If you have found yourself in an unplanned pregnancy, you have a few choices to mull over. I hope wherever this article finds you, you can take a deep breath and some time to make a decision. Whether you choose to parent your child, abort the pregnancy, or make an adoption plan, your choice will have a lifelong impact. If you decide to make an adoption plan, there are countless decisions to be made, ranging from small to big in impact. If you decide to place your baby for adoption, you have the decision of choosing an adoptive family, choosing the level of communication with the adoptive family and your child, and a myriad of other things. This entails looking for adoptive parents.
The decision I will be discussing today is the process of looking for an adoptive family. This task may seem daunting with so many options and considerations to make.
I took the opportunity in preparation for writing this article to talk with some birth mothers about their experience in looking for an adoptive family for their babies.
One birth mother, who I will refer to as Jessica, gave some powerful insight into her experience. She remembers feeling strongly about looking for and finding adoptive parents that would respect and value her. See her not just as a vessel to give them a child, but as a human making an incredibly difficult decision.
She had a rough idea of what her child would look like, so she felt best trying to find a couple that her daughter would blend well into. That may not be a factor for you as it was for Jessica. However, it is important to establish if you want your baby to “blend well” with their adoptive family.
Jessica also talked to me about what she has learned since creating an adoption plan and the things that she wishes that she had known as she was going through the process. She chose her birth daughter’s family from a book of Hopeful Adoptive Parents, sometimes referred to as “HAP’s.” She never considered the possibility of communicating with the couple beyond that through letters or phone calls before going through with placement.
Another birth mom I talked to, who I will refer to as Allison, talked about what she established early on as important factors. As she began looking for adoptive parents, she decided that having an open adoption was incredibly important and non-negotiable.
As she read through the Hopeful Adoptive Parents profiles, she said that she “immediately put aside any book that didn’t discuss having a further relationship with me.” She had already decided that open adoption was the most important thing to her, so she didn’t waver on that criteria.
Thinking about Jessica and Allison, I think about how important the principle of establishing what you want is. If you decide to create an adoption plan for your baby, you need to eliminate as much room for doubt as possible.
Create a list, either in your mind or on paper, of your must-haves, red flags, deal-breakers, and benefits. If, like Allison, having an open adoption relationship with your biological child is important to you, keep that in mind as you read through profiles. If a Hopeful Adoptive Parent profile doesn’t mention keeping and maintaining a relationship with a potential birth parent, you can move on to the next profile.
Jessica also felt strongly that her baby would go to a couple that didn’t yet have children. She wanted her baby to have undivided attention from her parents. Think about if that’s important to you. You may want the same for your baby. Or you may want them to be placed in a home with a sibling or two (or more).
Several birth moms that I have spoken with have expressed that they don’t want to feel objectified. As I mentioned when talking about Jessica’s experience, she didn’t want to feel like just a vessel to get a baby to a couple. She wanted to feel like a valued, respected person.
If as you’re reading through profiles, you are uncomfortable with the manner in which potential birth parents are written about, you can move on to the next profile. You should never feel like you are being used while you go through the process of creating an adoption plan. There is no reason you should feel like you have to settle for a family that you are uncomfortable with.
As Jessica read profiles, she was uneasy about opening lines that included “dear birth mom.” For her, she knew she hadn’t signed away rights and hadn’t made a final decision yet. She personally didn’t prefer to be referred to as a “birth mother” before she had come to her final decision.
When my birth mother read through profiles, she was drawn to my parents for several reasons, which I will discuss later. But one thing that I thought about as I listened to Jessica’s experience was how my parents opened their letters with “dear friend.” They wanted to acknowledge the difficult nature of the decision that expectant parents face as they navigate an unplanned pregnancy.
You, however, may find “dear birth mom” endearing! And that’s just fine. You just need to listen to your gut instinct and follow the things that don’t make you uncomfortable. Wording, activities, etc.
The last thing Jessica spoke to me about as a “red flag” was how she didn’t prefer photos that looked too staged. That may not be something that bothers everyone or would even cross people’s minds, but Jessica wanted to see more spontaneity. She wanted to see how families really were around each other, not just how well they could smile for a camera.
