As a new birthmother, they said, you’re going to have a hard time. Be prepared to feel sad and depressed.
And though you believed them, you had no idea it would be this hard.
While everyone around you is celebrating the best of the season, you just want to lock yourself in your room and not come out again until all of the tinsel and lights have been put away.
Seeing the faces of happy children makes you think of the one that isn’t with you.
It doesn’t matter how confident you were about your placement or how good your relationship is with your child or his adoptive parents.
This is the time when the pain of separation intensifies and the “would-haves, could-haves and should-haves” take root and make you question your adoption plan, your self-worth and even your sanity.
And what makes it worse is that you think that you’re the only one who feels this way.
The fact is, many birthmothers struggle with their child’s absence over the holidays and undergo a period of intense self-examination. Especially those who have recently placed.
Luckily there are things you can do to make this time of the year easier on you and get the most out of it.
Reach out to your child
The “firsts” are always difficult for a new birthmother, whether it’s a first birthday or a first holiday. As you watch families enjoy the holidays with their children, you’ll feel a strong longing to be with yours and have conflicting feelings ranging from happiness to regret. So, if it’s possible, make arrangements in advance to spend time with your child.
Send a gift or card
Your child may be too young to understand or appreciate the gesture, don’t let that stop you from sending him something special to mark the holidays. It will help you feel connected to him and be a great keepsake. And depending on how close you are to his adoptive parents, you can show your appreciation for them by sending them something, too.
Make your own present
A homemade gift is another great way to show your love for your child. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Whether it’s a DIY candle or card, it’s something he will cherish for years to come.
Ask the adoptive parents for a photo
Not every birthmother is lucky enough to have a close relationship with her child’s adoptive parents. If you fall into this category, these earlier suggestions may not work for you. So rather than send something to your child, ask his adoptive parents to send something to you. Nothing will lift your spirits and validate your decision more than seeing a photo of him smiling and happy.
Write a letter
If you can’t see or connect with your child directly during the holidays, there are other ways to communicate with him. Writing a letter will give you a chance to express things you want him to know about your and your decision to place. It doesn’t matter if you send it or not. The important thing is to find an outlet for your thoughts and emotions and to get them out there instead of bottling them up inside.
Hang a tree ornament, set aside a stocking, or light a candle
The holidays are all about traditions. And you can still take part in them, even if your child isn’t there with you. Putting up an ornament, hanging a stocking or lighting a candle in your child’s honor are just some of the many things you can do to get into the holiday spirit and feel your child’s presence.
Keep a journal
You’ll have a lot on your mind this time of the year, and finding the right outlet to express your thoughts may be difficult. That’s where a journal comes in. Similar to writing a letter, a journal will let you record your thoughts and emotions and give you a chance to reflect on them at a later time.
Surround yourself with family members and friends
Not many people will understand what you’re going through. And this time of the year is stressful enough without having to try to explain it to someone from scratch. Your family and friends already know your story and can be a huge source of comfort and support during your darkest days.
Connect with other birthmothers
Being a birthmother is a unique experience and every one reacts differently to it. That said, there are some universal experiences that all birthmothers can relate to, and struggling with the holidays is one of them.
Reach out to your counsellor
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed this time of the year. If you’re struggling to work through your feelings on your own, you can tap into the expertise of your adoption worker and work on finding ways to cope together.
Start a new project
When you’re away from your child over the holidays, it’s easy to focus the past and the things you don’t have. Starting a new project will keep you busy and take your mind off things. And it let you channel your energy into something positive and forward-looking.
The holidays are a time for giving, so what better way to spend them than by volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about. It will lift your spirits and help make a difference in someone else’s life and your own.
Remind yourself about the reasons why you placed
You may be feeling sad because your child isn’t with you now. But before you beat yourself up, think back on why you made your decision to place. Remind yourself how adoption allowed you to move forward with your life and give your child the future you wanted him to have.
Create your own tradition
Rituals help us celebrate the holidays — and survive them. So, if you can’t be with your loved one, why not create one of your own? Put together a play list of favorite songs. Paint a picture. Start a scrapbook. Do something to acknowledge your loss and help you grieve.
Prepare yourself for questions
The holidays are a time to meet new people, and one of the first questions that people ask when they meet a person for the first time is “how many children do you have?” Don’t get caught off guard. Prepare an answer in advance and rehearse it until you’re comfortable with it.
Do something special for yourself
During the holidays, it’s easy to spend time second guessing decisions you made earlier in the year. But you can’t change the past, you can only try to understand it. Forgive yourself and give yourself permission to grieve. In placing your child, you made what you thought was the best decision. So take ownership of it — if not for your sake, then for your child’s. You have the right to be happy and to enjoy the holidays as much as everyone else.
Here are two birthmother holiday poems I came across to help you do just that.
A Birthmother’s Christmas
By Shonna K.
It was the night before Christmas
and all through the world
Birthmothers were praying
for their precious boys and girls.
One certain Birthmother
Was trying not to mourn
For this Christmas was the first
Since her baby had been born
Knowing her decision
Was one for the best
She lights a candle in memory
Then sits down to rest.
The wick of the candle
flickers with light
The wind outside is howling
She finds little comfort on this lonely night
For this is the first of many
She will feel this great loss
For her child reaps the benefit,
She simply pays the cost
She takes out an old album
And gently dusts off the cover
It is all she has left
To feel like a mother.
She treasures each photo
of her little one
They are her only ties
To her precious son.
Silently a tear
Slips down her cheek
She wipes it away quickly
So she doesn’t appear weak.
Christmas will never
be the same again
She will always be thinking
of her little man.
She knows through her pain
For him this was right
But her unselfish deed
Gives little comfort that night.
Her arms are still empty
Her heart is still breaking
He is with somebody else
And she is left aching.
Her heart sits on each page
Of that dusty book
In his eyes, his little face
The way that he looks.
The clock strikes midnight
It is officially Christmas morn
The first that he’s had
Since the day he was born
She can’t hide her pain
She can’t hide her tears
This is the first of many
Long, painful years
But the light that she sees
At the end of all this
Is the smile on his face
He is truly blessed
With that thought
She slowly readies for bed
To sleep all night
Dreams of him in her head
She slowly lays down
And heads off to sleep
Knowing his memory
She will always keep.
by Patty Savol
Today I’ll write my list out
It really isn’t much,
Maybe just a phone call,
A picture, letter, or such.
Its only been a month,
Plus a few days more,
Since the day I saw them take,
My baby out the door.
I swore I wouldn’t cry,
and for days I didn’t dare,
I knew that he understood,
I know he knew I cared.
But this year my list will be different,
No CDs, candles, or clothes,
U only want one thing from you,
And that’s to let him know I love him so….
Perhaps this isn’t an order,
That you can fill yourself,
So maybe you can ask God,
If he can offer a little help.
After all He sent the angels,
That comfort my little man,
So maybe he could ease my fears,
I’ve done all I can.
So now I’ll close this letter,
With a thank you, and a please,
Send my boy a piece of my heart,
Because this Christmas he won’t be with me.
Wishing you a Happy Holiday filled with comfort, joy and love.! What helped you survive the holidays after you placed? What advice do you have for new birthmothers? Let us know on Facebook.