How Teenage Mothers Struggle After Giving Up a Baby

It’s not easy to become a mother when you’re barely more than a child yourself. Many teenage mothers-to-be decide that they and their families aren’t ready to raise a baby. These young mothers may decide that giving the child up for adoption is the only reasonable choice.

At least this way, the baby can be raised by loving and mature parents with the financial and emotional means to give the child the life he or she deserves. But knowing that giving a baby up for adoption is the best choice for all concerned doesn’t mean that a teen mother won’t struggle to cope with the loss of her child.

Feelings of grief, guilt, regret, and shame are complicated by the fact that teen mothers may lose their relationships with parents or other relatives, friends, and the baby’s father because of the pregnancy or the decision to give the baby up. The young mother also faces the loss of her place in the educational system, and may struggle to establish a healthy partnership in the future.

Grieving a Child Who Isn’t Dead

Just because a child given up for adoption will presumably have a better and happier life than he or she would have had with his or her birth parents, doesn’t mean that the birth mother won’t experience feelings of grief and loss.

Grieving the loss of a child who is still alive isn’t quite the same as grieving someone who has died, the feelings of loss are nevertheless real. The feelings of grief and loss often continue throughout the birth mother’s life, resurfacing around the time of the child’s birthday or of expected milestones in the child’s life, such as when he or she would be old enough to start school or old enough to graduate from high school.

The loss of an adopted child can be especially keen for birth mothers who gave their children up in closed adoptions, since they may feel tortured by worry about their children’s lives. These mothers will have no idea if their children’s lives truly are better, or whether they’re even still alive.

But young mothers who give their children up through mediated or open adoptions may also struggle with feelings of loss as they watch another woman mother their child.

Teen mothers who perform open adoptions may even succumb to an identity crisis as they struggle to find an appropriate role in their birth child’s life — are they parents, friends, aunties, or simply mentors?

Social Consequences of Teen Adoption

In addition to the grief and regret of losing a child, teen mothers may experience other consequences of giving their children up. Parents or other relatives may not approve of the pregnancy or the decision to give the child up, and may respond by withdrawing emotional or financial support or even severing their relationships.

Teen mothers may lose friendships as a result of the pregnancy and adoption. A teen mother may also run the risk of losing her relationship with the birth father, who may not have agreed with the adoption decision or even the decision to continue the pregnancy. All of these losses may leave the young birth mother desperate to find support, help, and empowerment.

In the long term, a teen mother who has given her child up for adoption may struggle to find and maintain a healthy romantic partnership. Maybe she fears repeating the loss, or fears being judged if she confides in a prospective partner about her adoption decision.

When a teen mother who gives up her child gets a little older and has subsequent children, she may find that these children serve to make her feel the loss of the first child even more sharply.

The pregnancy may have financial consequences for the teen mother, too, as it could interfere with her ability to complete her education. Some teen mothers respond to the loss of a surrendered child by having another child as soon as possible, in an attempt to fill the void. This can have very negative consequences for both mother and child, especially if the mother hasn’t yet dealt with her feelings of grief.

Giving a child up for adoption may be the best decision a teenager mother could make, but it’s still a wrenching one that has long-term consequences. If your teenage daughter is pregnant and contemplating adoption, it’s important you understand the emotional and social consequences of this decision, so you can offer her the support she needs to integrate the loss into her life and move forward with a whole heart.

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