This guest post is by Maxine Chalker, founder of Adoptions From The Heart and an adoptee.
Women who decide to make an adoption plan have taken a tremendous and courageous step toward improving their own lives and the lives of their children.
No one should understand this truth more than prospective adoptive parents, who will be given an enormous gift solely through the generosity and bravery of willing birth parents.
But taking a monumental step in one’s own life, to saying nothing of the life of one’s child, can be lonely. People don’t always understand, or accept, the choices that expectant parents make when they choose open adoption.
Creating an placement plan for your baby isn’t something anyone forgets. It stays with you. In many cases, it hurts —deeply.
Don’t suggest, before the placement has been finalized, that a birth parent’s emotions are a “phase,” something to be overcome and set aside in time.
Expectant parents strive, often over the course of years or decades, to develop a healthy relationship with their own thoughts and feelings.
As a prospective adoptive parent, it’s not your place to imply that the healing process should be sped up.
Nor is it your job to change these feelings, or suggest that a birth parent is wrong in experiencing them.
After outlining an adoption plan for their baby, many expectant parents begin to experience a sense of grief, of loss, that will only become more intense after placement has been finalized.
These feelings of loss, along with the actual loss by which they are roused, shouldn’t be ignored. Instead, they should be acknowledged and honored.
Hidden from sight, emotions like sorrow and regret only intensify.
Gently encouraging an expectant parent to confront their feelings without shame isn’t such a bad thing.
Joining a support group for birth parents, like the ones we offer at Adoptions From The Heart, can be a helpful idea to bring up.
Your first task, though, as a prospective parent is simply to listen. Listen with a compassionate ear.
If you’ve chosen to build your family through open adoption, you’ve already chosen to respect every member of the adoption triad as an individual, someone worthy of respect and deserving of care.
You don’t need to take on a parent’s problems as your own, but assure her or him that those problems are valid and real.
The inevitable flipside of making a difficult decision is doubting that decision.
Most expectant parents will doubt their choices continually.
Some will fall into depression, fading from social interactions and becoming increasingly reluctant to meet with prospective adoptive parents.
We define ourselves, in large part, in terms of the choices we make.
It’s not surprising that many expectant parents come to think that their choice to make an adoption plan for their baby says something fundamental, and usually negative, about who they are as people.
Emphasize that you believe she or he has made the right choice, a brave and selfless decision that reflects positively on their character.
With that being said, it can be easy to stray into “preachy” territory. This isn’t the time to provide life lessons.
You aren’t a therapist or a counselor and expectant parents aren’t your patients. As a hopeful adoptive parent you are allies, working toward the same goal, albeit allies who are living through very different experiences of the same event.
The journey of open adoption rests on the premise that expectant parents and prospective adoptive parents are both stronger for gaining some access (how much access is up to you) to their counterpart’s experiences.
As the delivery date approaches, understand that, as your own feelings of excitement and joy increase, the expectant parents emotions may be tending in the opposite direction.
Regardless of what she ultimately decides, as a prospective parent it’s important to give a woman with an adoption plan all the time and space she needs to make the right decision for her and her baby.
Maxine Chalker is the founder of Adoptions From The Heart and an adoptee.
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