Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Gave a Baby Up for Adoption and Can’t Get Over My Depression”

My boyfriend and I have been together for about three years. We began dated shortly after I discovered I was pregnant with someone else’s child. I made an adoption plan for my son and he was adopted two years ago. My boyfriend was with me throughout the entire time, and he has been incredibly supportive. This has not been an easy journey though; I have struggled with depression throughout this time, and I know it is very hard on him. I cannot get out of this funk, and it is incredibly frustrating to the both of us. I attend counseling regularly and am taking antidepressants. I am trying to do all the right things to properly heal while also going to school full-time and working. We have often taken breaks throughout the relationship because we think that I may need time to heal alone. Those become very difficult because we really love each other and want to hang out and continue to be in one another’s lives. I’m scared we are at our breaking point though. We want it to work so badly, but I feel that we are both fed up with the aspect of my depression in our relationship. I really just don’t know what to do, and I hope outsider opinions will help me with the decision.

P.S. Birth control, birth control, birth control!! I never knew this adoption would be soooo hard. — Birth Mother


How can you be expected to work on the health and happiness of your relationship when you don’t have your own health and happiness under control? You’ve been splitting your focus for over two years now — trying to keep your head above water while also sparing whatever leftover emotion you can muster for your boyfriend. But both of you should know by now, you don’t have anything leftover for him — not even scraps; you’re empty. He’s been holding up the weight of your relationship on his own now for a couple of years and he’s (rightfully) tired. It can’t go on like this. You have to focus on yourself before you have anything to give anyone else.

I understand that you love each other and it’s hard to let go, but love isn’t enough, no matter how deep it may feel. Love alone is not enough to sustain relationships. Imagine trying to raise a child when all you have to give is love (as I’m sure you did consider when you decided to give up your baby for adoption). Love doesn’t put a roof over a child’s head, or food on his table or clothes on his body. Love doesn’t buy birthday gifts or take him on summer road trips if there’s no money for gas. Love is nice — it’s definitely necessary for a healthy, happy, functioning life — but it’s not enough.

You’re only going to get better when you’re able to focus all that love you have in your heart on yourself — when you use every ounce of energy on being the person you want to be. You can’t do that with split focus right now — even with your boyfriend helping to lift you up. You have to do it on your own — well, on your own and with the continued help and support of your therapist and whatever friends and family have been by your side — and you have to fully commit.

Fully commit to your health without the distraction of a relationships pulling you in multiple directions. See how well you can get without the burden of guilt weighing on your shoulders — guilt that you aren’t enough for your boyfriend and that you’re dragging him and your relationship down. As cliché as it sounds, if you two are meant to be, then you’ll be. And you’ll be so much happier together when YOU are happier. The path you’ve taken for the last two+ years hasn’t gotten you there, so time to change routes. Try a different direction and see where it leads you. If you don’t like that path, you can always turn around, but you owe it to yourself to at least see how far it can take you.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

22 comments… add one
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    justpeachy August 1, 2011, 3:07 pm

    I’ve got to agree with Wendy on this one: you need time to heal. You mention that you’re in counseling and on anti-depressants, but have you tried a support group? Maybe talking to other women who have gone through the experience will help alleviate some of your guilt. Some who can explain to you how their emotions changed over time.

    This will always probably be something you think about every day. It will pop into your head at the most inopportune times. But you’ve got to find a way to look at your decision in a positive light: you did what was best for your child and you should be proud of that.

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      meeple August 1, 2011, 7:20 pm

      i want to second the group suggestion. ask your therapist or your doctor for suggestions. you can really get a lot out of meeting with people who have the same problems as you.

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      LTC039 August 1, 2011, 8:06 pm

      I saw on Teen Mom (don’t judge) there was a retreat for birth mothers. It was a weekend retreat geared solely for women who gave their babies up for adoption. Maybe the LW can research if they have any of those in her area.

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    MissDre August 1, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I’m going to agree with Wendy. I have never known the pain of giving up a child, but I have been through severe depression and anxiety attacks. I’ve also tried to get over it while being in a relationship, and all it did was drag both myself and him down. Him breaking up with me was the best thing that could have happened. I had the opportunity to get help, reflect, and really put 100% focus on getting better.

    You CAN get better. Keep seeing your counselor and takings your meds. Spend time with your best friends and your family. Try some new things on your own. Practice optimism every day (it’s not easy, I know) and really truly learn to forgive yourself. You are NOT a bad person for giving up your child. You are worth all the love in the world and you deserve happiness.

    Don’t give up. Keep fighting for yourself. You are number one right now!

