Gifts For Birth Mothers: The Importance Of Gifting In Adoption Relationships And How To Do It Well.
We often use the phrase “leave the light on” in discussions about how to approach the spirit of post placement openness. The idea of “leaving the light on” is that when someone leaves, the porch light stays on so that they can always find their way back. It is a gesture of hope and commitment to the person leaving, and no phrase is more applicable to the unique relationship between a birth mother and her child and their family.
It is common in adoption relationships for birth mothers to go through periods of significant engagement with her birth child and family, followed by periods of quiet or even disengagement. This occurs for a multitude of reasons from common relationship ebb and flow, to avoidance of placement related grief.
During times of both engagement and distance, adoptive parents can continue to communicate their light by acknowledging birth mothers with small gifts on important holidays or days of significance in either her life, or the child’s life. Gifting is a way we acknowledge and honor our loved ones during special moments in our lives together.
However, in adoption there is often hesitation in gifting that is sometimes cultivated early on and can be attributed to the formality of the adoption process. In many states financial support from a hopeful family to an expectant mother is illegal and in those states where it is legal, it can be interpreted as coercion from an ethical standpoint. As such, agency staff and attorneys sometimes discourage gifting particularly pre placement and in states where financial support is illegal. While this may be a concern pre placement, after adoption families often retain the sentiments and then have hesitation around gifting indefinitely.
Healthy advice for gifting pre placement is to do it, but make it intentional and limited. You can and should give small gifts of sentiment when you meet her or when you take placement. (Disclaimer: Check with your hired attorney or agency on their guidelines given the particulars of your situation).
While we encourage you to be tempered in your gifting pre adoption, after finalization you are free to do whatever you want with gifting and we encourage you to.
The power dynamics switch abruptly after birth. Where a birth mother was the center of the process for pregnancy and placement, once the family leaves with the baby, birth mothers are abruptly pushed to the background. However unintentional, the feelings for birth mother are often those of abandonment. Seeing you with the child can sometimes exacerbate feelings of isolation, and even breed resentment seeing you do all of the things she isn’t doing or even can’t do for her child.
When an important moment rolls around a Birth Mother can often feel like she is not included in this experience or worse, doesn’t feel worthy of that inclusion. While the circumstances of your adoption may limit your ability to physically include her in these celebrations, sending her a thoughtful gift is impactful in the following ways:
- A gift communicates that you are thinking of them, and that they are still a fixture in your life and your child’s life.
- Acknowledge their identity as a mother (Many struggle to figure out how to identify as a mother after placement).
- Offer organic opportunities to have open conversations with your child about their origins, and their adoption.
- Support an adoptee in building a reciprocal relationship with their birth parent.
- Reassert a sense of closeness to you and your child to his/her birth mother, and subsequently to you as their parent.
- Remind her that the porch light is on for her in your home and life
For those families who do embrace the idea of gifting it can be a challenge to find something appropriate and meaningful. To support your search in finding the perfect gift, Absolute Love Adoptions created SOLACE a line of gift boxes that are adoption centric and come in 3 different themes with various sizing and pricing options. Our gifts can be found here and 15% of the purchase returns to the post placement fund which supports birth mothers in post placement goals. Our fund recently paid for 3 mothers to attend a birth mom retreat, and one mother to travel cross country to get to her first post placement visit with her son.
OTHER GIFT IDEAS
- A macrame family portrait , painted portrait, embroidery, or polymer clay portrait with adoptive parents, baby and birth parent(s) included
- Something with baby’s name on it, especially if it’s the name she gave him (nightlight, bracelet, bracelet, necklace)
- A handmade craft from the child including his/her hand print or handwriting.
- A birth stone gift like this suncatcher
- A themed gift that you choose as special, either because she likes it or it reminds you of her. For example, every year you pick out a different item in the same category– a magnet, crocheted stuffed animal, polymer clay plant, books, etc. Each year you purchase something with the same theme. Example: We have a past client who every year gives a ladybug themed item for mothers day. She’s done a simple charm necklace, a garden stone, a keychain and other petite gifts in that theme and now when her son sees a ladybug, he thinks of his birth mother. It has become their special thing.
- A postcard from somewhere you have visited with your child
- A gift that is shared in duplicate with the child, along with a photo of the child with that item. For example, a stuffed turtle for her, and one for the baby. You can even ask Mom to send a photo of her with her stuffy to share with the child. (Or a hat, blanket, scarf, special pillow, etc).
- Have your child draw a family picture with her included. Frame it.
- Framed photos of the child perhaps even from the last visit.
- Make cookies with the child and send them to her with a note, made with love.
BARRIERS TO GIFTING
You don’t have their address: Ask them for it or for somewhere you can send a package for them. There are options for pickup locations through most shipping services. You can also have the gift sent through the agency supporting you with post placement communication, or ask the agency to let Mom know you’d like to send something and they can support you in finding her shipping address.
They are not “healthy” right now: If your child’s birth mom is living a high risk lifestyle, or is even incarcerated or otherwise in trouble, she would benefit from your gift even more right now.
You don’t want to divulge your address or last name: You can send a package with an alternate return address (the agency you used) or no return address.
You don’t know them well: Any gift that comes from the heart is going to be well received. You can also use this opportunity to explore getting to know them better to find out what their likes and dislikes are. When in doubt, send chocolate.
Won’t it remind them of the grief? Many birth mothers feel their children are part of their daily existence. A gift is not going to trigger a sadness that isn’t already there. However, if your child’s birth mother has expressed that she is not open to your gifts, respect that, but check in with her from time to time to get a pulse on how her feelings have evolved over time.
Know that the time you spend considering your child’s birth mother and selecting a thoughtful gift communicates to your child that their birth origins and biology are important to you, and that you are creating a space for them to explore their story and identity. Hopefully your child sees the opportunity as well and creating a special experience with them around selecting or creating gifts for their birth mother serves as an opportunity for you to grow closer to your child.