Should you give your baby up for adoption?



photo/ lamb white
by Lorraine Dusky and Jane Edwards, First Mother Forum

YOU WANT THE BEST FOR YOUR BABY AND YOU’VE HEARD THAT PLACING YOUR BABY FOR ADOPTION WITH AN OLDER, WEALTHIER COUPLE IS BEST.

The truth is according to child welfare experts that in most cases staying with you, his mother, is the best for your child.

Your body is preparing for your baby to come into the world and preparing you to care for him. Your breasts will produce antibodies to help your baby ward off disease, antibodies that he can only get from your milk. Once your baby is here, all your instincts will tell you to nurture him. In fact, your body at birth releases a hormone (oxytocin) to assure that you will bond with your baby, and be flooded with love for him.

Your baby knows your voice; your scents, your movements. When he is born, he wants to be with you.

Your baby will look like you and his father. He will share your interests and talents. He is a unique human being created from the DNA of the two of you. Adoptive parents will be strangers to him. Yes, in time he can bond with them, but it will different than if he were living with his natural family. Adoptive parents may be able to give your child more material goods--but they can’t replace you.

You may be considering adoption because you don't like, or even detest, your baby's father. We've found, though, that even mothers whose babies are conceived in rape cherish their babies and grieve for them when they are gone just as mothers whose babies are conceived in love do.  It's possible for you to work through your feelings about your baby's father and be a mother to your child.

No first time mother-to-be feels ready to nurture her child. You can prepare yourself just as adoptive parents will have to do.

You may have heard that giving up your baby will increase your chances of finishing school and having a career. Babies are demanding, but the truth is that most teen moms and their children end up doing just fine. Most find help they didn't imagine was available. It can be tough at first--but we’ve never met a single mom who regretting keeping her baby, and we've met and talked to many, many moms who regret giving up their baby. We use that language here--giving up--because that is what it is. You give up your baby, even if your social worker is talking about how brave you are for making an adoption plan so that your baby can "have a better life."

Jane
What you are probably not hearing from the social worker is that individuals who are adopted generally suffer--from the loss of their birth parents, and the loss of cultural and family connections, the loss of security of knowing they belong exactly where they are. Many struggle with issues of identity, abandonment and self-esteem all through their lives to varying degrees, even if their adoptive parents are wonderful people. They are not the people your child will grow up looking like. No matter how many times your child is told that you gave him up because you loved him, so that he could have a better life, he may feel abandoned, and that he was not "good enough to keep."

Adoptive parents are not "special" although they may appear so in adoption agency advertisements, where they are presenting themselves to look "special" to get you to choose them. Remember, adoptive parents, like other people, may divorce, lose their jobs, have health problems, abuse alcohol and drugs.

The only person who can be sure that your child has the love and nurturing you want for your baby is you.

RESOURCES THAT CAN HELP YOU CAN RAISE YOUR BABY

Start by talking to your parents and your baby’s father’s parents. Your parents may be upset about your pregnancy, but parents often come around when they stop thinking of “the problem” and start thinking of their grandchild. If you are receiving undue pressure to relinquish your baby, you might ask your mother and father to read some of the blog postings or books by mothers who have relinquished and are not able to "get over it" and "move on" with their lives. If your parents or your baby’s father’s parents can’t help, talk to other family members, your school counselor, a favorite teacher, your clergyman. You’ll find people who want to help if you just ask.

With a trusted adult, learn about services that can help you give your child a good start in life. These include:
  • Your school district’s teen parents program.
  • Parenting classes offered by your county or state health department 
  • Women’s, Infants, and Children’s (WIC) program, offered by your county or state health department, provides nutritional foods for you and your baby at no cost to you. 
  • Medical care during your pregnancy and post partum period and medical care for your baby until age 18, through your state or county Medicaid program. 
  • Food stamps, though your county or state welfare department. 
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) which provides cash assistance, job training, and day care for your child, through your county or state welfare department. While you may be embarrassed to accept welfare, remember this is a temporary program to help mothers like yourself and you may soon be off welfare and into a job or college.
  • Low cost housing through your local housing authority. 
  • Education after high school, through community colleges and four year schools which have scholarships for student parents and day care for their children. 
  • Check for resources at this government site: Family Preservation Services

Lorraine
BEFORE CONTACTING AN AGENCY OR ATTORNEY
Adoption agencies and attorneys make their money from people who want a child. Even if the agency is a non profit, it charges fees to cover salaries (often $100,000 per year for top agency officials), marketing, and office expenses. People who work in adoption are often adoptive parents, or people thinking of adopting. They may be highly ethical—although some are not--but they are looking at adoption through the eyes of someone who wants the child of another woman. It is the business they are in; you are supplying the product they deal in.

