Adoption Stigma and the Shame Spiral

9 February 2024
By Shannon

As a birth mom, I often struggle with my feelings around placing my daughter. I don’t have regrets, but I do wrestle with shame that says “You couldn’t even raise a baby.

Making the decision wasn’t the hard part. I knew I could not parent at that point in my life. It wasn’t fair to her. There’s this paradox though. I am proud of my decision, while simultaneously being ashamed of myself for that same brave decision. So why the shame? Who’s voice is that? Do I believe that. Do people around me believe that and does my child believe that?

Why The Stigma Around Adoption?

From the beginning of time, women are viewed as nurturers, caretakers and keepers of the home. We are to raise babies. We were created for this. It is a natural course of nature, design and desire. Some women do not have this desire, yet we do not shame them, but when a woman chooses for her child to be placed with a family to provide nurture and care for her child because it is what is best for the child, there is still this lingering accusation of shame that society holds over our heads.

Learning of an unplanned pregnancy, especially when young, can challenge everything you think about your life. I hadn’t really thought of being a parent. I knew I didn’t have resources or a family that would support emotionally or in any other manner. That first knowledge of discovering you are pregnant is a shocker. If you are in that stage- read here for support and guidance Accepting an Unplanned pregnancy

The stigma that society places on adoption is unlike any other. The subtle whispers and innuendos. “ I could never give up MY baby”. “Aren’t you afraid she’ll hate you.” “You made your bed, now lie in it” They equate adoption with failure. Who the heck wants to FAIL? Are we failing as humans, mothers, pregnancy…what are we failing? This is so inaccurate, but it is where our minds and sometimes other people’s mouths lead us.

Truth says that I had to find a courage that I did not know I had to say to friends and family that It is not good for me or her to try and parent at this stage in my life. I want her to have more and I want to be more should I decide I want to have a family later. I would find that I lost relationships along the way. Everyone wanted to convince me that I could “do it”….whatever that means. However, I knew based on the story of my life that when I had need family and friends most…..there was always talk of “support” but it was never really there and I knew this would be no different. Sure the initial baby showers and love bombing would happen but then as things got harder with a sick kid and work schedules etc, no one would be “available”. Raising my voice, MY voice to say this is MY decision took a lot. I had never stood up for myself the way I did in this season.

Is Fear Driving You– Is That a Force For Good or Bad?

Fear is a tricky thing. Fear can make us believe negative and condemning things. It can speak lies about ourselves and others. However, fear can also be a catalyst for driving us to make the hard decisions. We find ourselves, knowing that if we don’t make the hard call, that the consequences that will follow will have lasting consequences. Fear can be healthy when it is whispering to keep us safe or to trust our gut. Unhealthy fear yells we are a failure or what will people think. It is usually the loudest voice and the one of accusation.
Am I less of a mother for choosing adoption? NO
Do I sometimes feel like I am less of a mom? Sometimes I do.

The Shame Spiral

The song, the smell, the glance, the triggered emotion, as subtle as they may be can send us spiraling into shame. If you are reading this and feelings of shame still plague you from time to time let’s look at some tools and facts. Let’s start with, feelings are NOT facts. Feelings are fickle and can change with circumstance. If we let them, they will dominate us and control our reactions and situations. Learning to understand the shame spiral and hte complexities of the emotions and triggers, can help you to begin to crawl out of this hole and begin to reconstruct your story with TRUTH. We recommend the many books and podcasts by researcher and author Brene Brown for great resources. Brent Brown Resources

the shame spiral

If you are looking for an agency to walk alongside you with compassion and patience, Tapestry, will supply counseling and support and many resources while you weigh your decision.

You can read about their philosophy and birth mom support in this USA Today Article. Strength of Birthmothers

Am I stronger, more confident now? Yes. everytime I see her picture or speak with her family. I see her strength and I know I am a part of that story. Choosing a great family was just one of my gifts to her.


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