Compassion for Birth Parents

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of spending my time at a retreat with a group of birth parents who had come together for a couple of days of healing, reflection, and fun. Many of these birth parents succeeded in completing a ropes course—if you’re unfamiliar, imagine being suspended by a harness and rope high in the air and then being required to scale trees or zip through the forest along a cable. Many of the participants in this weekend’s retreat chose to openly share their story of how they made an adoption plan in a group of almost-strangers. In my opinion, though, none of this reflects the bravest successes of these birth parents.

I am a Pregnancy Counselor with Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains and work with clients who are faced with unplanned pregnancies. Some of my clients choose to make adoption plans, just like the birth parents with whom I spent my time this weekend. Many people have ideas (or, um, judgments) about who birth parents are. Let me tell you: they are a diverse bunch, just like the rest of us. They are students, parents, rock climbers, chefs, housekeepers, photographers. They are also inmates, addicts, and people stuck in a downward spiral. Every birth parent is different, just like the rest of us. Nonetheless, one common characteristic of every birth parent I have encountered is their courage.

First of all, admitting your own barriers to parenthood takes enough courage to fill a room. And then, to consider the alternatives to parenthood takes a whole different level of bravery. It is a process that requires maturity and wisdom. (I am frequently in awe of my younger clients who face this process with an attitude well beyond their years.) Finally, to choose adoption is a decision that might just be the most challenging of one’s life. To choose adoption, means giving a piece of your heart and soul to someone forever. So with all of that said, I believe the choice to make an adoption plan is the bravest and most courageous process of all. Adoption plans are made out of love. Every one of my clients, and every one of the birth parents I encountered this weekend, have wanted to parent their children. But, because of life circumstances they felt unable to raise their children in a way they felt their children deserved.

In my work, I am often reminded of the quote, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” It’s a reminder not to judge, and to not question someone’s choice. In my role, too, I am witness to some of the greatest grief…mothers and fathers who miss their children. I believe no one can really understand this kind of grief unless it’s something you have personally experienced. Grief, generally, is not always apparent and it always looks different under different circumstances. So, always offer kindness.

-Katie Landry