Can a mother forget her child? Honoring birthmothers

| Gretchen Traylor | November 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Birth mothers, or “first mothers,” often experienced the loss of belonging during their unexpected pregnancies and relinquishment of children for adoption. They were hurt to the core by shame and isolation, being forced to deny the truth, and not allowed to grieve the loss of their children.

It nearly happened to our Blessed Mother. It isn’t hard to imagine Mary’s friends shunning her for fear her “sin” might somehow reflect on them if they stood by her. We know from Scripture that Joseph had planned to put her away quietly, but was instructed by God to protect her instead. What we often forget, however, is that after Joseph took Mary into his home, she then visited her elderly cousin Elizabeth to support her in her unexpected yet welcome pregnancy.

As a long-term crisis pregnancy counselor in a pro-life center, I heard many stories of abandonment, rejection, fear, shame and judgment passed by others, especially those closest to the woman in need. What these women needed instead was support, care, honesty and encouragement. They needed a “Mary” or even a group of Marys to “visit” them, both during and after their pregnancies.

Because — as I always told them — once you are pregnant, life will never be the same. No matter your choice regarding the future for you and your child, things will not be easy.

In the past, there was great pressure put on single pregnant women to relinquish their babies to adoption. They were often bullied into this decision, being told they were not fit to raise their child on their own. Wanting what was best for their children, they complied and then were left on their own with no support. Often, they were told to forget the child existed and just “get on with it.” Many times, they told no one about the child they had borne and lost, but quietly suffered and grieved alone and secretly to avoid more rejection and judgment.

Birthmothers retreat Nov. 14Our Lady of Grace in Edina will honor women who gave their babies to adoptive families 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 14. The event includes talks by birthmothers, a presentation by a psychologist, story sharing, the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and prayer, and breakfast and lunch. Cost is $15. To register, contact Melissa Miller at 952-929-3317, ext. 111.

But, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us, a mother doesn’t forget her child.

As an effort toward support and healing, Our Lady of Grace in Edina hosts a Day of Honor and Recognition for Birthmothers to applaud their choice for life.

Here, there is a community of those who understand, who do not judge and who celebrate them for who they are; a community that encourages one another to end the secrecy, overcome the shame and to acknowledge, grieve and begin to heal from their loss; a community that gently encourages honesty and helps them find the good that God can bring into painful situations when we let him. Here, you belong.

“Belonging.” The word itself brings thoughts of family, friends, classes and gatherings. Yet, it may also bring painful memories of loss, isolation or rejection. Most people have experienced both sides of belonging and being an outsider. As an adopted person placed in 1946 under a system based on shame, secrecy and lies, I certainly did. I had a wonderful life, but an unauthentic one. I dealt with criticism, judgment and fear of rejection when I tried to discern my own truth, to grieve its loss and to honor it as God’s plan for me.

Yet recently, I had the opportunity to attend a reunion of cousins on my birthmother’s side of my original family. It was a wonderful day filled with joy and laughter, learning about family history and forming new ties. When it was time for pictures, we all jockeyed into positions. I belonged.

May our efforts toward healing and transparency in relinquishment and adoption honor our own truths and our roles in God’s loving and eternal family. There, we all belong.

Traylor is a parishioner of St. Gerard Majella in Brooklyn Park and a former volunteer at Birthright in Coon Rapids.

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