Healing After an Adoption

It took us a while to heal after my husband and I adopted our son. One would think after waiting for four years that we would be elated and all our deep wounds of infertility and childless sorrow would instantaneously go away. Well, it didn’t. We had been through the infertility roller-coaster and were still trying to recover from that when we got the call that we were going to be parents. The whole adoption experience was a whirlwind and then we had our newborn in our arms.

Healing After AdoptionWe experienced joy and love for this new little baby like never before, but we also experienced pain and anger that it took so long for him to come into our lives. We felt elation and excitement to finally have our dreams fulfilled but also resentment and jealousy that we did not get to carry our baby in the womb and give birth to him.  We were so grateful to his birth mother and that she chose us, but also wished we had been allowed to give birth and experience this for ourselves.

As a social worker I struggled with feelings I was not prepared for. Both my husband and I realized we needed to open our hearts and heal after our adoption. After many hours of holding our son, sharing his pictures with his birthmother and having open communication with each other about how were feeling, both my husband and myself started to heal.

Healing after an adoption needs to happen for all involved. Certainly the birth parents are grieving and need to heal as they take on a new role as birth parents and figure out how to have a relationship with their child and his or her parents. This takes time, patience, and courage; three things that birth parents have as they make the decision to place their child. Adoptive parents need this too, and so often we forget that we too are in the process of healing. As an adoptive parent, it took time for me to feel connected completely to this little baby and feel like he was really my son. It also took time for my relationship with the birth parents to take shape and for us to find a comfortable pattern of communication and connection. It took patience with myself to realize I also was grieving the loss of carrying my son in my own womb. I needed to allow myself to grieve and find peace as I accepted that I was a mommy now and forever. It also took patience as I realized my husband’s process of grieving and acceptance was at a different pace than mine. Finally it took courage on both our parts to trust that this new family formation of parents, birth parents and child was really OK and all of us would always stay connected in whatever way we felt comfortable with.

Healing after an adoption is different for everyone involved. Acknowledging you are in need of healing is sometimes the first step. Getting the help you need takes time, patience and courage. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you: family, birth parents, and counselors. Allowing yourself to heal helps to open your heart to accept more love from those who love you the most. Finding peace and acceptance helped my family become closer and created a place were our son would be nurtured, accepted and loved by all his parents.

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  • still healing

    extended family members of birth parents have a difficult time healing also, yet there are no groups who understand the pain we feel.

  • ep

    Great article. I felt the exact same way and for the first four months tired to pretend that everything was ok and that I was over my infertility because I adopted. Finally I had a bit of a break down and learnt that it is ok to still be sad about our losses.
    Thank you

  • PixieCorpse

    Healing after an adoption truly *is* “important” and “difficult for everyone involved.” However, the birth parents and the adoptive parents are not the only ones involved.

    Does the adoptee (hello, the person the adoption is supposed to be all about) not need to heal? Please tell me we don’t really still buy into that “if you get’em young enough, it won’t matter” stuff my parents were told in the 1960s?

  • PROrlando

    I know how you feel still healing. I am a birth grandparent. Our place is not considered. We have to come to a place of healing as well. Maybe we should start a group.If I knew how I would. I know it helped me to begin a friendship with another birth grandparent. It is nice to be able to talk to someone who understands our unique situation.

  • Alice Hubell

    Thanks for all the thoughts. It is very true that all involved in the adoption process need to heal, the adoptee included. The positive thing about open adoption is that the child will be given many more tools to aid in their journey. As they grow and reach different developmental stages, knowing about the adoption and their birth story will help them progress. Starting at day one sharing their birth story is so important.

  • Mirah Riben

    “Healing after an adoption is different for everyone involved.” It sure is! You experienced a loss but have a baby in your arms. The mother of your child experienced a LOSS and has NOTHING, but loss, guilt, shame and a “promise” of openness from you. Many mothers have far less. And for many it was not a “decision” and took no “courage.” For many mothers it is simply exploitation and/or coercion, some are even victims of actually kidnappings.

    And your child…you don’t even consider his feelings whatsoever! Your child has also experienced a LOSS! But all you think of is YOUR FEELINGS and then have the nerve to talk about “everyone involved.” !

  • Hi Mirah. You are welcome to comment here, however I ask that you remain respectful. Part of that respect includes not presuming a monstrous intent behind every adoptive parent. We address the needs and feelings of children in many places. This post happened to not be about that particular topic, but that isn’t because we ignore the issue.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Alice Hubbell

    It is true that there are individuals who are not so honest in the adoption process and that is truly unfortunate. I am grateful my experience has been one of hope and healing and I advocate for openness for all involved in adoption.

  • cmurphyslp

    I commend the author for stating that adoption wasn’t a “cure all” for her feelings of grief and sadness relating to infertility. In fact it seems that actually parenting this baby perhaps triggered more feelings of grief. There are many wounds for everyone indeed. This author writes from her experience as a mother to a baby. I don’t condemn her for not discussing the wounds in her child, I encourage her to read about adoptees. Adoptees as young children, as teens and as adults. We adoptees are a unique group and have unique needs. I was adopted in 1969, a time when my parents were told to simply take me home and love me and all would be okay. They loved me tremendously, unconditionally, fully…..yet until I acknowledged my own grief over being separated from my first mother at birth, I struggled emotionally. It took until I was 37 to begin to process my grief.

  • Mirah Riben

    I made absolutely no assumptions about “all” of any group of people. I replied to what was was posted. Nothing more.

    Assumptions about “all” were made by Alice, not me. SHE is the one who said things like: “Adoptive parents need this too.” Really? “All” adoptive parents?

    Alice also made broad assumption of what “all” mothers who lose children adoption feel or don’t feel or that they made a “decision.” These are incorrect and overly broad assumptions on HER part.

  • Von

    So many of the tasks of adoption can and should be undertaken before placement takes place.Once it does take place there needs to be focus on the adoptee, the needs of a small vulnerable person who is suffering mother-loss, trauma, complex trauma, ambiguous loss and who will experience the effects for life.

  • keniamariana

    Your following entry is advice on how to write Dear Birthmother letters. I would like to point out, before birth and before placing their baby for adoption, they are expectent mothers. They are no different than any other pregnant women.
    Thanks in advance.

  • txcg

    I think there is a need for such a group. Would you consider starting one on facebook? I think it would help.

  • txcg

    I encourage everyone to find an adoption support group. Here in Austin Texas we have an amazing group. Adoption Knowledge Affiliates which supports everyone in the adoption community. www adoption knowledge org The annuals conference is Nov 8/9 in Austin and the keynote will speak on “preverbal trauma” many other break out sessions. Please attend. Also on FB there are groups for everyone affected by adoption. I haven’t found a grandparents group, but I encourage someone to start one. As an adoptee born in 1958, I’ve lived thru the changes and since my own search in 1976 have helped others reunite. If anyone needs help, please find me on facebook Tejas Angel

  • dee

    respect? nearly all natural moms report that the pain GROWS with time. 97 percent of moms asked to keep their babies and were refused (being they bring the seller billions of dollars) adoptees are seventeen times more likely to be abused. doctors are told to assume all adoptees suffer trauma. sorry you had 4 years of pain. but the mom and baby who suffer for the rest of their lives, that’s okay because they just aren’t as important, now are they?

  • dee

    please please do not lie to the child

  • Beth1957

    Well, I think it’s good that you were honest and put this out there. I think too many prospective adoptive parents have too many fantasies and, when things do not go according to this dream, it is often the adoptee that bears the brunt of their disappointment. So I hope this gets read and considered by many who are thinking adoption might be some magical cure for their grief. However, it really REALLY troubles me that you did not include adoptees among those who will be grieving.

  • ktc

    Funny you talk about healing after adoption but never once mentioned what “you’re Son” the adoptee is feeling. That baby just suffered the worst trauma of his life and it will affect him forever, the separation and loss of his Mother. I am an adoptee so I speak from personal experience and from lots of research. I recommend you read The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. Babies do feel the pain and loss they just can’t verbalize it, it a feeling of total self annihilation it it beyond torturous. I think adoptive parent should deal with there infertility issues before they adopt because it is not that babies responsibility to be or replace a child you could not have or to fill an emptiness because one could not have a bio child. When you adopted the focus should be on the child and what that child is feeling, going through and needs not about the adoptive parents. The baby is the one with no voice or choice in the adoption and will forever feel the loss of its Mother.