As you figure out what you are looking for and what concerns you about potential adoptive parents, don’t feel guilty if your list seems excessive! There may, of course, be room for compromise, but you need to establish your non-negotiables as you start the process. Re-evaluate as needed.
My birth parents’ story is one that will always fascinate me, my personal bias aside. My birth parents were young when I was born. My birth father was just starting his senior year of high school and my birth mom was a recent high school graduate. My birth mother wasn’t sure how she would tell her friends and family that she was expecting a baby. So she decided that she and my birth father would keep it secret until the day I was born.
Fortunately for them, late 90’s fashion helped keep the secret. Baggy clothes helped mask the growing bump which amazingly, never got very big.
My birth mother lived at home and even slept on the top bunk of the bunk beds she shared with her older sister. She had made her way to the bathroom in the early hours of the morning and as she laid on the bathroom floor with contractions, she finally called out to her sister. She explained to her sister that she was having a baby.
Because my birth parents had never truly acknowledged the baby on the way, they hadn’t made a plan for me once I was there. The one thing they knew was that they weren’t ready to be parents themselves.
Days before my birth, my birth father had the opportunity to meet a representative of an adoption agency during a presentation at the high school. He had the presence of mind to make a mental note of the presenter’s name and, on the day I was born, called him.
The agency sent a representative immediately, along with a big stack of Hopeful Adoptive Parent profiles. With me in one arm and the profiles in the other, they began the process of reading through profiles.
I’m not sure who found my parents’ profile first and there’s a great debate about it, but regardless of who it was, they felt a unanimous decision was made as they read through it.
My birth mother has said on numerous occasions that she felt a draw to my parents because they emulated a lot of what she hoped to be as a parent when she felt ready to be a mom. They were what she was looking for in adoptive parents.
My parents had adopted a daughter nearly four years before my birth and my birth mother was excited at the prospect of an older sister since she loved her older sisters so much. My parents both loved music, as did both of my birth parents. My parents and birth parents shared religious beliefs. My family valued going on long Sunday drives in their Jeep Wagoneer and as a Jeep enthusiast herself, my birth mom felt like that was the cherry on top.
Years later, my birth mother decided to write a book about her experience of going through an unplanned, teen pregnancy. She wanted to write about the letter she had read nearly 17 years prior that had confirmed to her which family she wanted to raise her baby. She remembered the power and potency the letter held and was eager to feel that again.
As she read, however, she was astounded at how plain the letter was. “Dear friend…,” followed by an average, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary family. She read it a couple of times, willing it to feel special, and it just didn’t. She was talking to my mom and me about that experience later. She said that while the profile painted the picture of a nice enough family, it wasn’t the awe-inspiring piece she remembered. Same letter, different feeling.
In reflection, she said that it made sense though. At the time, her heart was filled with love for this tiny baby in her arms and she was determined to find someone who was able, willing, and eager to fulfill the duties of parenthood.
She felt the draw to my parents because they were the kind of people she aspired to be and who she felt the universe had put on her path. When she reread the letter years later, she was married and was raising four young children. She was in a different place in life and a different headspace.
The letter didn’t resound with her soul the way it had when I was born because it didn’t need to anymore. It had played its role in helping my birth parents find the family they felt they could entrust their first-born baby to.
As you are looking for an adoptive family, you don’t need to find a super-family for your baby. Think about finding a profile that resembles what you hope to be in your future. Find little hobbies and traditions that warm your heart and you would hope for your baby. The family doesn’t need to have earth-shattering careers and reputations; they just need to be able to fill your child’s life with love and light.
Looking for adoptive parents can be daunting, but if you can have a good support group, whether it be in the form of a partner, parents, best friend, or someone from the agency, you can establish the things you need to see from the adoptive parents. If you want an open relationship with your child, find a family that will meet that need. If you want your baby to be placed with a mom and a dad, or a single parent, or a same-sex couple, look for that.
There are negotiable things, like potential hobbies and the like, but make sure that whatever parents you choose for your baby that all expectations are addressed and that the plan is made accordingly.
Your decision to make an adoption plan will have a lifelong impact on all involved, so you must do as much as you can to feel as secure and confident in your decision as possible.