Here are some common myths you may have heard (or wondered about yourself!):
Myth #1: Birth parents are all the same
Seems obvious, right? But even now, TV shows such as Teen Mom have made the “young and desperate birthmother” and the “loser boyfriend” stereotypes all too popular.
Do these situations still occur? Absolutely!
But birth parents come in all shapes and sizes, from every background: rich, poor, single, co-habitating, married, divorced, younger, and older.
Every person and the reasons they choose to place are unique. No one has the exact same story.
Myth #2: Birthparents aren’t “real” parents
Although birth mothers and fathers may not raise the children they place, their roles as parents pre-adoption and as birth parents post-adoption plays a crucial role in the development of the adoptee.
The choice to bring a baby to term and place it in a better situation than they could provide themselves is a very difficult one. That’s a decision that only a parent can make.
According to Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao, author of The Family of Adoption, acknowledging the birth parents as part of the adopted child’s family is healthy for all concerned.
"The truth is that both sets of parents are real...a child, after all, clearly understands that there can be many mothers and fathers. People many have multiple grandmothers and grandfathers, a god mother and god father, a step mother or step father-- and they may also have a birth mother and birth father. In all adoptions, legal and emotional, it is the roles, not the labels, that must be most carefully defined for the child."
Having two sets of parents, one biological, one relational, creates a stronger family unit.
Myth #3: Adoption is a “one and done” deal for birthparents
The process has changed considerably since open adoption was introduced in the 1980s and 90s. Now, birth parents will meet with and choose prospective parents before the baby is born, and often become a regular contact afterwards.
Aside from the logistics of adoption, every birth parent must face the emotional complexity of their decision. It can affect them both permanently.
Myth #4: Birth parents don’t have a relationship with the children they’ve placed
Some birth parents still choose closed adoption, but for the majority, open adoption is ideal.
This can include choosing the adoptive family to place their child with, regular updates, pictures and/or long-distance contact, and visits.
If both families want a very open structure, birth parents and their relatives may participate in adoptive family gatherings and holidays.
Myth #5: Birth parents just go “back to normal” after placement
Birth parents often got through an intense grieving process both before and during placement. Afterwards, they also deal with a deep sense of loss that has been compared to the death of a loved one, but remains unique.
OYFF California's national survey on post-placement resources for birthparents notes that placing a child for adoption is one of the “most significant, painful, and traumatic life events” a person can experience, and that birth parents “remain the most under-served members of the adoption community, with little access to meaningful services, pre- or post-placement.”
In the end, every birth parent experience and story is different.
Sometimes, the only way to get the right information is to ask.
Do you know any birth parents? Have you asked them to share their stories?
Tell us about your experiences with adoption!