Full disclosure: I am not a birth parent. I know, it seems a bit odd—and dare I say presumptuous?—to speak on behalf of birth parents when I, myself, have no genetic offspring. Still, I hope you’ll hear me out.
I am an adoptive father of two little girls who (along with my wife) mean more to me than the oxygen I breathe or the lifeblood that sustains my existence. The only thing that comes even remotely close to matching the love I feel for my wife and children is the all-encompassing, soul-shattering gratitude and respect I have for the two women who chose to place their daughters in our care.
The two women who made my wife and I a mom and dad after years of infertility grief.
The two women who sacrificed their everything so we could have everything.
The two women whose hearts we’ve come to know and love as we continue the journey in our open adoption relationships.
While all birth parents are unique in their own right, there are several universal truths I’ve come to understand about the hearts of men and women who choose to place their babies for domestic infant adoption; truths I hope our society will strongly consider and embrace.
Birth Parents Love Their Kids
You know that deep, unconditional, always-and-forever love people feel for their children? The kind that desperately hopes for every one of their kids’ dreams and aspirations to come true? The kind that makes them ache with the affection they didn’t think possible? Well, birth parents feel those very same feelings—a forever kind of love that only deepens and intensifies. It doesn’t fade or dwindle with the passage of time, school, or career accomplishments, marriage, or additional children. It’s a common (and appalling) refrain in our culture that birth parents “abandon” their kids because they don’t care for them. In the eternal words of Dwight K. Schrute…”False.” Rather, birth parents selflessly place their children for adoption out of the same deep love parents feel when they think about all they’d give up to ensure their child’s wellbeing.
Birth Parents’ Pain Never Truly Goes Away
Every one of us, at some point in our lives, makes a painful decision we know is the right one. But birth parents, no matter how confident, will never be rid of the residual pain of having placed their children for adoption. It’s crucial that we respect this pain and recognize that it stems from the kind of love that can only be found in a parent’s heart. Sometimes it manifests itself as general malaise. Other times, it’s a deep, burning torment. And of course, every possible emotion between. As my oldest daughter’s birth mother reminds me, this hurting is not the same thing as regret. There are times (my daughter’s birthdays, for example) when it’s too painful for her to join us for parties. Adoptive parents—and we as a culture—must recognize and understand that just as birth parents’ love for their children is eternal and unwavering, the agony of surrendering their parenthood, while hopefully complemented by plenty of joyful reassurance, is just as eternal and not something they ever “get over.”
Birth Parents Aren’t Trying to “Steal Back” Their Children
Ah yes, this is a common one. Some adoptive parents are faced with this comment: “Don’t you have to be constantly worried every time you send your child off to school or every playground visit or trip to the zoo that his or her birth parent is lurking behind a corner, waiting for the opportunity to snatch your kid away from you?”
If this wasn’t such an offensive (and often implied) question, I’d laugh at its absurdity. It’s unbelievably important that we don’t equate birth parents with cold-blooded child abductors. The correlation just doesn’t exist. Just the opposite, birth parents are the ones rooting the hardest for adoptive parents to be the best possible mother or father for their baby. They want their children to look up to and love adoptive parents as their child’s legitimate mom or dad.
My wife and I have occasionally been asked if it’s a good idea for our oldest daughter to see her birth mother as often as she does—that doing so will cause her birth mother to “want her back.” Respectfully, the entire premise of this question is flawed. There was never a time in which our daughter’s birth mother didn’t want to be her baby’s primary, full-time mom. Seeing the child she birthed grow and mature in the care of the people she personally handpicked has never changed that fact, but it has, at the same time, beautifully grown their unique relationship and served to positively reinforce the validity of the gut-wrenching decision she made years ago on her daughter’s behalf.