Gratitude & Shame

I apologize as this post is stemming from emotions that are a bit raw. I write this tentatively and will probably worry for some time to come whether pressing the “Publish” button was the right thing to do. After some research last night, however, I feel like I need to speak up.

In general, my feelings have been raw over the last few months. I have stopped blogging nearly as much, not wanting to share the bits that don’t wrap up with happy endings or encouragement. We have had some events crop up over the last few months that have left me unsure as to what I think about the infertility and adoption road.

Some of my thoughts have not been the politically correct, nice things that people should say. The events have left me confused, sad and angry. It’s vulnerable to open up those parts for people to read. However, the reality is the whole point of this blog is for people to get an honest glimpse as to what the world of infertility and adoption looks like; to help others feel not so alone. In honoring that, I need to post these moments that are not so pretty.

Without diving into the events of the last few months, I’ll sum it up in saying infertility wounds have been re-opened and doubts as to how we are handling adoption have crept in. This past week was our son’s birthday and the anniversary of his placement, two dates that leave me reflective for days, so this week those feelings have been particularly poignant. Last night, I finally went to the web to search for some articles that pertained to some of the things that have happened. Over and over again, I saw the same refrain:

“Adoptive parents should be grateful. They were given a gift.”

Some comments even went as far as to say that adoptive parents that felt otherwise were selfish. Now, I will say that I think some of the comments were trolls looking for a fight, but I could not deny the overall theme of the message- as adoptive parents, we must always feel grateful.

I turned off my phone half feeling ashamed for struggling and half wanting to scream that adoptive parents are real people with real emotions and real struggles. Why can’t that be validated? Instead, we are put to shame if we doubt or hurt or grieve over pieces and parts of the journey we have been on.

So much of my experience with Post-Adoptive Depression stemmed from this very message. I had a hyperactive two year old and a newborn baby who cried from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. almost every single day, except it did not stop in the usual colic timeframe. By the time she was 8-9 months old, we were having multiple episodes per week that she would scream until she was projectile vomiting.

Any mother in that situation would be overwhelmed. But, the refrain was there over and over. “Be grateful. What you have is a gift. Be grateful. What you have is a gift. Be grateful. What you have is a gift…” There was no room for, “Oh, my word. This is a nightmare.” I felt so unbelievably alone and ashamed I was not enjoying this gift we had been given.

The events over the last few months have driven me to this place again. Alone with the message “Be grateful.” and ashamed that I am not able to be more so. Except this time around, I am armed with the ability to write and hope my experience helps other adoptive moms to shed some of this burden.

Adoptive parents are people. For those of us that arrived at adoption through the road of infertility, grief is still present. We are parents, but we still are infertile and that grief cycle will manifest itself from time to time. Sometimes I can experience the whole cycle briefly, sometimes it takes weeks to get back to the place of acceptance. I hate the cycle. I wish it didn’t exist, but it does.

Often during those times of grief I am sad about the things I did not get to experience with my children. Sometimes sadness creeps in, knowing the road I have to choose if we ever want more children. During these cycles of grief, I need space in my adoption world. I don’t want to think about the mothers that got to have these experiences with my children. I know that is not the politically correct thing to say, but it is the honest one. It’s not about being ungrateful. It’s about needing the space to cycle through the grief and get back to the peaceful place of acceptance without someone constantly telling me to be grateful.

Sometimes in open adoption there are fears and worries about the relationship with birth families. Sometimes communication withers and fears about our children feeling rejected crop up. Other times it is too much communication and worries about boundaries being respected are there. Sometimes birth families are not making wise decisions, or others making ones that are downright unsafe. We, as adoptive parents, stare into the eyes of our children that we love fiercely, desperately searching for the answers that will lead to handling each twist in the road correctly.

Sometimes it is all too much and I find myself wondering if open adoption is the right road. Ultimately, the answer is always “Yes” (unless I discovered our children could be harmed by the relationship) but sometimes I get tired and just want to shelve the worries. I know, again, it is not the politically correct thing to say, but it is honest.

As an adoptive mother, I am a real person. I get sad. I get scared. I get tired. I have these children that I love so deeply that it scares me and I desperately always want to do the right thing for them and there is no manual as to how to do that in the adoption world. I worry. I worry and worry and worry, praying that God leads me to the right decisions. In my fears and sadness and fatigue, I sometimes find gratitude on the back burner. It is not that I am not grateful. It’s that these other emotions are present and need attention.

The refrain to adoptive parents to “Be grateful. What you have is a gift.” needs to lessen. In this era of open adoption, the emotions of birth parents seem to trump the reality for adoptive parents. Again, I know that is not the “right” thing to say. It is not that the feelings of birth parents are not valid. So much of adoptive mother guilt comes from knowing that our gain came at the cost of someone else’s grief. What I am saying is that we cannot validate one to the exclusion of the other.

We have pain. We grieve. We worry. We get scared. It gets lonely reading over and over that we should be grateful when we have all of these other emotions longing for validation and answers.

Instead of shouting this message of gratitude, why can’t we say, “Me too. I struggle with that.” and be real? I am guilty in my own blog of wanting to make everything seem glassy smooth. Adoption is complicated. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t exist. We are all trying to do the best we can to make the right decisions regarding an imperfect situation.

Let’s be honest. Let’s be real. Let’s stop saying the pretty words that everyone wants to hear. It’s okay to have times where other emotions well up in place of gratitude. In my world, and I suspect many others, I have to work through them before I get back to a place of peaceful acceptance and gratitude for what I have. I always get back there, but there is a very valid journey happening between those times.

Shaming parents who are in those gaps between times of gratitude does not help the adoption world. Support, validation and normalization of our experiences is what we really need.

Trust me. I am very grateful for the two children I have the privilege to mother. There are no words in the English language for that type of gratitude. “Thank-you” is never enough.

It’s just that I am all those other things too. After all, I am a real person who has real emotions. My hope is that we can do a better job supporting adoptive parents as we work through the complicated world of adoption together.


  1. Life is terribly difficult at times. I hear you. Keep on, though, despite the pain and sorrow, keep on.

    Dealing forthrightly with reality (and truth), and being brutally honest is not often politically correct. Do not worry about that. Seek constructive courses of action. And, yes, that is rarely easy.

    I hope many adoptive parents and those planning to adopt read your post. It may help them. Thank you for writing it.

    I pray that children are placed into loving families, and I pray for adoptive parents that offer that love.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chicken 2003 – I have the same reaction to any of the simplistic adoption sayings, or the telling someone they should be grateful or anything like that…when you have three completely different groups contained in adoption, it makes everything hard.

    Adoption is too complicated for that…too many layers, too much pain woven into the fabric…

    Mom went through the grief of infertility again after dad passed, and it’s been many decades since they adopted us. You are perfectly normal, I’d worry if you didn’t have deep feelings come up from time to time – especially after the triggers, not to mention the holidays.

    You are also allowed whatever you feel in the moment. It certainly doesn’t mean you don’t value your life now, or your children, it means you are just like everyone else…

    Hope you feel better…


  3. Thanks for sharing. Making yourself vulnerable in a blog post can be scary but I thank you for being willing to do so. Adoption is about joy but it is also about sorrow, pain and grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sometimes it ISN’T “happily ever after” after adoption. I know that well. I keep it real on my blog because I didn’t read that or hear about that before adopting my son. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe the rose colored glasses wouldn’t have let me see the potential negatives. I’ve become that old saying, “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll serve as a terrible warning.”

    Liked by 1 person

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