' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Giving up your baby before he's born

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Giving up your baby before he's born

Mother and child, photo by Lisa Roberts
Should the law allow mothers to sign consents for adoption before the birth of their child? A few states already allow a woman to sign away her baby before the baby is born. This is outrageous and absurd, asking a vulnerable woman at a time her hormones are going bonkers to make a decision that will affect her and the as-yet-unborn child for their entire lives, as well as the generations to come.

You want to ask--What were they thinking? when someone came up with this horrendous idea. Sign here! and we'll give  you a gold watch to boot? You know right off the bat that the adoption industry was behind this noxious and unethical practice. Back in the day when Jane and I relinquished, no such crazy system was in place. Only as adoption became a big business did the purveyors of babies--in response to demands from their true clients, the adopting parents, did even a whisper of "pre-birth" consent come into being.

There is no other contract like this in life because we are talking about a born unto a woman and a man, a body and being that is part of the continuum of life, born of the DNA of the two people who conceived the child, and asking the woman to agree to give up that part of her while she still carries the unborn inside her. Even writing about this is toxic. I feel sick to my stomach just discussing it.

If we transfer this to hard goods, like a diamond ring or a washing machine ordered from some convincing sales woman on QVC, the picture looks different. Say we make the order, but even before the ring or the washing machine arrives, we have no need for it. Yet we owe thousands of dollars for an unwanted item--but we can't send it back. That one phone call, or on-line form, where we gave over our credit card number is irrevocable. No returns, no changing of one's mind, no nothing. Forever. Only in adoption, we are talking about a baby, a living, breathing human being.

The states that engage in this practice supposedly give mothers an out: 48 hours or a week in which to change their minds, to withdraw the consent. But anyone with a brain knows that it is harder to abrogate that which is already signed than it is to NOT SIGN AT ALL. Typically, the adoptive parents will already have the baby in its freshly painted nursery--because they will take the baby home from the hospital--and returning a child to his mother is no easy task.

On Facebook and blogs and in movies one can see the "worst nightmare" of the adoptive parents played out when fickle first mothers--and that is how they are usually portrayed--change their minds and want their children back. Getting a child back from adoptive parents is almost certainly going to involve legal fees, counseling, emotional pleas conveyed by social workers to "to do the right thing" and not keep the child. A birth mother wanting her child back after the so-called time allowance must prove coercion or fraud. Adoptive parents have been known to flee with the child, making returning him or her impossible. It happens.

What is different about a baby and a diamond ring or washing machine is that the producer of the "item" is not a business, is not a manufacturing facility, but a living, breathing human being that is subject to emotions, thoughts, feelings. A woman never knows how she is going to feel about relinquishing her flesh-and-blood until the baby is born; after birth females of all species normally are flooded a hormone--oxytocin--that informs her that above all else, she must protect and care for that baby.

The argument for pre-birth relinquishment is that is allows the adoptive parents to take the child directly from the hospital to their home, instead of having the baby go to foster care. While this sounds reasonable, it abrogates any of the unknown in regards to a living, breathing creature that comes out of a woman's body. It diminishes the role of the mother to a baby-producer, a manufacturer of a transferable goods, from that of a mother who wants to love and protect her child.

What's Wrong with A Guardian Angel Adoptions  <a href=A few states already have pre-birth consents in place--Alabama, Utah, Hawaii, Washington, and perhaps others--and all differ in the particulars. But there is no question that these pre-birth contracts were not dreamed up by first mothers, or mothers-to-be considering relinquishing, but instead by adoption-industry hawks whose main purpose was to streamline the process for adoptive parents. How thoroughly the adoption industry is geared towards providing product, that is, a baby, to their paying clients, the adopters, is evident in some modern agency practices. One agency recently was offering first mothers a $500 bonus for every referral to a pregnant female that led to a relinquishment.

