Insight

When a female adoptee becomes a parent

The birth of her own child brings into focus the relationships between an adoptee's birth mother and their adoptive mother.

MOST OF THE ATTENTION surrounding adoption is given to the adoption triad: the adopted children, adoptive mothers and the birth mothers. Less attention is given to female adoptees that go on to have their own children in time. For some of these women, having their own biological child is the first time they recognise something of themselves in someone else and can help solidify their identity.

The early experience of the adoptee
When a child is given up for adoption, the attachment is broken with the birth mother. A new attachment is then formed with the primary caregiver, often the adoptive mother. This new attachment can be a secure enough base for the child to develop. Adoptive parents frequently tell the adoptee that they were chosen, and this can help with the attachment.

In some cases, the separation from the birth mother can create difficulty in later life with forming relationships. Growing up, adoptees often have a sense of not belonging and may experience a lack of identity. This is especially true of those that have no knowledge of their birth mothers.

On the birth of their biological child
Having a baby is a life-changing event for all new parents. When an adoptee gives birth to their own biological child this can elicit all sorts of feelings. For some, it is the first time they have met someone who is directly related to them; their first known blood relative.

This birth brings into focus the relationships between their birth mother and their adoptive mother. The adoptee now has a link to their biological heritage, and this may strengthen their sense of identity which has been lost through the experience of their own adoption.

The birth of their own child may prompt some adoptees to search for their birth parents. Complex feelings of anger and resentment may arise towards their birth mother. In contrast to these strong feelings, the adoptee may also develop feelings of empathy towards their birth mother for having to give them up. In rare cases, the relationship with the adoptive mother can become strained.

A common experience among adoptees during pregnancy and birth is the fear that the baby may be taken from them or they will be lost. There is a strong urge to keep their children safe. This is related to the experience of loss from their own adoption.

Adoption issues are very complex. The adoptee can be met with challenges like reconciling feelings of rejection, loss and a sense of their own identity. Naturally, the birth of their own child can trigger and re-ignite these feelings.

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