By Leah Sheldon
For women coming to terms with an unplanned pregnancy, the first step in the decision-making process often involves a visit to a family planning clinic, hospital, or the home of a trusted friend.
Adoption can be a loving and beneficial choice, but it is often seen as a last-resort option for women who don’t feel ready or able to parent, or to parent another child.
Some women choose to create something called an open adoption, during which the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) work together to create the type of relationship that will work best for the two families and the adopted child.
If you are unexpectedly pregnant, what can you do to figure out if adoption is the right choice?
Every day, Rachel Herndon, MSW (the Birthmother Services Coordinator at Adoption Connection), talks to women who are considering placing their baby with an adoptive family. The first thing she does is present all three pregnancy options in a neutral and non-judgmental way.
Rachel says, “One of the most important messages I try to convey to a pregnant woman who calls us is that I will never pressure her to make a particular decision, whether adoption, termination, or parenting. We want every woman to come out of this time in her life feeling like she had the space and support to make the best decision for herself.”
Putting Ideas Down on Paper
Leslie Foge, MA, MFCC (a therapist and author), has also counseled many women through their decision making so they can decide if they truly want to proceed with an adoption plan.
Counselors can assist pregnant women in weighing their options by helping them sort out their feelings and needs. That way, they can really see where their values lie and what impact a child will have on their lives. Leslie says:
“I try to convey the idea that really looking at all your choices is a way of being totally responsible. There is nothing wrong with putting on different pairs of shoes to see which ones fit. You may surprise yourself.”
Leslie suggests that women write out a list of values that are very important to them–for example, having family support if she decides to parent, finishing school, feeling psychologically and financially ready to raise a child then–and that they prioritize the list in order of importance.
If a prospective birthmother’s highest value is to finish high school and go on to get more education and training, then parenting a child is going to negatively affect this goal. On the other hand, if her highest value is that babies should always stay with their biological mothers, then adoption will not be a strong choice.
Rachel agrees, saying:
“I encourage each client to honestly consider each path would look like and I remind her there are many ways to cultivate a good life. For some, that may mean parenting now, even with financial or relationship challenges, while for others, it means placing a baby for adoption and working toward a future where she can feel more prepared to parent later.”
By getting a values list down on paper, women considering their choices can look over the list from time to time as they figure out their options.
Values and goals can change for women, but first impressions may be a guide as decisions takes shape.
Getting Support Once You’ve Chosen Adoption
If a woman decides that she wants to go ahead with adoption, Leslie suggests that a prospective birthmother seek out the support of reliable friends and family early, so that she will have an idea of who will be able to give unconditional support when the going gets tough.
“Down the road, a birthmother may experience strong feelings, fears, and concerns, and it will be easier if she knows who will support her all the way through the adoption process.”
One of the most important sources of support for birthmothers is meeting and talking with other birthmothers.
Rachel says, “Other birthmothers are the ones who truly understand the emotional and social costs of placing a child for adoption and they can also share the joy and peace that come with choosing the right adoptive family and developing a relationship with them over time. In my experience, birthmothers cite their relationships with other birthmothers as key to getting through the adoption process.”
An Open Adoption Means an Open Door to Communication
Choosing to create an adoption plan is never going to be effortless for either the birthmother or the adoptive family.
Leslie reminds birthmothers that, “Adoption is not a fly-by-night decision and is not made out of a place of weakness, but from a place of real strength.”
Adoption Connection runs support groups for women who have placed their babies in Northern California. Contact us to find out more information.
Learn more about Leslie Foge and her book written for women considering an adoption plan.
Related posts: Needing Somebody Who Will Listen in Unplanned PregnancyThese blog post are based on an interview with Rachel Herndon MSW, Adoption Connection’s Birthmother Services Coordinator and Leslie Foge, MA, MFCC, a therapist, lecturer, and the co-author of The Third Choice: A Woman’s Guide to Placing a Child for Adoption. They spoke to us about their experiences in working with women who are considering providing an adoptive home for their babies.