Sound apocryphal? It isn't. A Guardian Angel Adoptions in that adoption-loving state, Utah, did it until recently. You do not have to wonder whom the "guardian angel" of their name was supposedly protecting--the adoptive parents, of course. The agency stopped the practice after some noisy birth mothers outed them and posted a picture of their $500 offer on Facebook (at left).

In my own relinquishment, I did not sign the papers for a few weeks. My daughter was not with the parents yet, but in foster care. Quite honestly, I don't remember much about the day except that it was sunny and I thought that was all wrong, not in keeping with the awful actuality of what I was doing. Mrs. Helen Mura, my social worker, kept telling me that if I signed there was no going back, that signing the papers were final, that if I saw any other way, I should not sign. I do not remember if New York allowed any time to revoke the consent to relinquish, because I did not see any way out of the dilemma. Neither did Jane. On opposite sides of the country, a few months apart, we both relinquished our daughters. Call our relinquishments "adoption plans" if you will, but at the time, we both felt as if we were drowning in a sea of condemnation without any real choice.

Most natural mothers (which is what we were called then) were discouraged or even prohibited from holding or even seeing their babies after birth. Social workers understood that if we had a chance to bond with our babies, more of us would resist giving them up. The move to get a pre-birth consent is a modern extension of this. If the pregnant woman signs when the baby is still a bump, an abstraction, it's probably easier to convince her that she wouldn't make a good mother, when there are such worthy people waiting in the wings who will. And while we are at it, agencies start referring to mothers-to-be as "birth mothers," the minute they walk in the door of an agency, reinforcing the notion that the mother-to-be is carrying the child for someone else.

Any state that already allows this barbaric practice needs to rethink what they are actually doing. Any state that is pushing for such a change in their current legislation needs to consider that "pre-birth" consent has that awful stench of slavery, when slaveholders impregnated the women slaves to make more slaves. Whenever possible, this practice needs to be stopped, dead in its tracks, before more mothers and children are sacrificed.--lorraine

For those of you who read a different version on this topic, we apologize. Hitting "post" is as easy as an unintended click.
Child Welfare Information Gateway: "Consent to Adoption"
Elizabeth J. Samuels, Time to Decide? The Laws Governing Mothers' Consents to Adoption of their Newborn Infants

Media Coverage -- Returning a Child to her father is the right decision

By Carol Schaefer
Searching ...
Carol Schaefer, whose original book, The Other Mother, was made into a TV movie, tells the story of what happened after she reunited with her son, as well as her spiritual journey in life. The book shows how adoption affects not only all the parents involved, but extended families as well. Carol has long been a friend of ours and to all first mothers, speaking the truth about the pain of relinquishing a child to adoption.



  1. Ever since reuniting with my first son three years ago, I have undergone a sea change when it comes to adoption. Reading this post makes me remember how it felt to be pregnant, knowing that without a husband and no family support I wasn't going to be able to keep my baby. That's what everyone told me, including parents, social worker, and doctor. I was convinced by these good people that if I loved my baby I would give him to a "better" family. There was nothing wrong with my family. I had a very good family, but I wasn't married, and in 1968 nice girls didn't raise "illegitimate" children. I struggled with the decision to relinquish. Agonized would be the more correct term, and months before my due date I began preparing emotionally for what was to come. Rather than looking forward to the birth, as I did with my subsequent children, I dreaded this first one, because I knew it meant the end. I began distancing myself from this unborn child so that I could get through the ordeal of losing him. It's difficult to describe the emotions I'm trying to convey. They are such a mixture of excitement and dread. I felt close to my baby, as if we were a team in league against the world, but I knew that as soon as he was born our us-against-the-world relationship would be sundered. I was sad about the loss long before the actual loss occurred, and I wonder now if my anxiety was communicated to my unborn son. Did he somehow pick up on my distress? I've read that a stressful pregnancy can affect the fetus, that babies born in war-torn Germany later had more mental health issues than would normally be expected. Today my first son struggles with alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. He has not had a happy life, and I attribute a lot of his unhappiness to his adoption and his never feeling part of or loved by his adoptive family. Because of all this, I cannot bear the thought of any mother signing away her child before he is even born. In fact, I would very much like to see the entire adoption industry go the way of the slave markets of earlier centuries. The adoption industry is driven not by the needs of babies to find homes but by adoptive parents who want what they can't otherwise get. If this were not so, there would be no long waiting periods for healthy infants and no desperate efforts to adopt from abroad. If it was really about the child, the help would go to the mother or to the country of a child's origin. Better a clean, well-run orphanage in one's home country than life as a perpetual alien with unrelated people. Why not use that adoption money to bring an Ethiopian 18-yr old to the States for a college education? Then, at least, the kids has some choice in the matter. Why not use that adoption money to hire a nurse for an orphanage, buy clothes and shoes for the kids, and make sure their diet is all it should be. For what an international adoption costs many children could be helped, and they could retain their place in their own societies. Having children is selfish. Anyone who decides to become pregnant and have a baby does so because she wants a child, not because a hypothetical child needs a home. I'm sympathetic to would-be adoptive parents, but I would never place their desires above the best interests of a child, and that is exactly what the adoption industry does by preying on desperate, vulnerable, or else terminally naive people.

