Saturday, January 2, 2010

guest blogger: as a birthGRANDparent, how can i help my daughter?

this was written per request of a caseworker over a year ago, to be a resource to help birthgrandparents better understand how they can be of support to their daughters as they travel through the adoption journey. the author is my 'second' mother, and was there by my side in the hospital and at placement. she has been a birthmom mentor working with LDS Family Services for over 15 years, she has 12 children- 5 of whom were adopted!

(there is reference to some LDS (mormon) specific beliefs and resources such as priesthood blessings)


These are some of my thoughts based on the experiences I have had in loving Birth mothers, as they have worked through the difficult situation of being unwed and pregnant.

1. 1. Making a decision is not an easy one. It is one that for most birth mom’s they wrestle with. One day they want to keep and another day they feel they are not ready to be a parent. I t is important that parents be willing to listen….to let them wrestle out loud their decisions and to be willing to let them make their decision. They have to live with this decision for the rest of their lives. If the young woman feels she has made her own decision she is able to find greater peace and acceptance of her situation later.

2. 2. Parents need to realize that making the decision to do a placement, goes against God-given biological feelings. Even if a young woman decides she wants to place, and she is excited about the Adoptive Couple, and is at peace with that decision….there will come a time when she will deal with the biological, God-given feelings of love and loss for her child. Parents can be most supportive by allowing the young woman to talk, share pictures, mourn, or whatever feelings she has at the moment….allow her to have voice. Many times parents feel that after the placement has taken place that the young woman should just move forward and not look back. They don’t want to listen to her talk about the pregnancy, labor, delivery, placement, or share the pictures and letters from the adoptive couple. A young woman needs to be able to express her feelings….both joy and sorrow and have a loving, and supportive listeners as she works through her loss and biological feelings.

3. 3. It is helpful if parents become familiar with the stages of grief and can recognize these steps as their daughter works through them. Anger is one of the steps, and often a young woman becomes angry, and even wishes she could go back and change her mind. Reassurance that all the steps of grief is normal, support, love, acceptance of her feelings, and being willing to listen, love, and encourage her is so important.

4. 4. There is also grief and loss for the birth grandparents. Understanding that a young woman’s decision will also affect her family is important. It is very important for parents to also seek help, or have some kind of support for themselves. Counseling is very good for parents as well as the young woman. If there are younger siblings, it is important to understand that they will also be affected. There will need to be opportunities to help them understand what is best for the baby and their sister. It is important that their feelings are also addressed. When the family is in turmoil, often younger children absorb things and can sometimes think things are their fault. Contention is so hard on younger siblings and the way parents address this issue and their behavior towards their pregnant daughter can convey very powerful feelings to younger children. The most important thing the family can do is to love unconditionally. To allow the young woman to make her own decision, and to feel that her family will still love her and be supportive of her. It is important that the young woman understands and is made to feel that she is part of their family forever, and regardless of poor decisions….the family is going to do everything they can to keep her apart of their family.

5. 5. Priesthood blessings, prayer, fasting, letters, expressions of love, gratitude, acceptance are very essential during this trying time. Anger, criticism, condemnation, or trying to make the young woman feel guilty and imposing punishments…..do not help the situation and often cause overwhelming difficulties. Usually, the young woman is already punishing herself, often her feelings of self worth are at their lowest point…..they have lost the spirit, and already feel guilt and shame and embarrassment. Those who do the best and those who are most likely to seek a repentance process and turn to the Savior for forgiveness….are those young women who feel the love and support of their families. If a young woman feels safe in the love of her family, most often she will feel that God can forgive and love her too.

6. 6. As difficult this situation is, there is still hope. Beauty does rise from what appears to be ashes. Many young women rebuild their lives and reclaim promised blessings. When a young woman places, the prayers and dreams of those unable to bear children are fulfilled….this is such a joyful and unspeakable blessing to them. Even with the sorrow and loss that a young woman may feel, she also feels the “rightness” of her decision to give her child a better way of life and she can “feel” the joy that this child will bring to those she has selected to be the parents of her child. It is a “bittersweet” experience.

7. 7. When the baby is born, it is very difficult not to love the child and want to keep him/her. It is important not to let your feelings and thoughts interfere with the decision she has made. It is important not to let your emotions impact the emotions and difficult struggle she will most likely go through as she releases her child to the Adoptive Couple. Continue to be supportive and understanding and keep your own feelings under control. This is where some counseling is helpful….to imagine and work through what it might be like when that day comes, and to prepare and know how you will handle it….what you might want to say or do, a gift you may want to give your daughter as a remembrance or to show your love for her courage, as well as a possible gift that can be meaningful for the child…..think through these things and prepare yourself so that you will be prepared.

8. 8. Most of the young women I have known have centered most of their thoughts and feelings on their child for about a year….as it has drawn nearer to a year since the birth, the girl seems to start having days when her thoughts are not primarily centered on the baby…..this can be a challenge for parents who don’t understand what a powerful experience, and loss, this was for their daughter. One of the most important ways to help your daughter feel loved and accepted is to give her time to work through this experience. Encourage her to stay in counseling, this is so important because trained counselors can help her reprocess her decisions, and can provide a healthy avenue to express and release some of her emotions. They can also tell if she is not moving forward in her life. Giving birth and doing a placement is very much like the death of a loved one…..you don’t get over it in a week or a month….time does help heal, but it takes time and patience.

9. 9. There comes a time, and sooner is better than later, that a parent has to forgive their child for bringing the pain and sorrow. The sooner you can work through and find forgiveness for this child the better your relationship will be, and the more peace and unconditional love you can offer. In my experience, parents often do not comprehend that they need to forgive….often they feel like this daughter has betrayed them, or trampled on their values and those things they hold dear, they are often embarrassed and feel like they have failed because of the choice their daughter made….there are too many feelings and emotions to write them all….but one of the most important things you can do….is to seek spiritual help in forgiving, in being able to let go of your pain and disappointment and be able to truly love. In my opinion, forgiveness rarely comes all at once, but is something you have to work on….taking little steps, and drawing on the power of the Savior to help you. There will be many times when you think you have forgiven only to have feelings and disappoints come back….this is one of those things that you have to continue to work on….over and over…..but the rewards and benefits are powerful.

10.10. Spend time in the temple, keep her and your families names on the prayer roll, seek Priesthood blessings for yourself, fast, read your scriptures and turn to the Lord. He will guide you, soften your hearts, open your minds to her needs and those of your family members. Seek counsel from your Bishop. Meditate and ponder on how the Savior would want you handle this situation. Ask Him for specific needs and desires and understanding.


Karine said...

Thank you for sharing that. That brought tears to my eyes. I know that adoption effects more than just the birth mother. I learned that from one of my other birth mother friends and all the advice you gave is not only good for those who are closer to the birth mother (living with even) but for us hopeful adoptive parents.
I hope that what you wrote will help many family members to be able to better support/love and bless the birth mother through the difficult times she will endure.
Thank you again for sharing what you know.

birthmomforever said...

Thank you for this post. I think it is very important for families to support birth moms and let them make the decision. My mom is also a birth mom and didn't have a choice. My parents told all my siblings that this is my choice and not to tell me what to do or what they wanted. I'm so grateful that my family was very supportive and loving. I was able to get the counceling I needed. I also had my sister and mom with me at counceling a lot. Most of my family was at placement and the ones that weren't were able to meet the couple and spend time with my son during a visit when he was 1.

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