You stand beside the hospital bed, watching as your child’s birth mother holds a carefully swaddled bundle of joy. Your heart pounds with excitement. Then she turns to you and asks, “Would you like to hold your baby?” Nodding, you lean down and extend your arms in a cradled position. As she lowers the baby into your arms, you can’t help but notice the smile on her face, and the pain behind her eyes.
On your child’s birthday, the birth mother will smile and share in your excitement, because she is genuinely happy for you. Seeing your joy and the love you have for her baby reaffirms that she made the right choice. But, at the same time, she will be experiencing deep grief. As a fellow mother, your heart may ache and go out to her. You may want to say something or do something to help, but aren’t sure what would be appropriate. At Adoption Choices of Colorado, this is something we hear a lot from adoptive parents, so we have put together a resource of encouraging things you can say to a grieving birth mother.
“Take all the time you need.”
With an open adoption, adoptive parents and birth parents are able to form a relationship before, during and after the adoption process. It allows for both parties to be involved in each other’s lives, and offers the birth mother especially a chance to watch her child grow. Holidays, vacations, school events, or just because. The boundaries are thoroughly discussed and agreed upon during the adoption process to make sure that everything goes smoothly. That one side doesn’t try and take advantage of the other.
It’s not uncommon for a birth mother to request space after the birth. Time alone to grieve her loss, and deal with her emotions so they don’t impact her relationship with her or the child. One of the most encouraging things you can say to a grieving birth mother in a moment like this is, “Of course. Take all the time you need.” By doing this, you are not only showing her respect, but you are also acknowledging her grief despite your joy.
“We will upload pictures of him/her for when you’re ready.”
Post adoption, adoptive parents and birth parents are able to create profiles on ChildConnect. It is a safe, confidential and secure website that allows both parties to share pictures, updates and memories with each other. Pictures are also able to be selected and put together in lifebooks, if either the adoptive parents or the birth parents want those.
Letting your child’s birth mother know that you’re going to have those pictures waiting is a very encouraging sentiment. It tells her that you truly care. That you understand it may be awhile before she can re-establish her relationship with you, and get to know your son or daughter, but that there is no rush.
“We are eternally grateful to you for the gift our son/daughter.”
This is another encouraging thing you can say to a grieving birth mother, because it speaks to her fears, doubts and any sudden regret she may experience. Even if she knows you really well, and showed confidence in her decision before, grief has a way of making us second guess ourselves. That, and being faced with the reality of her decision is excruciating. Making a plan for adoption and choosing a family before birth is a whole lot different when she isn’t holding her baby.
So, express your gratitude to her. This will help reassure her, and again reaffirm that she made the right decision by placing her child in your loving care.
If you find yourself fumbling for something encouraging to say, don’t say anything right then. It’s better to remain silent and be a comforting presence than voice a statement that has the best intentions, but will come out wrong. As backwards as it may seem, silence is just as powerful and reassuring. So, when words fail you, keep these bonus tips in mind:
- Don’t saying anything. Just sit with her. Cry with her.
- Give her a hug (if she is comfortable with that)
- Express yourself in other ways (check out our resource on “How to Bless Your Child’s Birth Mother”)
Encouraging a Grieving Birth Mother
A birth mother’s grief is incredibly complex. Choosing to place her child up for adoption is as excruciating as it is selfless. It is not something that she decided to do lightly, and is a choice that will always be with her. The moment she leaves the hospital without the baby, she must process, grieve and heal. This is why, in open adoption agreements, some birth mothers request some time away from you and the baby before reconnecting.
Adoption Choices of Colorado
For more information on adoption please contact Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can be reached via our website or phone 303-670-4401.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.
“The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief.” Grief.com, grief.com/10-best-worst-things-to-say-to-someone-in-grief/.
“What Can I Say That’s Actually Helpful in Times of Grief?” Lifehacker, lifehacker.com/what-can-i-say-thats-actually-helpful-in-times-of-grief-5941009.