    1. Pam--the other day I saw an Ethiopian adoptee on Tv with the Flip the Script message. Now she's grown up and educated, and so of course she is asked if she were better off than....still being in Ethiopia. A hard question but the woman answered beautifully. Instead of speaking about her particular story, she urged that more be done to keep families IN ETHIOPIA together. She spoke of Family Preservation. Having the option of pre-birth consent is absolutely insane and every state with a moral center ought to see that and outlaw if forthwith.

  2. I just wrote a long comment, but it seems to have disappeared. Shoot! I don't feel like reconstructing it, so bottom line: NO pre-birth relinquishment! No infant adoption! Provide help to the mother so she can raise her own child. Failing that, guardianship rather than adoption. All should be transparent. Rather than huge adoption fees for international adoptions, use the money to support children and their families in their own countries. I know it's complicated, but adoption is being driven by the desires of would-be adoptive parents, not the needs of children.

    1. Pam, I'm responsible for your disappearing comment. I drafted a post and intended to give Lorraine a chance to look at it. Somehow I posted it instead of leaving it in drafts. I caught it a few hours later and took it down. My only excuse is that I had been to the dentist, had taken a pain, pill, and my jaw hurt like hell.

  3. Pam--I felt the same way--a mixture of relief (that the pregnancy would be over) and grief (because my child would be gone).

    I just read an ad for babies in the local newspaper: pre-approved loving families," and "financial and emotional support" for the pregnant woman. Et cetera.

    Adoption is a business. Pre-approved relinquishments grease the wheels of that business.

    Last night on Survivor one of the finalists said she learned when she was 15 she could not have children, and if she won, it meant that she and her fiance would be able to start a family. There is no doubt what she meant because in fact she referred to it earlier. I felt for her, but I realized that it meant that she would now join the many people who want to start a family with someone else's baby. Her tragedy, unless she adopts from foster care, will turn into someone else's lifetime tragedy too.

  4. There should never be binding pre-birth surrenders. It is too coercive and wrong. Pam, loved your comments. When I was pregnant with Michael I listened obsessively to the Doors first album and especially the song "The End" with the lyric "this is the end, my only friend, the end. This is the end. I'll never look into your eyes again." I thought of my unborn child. I refused to surrender so my child went into foster care, but he was never with me, and in the end, I gave up and signed.

  5. Giving birth changes everything.
    The metamorphosis from individual to mother is beyond profound, and permanent. It is unimaginable to anyone who hasn't experienced it.

    Pam, I can relate to a lot of what you wrote.

