It’s every hopeful adoptive parent’s worst nightmare: after waiting for what seems like any eternity, you’ve finally been matched with a woman who says she wants to place her baby with you. Not only do you like her. Over the last few months you’ve really gotten to know her: exchanged photos, seen ultrasounds of the baby, and spent time with her and her family.
Everything has run smoothly. You couldn’t be happier.
But suddenly, as she approached her due due, things change. She doesn’t call you back the way she used to. She stops sending you email updates. Conversations are short and tense, like she’s in a rush to get off the phone.
What’s happening? Is she changing her mind? It’s too early to tell for sure. But before you go any further, there are a few things you need to know. A birthmother changing her mind may be a hopeful adoptive parent’s biggest fear. But it’s also misleading. Here’s why:
An expectant mother considering adoption is not a birthmother
It’s a common mistake. Hopeful adoptive parents make it, adoptive parents make it, so do adoption agencies, websites, blogs and books. Heck, even birthmothers make it — referring to a woman as a “birthmother” before she has placed her baby for adoption.
A woman isn’t a birthmother until she signs the adoption papers and relinquishes her parental rights to her child. To call her one before that time suggests she’s already made her decision and takes away her ability — actually, her right — to explore her options. So, until that day arrives, a more accurate way to describe her is as an expectant mother who’s considering adoption.
There many good reasons to do this. First, the expectant mother may bristle at being called a “birthmother” and feel like you’re pressuring her into making a decision before she’s ready. Second, by thinking of her as a birthmother and by extension, by treating her like one, you’ll create certain expectations that, if unmet, could have devastating consequences for you emotionally and financially.
Uncertainty is part of the open adoption process
Every open adoption situation has its share of ups and down. That’s just the way the process is. The key is to embrace the uncertainty and move forward carefully, fully aware that your situation could change from one day to the next — and sometimes even from one phone call to the next.
Early on, the woman you were matched with could very well have had an adoption plan. But over time, as she learned more about the process or her circumstances changed, she could have reassessed her decision, especially if her family or the baby’s father stepped in and offered to help her raise her child.
It’s easy to feel angry and betrayed at the sudden turn of events. To think that you were being strung along. Or to blame yourself for missing the warning signs. But don’t take her change of heart personally.
Placing a baby for adoption is one of the hardest decisions a woman can make. And when her situation changes, it’s only natural that her plans for the future will change, too. She’s simply exercising her rights and looking out for her and her baby’s interests, the same way you should be looking out for yours.
Don’t assume anything until the adoption has been finalized
One way to avoid a nasty surprise is to make sure she gets all the counseling she needs. The more information she has, the less chance there is she’ll change her mind. At the same time, be on the alert for red flags — if she asks for money or misses important key medical appointments.
If you’re really concerned about an expectant mother changing her mind, limit yourself to women who are further along in their pregnancy. There’s no guarantee they’ll go through with their plan. But if they don’t, it could have less of a sting.
As hard as it may be, be supportive of her decision. If you sense an expectant mother wavering in her decision, try to get at the root of the problem. Sometimes it will have nothing to do with you or her larger adoption plan. Sometimes it could be something as simple as she doesn’t like the attorney assigned to her.
Open adoption relationships can be awkward, especially in the early stages. One day you and the expectant mother are perfect strangers. And the next day you’re family. They take time to cultivate. Be patient and don’t make any assumptions until everything has been finalized. If you level with the expectant mother and treat her with respect, she’ll likely treat you the same way. And that’s a good thing, whatever she decides to do.
What’s your biggest fear about open adoption? How have you dealt with the uncertainty of the process and the fact that an expectant mother could change her mind at any time? Leave your comments in the section below.