We are in the middle of a private adoption process. Since we've been chosen by the birth parents back in January, we've struggled to find out if we are "saying the right things" to her and making her feel comfortable with us. After reading your blog my mind is somewhat put to rest on the idea that we have not done an adequate job, because we have.
We truly feel for this 19-year-old girl. Our heart truly goes out to her. She comes from a very broken home, she and the father (who is 30) do not have a place to live, they don't work. When we first made contact with them, they were well aware of what it is we can offer their baby so we don't bring that up anymore because we certainly don't want to have to convince them. As difficult as it was, we suggested all
her other options that she could have chosen and urged her to look into them, etc. Yet, she still states that she would like to proceed with placing her baby with us. We will maintain a "semi-open" adoption with her. We wouldn't have it any other way.
The birth mother is due in late July. We are beyond excited, yet remain cautiously optimistic that she will place her baby with us. This may be a tough question to answer, but in your opinion, how ofter do birth mothers change their mind at the hospital after giving birth? I know that may be difficult to answer. I was simply curious to know your opinion.
While the hospital experience will certainly be a difficult one, we also wish for it to be a beautiful one that is filled with the love we have for the birth parents and their child. Do you have any suggestions for the hospital part? Needless-to-say, we have spent a lot of time, money and emotions on this process and want the outcome to be that we go home with a child. However, if we don't, we of course would never hold a grudge to them or be mad.
This has been a very...anxious/fearful process filled with ups and downs and It gave me the opportunity to get it out!--Hoping to Adopt (He signed his name but of course we are not revealing it here.)
Dear Prospective Adoptive Father:
It is difficult for me to write this letter because I find it hard to accept that a 19-year-old women and a 30-year-old man should be giving up a child. Poverty seems to be the reason they are considering adoption, which is pathetic. But considering that this may proceed, and it does appear that you do not want to coerce her, which we are very glad to read.
For starters, since she is a pregnant and not yet surrendered her baby, please refrain from referring to her as a "birth mother." She is carrying a baby, she is not mother yet, and she may keep her baby. So try to remove that phrase from your thinking and speaking. It is common for prospective adopters to refer to "our birth mother," but that puts her immediately in the category of someone who is working for you to produce your desired baby. "Our nanny, our cleaning girl, our birth mother..." Incidentally, many mothers today who have relinquished use the term "first mother," as she is because without her...there is no baby, and "birth mother" can be an offensive term, just as constantly calling your wife "adoptive mother" for the rest of her life. That is why the [Birth Mother] in the blog's name is in parenthesis, and the URL is www.firstmotherforum.com. (Link below will take you to a blog about "preferred adoption language."
Second, is it possible that she have her own legal representation or counselor, or is her only "representation" an agency worker, an employee of an agency whose job it is to facilitate adoptions? That person is probably not someone talking to her about options that might allow her to keep her baby, even though you say you have and I believe you. That is certainly the right thing to do, and we commend your for that.
Third, the moments of labor and immediately after are, for the vast majority of women, highly charged and emotional. I fear from your letter that it sounds as if you are planning a "beautiful' experience for yourself, but trust me, birth will not be a beautiful experience for a woman in labor producing a baby for someone else if they are there holding her hand and want to see the baby immediately after he is born. She will feel as if she is there working for you and the agency to produce the "product." We find that the prospective parents in the hospital during labor, birth and immediately after is one of the most noxious elements of modern adoption.
BEING AT THE HOSPITAL DURING DELIVERY IS A FORM OF COERCION
Consider how you might feel if you and your wife were to have a baby you could not keep. You sound quite sensitive to all the issues involved and so I think it is unlikely you would want the genetic strangers who are taking the baby there in those most private of moments. Agency workers have pushed this arrangement for it increases the chances that the mother--now she is the mother--will not change her mind and the "successful" adoption will proceed. Adoption agencies, even non-profit agencies--are in business to facilitate adoptions, not have women keep their babies. The often poor and young women who cannot keep their babies may not be getting advice that makes then fully aware that they can control the situation. They feel vulnerable, scared, and do not speak up. They go along to get along.
If you truly want her to feel that you are not coercing her, do not go to the hospital during delivery or immediately after to see "your" baby. Do not cut the cord. The mere presence of adoptive parents at the hospital (who are of course eager that the mother not keep the baby) exert enormous emotional pressure--even if they say nothing--on the woman because she then is in the position of not wanting to disappoint such a nice couple, which is quite likely how she thinks of you. Leave her alone for a while so that she can think this through on her own. If she does proceed with the adoption, you will have the knowledge and assurance that there were no bedside talks that may have pushed her into giving you her baby when she really wants to keep him or her. Do not let any agency worker have her sign the relinquishment papers while she is still in the hospital. There is plenty of time to do that days later.
