. It may be holidays, certain people, seeing children or families, visitation, pictures, or other things that seem to bring up grief. The important thing to remember is not "getting over" the grief, but learning how to accept and handle it when it comes.

One birthmother says, "Every year around my daughter's birthday I’d get really depressed. But the first year, my mom surprised me by making a cake and having a small party with my two best friends and my family. Everyone brought a gift and I was able to show pictures, talk about her, and feel really special as a mother. I still cried, I think all of us did, but it meant a lot to me that they wanted to do that and it helped. So now, every year no matter how hard it is, we have some kind of small party and I always send all the presents to my daughter afterwards."

Acknowledging the loss and the painful emotions a birthparent experiences is important, but just as important is to not seclude yourself or attempt to push the emotions away. If you are aware of situations or circumstances in which grief comes up, try to think of ways to indulge yourself in healthy manners.

Here, list several ideas for yourself to do when grief overwhelms you:

Two Worlds Become One

Once you are able to work through issues with family, friends, and outside influences, and once you are able to know yourself well enough to begin meeting your emotional needs, you can prepare for the next step.

Many birthparents agree that post-placement leaves them feeling empty. After all, for the months you were pregnant you were busy with the agency, the adoptive couple, making decisions, and working on counseling. Then, you had the enormous job of bringing life into the world, and your baby was placed into your loving arms. You under-went a placement ceremony, the final relinquishment hearing, and the initial post-placement work was then done. The agency, you, and the adoptive family were busy with plans and discussions of the future. But then … it was done. Your baby was placed into the care of his/her adoptive family who then began starting their new life, the agency’s job was complete, and you went home to eagerly await the first set of pictures and possible visit.

Since then, you may be feeling that all have moved on but you. The act of attempting to go back into your daily life has left you feeling "separated," and a part of two very different worlds. But then, after doing grief work, after more counseling and self-awareness and working towards accepting your new role as birthparent, you now feel able to deal with and live productively as a birthparent.

Can these two worlds become one? Can you merge them together in a healthy way?

Does being a birthparent have anything to do with your future relationships, school, work, or the day to day of your living?

Yes! What you must realize now, at this stage, is that your job is not finished. Being a birthparent is much, much more than pictures and visits.

Answer the following:

In what ways do my visits influence my birth child and the adoptive family?

My birth child may be young now, but as he/she gets older, how might I be an example for him/her?

What goals do I currently have that, when met, can result in my being a good role model for my birth child?

What might my birth child need from me, emotionally, when he/she gets old enough to begin understanding my role in his/her life?

Will my emotional healing have any impact on my birth child, and how?

How can I best continue to actively show my birth child that he/she is loved?

Will my financial and/or career/school success have any impact on my birth child in the future and how?

How can I best get to know my birth child?

Right now, my role is more focused on being present in my birthchild’s life through visits and pictures, but as he/she gets older my role will change in the following ways:

For birthparents with children over the age of five, they can tell you that they experienced a "shift" in their roles. When the child is old enough to begin asking questions, a new set of "standards" may fall into place. Answer the following the best you can:

I plan on explaining who I am and why by:

The best way to validate my love and presence in my child’s life will be by:

Answer the following:

If I go on to have a successful career, get married, or attain financial security and emotional happiness I will struggle with guilt.

It would be better for my birth child to know there was absolutely no way I could have ever raised him/her and my life should be proof of that.

When I feel happy it is short-lived because then I think about my birth child and feel bad that I’m happy.

My birth child should know how hard it is to be a birthparent so there is no doubt in his/her mind that I love him/her.

As you work towards a healthy relationship with your child’s adoptive parents, you are also working towards a healthy relationship with your child. In the long term you will be an influence in these relationships. It’s up to you to determine what kind of influence you will be, what you can give to these relationships, and how to get your needs met from them as well.

I want my child to think of me as:

I believe I can influence the life of my child in the following ways:

By improving myself and my life in these ways:

I hope to have the kind of relationship with my child that is ...

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