For birth mothers, we are all too familiar with feelings of shame and guilt. We might question whether we’ve made the right decision and possibly even regret our choice. As mothers, we are hard enough on ourselves when it comes to the life of our children and outside opinions can add to the shame and guilt.

Our families play a big role in our lives and the thoughts and opinions of our parents, siblings and other members of our extended family can have a stronghold over our decision making and self-confidence. We aren’t always going to get along with our family or agree with everything they say. But how do we navigate our relationship with our family when it comes to our adoption?

I’ve heard so many stories from Birth Mothers of their parents telling them to, “Get over it” or “Move on” after they place their child/ren for adoption and we all know choosing adoption is not something you “get over”. Some Birth Mothers are met with resistance when talking about their adoption with their family members and their family might even try to guilt them for choosing adoption. Not everyone’s family is going to know how to handle the grief a Birth Mother experiences and oftentimes they don’t know how to handle their own grief. For those whose family is involved in their life, we need to consider that our family can experience secondary trauma if they were around to witness our adoption.

Secondary trauma is defined as a form of trauma that a person experiences not due to something that happened to them directly but rather due to some indirect connection to a traumatic experience.

Experiencing secondary trauma doesn’t excuse the unsupportive comments or brash opinions but it can explain why a Birth Mother might not be receiving the love and support she needs. Humans are naturally loyal to our parents and families even in the most toxic environments, so even if we know a family members comments are wrong it does not mean what they say doesn’t sting or make us question ourselves or our reality.

This is where boundaries come into play. If you are Birth Mother who is met with insensitivity or rude remarks from family members about your adoption, it might be time to reconsider how often and what you share with your family. Healing from our adoption can be messy business so we need to seek support from those who can hold space for all the complex emotions we might experience. If our families are struggling with their own grief or feel uncomfortable with our grief, we cannot expect them to support us in the ways we need it. Even in the most loving households, we might not receive the care we need.

Being selective over who has access to your story and how you are feeling about it is good self-care. No one is entitled to our stories and we are not under any obligation to talk about it if we don’t want to. If you are experiencing pressure from family to talk about it, you have permission to excuse yourself from the conversation or simply say, “I’d rather not talk about it right now.” You might be met with pushback but stand firm and protect your mental health. The more empowered you feel about yourself and your adoption story, the more likely you are to find peace over it and that’s ultimately what we want to achieve.

So be mindful over who you seek support from and try not to internalize the negative comments you might receive. Seek the support of other Birth Mothers through support groups or mentorship. When we can speak freely about our adoption story without any feelings of insecurity or doubt, that’s when we know we are on the right path to healing. Don’t let anyone convince you to “Get over it”.