Why a placement “ceremony”?
Audra Owens, Caseworker
Placing a child for adoption is always a loss for the birthmother. Historically birthmothers have been denied the opportunity to grieve openly for this loss, perhaps because they “chose” to place rather than parent their child. In the past, birthmothers have been counseled to “go home and move on” after placing their child for adoption. It was seen as a shameful thing that they should not talk about with others and something they certainly should not be proud of (regardless of the fact that it was likely the hardest, most courageous and Christ-like thing she could have ever done in her life). The old assumption was that, over time, the birthmother would forget about her child. We now know that a birthmother never forgets that child, regardless of how little time she had with him or her. The loss to her is just as real as the death of a child is to any other parent. Yet, when a parent loses a child to death, they are recognized in their grief. They receive cards, letters, visits, phone calls, flowers, etc. A beautiful and spiritual funeral and burial service is planned. All of these things give credit to the life changing event that has occurred in that parent’s life. These things also help serve as a transition point where that parent works to begin the grieving process to heal from that loss. Does that parent ever forget the child they lost, even twenty, thirty years later? The answer is unequivocally “NO!” Nor does a birthmother forget her loss, even though she chose to endure it.
This is why a birthmother also deserves a “ceremony” to commemorate her loss and to help start the healing in her grieving process. It should contain all the love, compassion, and spirit of proceedings devoted to a family who has lost a child to death. The birthmother should not complete the act of placing her baby in the arms of the adoptive parents alone, for then only she alone can understand the grief. The adoption process and the birthmother should be recognized, supported, and loved through and after placement so she can feel the start of the transition she needs to complete a healthy grieving process. Creating a family should be a family event. The birthmother’s family as well as the adoptive couple’s extended family (when possible) should make efforts to be present so that both sides (birthmother and adoptive couple) can humanize the other and see them as an extension of their family, not just the other half of a business transaction.
See this ceremony as an opportunity to share something beautiful with your birthmother. These ceremonies have proven to be the most tender and spiritual experiences we as caseworkers get to witness.
The following is a “Menu” of ideas for a placement ceremony
• birthmother’s home
• adoptive couple’s home
• Neutral location such as a church building (can be at the agency but we try to make it a less “sterile” location.)
Who is involved:
• Birthmother’s family and/or friends
• Adoptive couple’s family and/or friends.
• Birthmother’s bishop and/or relief society pres., agency representative, visiting teacher, etc., if desired.
• Agency caseworker(s)
Options of what might occur at a placement ceremony:
• “Open house” style where people visit and eat
• Birthmother’s caseworker can speak for a few minutes to familiarize those present with adoption and the process of making this decision from a birthmother perspective.
• Mini “Testimony meeting” where all those present can express their emotions/gratitude/love surrounding this placement and the adoptive couple/birthmother/child involved
• Exchanging of gifts to birthmother and/or from birthmother to child
• Sharing of poems, letters or songs that reflect the feelings of those involved
• Priesthood Blessings of comfort administered (at Birthmom’s request) to birthmother and/or the child
• Photo Shoot with professional photographer to capture the event and provide birthmother with pictures to cherish.
• If ceremony occurs at the hospital, when it is over everyone should leave the room to allow birthmother and (if desired) her family to have their time alone with the baby until she feels ready to discharge from the hospital and place the baby with the couple.