It’s not easy being a birth mother (or a prospective birth mother, for that matter).
Prior to placing their baby for adoption, birth mothers are showered with attention and told that they’re selfless. After the placement, however, they’re depicted as selfish and are frowned upon.
There’s no middle ground: they’re either sinners or saints. But the truth is a lot more complicated than that.
Myth: Birth mothers give up their babies.
Fact: They don’t give up their babies. They place them for adoption. There is a difference. “Giving up” suggests that there decision is made without thought or regard for their baby’s welfare. In fact, most birth parents choose adoption because they want to give their child a better future than they can provide.
Myth: Birth mothers are unwed teenagers.
Fact: Although it’s hard to get exact statistics, it appears the opposite is true. Anedotal evidence suggests that the younger the expectant mother is, the greater the odds she’ll want to parent her child herself. Younger women tend to glamourize motherhood. But older ones know the reality and better understand the sacrifices it entails.
Myth: Birth mothers are drug addicts and homeless.
Fact: Birth mothers come from all walks of life. The main reason most birthparnets place their baby for adoption is because they lack the financial or emotional resources to raise a child. Some birth mothers may have substance abuse problems and some may be homeless, but they represent the minority.
Myth: Placing a baby for adoption is “the easy way out” for a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
Fact: Placing a baby for adoption isn’t one decision, but rather a series of decisions made over time by an expectant mother. It involves weighing a number of difficult issues that have both immediate and long-term repercussions. At the end of the day, it involves putting the interests of the expectant mother’s child before her own.
Myth: Expectant mothers change their mind about adoption because they want to hurt the adoptive parents.
Fact: Expectant parents change their minds for all kinds of reasons. But the reality is it often has nothing to do with the hopeful adoptive parents. It could be because their situation has changed — the expectant father or their parents are willing to give them support or they decide that they are in a position to parent after all. Whatever the reason, all expectant parents not only have the option, but also the legal right, to change their minds any time before relinquishing their baby without consequence.
Myth: Years after relinquishing their children, birthmothers come back to reclaim them.
Fact: Adoption is an irrevocable decision. Once it’s made, it can’t be reversed. Birth mothers understand that. The last thing they want to do, after carefully choosing a loving home for their baby, is disrupt it. In many cases, the birth parents actually take a step back in an effort to move on with their lives.
Myth: Birth mothers get over their decision.
Fact: Adoption is a permanent decision that involves pain and loss. Each birth parent experiences it differently. Over time the pain may fade, but it never goes away. On birthdays, family celebrations, and life’s milestones, it tends to get more acute. That’s why it’s important for birth parents to get the counselling and time they need to grieve their losses and to include them in their child’s life in a way that works for everyone.
As far as birth mother myths go, these are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Listing them all could fill an entire website — and there are many sites devoted to the topic. Check them out. But more importantly, next time you meet a birth mother, keep an open mind and be sure to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserves.