A Birth Mother’s Wisdom


Glossy pictures of adoptive families make for great heartwarming stories, but the reality is that there can be grief and loss hidden behind every smile in an adoptive family photo. Loss is felt even more pointedly by the person missing from that photo. The birth mom who allowed the beloved adoptive child to reside in her womb for nine months prior to meeting them and parting with them. I recently talked to a woman who chose to give her baby to another family. She felt in control of her choice, even though many birth moms don’t. Historically many birth moms have been taken advantage of by people ready to offer their babies to families willing to pay. This woman’s story was full of twists and turns, none of which she expected to be part of her life when she was initially navigating her relationship with her son’s father. Laura Orsini has been open about her story and the price most of the parties involved with adoption pay. She knows there is loss on the side of the birth mother, but also on the side of the baby, and the adoptive parents if they have had infertility problems. Laura spoke to me about the understanding she didn’t have about what adoptive families might be experiencing.

“There was an author I read: she is the only person I’ve ever heard say this and I think it’s true…is that infertility, like adoption, has to be viewed as an extension of infertility because you try IVF, you try the things that you’re trying to get pregnant and have the baby. You’re disappointed and you expect adoption to come and solve it instantly, but if adoption doesn’t solve it immediately because the birth mother changes her mind or other circumstances come up its just an extension of the process of making a family. Society, the adoption agencies, I think even counselors have them as these two distinctly separate pieces but they’re not… So I think that transparency and the making things better, that‘s another piece of the conversation…it’s explaining to the birth family what the adoptive family is going through because that part wasn’t explained to me.”(1)

Transparency needs to begin from the moment there is a positive pregnancy test and a woman expresses interest in adoption. All too often in the past women with healthy babies who were considering placing them for adoption weren’t treated like mothers, but rather like transporters of a valuable asset. As birth rates in the US drop, many more families are vying for fewer healthy newborns. (2) It can seem easy to take a harried, stressed newly pregnant woman, throw some well edited pictures of a few smiling couples in front of her and promise her an easy out. Instead, everyone who comes in contact with this woman should see her, hear her and treat her with the respect this huge decision merits. (3) If she finally does connect with someone and offers to allow them to raise her child, that one choice will change far more lives than her own. It will benefit everyone if a good match is made from the beginning. Laura felt fortunate in her case that she was confident enough to advocate for the kind of family she wanted her child to have. 


“I was very serious about placing but I hadn’t found a family I wanted. So it was a very difficult negotiation with the agency to get them to keep on giving me profiles and it wasn’t until he (the birth father) referred to them at one point as “the baby sellers” and that grated on me. It grated on me then, but I really get it now. And he said, ‘Until I started treating the baby as a commodity and said, “But I’ll go up the street to the other agency if you can’t give me the family I need,”’ And then they took me seriously. But I really had to push back on that. So I became involved with a new thing that got started as a birth mom who had surrendered through them, and that was the birth mother advisory board. Then we started giving our feedback and making suggestions about the way they did things for the birth moms. And one of those was, they should see all the profiles.”(1)


Once a family has been chosen most birth mothers opt for at least some degree of openness in their adoption. (4)That means they might get pictures in the mail. Letters may arrive describing first steps, or the smile on the child’s face when they first sail down the driveway on their bike. As adoptive parents chase after that bike before it falls into the bushes, or signs their adopted child up for after school piano lessons it can be easy to fall into the routine you have formed within your house. Part of openness in adoption is acknowledging that birth mothers don’t forget the time in their life when that pregnancy test threw them for a loop. They will always be the first mother of that child, no matter how long the child has been adopted, or how strong the bond the adoptive family has. 


Part of accepting openness with a birth mom is attaching significance to the 50% of DNA she contributed that is floating around in the child.  Laura watched the couple she chose walk away with the son she gave birth to. But no matter how young a child is when they enter their forever family it doesn’t change that their birth mom is part of the story. It is important to understand that adoption isn’t just a fix for fertility problems, or a convenient way to add to your family without the hassle of giving birth. Adoption is a part of your child’s story, their face, and their blood that will never go away. Laura was fortunate enough to maintain her connection with her son even beyond the time that she and his adoptive family agreed to keep the relationship open. It was not always easy to navigate, but Laura was grateful for the connection. 


Grief is always a part of adoption, and part of transparency is seeking it out and acknowledging it wherever it exists. (5) Adoptive parents may still feel physical pain from infertility treatments. Missing memories can leave a gap in a relationship with an older adopted child. Adopted children can feel actual mourning for things they miss or wonder about. The grief could also sneak into adopted children’s lives as the unsettling feeling they don’t quite belong, or unanswered questions about what might have been. Birth moms are left with the pain from the milk that is retreating back into their body after they give birth. They have emptiness where the child their body housed and raised for nine months used to be. That absence doesn’t go away. No matter how many other children a birth mom may go on to birth and raise there will always be a thought of the one that doesn’t live with her. (6)


Adoption, when it is done with our eyes wide open and without fear for the pain all parties experience, can still be beautiful. It can still be the right thing to do if everyone is heard and respected. It was only in the 1960’s that birth mothers began to be treated as active participants with the right to affect the placement of their children. Prior to that awakening unmarried pregnant women were often hidden from view in maternity homes until they could be rid of their offspring and return to their families as if nothing had happened. (7) We have a much better idea how adoption should go and how a birth mother should be treated. We even have statistics that show that openness in adoption leads to more satisfaction for both birth parents and adoptive parents.(8)There is also research showing openness in adoption is helpful for adoptees.(9) It leaves less mystery about their past and helps them understand the reasons the adults in their lives made the choices they did. Pretending adoption is a happy ending tied up in a bow is just putting off the inevitable crash with messy reality. Acknowledging the rainbow of emotions on all sides is everyone’s best chance to make sure that when it is best for a child to be adopted, that adoption is the healthiest one imaginable.

Listen To The Podcast:

A Talk With Eric’s Other Mother



  1. Spiering, Charlyn. “A Talk With Eric’s Other Mother.” Adoption Uncovered, 2 Nov. 2022, http://www.adoptionuncovered.com/episodes/fhycc4kg606wj6vj4by3lgxczq1gu9.

  2. Khazan, Olga. “The New Question Haunting Adoption.” The Atlantic, 19 Oct. 2021, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/10/adopt-baby-cost-process-hard/620258/.

  3. Crary, David. “More rights and respect urged for birth mothers who place infants for adoption.” Foster’s Daily Democrat, 27 Nov. 2006, http://www.fosters.com/story/lifestyle/2006/11/27/more-rights-respect-urged-for/52548963007/.

  4. Adoption Network, adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-myths-facts/domestic-us-statistics/ .

  5. Peterson, Kris. “Separation and Loss in Adoption.” The American Academy of Bereavement, 25 Apr. 2017, thebereavementacademy.com/adoption-separation-loss/ .

  6. Binford, Jacquelyn. “As a Birth Mother, Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds.” Her View from Home, herviewfromhome.com/birth-mother-time-doesnt-heal-all-wounds/ .

  7. Herman, Ellen. “Birth Parents.” The Adoption History Project, 24 Feb. 2012, pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/topics/birthparents.htm .

  8. Ge, Xiaojia, et al. “Bridging the Divide: Openness in Adoption and Post-adoption Psychosocial Adjustment among Birth and Adoptive Parents.” NIH National library of Medicine, 22 Aug. 2008, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2638763/ .

  9. “10 Things that Scientific Research Says about Open Adoption.” American Adoptions, 14 Aug. 2017, http://www.americanadoptions.com/blog/10-things-that-scientific-research-says-about-open-adoption/.


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