Monday, March 10, 2014

What's a "good" reason to place your baby for adoption?

Failed adoptions are NO fun.

After two failed adoptions, I've thought a lot about the women who are making these decisions to place their babies for adoption. Both of them went all the way up until the day the baby was born before we found out they'd changed their minds last minute. They had reasons for the adoptions to go through. Good enough reasons to make a plan, tell family members, choose an adoptive family, and then keep us informed about pregnancy-related things along the way. But in the end, they either forgot all that and made an emotional decision to parent, or they had unspoken doubts and their reasons for the adoption really weren't good enough to go through with it. As much as it sucked for us, we respected their decisions and tried to see things from their perspectives (even when our hearts were on fire and we felt sick when the realization of our losses hit us).

I've met a lot of birth mothers through adoption events I've attended. Their stories are all so different, but the underlying theme is that for whatever reason they were unprepared for a child (or that particular child) and they knew it. Not always through fault of their own, but some find themselves faced with that decision because of their own choices. There are some women who are products of their environment and are living in a cycle of poverty and/or abuse that they need help getting out of. But they have to deal with one issue at a time and the pressing issue is a child who is coming. Many are unprepared because they can't be both mother AND father, and that's important to them.

I believe in adoption because I believe in a woman's right to choose. That she can make a choice to remove a child from an unsafe or inadequate situation and find a family who is prepared to parent in whatever way she sees fit. For WHATEVER reason, a woman should be able to make this choice. Adoption is never an automatic, easy, obvious choice. It's extremely difficult and personal. But if a woman decides that is best for her child, she is doing the right thing.

You can't really say... "She was raped, so she should place the baby for adoption." Or, "She's too young, so she should place the baby for adoption." That's for her to decide. There aren't a set of circumstances that make it the automatic, easy, obvious choice. It's always going to be personal. But no one should blame a woman for doing it if she knew it was the best thing for her child. Or not doing it if she didn't think it was the best thing. It's easy to judge someone, but it's very hard to imagine what you would do in her shoes.

Having said that, there are many reasons women do end up voluntarily placing their child for adoption. Depending on who you are and what you think is important, these are what I think are possible "good" reasons to place your baby for adoption:

(These won't all matter to all women, or even to me if I were the one faced with this decision... but they are "good" reasons if you think they are and you're making an adoption decision with the best intentions for the child's well-being, after going over all your options.)
* You will be a single parent. You don't have a support system good enough to help you manage single parenthood on your own. And/or it is very important to you that your baby have an adequate father right from the beginning of his/her life. You believe that a child should have two parents who are married.

* You are young. Too young to be ready in any way to be a parent. Too inexperienced and you want to gain more experience first. You haven't gotten an education or learned to work to provide for someone else yet. You haven't had a chance yet to learn to be independent and self-reliant. Children demand time, attention, patience, and money - a lot more than most teens or even women in their early 20's have.

* Even if you're not young, if you're just not ready to be a mother. You're in the middle of getting an education or you have a demanding career or you have any priority that is higher than starting a family at that time, to the point where you know you will not be able to give a child the attention they will need.

* You were raped. Taken advantage of by someone. A stranger. A man you trusted. Or someone much older than you who should've known better. Even though the child is innocent, you don't want to raise his child and relive the trauma over and over. You don't think he should be able to force you to be a parent by his actions, when you weren't ready to be one.
* You don't have a job or the ability to afford the new baby. Whether it's your first or your fifth child. Each new child brings his/her own needs - at the very least food, clothing, and shelter that you must provide.

* You're homeless or living in an otherwise unsafe environment for a child.

* You are in an abusive family/relationship and you're concerned for the baby's safety.  (Side note: GET OUT of that situation! There is never a good reason to stick around and keep accepting abuse.)

* You're an addict and don't want to expose your child to the lifestyle anymore than you already have during pregnancy. (Side note: If you don't voluntarily relinquish your baby to a family you've chosen and drugs are found in your baby's system when they are born, they will be taken away from you anyway and put in foster care.)

* Your baby will have special needs that you are inadequately equipped to handle, emotionally or financially.
* If for any reason you're not ready or able to be a parent at that particular time in your life, but you still want to have a relationship with your child. Most adoptions today are open.

Reasons I think are not good reasons to place your baby for adoption:
* To punish yourself for "sins" you believe you have committed. Forgiveness does not require sacrificing your child.

* Because you're scared to be a mom or feel inadequate. All new moms are scared to some degree and do a lot of learning-on-the-job with parenting.

* You're doing it to please other people, make your parents happy, etc.

* You haven't researched all your options and you're going into it blindly without any or little counseling.

* Above anything else, you don't believe in your heart that it's the right thing to do.

If I could say anything to a woman who is thinking about placing her baby for adoption right now, I would say...
  1. Thank you for choosing life over other alternatives. 
  2. Get counseling from someone who will honestly talk to you about parenting and adoption. Placing your baby will be hard. Parenting will be hard.
  3. If you want to place your baby, make your adoption decision when you are clear headed and not overly emotional and write those reasons down so you can read them back to yourself after the baby is born (and before you sign anything or frantically run from the hospital in an emotional panic).
  4. Don't involve adoptive parents until the last possible second, when you are absolutely positive about an adoption decision and have pen in hand to start signing relinquishment papers. Because if you aren't sure and you back out, this will be devastating to those people. Don't involve them until you are ready and sure.
  5. You are loved! And not alone. Many women have been where you are right now and lived to tell about it. But you will be a changed person after having a child. For the better.
  6. Remember that placing your child for adoption doesn't mean that they are "unwanted." Most mamas want their child, but in some situations the needs of the child outweigh the wants of the mother. Only you can decide if that's the case. In an open adoption, they'll always know the reasons and will know they weren't abandoned or unloved - quite the opposite!
  7. Know that placing your baby for adoption is not a sin. I love THIS POST that explains that so well. "... it is not a sin to procure a safe and secure place for your child to grow. It is not a shameful thing to choose a stable situation for your child over an unstable one – in fact, that’s actually a pretty big part of being a mother, making sacrifices for the welfare of another." 
  8. Do what you think is best and have the confidence to hold your head up high regarding that decision. You aren't selfish if you choose to parent, if that's what you think is best. And you will always be a mama, even if you choose adoption.

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