9 Unexpected Things To Expect When Parenting After Placement
by Leah Outten
Having placed my first child in an open adoption at sixteen years old, I knew that I would want to have more children later in life. I have always desired children — I even have a picture of me as a girl at my birthday sleepover pretending to be pregnant! But, I knew during my pregnancy that my birth daughter deserved more than what I could give her as a mom still in high school without her dad around, a job, or even a driver’s license.
Little did I know that I would get the chance to have more children two years later. Though I was still young, I had accomplished a lot more in those two years and had a good guy beside me the second time around. We were in a better place to parent and get married, so we did. My two oldest girls are two and half years apart and now, nearly nine years later, are best friends. I have three other children as well but they are younger and still grasping who my birth daughter is in our life and what adoption means. The road to parenting after placing for adoption can be tough to think about, so below are some of the learnings I’ve had for what to expect when your time comes to parent after placement.
- Expect to be nervous. It can be a scary thing to be down this pregnancy path again, whether planned or not, after placement. It can be exciting to get to do the things you didn’t last time — have a baby shower, name your child, decorate a nursery, and in general feel joy in knowing you won’t have to say goodbye this time.It’s also very normal to feel nervous. What kind of mom will I be? How will visits look afterwards? Can I love this child as much as my last? (The answer is yes!) I can’t answer how you will be as a mother or what your visits will look like, since each of those are so personal to each situation. But I do know this — you will learn as you go, you will do your best, and your adoption will ebb and flow just as it would before parenting. You will gain confidence as you move forward.
- Expect to talk about it. Honesty has always been our policy within our adoption. I have an open dialogue with my birth daughter’s adoptive family. We agreed that our daughter will know that her siblings are just that — her siblings. Just like I am her birth mom, there are no secrets to hide or find out later. It is what it is and all of it is her normal! Just as some families have half or stepsiblings, my children know they have a sister, but she doesn’t live with us.Children also will have lots of questions as they grow and process adoption in their lives, not just as an adoptee but as the sibling of the adoptee. Be prepared to share a basic version of why you chose adoption for your first child. There are picture books out there that can help answer these questions and keep the dialogue open with your child.
- Expect your heart to explode with simultaneous joy and pain. When you see your children together, whether for the first time meeting or nine years later, it is a beautiful thing to witness. But, it also can be heartbreaking to know that they aren’t together all the time — for a moment though you have a glimpse of what it could be.
- Expect it to change your adoption slightly. Becoming a mother changes you, just as becoming a birth mother did. This time, however, your daily physical life is drastically different. You are tired, you are hormonal at times, and you are busier as this new little one has constant needs. As they grow, your life will get busier with school and other activities. This may change how your adoption looks and feels as you have a new busyness in your life — as will your birth child as they grow.Your focus may be a little different from now on, but for good reason! Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it just is different. Your visits may shift from focusing on your birth child alone to essentially being a playdate. My girls run off and play before I can barely say hi now!
- Expect to feel the loss of your birth child more. When you have another child around, it can make the daily presence of your birth child even more noticeable at times. For example, it can be tough when you experience the “firsts” you missed like first steps. There is always an empty spot at the dinner table, a seat that should be theirs in the car, and a person missing in the family portrait. You will feel your sacrifice even more once you see and feel what motherhood is like.
- Expect to also feel grateful. Experiencing motherhood is absolutely a fuzzy moments-filled blessing at times but it also is hard work. Most likely, you chose adoption for your first because of specific reasons. Having a child that you parent this time will open your eyes and be a reminder of why you chose adoption last time. You will feel grateful for adoption in your life at that time so that it may of spared your child some hardships that they would of faced. And let’s be honest — it may have spared you some hardships as well if you weren’t quite ready to be a mom then.
- Expect to feel whole when they are all together. When you have all your kids together again the pieces of the puzzle within your heart is returned. All the smiles are there, all the little personalities that are unique and similar melding together in one place. You will treasure these moments while they last.
- Expect them to miss each other. This by far is the one thing I didn’t know to prepare for as a birth mother. I didn’t realize how much my choice of adoption would affect my children later in life. They miss her when she isn’t around, not just because she is fun to be with, but because she is their sister. My girls cry when we have to leave after a birthday visit and I cannot tell you how many tears I have wiped from my eight year old’s face when she looks at me and says, “But why can’t she just live with us? She is my sister!” Alas, that is not how adoption works. She has her family I picked, and we have ours. My birth daughter struggles with this as well. However, this is why open adoption is so important. Not just for us birth mothers, but for our children — for their bond to flourish and to keep in contact.
- Expect to treasure motherhood even more. The moment my birth daughter was born I looked into her baby blue eyes with tears in my own and knew she was theirs. The moment my first parented daughter was born? I sobbed because she was mine. I was a mom! Knowing the moments you missed with your first — the first steps, calling you mama, patching boo-boo’s — you will treasure motherhood more. You know that motherhood is a special gift that is meant to be cherished because you gave that gift to another before.
What would you add to this list to help others prepare for motherhood after adoption placement? Leave your thoughts and read what others have to say at “What is parenting after placement like?”.