This post was written by Kathy Crissey, MS, LMHC. Kathy is an Adoption Social Worker for Adoption STAR, and is also the owner of Turning Point Counseling Services.
Hopes, dreams and expectations – we all have them – not just for ourselves but for our children. What happens when your son or daughter is facing an unexpected pregnancy and is looking for support and guidance? Where do extended family members turn? It seems that the focus is on the birth parent and rightfully so. However, swirling around this birth parent are often family members who have their own feelings and needs.
A first grandchild – maybe you have dreamed what this would be like and look forward to having this experience. How does an unplanned pregnancy change your hopes and dreams? Maybe this is the first time you will become an aunt or uncle. Maybe you are feeling angry, disappointed, frustrated and hurt. All natural feelings but how do you keep them from spilling over on to the son, daughter or family member who needs your love and support.
In my work as a mental health counselor I have spoken to many family members who need an outlet to express their feelings during the pregnancy and certainly after. Grief and loss is a part of any adoption plan and to be able to acknowledge these feelings and talk about them is vital. It is my belief that the things we do not talk about are the things that hold us back from working through the issue at hand. While it is very clear that extended family members have no legal right to make a decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy for their son or daughter, it is very often the case that their influence plays a huge role in decision making. It could be that your son or daughter is just too young to parent, it could be that they are in college and the focus is on finishing school. Whatever the reason that birth parents choose to look at adoption as an option, it brings many issues up which, at times, may have nothing to do with the pregnancy.
I believe that the following are important issues to be aware of:
- If you are feeling anger, disappointment or hurt, find someone to talk to so that you can have a forum to express your feelings and be able to support the birth parent in an appropriate way.
- Threats, anger and disappointment only serve to stop the pregnant person from expressing their feelings.
- Listen, listen, listen. The pregnant person may be very scared and fearful that he or she is disappointing others and may not know what decision they want to make. They may change their mind during the pregnancy. They may go from one option to another.
- Ask for what you need – if your son or daughter does not wish to have contact after a placement, this does not automatically mean that you cannot. Many adoptive parents build a relationship with birth grandparents and find that these individuals can bring a special relationship to their little one.
- Expect the unexpected. You can think that you have thought of all the issues, but there will be surprises along the way.
- This baby is a part of you and as such, the love you feel will be enormous. The letting go will be painful.
- You cannot take care of and support someone else if you are not taking care of and managing your own feelings.
It is not about ignoring your feelings about an unplanned pregnancy but rather about recognizing them and managing them so that your family will be able to get through this together. This is a life long decision and one that will always be with you.
Adoption STAR has always been of the belief that support is essential. If you are struggling with a family member who is facing an unplanned pregnancy, please contact them at 639-3900 to obtain referrals to providers who can help you work through this process.