12 Things We Get Wrong About Birthmothers

birthmother-mythsMany hopeful parents would love to adopt  a baby and build a family through open adoption.

But for some, there’s just one thing holding them back: birthmothers.

Just the mere mention of the word “birthmother” can can strike fear into the hearts of many a mother or adoptive-mother-to-be, conjuring up images of heartless teenagers who “give up” their babies to strangers.

But it’s time to examine the myths and misunderstandings surrounding women who place their children for adoption and re-evaluate the way we think about them.

Here are 12 things that we get wrong about birthmothers, based on my experience.

1. They give up their children.

Birthmothers give up soda. They give up chocolate. They may even give up on world peace. But the one thing they don’t give up are their children. They place them with loving families that they pick out themselves often for one simple reason: they want them to have a better (or at least a different) future than the one they can offer.

2. They don’t love their children.

I’ve never been pregnant, but from what I’ve heard it isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Let’s be honest, how many women do you know who will undergo morning sickness, hormonal changes and the myriad of other discomforts that accompany a pregnancy only to “give up” their baby at the end of it?

3. They come back to reclaim their children.

Some adoptive parents will go to the other end of the earth to adopt a child because they don’t want to deal with a birthmother. But the myth of the birthmother showing up at your front door demanding her baby back is just that: a myth. Most birthmothers spend countless hours creating an adoption plan in order to make the transition for their child as seamless as possible. The last thing on their mind is to come back to the family they’ve helped create and disrupt it.

4. They’re selfish.

Placing a baby for adoption is a life-changing decision that causes hurt and pain. Birth mothers know that, and yet they still go ahead. Why? Mostly because they want their children to be happy. And in some cases, because they want to make the adoptive parents happy, too. If that’s your definition of selfishness, then yes, you’re right: Birthmothers are without a doubt the most selfish people in the world.

5. They’re drug addicts.

Some women who place their babies for adoption do struggle with substance abuse. But that’s not what makes them a birthmother. Non-birthmothers struggle with drugs, too. Although we tend to lump all birthmothers together in one big group, doing so is dangerous. One size doesn’t fit all. Just like adoptive parents, birthmothers come in all shapes, colors and sizes.

6. They’re troubled teenagers.

Ah yes, another myth. In fact, most birthmothers are in their 20s and 30s and already raising a child. They know what’s involved and realize they’re not in a position to raise another. That’s why they’ve chosen adoption.

7. They’re promiscuous.

Yet another misconception. The truth is a birthmother could be anyone — the girl next door, a friend, family member, someone you know at work. Just because a woman is facing an unplanned pregnancy doesn’t mean she sleeps around.

8. They can’t wait to get rid of their children.

Even though they’re confident they’re making the right decision, saying goodbye to their child is one of the hardest things a birthmother can do. As part of their hospital plan, many birth mothers spend time with their babies following their birth, holding them, caressing them, hugging them, singing to them and bathing them. They want to soak up every moment they have together because they don’t know whether they’ll have another one like it again.

9. They couldn’t care less where their children end up.

With so many couples hoping to adopt, you would think it would be easy for a birthmother to just pick one and move on. Think again. Some birthmothers view hundreds of adoptive parents profiles before making a decision. They don’t want just anyone. They want the perfect family — the one that will love their child just as much as they do.

10. They move on with their lives as if nothing had happened.

If only this were true. Placing a baby for adoption is a life-altering experience. Most women who create an adoption plan go through an intense period of grieving after placement. And while having an ongoing relationship with their child can help with the healing process, it doesn’t take away the sting of placement. It’s something every birth mother has to deal with for the rest of her life.

11. They forget their children.

Even though birthmothers may not be parenting their children, they never forget them. Despite being physically separated from them, on an emotional level their children are always present. Most birthparents will tell you that not a day goes by without them thinking about their child. Society may not view birthmothers as mothers. But I can assure you that most women who make an adoption plan worry and miss their children just like any mother.

12. They regret their decision. 

Placing your baby into the arms of another woman after carrying him for nine months is the hardest thing a mother can do. But by the time that happens, a birthmother will have thought long and hard about her decision and come to terms with it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. All adoptions are rooted in loss. But no matter what happens next, a birthmother can always take comfort in knowing that she did the best for her child. And that’s something no one should ever regret.

This post originally appeared at Scary Mommy.