I know that I am not alone.
For years, the stigma of being an “unwed mother” intimidated or shamed many women into hiding their secret. A birthmother had very few choices and, more often than not, was told what to do.
When I fell pregnant after my first sexual experience, I experienced a lot of shame and sorrow.
The whispering and finger pointing came from the most unexpected places — including my church. So I just stopped going. Even my boyfriend bailed, disappearing without a word. Feeling completely unprepared to parent, even at 18, I chose adoption and found a home for unwed mothers hours away from my family. I fully recognized her mistake but was told, “You got what you deserved.”
At the time, adoption professionals, including hospital staff and social workers, discouraged any contact between my child and I — treatment that would be considered unfair and even abusive by today’s standards.
But I'm a now a Christian
Fifteen years after my closed adoption, I became a Christian. Accepting Christ did not guarantee there would be no pain — past or present. I did not even really recognize my long and painful journey through grief until after becoming a Christian. The original advice given to me when I gave my child up for adoption just wasn’t enough, “What is done is done; get on with your life; forget about it; move on.”
If I had only known what grief was, I could have found more productive ways of dealing with it. If God awakens your heart to any unresolved issues, trust him to complete his amazing and wonderful work in you.
What is grief?
Grief is a reaction to loss; it is a complex process that can take years to overcome, especially if we are discouraged from acknowledging it.
You may or may not have experienced all these aspects of grief at the moment of adoption, and it is also possible that you did not go through these phases in a linear manner. This was my journey into, and out of, grief.
- I first felt shock at getting pregnant and experiencing people’s reactions. I found out who my friends were and, unfortunately, they were numbered.
- Depression came after the shock. I hardly ate, but slept and cried a lot. I was my own best friend at the “home.”
- Denial was achieved not only through busyness (college and career), but also through alcohol and drugs. They covered the pain, but unfortunately led to other destructive habits that took years to overcome.
- I continually sought to rid myself of guilt by bargaining with God for years, unsuccessfully.
- Anger did not surface till much later, when I admitted who I was angry at and why. I had to learn to forgive — not for their sake, but for mine. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Forgiveness happens inside the person who chooses it. I found constructive ways to express my anger. (I went for a brisk walk or wrote a letter, which was later destroyed.) Forgiving others was easy compared to experiencing forgiveness myself. But when I finally saw myself for the first time as God sees me, years after my pregnancy, it changed my world. I am a uniquely created child of God, perfectly forgiven for all the wrong I have done, loved unconditionally by him, and strengthened by him to become the person he has created me to be.
- Acceptance is simply recognizing that we cannot change the past. But be prepared — the more that I delved into my story, the more I remembered details about it. God, in all his wisdom, gave me only one thing to deal with at a time. For me, I no longer have a dark cloud following me because I have fully dealt with the past by accepting his grace.
These ideas come from other women with a history of closed adoption, but I have personalized them and made them mine. They are things that I needed and wanted to do.
- Do things to find out who you really are. For me, this meant private time to journal my story, thoughts, and emotions. It also has meant taking time to ponder the future. By setting goals, I planned ahead more and looked back less.
- Find healthy ways to acknowledge your child and the adoption. Certain events or anniversaries still trigger emotions in me — usually Mother’s Day and my son’s birthday. I light a candle and say a prayer on his birthday. I buy a birthday gift relevant to his age and place it in his “keepsake” box. Someday, all of it will be his. I shop for me — a special Mother’s Day gift. I did not have any other children, so it is important to celebrate my motherhood and what I did for someone else. Remember, these things I do for me and no one else. No one needs to know about your “rituals” unless you want to tell them.
- Reach out to others. If you concealed your pregnancy, find someone you trust with whom to share your story; talking it out brings comfort and healing. Do not be afraid to ask for help. “Professional counseling” is not a dirty word; it helped me.
Our Great Comforter
For years, many women who have placed a child in closed adoption have been silent — for various reasons. Don’t let the past dictate your future. God’s grace and forgiveness offer hope for healing and for wholeness. His love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:7).
What about you?
Have you experienced God's love and forgiveness? Have you come to a place of trusting Jesus Christ as your leader and forgiver?
Or, perhaps you've already given your life to Christ, and now you would like to take the next step in growing in your relationship with him.
When you become his child, God gives you his Holy Spirit to empower you to live according to his perfect plan. As you trust him to do so, he will "strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (Ephesians 3:16-17).
If you would like to discover more about this abundant life, I encourage you to read the article The Spirit-Filled Life.
You can also fill in the form below to be connected with one of our team of mentors, who will journey with you in a loving, compassionate, and confidential manner.