When I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant, I had no clue where to turn. I was so overwhelmed with my new reality and struggled to figure out what to do next. I remember the adoption agency told me everything they wanted me to know, but now that I’ve gained more knowledge and experience there are some other things I wish they had told me.
So, if I could offer any advice to new moms who are considering adoption plans, it would be this:
- You call the shots. This is your baby and until you sign those papers, you make the decisions. It’s fine to get advice and guidance, but if something feels off, trust your gut and speak up. Don’t be scared to offend anyone. I remember being so ashamed that I was even in this position, so I just tried to be as agreeable as possible as to not ruffle any more feathers. Luckily, I had a good support system that looked out for me, but I know that’s not always the case.
- Speak to birth moms. Attend that support group, join that Facebook group, listen to that podcast! Get plugged in! For a long time I resisted getting plugged into the adoption community. I was so determined to not associate myself as a birth mom because I still held onto so much shame. It prolonged my healing, and I would have saved myself so much heartache had I gotten involved. True healing happened for me when I accepted my title as “birth mother” and leaned into that role. Making friends inside this community has provided me with so much peace, peace that talk therapy alone would never have provided.
- Discuss your expectations about what you want your adoption plans to look like with the agency and with the families you are considering. A lot of times, us expectant moms agree to any stipulation because shame holds us back from speaking up and knowing what we want. Remember, you call the shots. Have tough conversations with the families and express your concerns, desires, boundaries, and expectations about your adoption plans prior to placement. Open adoption is a collaboration, and you are allowed to have a say. After all, this is your baby. These conversations might feel weird at first, but they will get easier over time and being transparent will help you better understand the family and them better understand you. Adoption, like any relationship, requires intentionality and honesty. It will change over time, and that’s okay! What works at the beginning might not work five years later.
- Don’t rush the healing process or deny it. Adoption is so complicated and the grief we experience can be hard to understand. What you will experience after placement is what we call ambiguous loss. It’s a feeling of loss that is not associated with the death of a loved one. Sometimes it feels like there is no closure and that can be hard to work through. I tried to deny the pain for a long time because I rationalized my placement in my brain. I understood why it needed to happen, so I didn’t let myself grieve. I felt I wasn’t allowed to grieve because it was a decision I made for myself. Don’t be afraid of the emotions you might experience. Yes, it’s not easy but it’s a whole lot easier if we tend to our wounds.
There’s probably so much more I could say, but we’ll start here. Adoption is complex, and sadly there is no rulebook. Adoptoion plans vary with every expectant and birth mother. We have to learn from one another and lean into the conversation. Be present within your adoption, and show up for yourself and for your child. Doing that is always worth it.