    When I went into labour, in the middle of the night, I woke no-one. I sat on the sofa for as long as I could, trying to stave off the moment when I woke someone because I knew then that the process of me and my son being separated from each other would begin. I still remember those moments so clearly, even three decades later.

    Getting pregnant women to sign anything permanent regarding their unborn child is coercive. No doubt.

    On a side note, my social worker had me writing letters to the nervy adoptive parents, allaying their fears and reassuring them I was just a vessel for them, despite the fact they had not even been chosen at that point. I realise it was a letter to myself that I was being asked to write, telling myself I was just a vessel, ensuring I knew that. Pure brainwashing.

    1. Forgot to say - I was persuaded to write those letters, to the non-existant adoptive parents, while I was 8 months pregnant.

      The actual adoptive parents weren't selected by the social workers for at least another 4 months (much to my shock, I thought everything would be ready for my son).

  6. I've been mulling this post over on and off throughout the day. Not just the sheer insanity of it, but what sort of practical solutions might have sufficient appeal to prevail.

    Here's what I'm thinking: In the domestic foster care system, parents can become licensed to be foster-to-adopt parents, meaning that they are licensed foster care providers who also have an approved homestudy for adoption. They care for children who are not legally free. If the kids can go back to their biological families, great. And if not, then the kids stay with the family that has been fostering them all along.

    In the foster care system, this gives kids stability and also gives parents time.

    I often feel that in the domestic infant system we have, where mothers "voluntarily" relinquish parental right, there is a rush to either do it before birth or do it very soon after so that the child isn't in limbo--living with a foster family and then having to transition to yet another family.

    If parents seeking to adopt infants could be licensed foster parents, then first mothers could be given more time--to be sure they are OK with their decision, to see if there are supports first mothers could have to actually parent--without leaving the child in limbo.

    It would also allow time to find the biological father, do paternity testing, and give the biological father time to decide what he wants to do.

    Imagine if parental rights couldn't be permenantly signed away until 6--12 months *after* the child's birth? And imagine if the potential APs were licensed foster parents who could provide care during that time.

  7. As an adoptee, I am always very disgusted at the means used to take us away from our mothers and families. I take pains to educate everyone I can about the horrors that the industry still perpetuate today. The adoption blinders are on, and its very hard to get past them unless you YANK them off! Sympathy always seems to fall on the troubles the adoptive parents went thru to create the family, while no one thinks twice about the losses that led that child to be torn from their original family. There truly needs to be a push towards National Legislation to defranchise adoption as an industry and to move it back to be the social service need based service it was meant to be. They need to stop the adoption tax credit- except when involved in domestic adoption VIA foster care system. Why we are paying our citizens to steal children from other cultures while our own age out of foster care without ever feeling the safety of a family is beyond me. I know that more than 50% of all orphanages worldwide will disappear if these tax credits go away. They were only built to house a product during the highs of the adoption supply and demand in so many of these countries. Take the money out of adoption and there will be reasonable court costs, licensing (for foster to adopt), background check fees that can be tax deductible. We need to stop giving states/municipalities 'bonus $' for facilitating adoptions as well- family preservation should always be the main priority for foster care, unless severe neglect or abuse is requiring removal of the child for its safety. But then there should be clear guidelines of what steps can be made to re-educate and/or get clean that a parent can complete so that they do not lose their parental rights. But in no case should infant adoption be considered the first option for an unplanned pregnancy, or the BEST option for the child. It should be a last resort. No way should crisis pregnancy hotlines be answered by or associated with any adoption agency. State employees should be referring to state foster care with possibility of adoption if the mother is educated on all resources and still thinks this would be in her and her baby's best interest. NO way should there be pre-birth contracts or choosing of parents. Way too much emotional coercion for an alreadyhormone overloaded mother to be. And mothers to be should speak with adoptees to understand the long term ramifications of being adopted outside of their original families. Not 'birthmothers' paid for referrals or adoptive parent panels where they parade their 'happy' adoptees for display.

