The other day someone asked me a question that I imagine a lot of expectant parents wonder about: How do you know when you’re ready to place your baby for adoption? Is there a sign or a voice that tells you that you’re ready to move forward with your plan? And if so, when does it happen — early in your pregnancy or later? Before the birth of your child or afterwards?
As an adoptive parent, I’ve never had to deal with that question directly so I can only guess at what the answer is. But from what I know from talking to parents who have placed their baby for adoption and professionals in the field, I wonder if anyone really knows the answer to that one.
That’s because adoption, and especially placing a baby for adoption, is such an intensely personal and complicated decision. Each situation is different, just as each person who makes the decision is different. So it’s hard to come up with a definitive answer that would apply to every expectant mother in every situation. That said, here are some common scenarios that have guided others about when, and whether, to place their baby for adoption.
When you first become pregnant
Believe it or not, there are some expectant parents who say that right from the moment they learned they were pregnant they knew that adoption was the right path for them. Although it was the toughest decision they ever made, they say it was the best one they ever made and that they have no regrets.
Their reasons for making an adoption plan varied from one individual to the next. Some said they knew they weren’t able to parent or didn’t want to parent. Others said they wanted their baby to have a two-parent family or they wanted their child to have a different life than the one they could offer. And still others said it was because they knew someone, a friend or family member, who had placed a baby for adoption and had a good experience. Whatever their reasons were, the one thing they all agreed on was that they knew that someone else, not them, was meant to raise their child. And that as hard as their decision was to make, they were at peace with it.
Early in your pregnancy
Although you can’t place your baby for adoption until after she’s born, you can start thinking about a plan at any stage of your pregnancy. Due to the stigma and stereotypes attached to adoption, an expectant mother will typically put off looking at it as an option until she’s explored her other options, parenting or terminating their pregnancy. For most expectant parents, adoption is an afterthought (the “mystery choice,” as it’s sometimes referred to), something they’ll only consider after they’ve exhausted all of their other choices.
But once they start exploring what open adoption is and realize that it’s different from what they thought it was — for instance, that it allows them to choose the parents for their baby and have an ongoing relationship with them — they often become more comfortable with the idea of placement. Making a decision early in your pregnancy has its share of benefits for expectant parents. First, it will give you time to thoroughly research what’s involved in the process. Second, it will give you a chance to find a family that’s right for your baby without feeling rushed or pressured into making a decision.
After finding parents for your baby
Nothing will speed up your adoption decision faster than finding parents for your baby. For many expectant parents, it’s the turning point in their adoption journey. Prior to being matched with a family, your adoption plan will feel like an idea. Finding parents, however, will turn it into something real, especially if you find ones that you really connect with.
Many expectant parents say that knowing there was a family out there that would love their child as much as they would and give their child the life they wanted for them removed a lot of their questions and doubts and put their mind at rest. Plus, it gave them a support system they could lean on, especially if they were at odds with their baby’s father and their family over their adoption plan.
Later in your pregnancy
Creating an adoption plan early in your pregnancy has its share of benefits in allowing you to find parents for your baby and develop a relationship with them. But the more you get to know them and the deeper you get involved with them financially and emotionally, the more pressure you’ll feel to go through with your decision. Just because you clicked with them early in your pregnancy doesn’t mean that you won’t change your mind about them or your adoption plan as you get closer to your delivery date. And that could cause complications for you and the parents hoping to adopt your child.
For that reason, some agencies will put off matching their expectant parents until they’re in their third trimester. Meeting adoptive parents in the later stages of your pregnancy may not give you as much time to spend together and bond with them. But it will still allow you to discuss the relationship you want to have together after the placement has been finalized and to start making arrangements for the placement of your child at the hospital.
At the birth of your baby
When it comes to placing a baby for adoption, this is by far the most common scenario. Most placements today occur directly at the hospital, after the expectant mother has given birth. As an expectant parent, placing your baby for adoption at birth will allow you to say goodbye to your baby and start to move on with your life. And it will allow the adoptive parents to begin the bonding process right away and adjust to their new lives as parents.
If you decide on doing your placement at this time, make sure that you choose and meet the family prior to arriving at the hospital and that the hospital staff is aware of your plan beforehand. Things will be stressful enough without having to worry about any unexpected surprises that may arise once you’re there.
After you’ve brought your baby home
Most expectant parents make an adoption plan before the birth of their baby. But if you’re still struggling with your decision, there’s nothing that stops you from waiting until after your baby’s birth. In fact, many birthparents and adoption professionals believe you should make your decision to place twice — once before the birth of your baby and once afterwards — since your feelings about it will likely change over this time.
If, on the other hand, you’re still thinking about parenting, bringing your baby home will give you a chance to try it out and see how you do. If, however, you’re still undecided and you feel that bringing your baby home could make things more difficult for you, you might think about putting your baby in foster care. It will give you more time and space to consider all of your options and make a decision that suits you.
As you can see, there’s no right time to starting thinking about making an adoption plan. The timing really depends on you and your readiness to move forward with it. In the end, your decision to place needs to work for you and your schedule, not your adoption agency’s or adoption worker’s or the family that’s hoping to adopt. Remember, placing your baby for adoption is your decision, and you’re the only one who can make it.
When did you know that adoption was the right decision for you? What helped you to make your decision? Please leave your comments in the section below.