Choosing adoption for your baby is a complicated process. It can also be a rewarding one, depending on your circumstances, the planning and preparation that go into your decision, and what happens afterwards.
With open adoption, in particular, you can have a say in many aspects of the pre-placement process, from choosing the adoptive parents to deciding how much contact you want to have with them and your child as he grows up.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. No matter how you look at it, no matter how much planning and preparation go into your plan or how committed you are to it, placement involves loss and can be a traumatic experience.
You’ve probably heard of the five stages of grief that people undergo after the loss of loved one or the end of a relationship. As someone who is thinking of adoption, you’ll experience a similar emotional journey in the months, weeks or days leading up to your child’s placement.
Although every expectant parent experiences this journey differently, here are some of the more common emotions you can expect to feel as you begin creating an adoption plan for your baby.
Nobody grows up hoping to have an unexpected pregnancy or to place a baby for adoption. So when it happens to you, your first thought will be “this can’t be happening.”
For as long as you can, you’ll do everything you can to deny you’re pregnant and push adoption to the back of your mind. But you can only do this for so long. Eventually you’ll need to face facts and take action.
Once reality sets in — whether it be after feeling your baby’s first kick or realizing that you’re no longer able to conceal your bulging belly — you’ll go through a period of pain and guilt. Overnight, your world will change. Fears and regret will consume you. Doubts and questions will pile up.
What do I do now? What will I tell my parents? What will they think of me? What will my friend say if I tell them I thinking of adoption? How will I find parents who will love my child as much as I do? Will I have enough time to do it? What happens if they don’t follow through on their promises?
Once the pain and guilt wear off, you’ll have to make some difficult decisions and a new set of emotions will kick in: anger and bargaining. You’ll lash out at people, looking for an outlet for your feelings.
You might blame the child’s father for walking out you after you told him you were pregnant. Or at your parents for not wanting to help you parent. Or at yourself for making bad choices. At the same time, you’ll vow to change your ways as you do everything you can to find a way out of your dilemma.
After anger often comes depression. Once you realize you’re unable to escape your predicament, you’ll slip into a period of sadness and helplessness where everything will appear dark and destructive.
You’ll tell yourself you’ve ruined your life, your child’s life, and the lives of those around you, and feel a deep sense of shame and despair. At times, it will feel like you’ll never be able to shake the feeling off. Until one day, a ray of light will suddenly appear and you’ll realize that things aren’t really as bad as you think they are.
Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re ready to jump and down and celebrate. It means coming to terms with your decision and having renewed hope in the future and the possibilities that await you.
Finding the right parents for your baby may trigger this emotion or it might come after you realize that, contrary to her earlier thoughts, the world won’t end just because you’re pregnant and thinking of adoption. Or it may come after you decide that parenting, not adoption, is your best option after all.
As you’re reading this, keep in mind that the emotions or emotional stages are simply guidelines. You may not experience them in the same order as they’re listed here or with the same intensity. You may stay in one stage longer than the others, and you may find yourself shifting back and forth between them.
Although loss is a personal experience and everyone deals with it in their own way, there are strategies you can apply, and people you can turn to, to help you make the most of the situation and begin the healing process.
Embrace your emotions
Adoption and loss can trigger a flood of emotions, some positive, others negative. Give yourself permission to experience the highs and lows as they arise. Don’t fight them. Doing so will only prolongue the pain and prevent you from healing.
Speak to a friend or family member
You may not understand what you’re going through or know how to cope. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help. And a good place to start with with people who know and love you, a family member or a friend.
Reach out to a support group
If you’re not comfortable reaching out to someone you know, there are lots of support groups that can help you. Because their members have been through what you’re experiencing, they can help you understand your situation better and give you strategies to cope.
Seek professional advice
Placing a baby for adoption can be overwhelming. There’s so much you need to know, and luckily there are professionals who can assist you. An licensed counsellor and legal expert can not only answer your questions, they can also explain how things work and walk you through each step of the process.
Adoption can trigger all kinds of negative thoughts. Am I bad person for thinking of adoption? Will people hate me for giving up my child? What will my child think of me when he grows up and realizes what I’ve done? Knowledge is key. The more you learn about the process, the more you’ll understand what open adoption means, your options and the role you can play in your child’s life.
Look on the bright side
Through understanding your options, you’ll gain more control over your life and feel better about your future. And you’ll eventually come to realize that there’s much more to you than your unplanned pregnancy and your decision to pursue adoption.
Shock, pain, anger, depression, acceptance are all normal and valid emotions if you’re thinking of placing a baby for adoption. Everyone experiences them in some form or another as they create an adoption plan, and deals with them differently.
Understand that these feelings will often fade over time, or be replaced by others, and that regardless of the decision you make — whether it’s to move forward with your adoption plan or not — you will come to terms with your choice and eventually find a sense of peace and comfort with it.
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