Adoption agency employees and attorneys cannot know the grief and loss you’ll feel when your child leaves your arms. While the immediate loss is the worst--those baby-love hormones are still pumping through your body--the grief lasts a lifetime. Sometimes it’s not too bad, and other times it's likely you’ll go into a deep depression. Holidays are likely to be difficult; so are family gatherings, the child's birth month, your own birthday. Giving up your child will also affect your parents, your siblings, other family members, and any children you may have in the future. However, often the loss of one child triggers so much long-lasting sorrow that the thought of having another seems too depressing and difficult, and women who give up their children have a high incidence of not having another. 

Talk to other mothers who have lost their babies to adoption. You may find a mother in your area by calling Concerned United Birthparents (CUB), 1-800-822-2777, www.cubirthparents.org. Read mothers’ stories on the Origins-USA website, www.origins-usa.org. Read First Mother Forum's page, Response to The Adoption Option, to learn about the impact of surrendering a child. Or you can look through our posts here and read the comments of other first/birth mothers and adult adoptees. Do remember that you are not a birth mother or first mother until you actually sign the relinquishment papers, and if you are already working with an adoption social worker, do not let her refer to you like that. You are the baby's mother, period. Calling you a birth mother before your baby is born will make you feel as if you’re carrying a baby for someone else. You are not anything but a mother in waiting until you sign the consent to adoption papers.

You may meet mothers who say they did the right thing in giving up their babies, and you can find these mothers on the Internet. No matter what the influences were that led to giving up their children, it was still heart-breaking. If you read their posts carefully, you'll see the grief pouring through their words.

OPEN AND CLOSED ADOPTIONS

If you decide to explore adoption, you need to know that adoptions can be open, semi-open, or closed. In open adoptions you may choose the adoptive parents from a list of three to five couples pre-screened by the agency or attorney. You should meet with them before you make your selection. Once you’ve selected the parents, the agency counselor or your attorney will help you work out a contact agreement, typically three to five visits a year and pictures and letters a few times a year. You can arrange more contacts if you and the adoptive parents agree. READ THIS DOCUMENT CAREFULLY. Make sure that it does not say it can be closed at the desire of "either party," because that means that the adoptive parents can disappear at their whim, or decide that the visits are "disturbing," or some other language that will sound straight from the psychological playbook of adoption counselors and attorneys. Remember, the clients of adoption attorneys and agencies are the adoptive parents, not the teenage girl or middle-aged woman who offers up a baby.

In semi-open adoptions, you select the adoptive parents from profiles given to you by the agency--but you do not meet them or know their names. The contact agreement typically requires the adoptive parents to send you pictures and letters every few months for the first few years of your baby’s life. You may write to them and send letters and gifts to your baby. However, all correspondence is through the agency and the agency may read your letters and open your gifts, and refuse to send them if they think they are inappropriate.

Semi-open adoption agreements provide that after a certain amount of time, often three years, any further contact will up to you and the adoptive parents. This means that you may lose contact with your child. We have heard from many first mothers devastated because what they thought was an open adoption soon became closed, and they suffer perhaps more than other women because they have not only given up their children, they have been duped by the system. We highly urge you not to consider this kind of adoption. If this is what is being promised, find another agency, find another attorney. We urge anyone who is considering adoption to make it a fully open one, where you meet the adoptive parents, know where they live, work, and get their mail, as well as know their full names and other community involvements. No matter how nice they may seem before the birth and surrender, remember, they want your baby, and everything may change after they have your child.

However. no matter how scrupulous you are--and since it is a difficult time it may be hard to focus on the details, but open and semi-open adoption agreements may not be enforceable in your state. As noted earlier, sometimes adoptive parents simply ignore the agreement after they take your baby. Some adoptive agencies provide mediation services to help birth parents and adoptive parents work out differences. In states where agreements are enforceable, you will have to hire an attorney to help you if the adoptive parents refuse to cooperate.