  8. So, I'm guessing this pre-birth consent comes with irrevocable consent as well? Not only do you sign away your rights to your child before they actually exist in this world, but you can't undo what you've done once you've given birth. We might as well go all the way and give AP's and adoption agencies everything. Oh, and we will call these laws "progressive" and spin it to say they "protect expectant mothers and their unborn children from the interference of...." I guess you can fill in the blank of who pre-birth consent is protecting an expectant mother and her unborn child from.

    These laws are insane. Adoption agencies are behaving like any business doing everything they can to survive by influencing legislation to make the marketplace favorable to their operations. Pro-adoption fanatics who continue to ignore how women and children are being treated as product rather than living, breathing human beings only have themselves to blame when adoption receives the negative publicity that it does.

  9. IMO, parental rights should not be allowed to be terminated for at least a year following the birth of the child. With this in place I suspect that adoption rates would drop to near zero. The thought of pre-consent is insane and should never be considered.

    Pam and Cherry, my story (BSE - 1969) resembles yours in many ways. Imagine how much different and better our lives would be if our children had been born in today's era!

  10. Pre-birth contracts are baby selling. period. They used to be illegal for that reason.

    mothers cannot make a decision about a child they have not yet seen - a child who is just a fantasy, or a child who they may have been thwarted form bonding with. many expectant moms in matched adoptions get very enmeshed and are encouraged (read brainwashed) to think of and address the baby they are carrying as 'their" baby, not "my" baby.

    This is not akin to buying merchandise. What it is analogous to is asking loved ones of a patient who is terminal to order his coffin and cemetery plot. there is a reason funeral salesmen are not allowed to solicit their wares in hospitals!

    Mothers need Time To Decide: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=843584

  11. My best advice to women who are thinking about adoption but not sure is NOT to have any contact with an adoption agency before they give birth, and only if they are sure by their own choice that adoption is what they want. Explore ways to keep the child first. If you are young, still in high school or college, really talk to your parents about the temporary help you will need to keep your baby, and what they can do to help out for a few years. They will be glad they did, my parents were sorry until they died that they did not. DON"T hide your pregnancy, get unbiased prenatal care not associated with an adoption agency, if your doctor or other person suggests they can arrange an adoption, run like hell in the other direction! You are already a mother forever, and will bear scars and deep regret if you let anyone push you into a choice you do not really want.

    Sometimes in extreme circumstances, long-term drug addiction, mental illness, coming from an abusive family, , or truly not wanting the child, adoption is the lesser evil and better choice, but for most of us that was not so. The worst tragedy is one that did not have to happen. Adoption agencies WILL be biased towards adoption. Don't sign anything while pregnant, including agreeing to foster care. That was my big mistake. Once you hand your child over to anyone there is much you must prove to get him back. If you walk out of the hospital with your child, and you have a home to go to, you do not have to prove anything.

  12. I agree wholeheartedly. Pre-birth consent is 100% in the interest of the adoption industry.

  13. Pre-birth consent is revolting and akin to slavery. Buying a person. But I am getting sick and tired of hearing how wonderful it is to give a foster child a home. Yes, in some cases, it is necessary. But, we who are foster children are also told how "Grateful we should be". Even when, our parents died! How lucky you are that someone "took you in". In other words, you are worthless unless someone takes you in. Basically, you are human refuse.

  14. margaret59

    When i was younger I use to agree with everyone that yes i WAS lucky and inwardly believed that Its all I deserved. Never felt I deserved much of anything. After all I was "lucky" to have been fed,sheltered and loved. so don't ask for anything, don't expect much more..after all I was already getting what I deserved...food and shelter. Lived with that attitude for MANY years and its just recently that I truly felt that I AM good enough to have received all of that and much more. I was talking to a friend about adoption(she has a DIL that is adopted) and she stated to say something to the effect that I should feel grateful for what I had" after all you coulda been..... " I stopped her in her tracks and said "I deserved it just like you did, just like any child does and I won't be made to feel less then because it took 2 years to get it. That is NOT a reflection on me, its a reflection on my bfamily and a society that let it happen." She appeared to have gotten it.