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    Painted_lady August 1, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I don’t know if there are resources for this, but there have GOT to be: can you find some sort of a support group for birth mothers out there? I second everything Wendy said, but I would also like to add that your situation sounds so very lonely. Your boyfriend, who sounds wonderfully supportive, wasn’t even directly involved as the baby was biologically someone else’s. You had to explain it to him and hope he would stick with you through it, which he did. You had to find the adoption agency by yourself, you had to make the decision totally alone, and you did it, but you sound so alone in your grief still. Your family and friends likely don’t have any experiences similar to this, so you’ve been going through this so very alone, and I can’t imagine how anyone who hasn’t gone through this can do more than attempt to empathize, no matter how genuine their intentions. I think you need the support of women who have done this, and I think you need to know you’re not alone in this.

    You made an incredibly difficult and sad decision, and though it’s two years out and you feel like you should be out of it by now, this is something that changed your life. Give yourself time and patience and kindness now.

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      honeybeenicki August 1, 2011, 4:13 pm

      There are a lot of organizations that have birth parent support groups. I don’t know if you have Lutheran Social Services in your area, but they have birth parent support groups. My mom gave up a child when she was 16 and in the last few years began going to one of LSS’s birth parent support groups (right after my sister found us). My sister and I are very close now (she’s been in our life for about 5 years), but my mom needed more support than just me in dealing with issues that arise with an adopted child finding her.

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        Painted_lady August 1, 2011, 5:07 pm

        Thanks for the assist, honeybeenicki. I don’t have much experience with adoption other than one of my cousins attempting to find her birth mother, but I knew there had to be something out there as it’s such a specific and solitary trauma.

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        honeybeenicki August 1, 2011, 5:11 pm

        There is a lot more support out there than many people know. There’s a lot of different agencies and websites that help with finding birth parents, tons of therapists that specialize in adoptions, and support groups for birth parents, adopted children, and family members.

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    moonflowers August 1, 2011, 3:53 pm

    A relationship tends to magnify both the highs and the lows in life, and in a relationship, personal problems become relationship problems.

    My ex and I broke up because I was too depressed and he was exhausted at having to carry me along. And part of what kept me from getting better was my reliance on him. As soon as his support was gone, I really had to figure myself and my life out for the first time, and that’s when I actually started to grow as a person.

    The main thing the LW should focus on is tackling her depression. All other problems in her life will only be magnified or distorted by it; it will be a lot easier to cope with the adoption or her feelings for her boyfriend once the depression itself is under control.

    One other thing to be aware of is that depressed folks can end up in codependent relationships easily, and it is important to determine whether the relationship has healthy dynamics that allow the depressed person to get better or is unintentionally keeping the depressed person stuck so that the other partner has a reason to stick around and “feel needed,” despite the potential for resentment in the long run.

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    MiMi August 1, 2011, 3:53 pm

    I’m sorry that things have been so rough for you, dear LW. Have you had a good checkup with blood tests by an OB or someone well-familiar with the manifestations and treatment of post-partum depression? There might be a hormonal component to this that is not readily apparent..

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    Amber August 1, 2011, 4:04 pm

    LW I think like other commenters have said you would definitely benefit from a support group if you’re not already involved with one. There’s nothing quite like being able to talk to someone who is going through the same situation as you. As far as your relationship goes I think it’s only fair to the both of you to break up. You need time to heal and he deserves time away from holding the pieces together. One of the hardest things is when the timing is wrong but the person is right. Hopefully you’re able to heal and you and your bf are able to find happiness again in the future whether it be with someone else or together after you deal with your emotional health.

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    Turtledove August 1, 2011, 4:07 pm

    I think right now you would really benefit from a silent retreat if you can financially swing it at all. Get out of daily life for as long as you can– get out of contact with your friends, family, boyfriend, work, everything you possibly can. It’s so hard to deal with such a deep wound when all the little things that make up daily life are distracting you and making it possible to ignore the wound. So, going on a silent retreat of one kind or another might be beneficial just because you would be able to confront what happened without distraction and it would be something like time off from regular life so you would be able to return to pick up the threads without also needing to deal with the pain and guilt of a break-up on top of everything else. I had a friend who went and stayed at a Catholic monastery for a few weeks to deal with something similar. He was helped tremendously by it.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie August 1, 2011, 3:50 pm

    Time has a way of healing the hurt you now feel. I have nothing to offer but caring thoughts and hope you’ll work through this. Your doing all the right things, keep at it and know we support you.

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    Christina August 1, 2011, 5:17 pm

    It gets easier. Any major life decision like this is so hard to make and hard to get over. There are social stigmas and questioning oneself and the pain of loss but…it heals. You have some control over the pain you carry. It’s okay to build a life and be happy again. Start in small steps. I saw an interview with Tammy Faye Baker a few years ago where she said she was given advice that she was carrying a burden everywhere and it was too hard to do anything. He friend told her to just lay it down and let it go, and go on. I tried it and it is very freeing. It helps you heal and look forward to a life without it. I hope that helps and makes some sense.

