My work in adoption has run the gamut. I've worked with adoptive families as a social worker completing their home study, as a consultant working with adoptive families around the US, and as a birth parent counselor. I've walked with mamas as they've bravely decided to make an adoption plan for their babies. I've met with them over coffee, attended doctor's appointments and sonograms, held their hand during labor, and cried with them in hospital rooms.
In my work as an adoption consultant now, most of my interaction and education is with adoptive families. But I thought today I would use this space for expectant and birth families.
Making an adoption plan for your baby is a huge decision. And finding the right people to walk with you, an adoptive family to raise your child, and doing your best to make sure you and your baby are taken care of in the midst of your pregnancy (and long after) are critical to the process.
Here's a list of things to think about as you move forward on your adoption journey.
How to find a good agency or attorney
- Get a few references. Instead of googling an agency or attorney, get a personal recommendation. Good places to call are pregnancy resource centers or hospital social workers. They work often with adoption agencies and attorneys and can point you to the best in your area.
- Make sure they offer quality birth parent care and counseling. This is one of the biggest keys to a smooth adoption process. You want to find a birth parent counselor that has genuine care and compassion for you, allows you to work through your decision, and is willing to answer all of your questions. Typically agencies all have a birth parent counselor. If you decide to do a private adoption and work with only an attorney, make sure a birth parent counselor is still available to you. And most importantly, find one that will support you if you decide to parent your child and get you the support and resources you need for parenting.
- Look for how thorough they are with the adoption process. Adoption is complex and can be complicated. Make sure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities as a birth parent, are aware of the laws that govern adoption in your state, have a clear understanding of the birth father's rights, and feel educated about the adoption process and what to anticipate.
How to find adoptive parents who are the right fit
- Look for what's important to you. In making an adoption plan, you get to choose the family that will raise your baby. This means you get to look for a family that shares similar values and faith if you want. Or a family that values education, loves the outdoors, or has a love of animals. Are siblings important to you? Or maybe a family that isn't able to have children biologically? Or possibly a family who is already raising an adopted child or a child of the same race? These are all things you can consider when choosing the adoptive couple.
- Go with your gut. So many women I've talked to felt a connection they couldn't put into words when they viewed their adoptive family's profile or met them for the first time. Don't look for a perfect family (since they don't exist); look for a family that is perfect for you. Look for a family that is sincere, transparent, and will love your baby unconditionally.
- Consider your desires for openness. Are you looking for a closed, semi-open, or open adoption in ongoing relationship with your child and their adoptive family? In light of the relationship you desire, does geography matter to you? Make sure you find an adoptive family who desires the same kind of relationship moving forward and will honor your desires for ongoing contact. You can learn much more about the kinds of openness, myths of open adoption, and tips for healthy open adoption on these links.
How to create a birth plan for the hospital
- What is a birth plan? An adoption hospital plan communicates to your doctor, the hospital staff, adoption professionals, and adoptive family your desires for your stay in the hospital. It reviews labor, delivery, and the several days post-partum in regards to your wishes for you and your baby.
- Include all important aspects of your hospital stay. Creating a hospital plan during your last trimester will help you make important decisions like who you want in the delivery room with you, if you want to hold and care for the baby, and how involved you want the adoptive family during this time. Having a thorough birth plan can help you navigate the intense days of your hospital stay, communicate your desires to others, and give your heart what you need as you prepare for placing your baby with another family.
- Remember that you're in charge of your birth plan. Your hospital plan can help you feel empowered and give you what you need during your days in the hospital. Feel free to change or update your plan as your desires can change; the best hospital plan is flexible to meet your needs. You can learn more about birth plans here and see a sample birth plan to use as well.
How to take care of yourself after your baby's birth
- Take advantage of counseling as long as you need to. I know a lot of women struggle to continue talking to their birth parent counselor or to reach out after their baby has been placed. In some ways you might be eager to be done with the pregnancy and move on with your life. But in some significant ways there's still much to process. Every good adoption agency and attorney has ongoing birth parent services available long after you leave the hospital. Don't hesitate to reach out for someone to talk to or even for professional counseling.
- Enlist the support system around you. Be sure to share honestly with trusted friends and family how you're doing. Surround yourself with people who are understanding when you have hard days and encourage your healing. Take the time to bring those people into your story and entrust them with how you're doing so they can offer their support.
- Attend birth parent support groups. Ask your agency, attorney, and even your hospital if there are local support groups in your area. Often these groups meet monthly and are full of other women who have recently placed their babies and even women who have children who are older who have been adopted. This can be a rich space to be able to share with women who understand much of what you've been through. If you can't find a group locally, or would prefer to create a community online instead, some of my favorites are Birth Mom Buds and Brave Love.
- Give yourself space and grace to heal. Adoption is bittersweet and full of some of the best and worst experiences of your life. Making the incredible brave and selfless decision to make an adoption plan and deciding that is best for your child will undoubtedly be one of the hardest things you will ever walk through. Anticipate grief and allow yourself time to experience all of the emotions that will come with placing your baby through adoption.
As you walk the hard and beautiful road of adoption, you decide to make some incredibly selfless choices. In the midst of it, don't forget to surround yourself with those who will also care for you. Choose adoption professionals, an adoptive family, and family and friends who will offer the support and encouragement you need to make the best plan for you and your baby moving forward.