Volunteers take care of babies born to unwed mothers at a welfare center in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul, on Jan. 8. Many of unwed mothers have to send their babies to adoption agencies because of a lack of support and difficulty with child care. / Korea Times File
At the same time, the distress caused by the separation is also enormous for the birth mother who has relinquished all rights to the baby. There is a report that identifies undeniable effects to the birth mother after her decision to give up her baby for adoption. In her report about Birth Mother Syndrome, Paik Yun Oak writes that giving up the right to a baby is like a living death. There is a finality to a typical death but in this living death, a mother who has given up her baby must cope with the range of emotions that comes from one extreme which is the hope of one day perhaps being able to meet her child and the other extreme, her current unbearable hopelessness. Mothers report repeatedly dreaming about losing their babies, fantasizing about marrying the fathers of the babies and living happily together, denying ever having given up their babies for adoption, losing themselves in alcohol or drug addiction or promiscuous sexual behavior. There are some who report having lost all memories of the birth or adoption, having bitterness towards the person who recommended adoption, feeling extreme isolation, living with guilt and shame and with the fear that she will be punished or in extreme cases attempting suicide caused by depression. In addition, these mothers are reported to have very low self esteem in raising their children after marriage and question their parental competence.
Several factors affect the decision to release or raise the child. White adolescents tend to give up their babies to non-relatives, whereas black adolescents are more likely to receive support from their own community in raising the child and also in the form of informal adoption by relatives. Studies by Leynes and by Festinger and Young, Berkman, and Rehr found that for pregnant adolescents, the decision to release the child for adoption depended on the attitude toward adoption held by the adolescent's mother. Another study found that pregnant adolescents whose mothers had a higher level of education were more likely to release their babies for adoption. Research suggests that women who choose to release their babies for adoption are more likely to be younger, enrolled in school, and have lived in a two-parent household at age 10, than those who kept and raised their babies.