  • The birthparents and adoptee are very important, that’s why we advocate for openness in adoptions, and cover issues pertaining to those parts of the triad whenever we can. It’s why we have entire sections of this website devoted to covering them.

    Remember that this is a blog post, not a complete autobiography. The author has chosen to write about a specific topic, and can neither cover all possible aspects of the story, nor equivocate endlessly in an attempt to speak to every variation of adoption story.

    Dee, you and Mirah are both welcome to comment. I need to maintain this blog as a safe place for all members of the adoption triad to be able to visit without encountering triggering language. Disrespectful and hateful comments will be deleted.

  • lawrie higgins

    I was fostered with my younger brother at age 12. My sister was adopted at age 2 and my fostered parents adopted a girl who was 2 yrs old at the time My foster father had mental illness his wife was a tyrant in all aspects of the word .With my brothers and their family there is a history of 240 yrs under Government or church care . I have learned just last week besides my current history of 3 generations there is another 3 generations of Government interference going back to the 1860’s to my great great grand mother admitted to the Parramatta girls home .The rest they say is history. Today I deal with many who are going through the same today . The difficult thing is the many mistakes and out right lets call it stuff thats having an impact affecting 1000.s of families today I dont see any movement to the positive in the present climate unless there are major changes in attitudes and and a full knowledge gained unless there is a Royal Commission by our Commonwealth Government Thanks

  • Holly

    How about “birth” mother, or “birth” parent? That is pretty triggering language to me (an adult adoptee — NOT an “adopted child” as your “sections of the website devoted to [us]” is labeled). My mother is my mother — she being the one who gave birth to me, loved me FIRST, loves me MOST, and the only one who loves me UNCONDITIONALLY. My adopters (or adoptive parents, if you will) loved me later, loved me SOMETIMES, and loved me on condition of “appropriate” behavior — and often hated me. So, yeah, at least tell the truth, please. You need to maintain this blog as a safe place for ADOPTERS — hopeful or successful — not as you claim, for “all members of the adoption triad”. I am one of those and this place is not so “safe” for me… or Mirah… or Dee. Sorry I don’t comply with the vision of the “grateful adoptee” or “happy adoptee” that most adopters envision or that most adoption brokers proffer as common.

    While we’re on the subject — though this is not your fault — it’s pretty dang triggering that the word “adoptee” is flagged as a misspelling everywhere. Even commonly accepted language insists that I don’t really exist — except as a (41-year-old) “adopted child”. SMH

    “bitter”, “ungrateful”, “angry” adult adoptee and all-around happy person. Really, I’m happy. Promise.

  • Polly

    It’s funny how your experience clouds your ability to see all sides of the story. Thanks for propagating negative stereotypes Holly.

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  • Rose

    I know as being an adoptee that I have lived my entire life with a deep wound that NO ONE can fill. I have felt as though I have no voice, no choice in my destiny, and that I don’t matter. My world has never been okay since my birth mother gave me up. Adoption is all about the parents involved. Not the child, although they make it out that way. It’s about two people who can’t have a baby who want a baby and the birth mother who feels she has to give up her child. The children have no voice and are subject to the decisions of the social workers. What is sad is that no one will even grant me the decency to really hear what I have to say and all I will get is a “I hope you find the help you need.” I don’t need help I need my REAL mother but since the adoptive abused and the birth mother doesn’t want anything to do with me, I’m left with a wound and a need that can never be tended to. What about US!? The adoptees???? When will people start listening and respecting how adoptees are affected? We didn’t go looking for parents like Orphan Annie, we wanted our moms like everyone else. And we are made wrong for it.

  • Alice, Thank you for sharing such and important post. While yes, there are many perspectives to be considered and many have healing to do, the importance of acknowledging that you need help is undeniable.

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