Living in the Shadow of Being a Birth Mother


I am a wife of ten years, and stay-at-home mother to three little ones under eight. From an outsider’s perspective, I appear to be just an average church-going, minivan-driving, play date-attending mom. But on the inside I have a secret.

It’s not the kind of thing I can share at mom’s group or in PTA meetings. People at church and in prayer circles don’t really want to hear about it. Even most of my family either doesn’t know about it or tries to pretend it never happened.

I am a birth mother.

Being a birth motherI stand by the choice I made as a scared, unmarried college student long ago. I believe that the life of that baby boy and my own are better than what they would have been if I hadn’t placed him for adoption.

Because of that choice, I got to hand-pick his family, sign the papers, go back to my babyless life, finish college and grow up. And he got a loving, married mom and dad and a big sister that wanted him and had the means to take care of him.

But years later, when life has moved on, I am married and have my “real” children; it has become almost socially unacceptable to talk about him. After all, he’s not my child. He is just some ghostly shadow that lurks in my past. Always there, but not really there.

I remember as he grew inside me, but I don’t get to raise him. His birth is in my medical record, but his laughter is not in my home. He has my eyes, my face, my hair, but I don’t get to look at them each day.  I am his birth mother, but not his mom.

Birth motherAnd yet, life just goes on, with this secret I can never escape. The gaping shock, the silent judgment and awkward pause after someone finds out. “Can you believe it?” and “She seemed so normal!” are usually whispered behind my back.

Sometimes there is genuine awe or respect. Adoptive families admire and revere the choice I made and well-meaning others are curious about the details. But when time goes on, my secret is forgotten by all except me. A piece of me lives far away somewhere; a memory of a babe long gone. An inescapable feeling of loss and failure at the one thing I was supposed to do as a woman; be a mother. Yes, I have three other beautiful children who are all mine, but like a death, the pain of my firstborn’s loss never fully heals.

And so I live my life half in the reality of who I am now and half in the lurking shadow of my past, trying to find a balance between the two. How can I be completely honest and transparent while also protecting my birth child and my family’s innocence from the pain caused by knowing the truth? Will there ever be wholeness or perfect healing? Probably not.  Will there always be some lingering consequences from this decision in my past? Possibly yes.

Adoption is selfless and beautiful, bridging the gap between lost souls in different, heartbreaking places. But no matter how confident the birth mom is in her resolve, how smooth the process goes, how well the adoptive parents raise the child or how old he/she is when placed, it is not without some pain. Adoption is still messy for all parties involved and will always carry some feelings of loss, abandonment and possessiveness among those it touches. And just like any wound, it leaves scars.

So, here I am; fourteen years after my own adoption experience, and still broken and trying to heal. Attempting to live a life with a scarred past and hoping for a better future. I may not ever be able to break free from the stigma that comes with the label of ‘birth mother.’ There may never be complete wholeness for anyone affected by my decision, and that will always be my cross to bear.  However, it is the story I have to tell and it is my offering to give, so that one boy out there has a better life and so that countless women all over the world who share similar stories can feel understood and hopefully find healing of their own.


WynterKaiserWynter is wife to Jonathan and mama to Chloe, Adaya and Liam. She is a writer, artist, a lover of stories, an avid gardener, TV watcher and chocolate-covered cherries addict. In 2012, she self-published her first book, The Secret Inside Me, a memoir about an unplanned pregnancy at twenty years-old and her journey to choosing adoption. She founded the Made to Mother Project in 2013 to encourage, support and inspire women all over the world by sharing their diverse stories of motherhood. She lives in Forest Grove, Oregon. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful heart. Your sacrifice is beautiful and amazing!! As a mom on the other side of this, I am so thankful for you. Just very grateful you shared your story.

  2. Thank you souch for sharing your beautiful story! You are amazing! As a mom on the other side of this, I am thankful to hear your perspective. Just beautiful. Thank you!!

  3. Thank you for sharing. This very much hit home for me. When I was a young single mom of a toddler, in a horribly abusive relationship and found myself pregnant, again, I chose to give my baby boy up for adoption. The choice still pangs sometimes, 17 years later. I have gone on to marry, I have 2 more amazing girls and my older daughter is off to college but I have moments of “what if?” Not for a moment have I regretted that decision. I know that decision was part of my path God designed me to take.

    • Wow, Julie, what a powerful story! Thanks for reading and understanding my heart. There is something very therapeutic in being able to share and relate to others with our past hurts and our present triumphs. I’m so glad you have found peace and a healthy family.

  4. Beautiful story! Any mother who has lost a child will feel everything you described in this post. I am blessed by your honesty and willingness to share your secret. Having had two miscarriages, I still feel a loss for the two babies that could have been part of my family. Keep your beautiful stories coming. So glad you shared this at The Weekend Brew.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry that anyone would cause you to feel as though your choice was anything but utterly respectable and painfully difficult.

  6. What a beautiful story written by such a courageous heart. I think of all the lives you have touched birthing your first born. There has to be a very special reward coming to you from God for that.


  7. My youngest son’s birth mother compares the feeling to scar. Sometimes it’s visible and sometimes you can hide it; some people admire you for it and other people are shocked by it; sometimes you can ignore it and sometimes it hurts like it’s still an open wound.
    Thank you for writing so beautifully about something that can be so messy.

  8. Although it was difficult, you made a wise decision, to give your child up to a loving home rather than take the option many others have taken. Know that during the entire time of carrying the child, his birth and all you went through for the legal requirements – Jesus was there with you (unseen but there never the less) Jesus is the forgiver and you are not condemned but He sets you free from guilt and pain. May you rise up and realize you are not judged, because Jesus did not judge you, and He not only loves you, but he loves all four of your children, no matter who they call mom. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a True Story.

  9. I am sorry that you feel that your story is overlooked or used as fodder for gossip. I am sorry that you do not have the community around you that will hear and honor you for the hero that you are. You were in a very overwhelming time/circumstance of life and had to make a life alterting/honoring choice. I honor and revere those who make the choice to place their child for adoption. Every placement has a unique story! Bless you for putting your first child’s best interests above and beyond your heart/emotion/desires.
    Your selflessness had made all the difference in his life.. and his parents lives.

  10. I too am a birth mother. I gave birth to my first son at the age of 16. I entered an abusive relationship at the age of 18 and was pregnant again by 19 with my second son. His father left me and that really was the best thing that could’ve happened at that point. I gave my second son up because I knew I couldn’t provide for them both. My oldest son’s father married and his wife knew someone who was once a friend of mine and learned my “secret”. She decided to ask my oldest during visitation how his brother was doing. She asked a 12 year old child this! He eventually told me and asked what she meant. I sat down in tears and told him the truth. He told me I didn’t have to give him away because he would’ve shared his things with his little brother. Needless to say that scar was ripped open that day. I married when my oldest was 8 and we had a daughter year later. I dread the day that I tell my daughter. My husband has now adopted my oldest and my son often wonders why his birth father gave up on him. This makes me worried about how my second son will feel when he finds out that I went on to have another child. He will soon be 13 and I hope and pray that he never feels that I just didn’t want him because I have 2 other children. Thank you for writing this. It’s always nice to know that there is someone who understands. God bless.

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