In closed adoptions you do not know who adopted your child or where your child is. You have no contact with the adoptive family or your child. All that your child will know about you is what the agency chooses to tell the adoptive parents and what they choose to tell him. In most states at this point, you may never be able to contact that child, and no matter how you feel now, you may feel differently later.

Keep in mind, no matter what type of adoption you have, the adoptive parents, not you, make all the decisions for your child, what he eats, his religious training, his education. They may have different values than you--and make decisions that you vehemently oppose. Know, too, that open or closed, adoption is forever; you can never regain the mother and child relationship you lost. The social worker may tell you that you and your child may reunite in the future. It's not that simple. You may not be able to find your now adult child and, if you do, your child may reject you. Even if you and your child reunite, your relationship will be strained and your child may pull away from you.

LEGAL MATTERS

Adoptions can be handled through an adoption agency licensed by the state or through an attorney (private adoption). If you place your child through an attorney, make sure you have your own attorney, one does not represent both you and the prospective adoptive parents. We cannot stress this strongly enough. Adoption attorneys may tell you they can represent you and the prospective adoptive parents. This is highly unethical. Find another attorney. The adoptive parents will pay for your attorney unless you can afford one yourself, which is desirable.

Shortly after you child is born (or in some states before your child is born), the adoption agency will ask you to sign a document surrendering your child to the agency for adoption. If it is a private adoption, your attorney will ask you to sign a consent, often called a relinquishment, to allow the prospective adoptive couple to adopt your child.

Mother and newborn                      photo/lamb white
You do not need to sign a surrender or consent right away. You may feel differently about adoption after your child is born. You may take your child home, or have your child placed with a relative or in foster care before you make your decision. Give yourself some time to calm down after the birth and see how you feel weeks later. Under no circumstances allow the prospective adoptive parents to be at the hospital with you during the birth, or shortly after the birth, as they will be desperate to get your baby and you will feel as if you are letting these nice people down if you do not hand over your child. The pressure will be intense if they are there. Take time to consider the decision that will not only have a lifelong impact not only on you, but also your baby. This is likely to be the most life-altering decision you will ever make for two people--you and your baby.

If you decide to give your child up, ask your adoption counselor or attorney if you have time after signing to change your mind. In most states surrenders and consents to relinquish a child are irrevocable. Even in states which allow you to revoke your surrender or consent, a judge may not return your child to you if he finds it is in the child's "best interests" to stay with the prospective adoptive parents.  Attorneys and agencies are not likely to help you if you do change your mind.  Again, we urge you to not sign immediately.

You should insist that the agency or attorney give you copies of all the documents you sign. You may not feel that you want them at the time, but later on you may not be able to get them. Most states seal adoption records and you cannot get them without an order from a judge. One day the papers may be very important to your child, and you will be able to give it to him--even if your state has locked them away at the courthouse.

YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE

After your child is born someone from the hospital or the state will collect information from you for his birth certificate. The certificate will have your name on it, and the baby’s father’s name if you two are married. If you are not married, some states allow the father’s name on the birth certificate only if he files a statement of paternity with the state’s vital statistics office. If he will agree to it, this could be very important for your child in the future.

Before your child's adoption is final, get a copy of his birth certificate from your state's vital statistics office. Once your baby’s adoption is final, the state will issue your child a new birth certificate with the names of the adoptive parents replacing your name and your baby’s father’s name. In most states neither you nor your child can ever obtain a copy of the original birth certificate.

AFTER SHOCK 

No matter how you have prepared yourself, no matter how you have filled your head with the idea that you are "doing the right thing," no matter how many times your social worker has told you that you are making the "loving decision," that you are making someone so happy with your "generous gift" of your baby, you will feel incredibly sad once your child is gone. Those hormones don't leave because your baby is gone. Joining birth mother support groups may help you. The adoption agency may have programs for birth mothers. Call the CUB number above an talk to someone who truly understands what you are going through.

Though you have signed over your baby, you do still have a lifelong emotional responsibility to that child. There is a bond between the two of you that no legal document can ever sever. Thus it is your responsibility to follow through with agreed-upon contacts with your child. You gave birth to this individual, you will always on one respect be the Mother, and he will want to know you. And who knows, you just might have selected adoptive parents--there are some--who do want you to remain in contact, and visit, because they know it is best for the child you now share.

