Weathering an Adoption Change of Heart

Posted on November 21st, 2019

Adoption is an incredibly beautiful thing in so many ways.

When an expectant mother chooses life, so many lives are forever and beautifully changed. Nonetheless, the journey of adoption can also be tough. The wait, the worry, the unknown and the unexpected.

With adoption can come the unexpected – a change of heart. It is possible that the expectant mother who has chosen an adoption plan for her baby, and chose you to be the parents, has a change of heart. This, of course, can be heartbreaking for hopeful adoptive parents despite best efforts to plan and prepare for this as a possibility.

Iowa law is designed so that birthparents cannot sign any legal document until the baby is 72 hours old.  The birthparents then have 96 hours from signing the release of custody to revoke their consent. The revocation period gives birthparents a chance to re-evaluate the lifelong decision for their child and determine one last time if adoption is best. There is more to the process of termination of parental rights, but generally speaking, at the end of the revocation period, the adoptive family can breathe a big sigh of relief, as the permanency of the child in their care is much more well-known at this point.

At Lutheran Family Service, we walk alongside expectant mothers to provide counsel and direction for her pregnancy. It is our hope that by providing frequent one-on-one time with our clients in discernment and counsel, that her plans would be firm by the time her child is born. Additionally, the relationship we have built with her will give her the ability to have frank and honest discussion with us if her plans begin to change. However, with adoption, there are no guarantees.

There are never higher odds than 50/50 that an adoption plan will be carried out. After an expectant mother has chosen an adoption plan, she has two choices. The first is to carry through with her plan; the second is to change her mind and decide to parent her child. And while this is easy to understand, pre-adoptive parents are already falling in love and making plans for the baby before he or she is even born.

What do you do if the adoption plan is unexpectedly changed?

First, we recommend that you take the time to acknowledge and grieve the loss. Even if you never met the child, you likely already loved him or her. Pray for the wellbeing of that child and his/her parents. Lean on your spouse and on your faith. Let your family and church family comfort you in your loss.

Next, give yourself time to heal before deciding to pursue adoption again. The time it takes to be ready is personal and different for everyone. If you and/or your spouse are finding it especially hard to move forward, you may want to consider professional grief counseling.

Finally, remember that the baby’s mother is not a bad person and should not be vilified for changing her decision. She has also been walking on her own difficult journey full of worries and heart-wrenching choices. It is also important to remember that her change of heart didn’t have anything to do with you personally. Ultimately, she made the decision that she felt was best for her child.

When adoptive parents are chosen by an expectant mother seeking adoption, they are asked to love that child wholeheartedly, whether they are with them for a day or for a lifetime. Whatever God has in store, we must be prepared to accept. This is asking a lot of our families, and we are forever grateful that you are willing to open yourselves up to the vulnerability that is inherit in newborn infant adoption.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

Should you be in the Lutheran Family Service adoption program, we will most certainly be by your side and help you walk your journey – whether it’s sunny skies or a thunderstorm. We will help you find strength and comfort through reliance on God.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Tiffany Bergman – Lutheran Family Service Pregnancy & Adoption Caseworker