This source is presented by the United States Children’s Bureau as a resource for birth parents and those close to birth parents in the wake of and in preparation for adoption. The Children’s Bureau acknowledges that “Each birth parent has faced a unique experience and dealt with the situation in his or her own way, but certain themes emerge in the literature, including grief, guilt, and resolution” (2).
One of the most difficult things for birth parents in the twenty first century (it seems, after study of this pamphlet) is a general lack of validation for the birth parent’s loss. It says on page three of the pamphlet (bold added for emphasis):
Birth parents may feel a sense of ambiguous loss, or the loss of someone who still is or who may be alive, which is different than the loss of someone who has died (Powell & Afifi, 2005). Friends and family of the birth parents may attempt to ignore the loss by pretending that nothing has happened, or they may not understand what the birth parents are experiencing (Aloi, 2009; Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2007). Although many people view the loss of a child as the most traumatic event one can experience, they may not accord birth parents an appropriate level of sympathy because the loss is viewed as a “choice.” In some cases, the secrecy surrounding the pregnancy and adoption may make it difficult for birth parents to seek out and find support as they grieve their loss. In addition, the lack of formal rituals or ceremonies to mark this type of loss may make it more difficult to acknowledge the loss and therefore to acknowledge the grief as a normal process (Aloi, 2009).
“Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents” offers other information that can help historians study adoption and motherhood in contemporary America. As another example, statistics on grief in relation to the loss of their child. “In a study of birth mothers 12 to 20 years after placement, approximately three-quarters continued to experience some feelings of grief and loss, and one-quarter reported no current grief or loss (Henney et al., 2007)” (3).
The US Children’s Bureau defines “secondary losses… which add to the grief the parents feel” that may occur after the adoption of their child:
They may grieve for the loss of their parenting roles and for the person their child might have become… These feelings of loss may reemerge in later years, for instance, on the child’s birthday, or when the child is old enough to start school or reach other developmental milestones. Some clinicians report that birth parents may experience additional grief when they have other children because it reminds them of the loss of this child on a daily basis or, if they encounter future infertility, they may perceive the loss as a “punishment.” (3)
“Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents” notes (page four) the social stigma that currently surrounds putting one’s child up for adoption, the evidence of which we have see in the interview offered by Brandie Greenlee regarding her experience as a birth parent in 1994 wherein people close to her accused her of “abandoning [her] baby” and “taking the easy way out” (Greenlee, 2016).
“Impact of Adoption on Birth Parents” represents an effort on behalf of the United States Government to be an ally to birth parents– recognising that they have needs that must be met at this emotionally trying time in their lives in order for them (the birth parents) to move on and have successful lives following the loss– and it is a loss (see page 3)– of their child.
On pages 7-10 interested parties can find more information on how to cope with adoption and assistance in making adoption decisions.