--Lorraine Dusky and Jane Edwards


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13 comments:

  1. Well, said where was all this information 26 years ago when I really needed it? Cathy

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  2. Anonymous9/09/2012

    I may have no business posting here but I wanted to share my experience as an adoptive mother. I have twins that were adopted last year. We maintain an open adoption with their birthmother because that was what we wanted and felt would be best for the children. We were up front with our agency telling them that we wanted openness. Now, their birthparents live many states away, we live in New England and they live in the south. We recently drove our one year old twins 17 hours in the car to visit with their birthparents, a visit that I had been excited about and planning and talking about for the last year. I was careful to make sure their birthparents desired a visit and when I was told that they definitely did we made the trip. We ended up making the trip for nothing, they never showed and we were deeply saddened. I am not mad at them and I do not fault them, it was just tremendously disappointing because I wanted so badly for them to be reunited with the twins. To get pictures of them together etc.

    I know of many, many adoptive parents who long for MORE openness and MORE contact with their children's birth mother or birthparents and are not getting it. My friends who are adoptive parents tell me stories of pictures not picked up at the agency ever, and of phone calls and emails unreturned. At an adoption conference I attended a few years ago many adoptive parents spoke of wishing they had MORE openness with their children's birthparents and not less but in many cases the desire was not there in return for the birthparents to accept the invitation to see or get updates on the children they placed, or as you say here "gave up."

    I have no intention of ever closing our adoption and I live in fear every single time I try to contact their birthmother that this will be the time I never hear back.

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    Replies
    1. While I can only surmise what what on inside the heads of your children's parents, I can tell you what I think i soften the case with adoptive parents wanting more contact than the other side is giving.

      At this point in the game, open adoption is marketed as something that is good for the adoptee, but also what the relinquishing parents want. This is based on market research that the adoption industry conducted to widen their target audience. The agencies and other adoption professionals, still, advertise relinquishment as something that, while painful, will subside and be somehow "happy". They still have't learned that people cannot, even under the more dire circumstances, be separated from their children and be Ok with it.

      So what you have are parents, again, trusting professionals, with no true experience to guide them or their emotions, and little post relinquishment support ( again, we are taught that we will "get over it" and it you don't well now we internalize that as our own failing) and expected to live the rest of their lives with these visits and limitations to access their children. And just to be clear, I am not faulting adoptive parents at all here. You are only equally guilty of trusting the same professionals and trying to go by the same rules and guidelines offered by the adoption industry.

      My son's adoption was closed and sometimes I am grateful for that to be honest. I had a good ten years of my life where it only simmer below the surface, but I could pretend to be "normal". I still had a wound, but it healed over. I had a thick scab. I know that if I was presented with open adoption as "better" for my child, I would have done it, but then.. I know that the scab would never have been so strong. I can only imagine that every visit, every picture, would have ripped off that scab over and over again. I often wonder how the moms of open adoption deal with that.. to have to see what you are missing, and to have to say good bye again and again.

      It's human nature to avoid pain and uncomfortable situation.And I believe for parents who reject contact, it's a matter of their emotional survival. AS I said, we won't know for sure, but perhaps, if nothing else, this can help you understand and explain it to the children.

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    2. If you are doing your part to keep the adoption open on your end then that is all you can do. You've done your very best. And that has absolutely nothing to do with anything that was stated in this article. I'm not sure what you think needs defending, though I *would* like to know why you were so eager to adopt her children (she's had not just one loss but TWO AT ONCE ON THE SAME DAY--did you think this was going to do nothing to her) but not help her keep them. Almost no parent who goes directly from custody of their children to relinquishing for adoption (as opposed to those who lose their children to a social agency first) is a parent who *deserves* to lose their children, which means whatever obstacle they have to parenting is a *temporary* one and can be alleviated if anyone cares enough to do the work.

      Maybe at bottom you know that, and that's why you spoke up. But don't look at *us*. *You* are the one holding the cards. The children's mother cutting off contact with you is not in any way legally binding. She can change her mind later and establish contact with you again and won't break any laws in doing so. YOU, on the other hand, could close it from YOUR end and it WOULD be legally binding. If you decided to cut her off she would have no recourse.

