Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Wax and Wane of Birth Parent Involvement

A couple of years ago, I was very involved in the adoption scene. I was a volunteer on several different fronts--I was working with expectant parents via email, I was serving on the national board of a large pro-adoption organization, I helped to organize that organization's annual national conference, and I was speaking regularly at local adoption seminars and workshops, as well as a few not-so-local events.

Through my volunteer efforts, I met several hundred birth mothers, and quite a few birth fathers. I heard their stories, I got to know their circumstances, and probably a lot more about this one part of their lives than many people ever get to see. The experiences of my fellow birth parents had a great impact on my own ideas about adoption and life as a birthmom.

One thing (among so many) that I picked up on was the wax and wane most birth parents experience in their desire to be involved in the adoption scene.

I met many birthmoms during a period in their lives when they wanted to be involved. I have found that many birth parents experience times like this, when they feel especially passionate about adoption, when there is a fire inside of them that they must share. During times like these, many seek out volunteer opportunities, either working with expectant parents, supporting women who are going through placement, speaking about adoption in the community, etc.

Yet there are very few birthmoms, in my experience, that exist in this period for long periods of time. Some stay involved only for a few months, while others last a few years. Eventually, however, involvement wanes. Those high-energy volunteers slowly fade back and disappear entirely, melting back into the others parts of their lives.

I feel that this is a healthy rhythm, going back-and-forth between periods of high adoption-involvement. Here's why:

1. It mirrors the way many adoption adoptions work. Most birth mothers have times where they crave a lot of communication and interaction with their children and families, and times when they back off and get involved in their own lives. Though the birth parents' involvement in adoption advocacy does not always happen at the same time, the process is similar.

2. Being involved in the adoption scene as a birth mother can be emotionally taxing. Sharing your adoption story, as a birth mother, is nearly always an emotional/tearful/heart-rending experience. As a volunteer, you end up going through this again and again and again. It's the most powerful tool most birth mothers have--sharing their own, very personal, very emotional, and in many cases very spiritual, experience, in the hopes that it will have an effect on the listeners. But over time, this can be very taxing on the birth mother.

3. There are other parts of life to be lived. Many birth mothers, during their involved-periods, are exceptionally passionate about what they are doing, to the point where this becomes their #1 time investment. I have found this to be especially true of recently-placed mothers, who are still in the throes of emotion regarding their placement. But while it is wonderful that they share their passion and their fire, life goes on. Birth parents will never forget, but they do (or at least should, if they are emotionally healthy) move forward.

On a personal note, this topic has been on my mind because I am in a waning-period. After several years of great involvement, I would say I am no longer involved at all. What's been interesting to me is how invested I still am in the adoption world. I watch events pop up on Facebook, and even though I decide not to attend, I still comb through the pictures and the comments and the conversation. I still read adoption blogs. I still "think adoption" even though I don't "do adoption." Adoption is an ever-present part of my life, and even though I am living the other parts right now, it is still an intrinsic component of who I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment