Posted on September 21, 2021 by Kim Laube
The vast majority of women who make an adoption plan for their child will tell you they weren’t sure in the beginning, likely changed their mind throughout the pregnancy, and eventually found peace with their decision at some point along the way.
“Adoption isn’t a birthmother’s rejection but an unconditional love that inspires her to put herself last and do all she can for her baby” — Mary Hines, Birthmother
The road to making the decision to place a child for adoption is lengthier for some women than others. Women we have served at Lutheran Family Service tell us that one of the most helpful and important things for them was having a trusted counselor who helped guide them in exploring all of their options from parenting to placing for adoption. Counselors at Lutheran Family Service help to guide women through a personal decision-making process that defines for them what information they need, who they believe needs to be a part of the decision-making process, and what their most important factors are in life.
Even after a decision to place their child for adoption is reached, it is not uncommon for a woman to waiver. Circumstances might change during their pregnancy, and opportunities that did not exist in the beginning may exist later. We understand and welcome opportunities to re-visit the decision-making process as often as is necessary for the women we serve. Uncertainty can be uncomfortable, but it is also expected in this process.
Eventually, we see women reach acceptance and peace that the decision made was the right one for them and for their child. When the decision for adoption is made, women often feel relief and certainty after they meet and develop a relationship with the adoptive family that they have hand-picked and chosen.
1. Choose an agency or attorney. Once you’ve made the decision to place your child for adoption, you will need to find a trusted source of information about adoption law in your state. Licensed adoption agencies or attorneys can provide this information. Lutheran Family Service is a licensed adoption agency, has a team of excellent and experienced counselors, and can provide assistance to women in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Reaching out is as easy as sending a text. Text “AdoptionHelp” to the number 56525 and we will get the process started.
2. Meet in person. Once you’ve chosen an adoption agency or attorney, it’s time to talk in person. It can feel a bit overwhelming to have a face-to-face meeting for some women, but it’s an important way to build a relationship with an advocate that you can trust. Meeting face-to-face also assures you that you have a counselor there to walk with you and be there to support you through every step of the way (in person). Unfortunately, there are agencies out there that are not licensed, who prey upon the vulnerability of women in crisis, and will not be “by your side” but rather they attempt to orchestrate an adoption from afar without ever providing you with the care you really need and deserve such as counseling in decision making, coordination of an appropriate attorney to represent you, discussions over the type of family you think would work best, and coordination of future contact. It is highly recommended that you meet face-to-face with your agency or attorney before going any further in the adoption process.
3. Ask the necessary questions. Make sure to ask all the important questions to ensure the adoption agency or attorney is the right fit for you. You will see the answers from Lutheran Family Service below each question. Compare these to the answers you may hear from other agencies or attorneys. Decide what is best for you and your adoption journey.
• What is the process for my parental rights to be terminated?
Lutheran Family Service will pay for an attorney to represent you if you determine you want to place your child for adoption. The attorney will draw up the relinquishment papers and a petition to the court for the termination of your parental rights. The attorney will go to court on your behalf; you do not need to attend.
• Can I change my mind about an adoption, and if so, when can I undue any plan I have made?
Each state has its own set of laws that will apply. Generally speaking, there is a revocation period for the birth parents after the birth of their baby and placement for adoption. If the you change your mind within that period, you have the right to do so, and your baby would be returned to you. If you change your mind once the timeframe expires, it becomes much more difficult or impossible to undue. Again, each states’ laws are different, and the time frames will differ. It is important to get this specific information dependent on where you are giving birth.
• Is there someone to help me at the hospital with labor and delivery support or to just coordinate the adoptive family visiting the baby?
Lutheran Family Service aids with both labor and delivery support and with the coordination of having a pre-adoptive family at the hospital too. Having the pre-adoptive family present is only an option and is not required. Your adoption caseworker can help make a hospital plan that is right for you.
• Can I select the family? How does that work?
Yes, we absolutely encourage women to choose the family that feels right to them. However, it is not required. Most women we work with do want to participate in selecting the right family for their child. Some do this by looking at photobooks and others will meet the potential couple face-to-face. We are willing to assist you in the way you feel most comfortable.
• I need help in making this decision. Do you provide counseling sessions to help me?
Lutheran Family Service will provide counseling sessions to assist you in decision making about what is best for you and your baby. We can involve other people in your life, like the father of the child, if you want them involved. Pregnancy Counseling is a free service. We will travel to you or provide transportation assistance for you to get to us, if you need it.
• I may need counseling after the baby is placed for adoption. Do you provide that?
The Lutheran Family Service team will stay by your side for as long as you need us. We can provide after care in a couple of ways. First, your pregnancy counselor can keep in touch with you and have occasional visits as you heal from the grief of separation. Second, for those who may already have a diagnosis of depression, anxiety or other mental illness, one of Lutheran Family Service’s mental health counselors may be a better choice because they are equipped to bring in therapeutic strategies that will best suit your full mental health needs. We also find that after an adoption has taken place, women sometimes find it to be a hurtful reminder to see the same pregnancy counselor during aftercare. But, for others, it is reassuring because they have developed a supportive relationship. The point is, we want to help take care of you in the best way possible and each woman’s preferences may be different.
Making a loving adoption plan for your child will be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. There is simply no way of making it emotionally easy, but there are several ways of making it easier.
Emotions that you can expect to feel include doubt, sadness, anger, jealousy, emptiness, responsibility, and love. There will be times that you doubt the decision of placing your child for adoption. It cannot be helped. Even if you have found the most amazing adoptive parents for your child, you will have moments where you doubt if the decision for adoption is better than parenting your child yourself. The feelings of doubt can be made worse as sadness creeps in.
Sadness is unavoidable in these circumstances and is an emotion that you need to feel. In years past, women were expected to give up their child at birth and never hold or see them. They were supposed to “forget” and move on. At Lutheran Family Service, we know that this can be harmful to the healing process. Placing your child for adoption is no doubt a trauma for you and your child. However, it is a trauma that can be healed. The process of healing must include feeling the feelings that go along with the trauma. Sadness needs to be present, and the loss needs to be real so that you can begin the healing process. We encourage our birth parents to see, hold, touch, and talk to their precious babies. Avoidance of the sadness that comes along with separation from your child will only delay or stop the healing process.
Anger is another emotion you can likely expect during the process of placing your child for adoption. Anger over the present circumstances that cause you to feel unable to parent successfully, anger with the father of your child, and anger with people in your life who do not agree with your decision. Jealousy is also common. You may feel very jealous of the circumstances that the adoptive parents have and wish they were your circumstances. You may also feel very empty and emotionally and physically spent. When we have a high level of emotions for an extended period of time, it can make you feel this way. It’s important to know that you won’t always feel this way, and that it will get better. You may need both time and guidance to help see you through. That is why Lutheran Family Service offers all of our unplanned pregnancy outreach clients free services that include counseling.
Last, you will feel a sense of great responsibility and love. You truly are responsible for making decisions for your child. Making tough decisions in the best interest of your child is at the very core of loving your child. The love you feel for your child will be fierce. We are designed that way, and you should expect that no matter how “detached” you try to be from your child, you will have an undeniable love for that child and a need and desire to be with them. Hormones in our bodies make us feel that way because we have been designed to be in relationship. That is what makes this process hard; our head tells us one thing and our heart (or desires) tell us another.
So, the hard truth is, there is no way to avoid the hurt of placing your child for adoption. Separating from a child is hurtful, but is also sometimes necessary. Women who have the best outcomes are the ones who accept they will hurt, who have a plan for dealing with their emotions, who have a trusted support person to remind them of the reason for their adoption plan, who feel assured the adoptive parents are good people who love their child, who have a plan for their own future, who touch, hold, and talk to their child, and who design some sort of future contact with or information sharing about their child.
Not everyone is equipped to do all these things, but the closer we can get to that point the better chance there is for a successful outcome for everyone involved.
Director of Life Ministries
Lutheran Family Service
If you or someone you know is considering adoption, please have them reach out via text, email, webform or phone.
Or, learn more about out unplanned pregnancy support services on our website here: https://lutheranfamilyservice.org/pregnancy-support/
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