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    LTC039 August 1, 2011, 4:30 pm

    I agree with Wendy 1000%. When I started dating my boyfriend, I was not fully healed from my previous relationship (which, as I’ve posted many times, damaged me a LOT) & I was an insecure, crazy mess! I burdened my boyfriend with all my fears & emotions from my ex. It wasn’t fair to him, but I honestly didn’t even notice it. After a while, my bf had had enough & he ended things (to my shock! surprisingly enough). During that time apart I really got a grasp on what happened & how I needed to change it. So we reconciled & two yrs later we are still together & very very happy.
    Obviously, your situation is a lot more intense, I can’t even begin to fathom the heartache of having to give your baby up for adoption, but LW, if you were strong enough to make that choice, you did the right thing! It takes a very mature, level-headed, head strong person to make that decision. You knew you couldn’t give your baby what he needed, so you gave him to a family that could. That is an amazing thing. It’s good that you’re going to counseling, def. keep that up, but I have to agree with everyone, you really need to focus on just you for now. As corny as it sounds, “if you love something let it go, if it comes back its yours,” so true. But YOU need to put your mental health first. Good luck to you!

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    LSS86 August 1, 2011, 7:24 pm

    I don’t think I agree with Wendy’s advice on this one. If the LW were married, would the advice still be to break up with him and focus on yourself? Should she stop hanging out with her girlfriends and family because she needs to only focus on herself? The LW endured an incredibly emotional experience and needs a whole lot of time to heal, this is true. But that doesn’t mean she has to sever all other emotional ties to do so. If her boyfriend wants to be there for her, and if she’s willing to accept his support, then they should stay together. If he’s not willing to give her all the support she needs indefinitely (because the emotional toll from an experience like this could last a really long time), or if she doesn’t feel comfortable leaning on him so heavily, then yea, they should break up. But she shouldn’t be single just because she’s depressed.

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      Kalipzo August 1, 2011, 7:56 pm

      I don’t think Wendy’s saying she should be single because she’s depressed. I think she’s saying it’s time to try something new and different because what LW’s been doing for the last two years has not been alleviating her depression, and it’s affecting her life very profoundly. LW has proven to herself and her bf that she can’t be a whole person right now (as a person with bipolar disorder that tends toward deep depression, I know how hard that is to accept and face), and the first step to a healthy relationship is to be a whole person who has access to her whole heart. She’s not going to find the path to wholeness with this bf in this situation, or she would have already. Maybe in the future, after she’s healed, he will be the right person at the right time.

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      LTC039 August 1, 2011, 8:04 pm

      Marriage is a whole’nother ball game. Wendy was advising the LW to take a break from this relationship so that, if it were meant to be, they could have a happy life together, including marriage (granted that’s what they both want). When you’re married, you already made the decision to spend the rest of your life with that person & even if you want out, it’s more difficult to end a marriage than to break up with someone. The LW said her depression is making this relationship reach it’s breaking point, meaning, it’s going downhill. You can’t make someone else happy if you haven’t been able to make yourself happy. It doesn’t work that way. Marriage or no marriage.

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    Greebo August 1, 2011, 10:09 pm

    LW, I wish you well. You showed tremendous courage and strength by making the choice to give that baby to couple who will love and cherish it. If it helps, my best friend from childhood and another good friend were adopted, and they are grateful daily for the mothers who made the hard choice to give them to someone else. A couple my husband and I are dear friends with adopted recently, and they are absolutely over the moon about their little girl. I hope it helps in some tiny way to know that you were so unbelievably important in these lives.

    Take care of yourself.

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    Greebo August 1, 2011, 10:13 pm

    By the way, I know you’re attending counseling, but is it possible you would be well-served by trying another therapist? Maybe someone else would have a new or different approach that could help you? And don’t neglect a full physical, including exercise/nutrition and hormone check, just in case there’s a second cause out or underlying physical issue. Be well!

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    David Jay August 2, 2011, 11:30 am

    Obviously whatever counseling and anti-depressant combination you are using is NOT working for you. Sit down with your doctor and let him/her know that you need to try something else. The depression is your problem, NOT your boyfriend or anything else. Treat the depression and you’ll suddenly realize that you are an exceptional person for the generous thing you did (i.e. adopting your baby). Many women are not willing to make that self-sacrifice, and for that, you should feel nothing but proud of yourself. And on behalf of your child…. THANK YOU!!!!!

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    blackbird August 2, 2011, 4:35 pm

    LW, this may not be much help, but I was adopted at birth, and while I sometimes like to think about what my life would have been like if my birthmother had kept me, I am thankful everyday for the life she did give me to my parents. I have very loving parents who were able to give me everything they could to help me succeed, an incredibly supportive family, and great friends. I don’t know what it’s like to feel your guilt and live with the aftermath of giving up your child, but know that he will always be thankful for you and the decisions you made. Hopefully you two can have a relationship when he grows up and he’ll be able to tell you this all in person.

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