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The Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents, pg 2

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Romantic Relationships

According to Merry Bloch Jones' book, Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories, many birthparents report difficulty in their romantic relationships following placing a child for adoption. As a group, birthparents seem to do things in extremes. Either they marry the first person who comes along so that they become "respectable" members of society, or they stay away from a partner for years. Some divorce and marry, again and again. Some marry an abusive partner, subconsciously punishing themselves. Some marry a rich partner they don't love so they will have financial security and never again be in the position of having to give up a child because of the lack of money. Some may even marry a decent, loving, supportive person, but get so caught up in their unresolved grief that the marriage falls apart.

Some couples who planned the adoption together get married and have other children. Other birthparents choose not to get too close to any one person ever again. They go from one relationship to the other on purpose, because to them intimacy and loss are always linked.

A third of the birthmothers that Jones talked to said they have happy marriages. The marriages are happy because their partners continue to be supportive of their need to talk about the birth parent experience and of their search for ways to help them grieve. Some who don't get it right in their first marriage do get it right in the second one. They say a large part of getting it right is learning to forgive themselves.

Parenting Issues

Birthparents also often reflect extremes when it comes to parenting. Many have children immediately after getting married, others not for years. Some have only one other child, others more than three. Some are overprotective with their child, because they are afraid something will also happen to this child. Others are distant from their children, because getting close reminds them of the child they gave up. Almost all believe that placing a child for adoption affected the way they parent and the way they feel about their other children.

Some do not have other children, either on purpose, because they don't want to be reminded of their adoption experience, or because they or their partner cannot get pregnant again. Some marry partners with children, therefore becoming stepparents. Some even adopt.

What Birthparents Experience

A number of factors may have influenced your decision to place your child for adoption. Yet, although each situation is different, there are common threads that run through all adoptions. Birthparents usually feel powerless and lack monetary and emotional support. They may still feel social stigma, though the shame that once prompted parents to place their pregnant daughters in maternity homes to hide the pregnancy is slowly fading.

The following paragraphs describe experiences that you or those you know may have gone through. These experiences are divided into three time periods, and the specific coping issues for each period are addressed.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)

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