      You have to know that. Get mad at me, get defensive again, rant and rave about evil angry birthmothers, but the truth only smiles. My recommendation is hang in there and wait for her to come back and DO NOT berate her AT ALL. Again, she didn't just lose one child, which would have been devastating enough. She lost TWINS. Imagine how you'd feel if the state made you give them back, and multiply that by about a million. Have some freaking compassion already.

      Delete
  3. You go Dana! Please note that Anonymous 9/09/2012 never came back........she really doesn't care that much.....she has the bounty already and is just looking to fix a guilty conscience .......not that I think she really feels that guilty.......all I see and hear is me me me.........quote ....."because I wanted so badly for them to be reunited with the twins. To get pictures of them together etc...."
    Yes I am another twisted bitter and hurt mum........as I have so often been labeled by adopters........I wonder why I am bitter and twisted :)

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  4. Anonymous3/09/2013

    I was a teen mother and chose to keep my child because felt I could financially care for him by myself. I had graduated high school a year early and was attending University and making an ok amount of money working as a teaching assistant for 3 sections of theoretical physics and doing a research internship within Magnetohydrodynamics (from which I was forced to resign due to being pregnant..which is nonsense and I'm still slightly bitter about it) I was never really the maternal type, but I thought it would be different with my own child, like how I hate dogs...except for my own. Student services did a really good job informing me of all the programs that exist, I would be able to maintain the university health insurance even If I needed to take time off, and my scholarships would still be there as well. I never thought seriously about abortion, I regret that, because the reasons I didn't want to abort were mainly egotistical ones. Anyway, now it has been almost 5 years and I wish I had given him up or aborted. I really do not like my child, I do not enjoy him, I do not like being around him, he is hands down the most irritating person I have ever had the misfortune to spend 4.5 years with.
    People don't want to believe that mothers who keep their children don't ever regret it, and mothers who regret never say it. Mothers do not always love their children. I go through the motions ever day and try to not let him see how much I don't care for him, I tell him everyday that I love him and everyday it's a lie.
    Just wanted to let you know that there are Mothers who regret having their children. I do exist and I'm not a monster, I'm not a terrible person, I just can't make myself love him or like him and I find no joy in parenting. I'm sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anon, As a mother who lost one daughter to adoption and raised three others, let me say that feelings when raising a child are quite different than feelings when you lose a child. The missing child, the fantasy child, is a perfect child, a joy. We are filled with grief and nostalgia when we think of him.

    The real child can be a pain, demanding attention, misbehaving at the worse times. It's easy to think that we would have been better off to have given him away or not had him in the first place. I believe, though, if you were to lose your son through disease or an accident, you would grieve for him. Like a first mother, you would suffer inconsolable grief.

    Each summer I'd look forward to my children gong to camp, time alone! When they were gone, and only for a week, I'd miss them terribly.

    Let me suggest you get some help on how to deal with your son's behavior. And put it in perspective; you may lose time in your career while you're raising him. It is most likely, though, that in time you will be happy you raised him; as an adult, he may give you great joy.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous4/15/2013

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    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous8/05/2013

    Hello to those of you looking for baby to adopt, am olivia by name and am from south africa, i have a set of twins boy and girl, i don't have all it takes to take care of them as i have made my decision to put them for adoption, intreasted couples looking forward to adopt the babies should please contact adoptionbabyhome@live.com, or my private email on oliviaphilip40@Gmail.com. i don't just want the little children to suffer anymore please HELP by coming to take them from me i beg you, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anastasia10/13/2013

    Could the owner of this blog please delete the nonsense posts of those trolling for babies or marks? A woman in South Africa who has to beg anonymously for adopters? An agency who promises babies in a day/month but who seems unclear on the difference between a natural mother and potential adopters? An adopter claiming the natural parents gave up on an open arrangement? The woman who supposedly has NOT one positive feeling for her child ever?Not motherhood can be harder and darker than we know, but she supposedly dislikes her child one hundred percent of the time? Puh-lease!! The things people expect you to believe. things are very triggering for those of us actually harvested of our first born at birth and honestly seem contrary to the spirit of this blog.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous4/02/2014

    I think I'll keep my little baby.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous4/09/2014

    This article really helps, makes me second guess putting my baby up for adoption.

    ReplyDelete

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