What is it really like to place a baby for adoption?
Although everyone has an opinion about birthmothers and their decision to place, the inner workings of that decision still remain a mystery to many people.
That’s why this article published in Cosmopolitan earlier this week is worth reading.
Based on interviews with four anonymous birthmothers ages 24 to 33, “What It’s Really Like to Place Your Baby For Adoption” takes readers behind-the-scenes, sharing the women’s placement stories and how the experience has changed their lives.
All members of the adoption triad will find many points of interest in these first-hand accounts. But for anyone who’s hoping to find an adoption match with an expectant other or thinking about creating an adoption plan for her baby, these stories will be of particular interest.
From what leads someone to choose adoption to what to expect down the road, you can find it all here.
Keep in mind that every birthmother story is different and not everyone has the same experience as these women, who were 16 to 21 years old when they placed.
Interestingly, while all of them say they are at peace with their decision (and in at least one case, “really happy” about it), it’s clear that they weren’t made without a lot of challenges, tears, and pain—some of which still lingers to this day.
Here is a summary of the main points.
For Woman A (all of the women chose to remain anonymous and are referred to as Woman A, B, C, or D), choosing adoption wasn’t a difficult decision.
Having watched her sisters struggle to raise their children after having them at a young age, she knew that being a young mother wasn’t for her.
Worth noting is her comment that while many people think of the decision to place a baby as “selfless,” she felt very selfish—that she was putting her over my child’s.
At the same time she says that because her son’s father was still in school and she was working only ten hour a week, she realized that she wasn’t ready to for parenthood.
As for Woman B, she says that she chose adoption because she had been raised in a single parent home and didn’t have any illusions about what parenting involved.
Plus, she was only 19 years old when she got pregnant and still in school and felt that she wasn’t in a place where she could look after her child’s needs.
In the case of Woman C, she chose adoption because she wanted her child to be raised in a two-parent home.
Even though she knew she would face a lot of heartbreak, she decided that the pros of giving her child “more opportunities and be(ing) raised in the best circumstances” outweighed the cons.
When Woman D learned she was pregnant she knew she wasn’t in a position to parent her daughter. She was already a single parent and struggling.
Living in a homeless shelter, she wanted her daughter to “have everything and that did not seem possible if I decided to keep her.”
All of the birthmothers say they considered other alternatives before choosing adoption. However, because they were late into their pregnancy, in most cases they were left with only two options: adoption or parenting.
In each case, they decided that as much as they would have liked to parent, they weren’t ready to do it. It would have required making huge sacrifices and concessions.
In at least two cases, the women made their decision without the input or support of the babies’ fathers. With Woman C, the birthfather initially opposed the adoption and wanted to parent instead. But due to his addictions and time in and out of jail, he wasn’t able to fulfil that role.
With Woman D, the father wasn’t involved in the deicsion at all, but signed the papers willingly when the time came.
Placing a baby for adoption isn’t an isolated event. It not only affects the baby’s mother and father, it also has an impact on their entire family.
Sometimes, if the expectant mother doesn’t share her decision with family members or they aren’t supportive of her decision, it can cause major stress and divisions between the parties involved.
And that’s exactly what happened to Woman A. Because she knew her family wouldn’t back her decision, she kept it a secret until she was in the hospital.
Although her parents eventually came around to her decision, to this day she doesn’t talk to one of her sisters because of it.
In Woman’s B case, she says her parents were “relatively” supportive of her decision to create an adoption plan, but that some of her closest friends stopped calling her after they learned of her decision.
On the up side, she did manage to make some new friends, some of whom she’s still friendly with today.
In speaking about their experiences, all of the woman say disappointing their family was their biggest fear. Woman A was also worried that her son’s adoptive family would cut off contact with her and that she would regret her decision.
In Woman’s B case, she worried that her child would grow up to hate her.
“I was really terrified that she would not understand why I placed her,” she says. As a result, she chose to have an open adoption, which allows her to write letters to her child explaining her decision.
Woman C also worried that she would regret her decision down the road even though at the time she believed it was the right thing to do.
Woman D was afraid that her birth daughter and the son she was raising would both hate her for choosing adoption for her daughter and not for her son.
Finding a family
Waiting parents are always curious to hear what expectant mothers are looking for in an adoptive family and how to bolster their chances of finding a match. These stories offer some interesting insights into both topics.
In a couple of cases, it just came down to fate — finding a couple that “clicked.”
As Woman B describes it, when she saw her child’s adoption profile, “something in me just clicked. I just knew they were the ones. They weren’t exactly what I was looking for or thought I wanted, but I just knew it in my heart that they were meant to be her parents.”
Ditto for Woman D: “When I met them, I knew right away. They were perfect.”
When it came to finding a family for their baby, Woman A says she was open to anyone: single parents adopting, gay couples, etc. As she explained, “We just wanted someone who clicked with us.”
Eventually she found them at the bottom of the pile. The moment she saw the couple she knew they were the right ones.
So what sold her on them? “A goofy picture of them on the last page posing with a penguin from a friend’s wedding. They looked so happy and I just knew that they were who I wanted to be my son’s parents.”
For Woman B, it also came down a feeling she had about them. She also liked the fact that they had two older sons, enjoyed music, raised animals, and were religious.
In the case of Woman C, humor also played a role. She also felt that the family was genuine and kind. “They were so great I kind of wanted to be a part of their family.”
