During some seasons in a birth parent’s life, holiday joy comes with holiday drama and trauma.
One minute I would be caught up in singing holiday carols and being merry and bright and the next I was lost in thoughts about the life I thought I was supposed to live and wonder what my son who I had placed for adoption might be doing at this very moment. This would immediately prick my heart in such an intense way and add a heaviness to my soul.
During the holidays it’s really easy to be triggered and for our brains to welcome and try to relive past traumas. Everywhere we look we catch hundreds of glimpses of people who look like they are overjoyed and living the perfect life. It seems so believable.
For some birth moms in open adoptions, the holidays include having to watch another family celebrating with our child and then having to square the happiness and love we feel knowing they are safe and loved with the sadness and disappointment we also feel since we can’t be the one part of the celebrating.
We feel awkward and uncomfortable having to ask the adoptive parents for ideas on what to get for our birth child as a gift because we don’t really know their likes and dislikes as much as the adoptive couple does.
We walk on eggshells and wait and in silence, we wonder if we will be invited to events, or if fun photoshoots will be shared with us for fear that if we send too many messages it will make us look unstable and then we will be cut off and the adoptive parents will close the adoption.
For birth moms in closed adoptions, it’s knowing nothing and being alienated that cause the brain to stay stuck in wonder and anxiety for years on end. We think we’d have welcomed the painful glimpses in hopes that they could have given our brain something different to ward off the sorrow with.
The worst is we wonder why we don’t hear anything at all. It holds us back in life and makes us question our worth and our value in a deep way. We must be unsafe? Unimportant, Inadequate? No longer needed??
For a birth mom, both seeing other happy parents enjoy the season through the eyes of their child AND not being able to see it, can leave her feeling triggered, alone, forgotten, and empty this time of year.
Sometimes these triggers can come because a birth mom is in a good place in life now and as they observe and take part in the holiday festivities with the children they had later in life, they feel guilty that they weren’t able to be in this place when the child they placed needed for it to be.
This is the complex stuff that we don’t hear a lot about in the “Adoption Christmas Story”. We tend to only hear the highlighted chapters and the ones that make us feel safe and secure. Yet like all stories, one must read all of the chapters before we know the whole story and in life some of the chapters are painful.
The chapter on “Holiday Triggers” should not be left out because these triggers affect every member in the entire adoption triad. I write for birth moms but you will see this chapter present in the blogs of adoptees and adoptive couples.
While these triggers can be a natural part of the adoption experience, if we don’t take back the controls on our brain, the thoughts they produce will lead us down a slippery slope. Before long we might find ourselves deeply entrenched in the pit of despair and we don’t even care if we ever get back out.
If this is you please don’t despair. There is always hope and there is another way to live your life other than this redundant cycle that you might feel caught up in.
A good first step is to take a break completely from the stress of the situation and find something healthy to do that brings you joy to give your brain a rest and a refresh. When your mind feels like it will blow from all the triggered memories and Take a bath, go for a walk, buy someone special in your life a gift of appreciation, find something that symbols beauty to you- flowers, painting, drawing, writing, buy a new plant, work on an outdoor project.
Then come back and check-in with yourself. Ask yourself the same questions that you would ask your best friend. Observe where you are feeling the heaviness. Observe your breathing. Then take a moment to slow it all down. Breath deeply.
Once you feel less heavy about the situation spend some time thinking about the things in your life that are bringing you the most stress. How do you want things to look instead?. Break it down into small steps. What needs to happen in order to get there? What changes need to be made? Do you need to relocate your job, your living space in order to be your best self and make these changes? If so what has to happen first, second, third.
You may feel like you have NO choices but you are always in choice. You are always one thought and one life decision away from changing up your present circumstances.
I’m here if you need me. <3