    I also think that anyone that is adopted hears the "but they took you in" comment and yes its worse when its foster care.

    The bfamily did what ever they did to lose the child and the aparents signed on to become parents. Period....our job is to grow up to be productive humans beings. Nothing more, nothing less and we don't "owe" anyone just because our parents made the desions they did. I do appreciate my mom and dad and my bmother for who they are and the fact that they did try to raise me as healthy as they knew how. they were wonderful people and I am thankful for that. My thankfullness tho is more like any child is thankful for having decent parents NOT because they "took me in" They chose that because they could not have children...period. If they could I would not have been adopted by them. As far as my bfamily...well I get the times, I get the reasons but still hurt that it had to happen to begin with. Even when you are "taken in" you are considered less then in many peoples eyes.

    1. dpen, very well said. I will print out your comment for my son (adopted from foster care) to read one day, when he is a little older. I want him to appreciate who he is, and the fact that he ended up in the foster system had nothing to do with him. Thank you.

  15. "Almost's" comment pretty much sums up my own thoughts on this matter. Forget pre-birth consent, I am appalled that in most states, new parents are given no more than 48 hours after the birth to sign away their parental rights.

    Yes, the foster system, which typically takes in children of parents who have had serious lapses of judgment, nonetheless gives the parents at least a year to try and rehabilitate. And yet we enforce "voluntary" relinquishment before the new parents have had a chance to even absorb what has happened?!! It is outrageous.

    I believe any "voluntary" relinquishment must be followed by at least a six month time frame before rights are permitted to be signed away. I do not believe a child being returned to his/her biological family after a six month (or even a year) absence is nearly as big a price to pay, in terms of loss of stability / bonding for the child, as an unnecessary permanent severance from their primary (biological) family.

    The current procedures are in place to give the adoptive parents a quick assurance of permanency, which ultimately serves the adoption industry as the adoptive parents fuel it. Even on the rare occasion that there truly is a biological parent who with a free heart and mind wants to relinquish, I do not believe it is in the best interests of the children to immediately sever the bond that is the fundamental basis of who they are.

    I also do not believe prospective adoptive parents should be permitted in the delivery room. Not even if the mother asks for it. I believe the child, who did not ask to be born, deserves the dignity of time alone with his/her roots, maximizing that connection to the extent possible.

  16. margaret59, my bfamily told me repeatedly that since they'd "brought me into this world, [they had] the right to take me out of it." Therefore, I was expected to expresss gratitude that they hadn't killed me... which on a number of occasions they very nearly did.

    Part punching bag, part beast of burden, I tried to rationalize what they said for decades. When (after several years of self-funded psychiatric care that my bparents usually ignored and occasionally belligerently asserted that I "didn't need") I was thirty, I was expelled from my family of origin. That's nearly half a lifetime ago. For the last decade of my life, until her death, my mother never addressed a word to me. The birth announcements I mailed, all three, were never acknowledged.

    So the forced expression of "gratitude" that foster and adopted children are pressured to gush rings very true to me.

    May all of FMF friends experience a 2015 that presents less pain, fewer triggers, and wherever we can healthily find it, more joy. Or at the very least, the absence of the gasping flashback of some experience, somewhere, that we wouldn't wish on anyone.

    Thanks to all who post here for all the insights, pain, and survival that you've shared. Love & mercy (as the song by Brian Wilson goes) to everyone from MrsTBB. xxoo

    1. Mrs. TQB: Whenever I hear your story I am practically moved to tears. Somehow--and it does happen in families now and then--someone becomes the recipient of all of family's grief and tsouris and you were it. If our friendship can help, I am so glad. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

  17. Thank you, darlin'. You guys help me enormously.

  18. No because then the baby becomes property of the state and belongs to no one for awhile.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.