A few of them commented on how overwhelming the selection process was. At one point Woman D was so exhausted that she she told her agency to choose for her. “They said I had to pick someone and I just said, “‘How do you pick someone to raise your child?'”
But then her counsellor gave her a profile and she connected with them right away. “I wanted to help build their family,” she says.
Like many birthmothers, most of the women interviewed say they weren’t sure how much openness they wanted at the outset. Anyone who’s ever gone through the process would agree that it’s one of the biggest unknowns.
Yes, you can plan how much contact or openness you want to have, but until you’re actually in an open adoption—until you’re actually living it—it’s hard to know how much is right for you.
In the case of Woman A, contact started out as pictures and letters for the first six month.
But once she realized how much she enjoyed seeing and hearing about her child, she and the adoptive parents decided to have more contact. Nowadays they email 3-4 times a month and exchange photos.
“I can’t sing their praises enough,” she says. “They have always been so conscious about what I was going through and being respectful. Even now, they continue to email me even though I don’t always respond. They are really dedicated to my being a part of our son’s life and vice versa.”
Woman B also didn’t know how much openness she wanted at the begining.
Originally, she thought letters and pictures would be enough. But over time, their closeness grew and today their relationship includes yearly visits and exchanges on Facetime and Skype.
Best of all, the openness and contact comes easily for her. “We really love each other. It’s like having an extra family. Her mom is one of my favorite people in the world and her dad is someone I feel I can always turn to for sound advice.”
For her, the openness has been there from the beginning. “They didn’t just want my baby, they wanted me to be part of the family and they have held true to that.”
Placing a baby for adoption is a complicated, emotional process. No matter how much preparation goes into it, there will still be many things that catch participants off-guard.
In the case of Woman A, the guilt she felt was the biggest surprise. Although she says she never regretted her decision, she was shocked by the amount of guilt she experiences at the time and still feels to this day.
“I feel bad that I couldn’t take care of my son, that I shirked my responsibilities as his mother, and that I couldn’t provide for him,” she says, adding that a lot of her concerns fade when she thinks about how much he’s been able to do because of his parents.
For woman B, the biggest surprises were the lack of support she received from her agency after the placement and how hard the experience was. “There was one particular moment in the hospital where I literally felt my heart split in two,” she says. “My daughter was so incredibly perfect and amazing. I had no idea the love I could have for a child at only 19 years old.”
For Woman C, the painfulness of the process was also a bit of surprise.
She says she didn’t realize how long the hurt would last and didn’t know how to help herself because she didn’t have anyone to talk to. It wasn’t until a few years later that she says she found the strength and courage to share her grief publicly.
Looking back at their decision, most of the birthmothers say they feel good about it. Woman A says although there are times she wishes her son was with her and that her decision caused a strain within her family, she can’t imagine him without his parents.
“They are all so perfect for each other and there is a proud feeling of knowing that I was part of creating a family,” she says. “I was so lucky with my son’s parents because I loved them so much that there wasn’t enough room for doubt to creep in.”
Plus, she says, placing her child for adoption gave her the motivation to change her life and do something with it.
Woman B says that although placing her baby for adoption was the right decision, it was also the hardest thing she had ever done. She says whenever she thinks of the moments in the hospital, the placement, and then the grieving after placement, her “heart hurts. I can’t believe I got through it.”
Woman C echos that sentiment. “There were and are moments that I miss her so immensely that I have to lay down and crawl under my covers to cry. There are also times when all I can think about is the what ifs, but I still know with every fiber of my being it was the right decision to place her for adoption.”
Looking back, says she’s proud of her daughter and proud of her decision to place because “in my own little way, I’ve impacted someone’s life for the better, which is cool.”
Still, she says she wishes she would have had more support and information about what it life would be like after placement.
“I kind of lost my way for a while,” she says. “I didn’t cope with the pain I felt, so instead I fell into a steady stream of destructive behavior. I was punishing myself because I worried that my not being ready to be a mother had let her down.”
Woman D also says that she wishes someone had explained her rights to her and regrets that she didn’t have a larger voice in the decision-making process.
She adds that had she known about adoption what she knows today, she would have chosen to keep hers open.
Advice for others
When it comes to advising other women about choosing adoption, all of the birthmothers stressed the importance of finding stories from birthparents.
“But not just positive stories,” as Woman A puts it. “Read about the birth parents who were forgotten about, who are struggling, who desperately want their children back. Then read about people like me, who love their children’s parents and who had a great agency that helped them.”
She also recommends expectant parents read stories from adoptees who have been ignored or pushed aside and says it’s important to work with an agency that will present you with all of the options, not just the one they’re pushing.
Woman B also stressed the importance of educating yourself about the pros and cons of the process, reading other birthmother stories, and finding support within the community.
For her part, Woman C says everyone has the right to choose the option that’s right for them and that adoption is a really good alternative that shouldn’t be ignored.
In the case of Woman D, the most important piece of advice she has for people considering adoption is to write down how much involvement you want to have with your birth child and the family and to compare your expectations when you’re considering potential adoptive families.
Honest and at times heartbreaking, these birthmother stories cover a lot of ground and can be very instructive for families that are hoping to adopt or considering adoption for their baby. They show that although the women have found peace with their decision, it isn’t one that came easily and still has an enormous impact on them and their families today.
As mentioned, these are just four stories out of thousands and not representative of every placement story. We encourage you to read other stories to deepen your understanding of birthmothers and their decision to place.
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