Women do change their minds because of the intense bonding that can occur at birth, and we hear from young women who felt they had no right to say, I want to keep my baby, and so are incredibly crushed when later they feel that they merely caved into pressure from the social worker and that nice couple who desperately do not want her to change her mind. This also may have legal implications in your state if she claims she was unduly pressured. You don't sound like you are doing this, but we add this here as a caution. We have no idea how many women change their minds and keep their babies; no one is keeping this statistic.
'SEMI-OPEN' USUALLY MEANS MOSTLY CLOSED
Fourth, what do you mean by "semi-open"? This is usually adoption agency lingo that actually means "mostly closed." A great many women relinquishing do not understand the full implications of "semi-open," and are incredibly upset and destroyed later when they figure out exactly what it means, several weeks or months later. It usually means that you have a loose agreement with the agency to exchange pictures and letters through the agency, an agreement that in most states is not legally binding but based on your willingness to comply, but without sharing full information on your name, residence etc. To us, that is a closed adoption, the only difference being that she picked you out and has met you, from what I understand in your letter, and she may get some updates from you.
Agencies have pushed this language as a marketing tool on women because it makes it seem much easier to give up a child if it is a "semi-open" adoption, for the connection is not truly severed. To most young women, it sounds a whole lot better than reality. Unless you and the woman exchange names, addresses, phone numbers and you communicate directly with her, this is a closed adoption. Agencies go out of business; you don't have to comply, or may feel differently about doing so after you have the baby. You or your wife may feel threatened by her presence. You may feel secure, but you have hoodwinked a mother and cheated the child.
I heard of one adoptive father, a magazine editor, who refused to do television for the magazine because "the mother might recognize him." I think he is talking about a "semi-open" adoption. I am playing out the worst case scenario here but we hear from women who were lied to in order to get their babies. Afterwards they are devastated.
FINDING THE BEST OPTION FOR THE CHILD
I am not saying you plan to do this, but I would rethink the kind of relationship you have with this woman, and the child, should the adoption proceed. We do hear from adoptive parents who maintain a good and healthy relationship with the first mother of their child, which is certainly the best situation for him, and do not feel any the less the mother of the child. Adoption is some sense involves a shared parentage, even though the adoptive parents will be Mom and Dad. Since you are reaching out to us, we are assuming that is what you and your wife desire: the best possible situation for the child, should the adoption proceed. And in some cases, contact with the child is too hard on the mother, or the woman really does not want to be involved, and disappear themselves. The world is a complex place.
Fifth, never forget that adoption is hard on the emotional life of the child/adolescent/teen/adult involved, even though you may not hear about it much because he or she may not want to bring it up as she grows up. The more open you can be about his or her natural parents--no, that term does not make you "unnatural" but you are different from the way nature intended--the healthier the child will be, and the more willing he will be to share his feelings with you. Don't be afraid to bring it up even if she never says anything about being adopted; trust me, it is on her mind. In your advance reading, you may want to read some of the blogs of adoptees, for they are a fount of information about how they feel. In my own case, after I reconnected with my daughter (it was a closed adoption) when she was fifteen, her adoptive mother referred to my daughter as "our" daughter, and we each became "the other mother." It worked for us.
Though I am may be giving you advice that you did not expect, I admire you for reaching out to other mothers who relinquished, and feel that if you and your wife do become adoptive parents, you will do it with a good heart. In addition to first parents and adoptees, we do hear from adoptive parents quite frequently in the comments, and I sincerely hope that some will be reading and leave comments. If you do adopt, there are several books worth reading that will give you insight into what adoptees feel and think. One of my favorites is Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self.--lorraine
Birth Mother? First Mother? Both names are belittling
No Matter How Adoption is Done, Grief Remains for Mothers
When an agency promises 'semi-open' adoption, look elsewhere
Are Open Adoptions a Boon for Birth Mothers or a Scam?
Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self " Using Erik Erikson's stages of life as a framework, adoptive father Dr. Brodzinsky (Psychology/Rutgers) and the late Dr. Schechter (Psychiatry/Univ. of Pennsylvania, and married to an adoptee), here writing with Henig (Your Premature Baby, 1983, etc.), call upon years of experience as researchers and counselors in the field of adoption to describe the continual adjustments that adoptees make as they grow from infancy to old age. Most moving is the litany of losses that move adoptees to grieve, often unknowingly. Even infants only a few months old show signs of mourning their first caretakers. Later, the authors say, adoptees may confront the loss not only of a birth family but of a personal and genetic history. The latter is particularly painful when it is time for young adults to begin their own families."--Kirkus. Lorraine here: I found the book incredibly interesting and illuminating about my own daughter.