Preconceived notions can be the death of an entity, decision or plan. I have always maintained, an open mind leads to an open heart. People around us love to share their opinion and regardless of whether or not their opinion is fact-based, their resolution is. The term, “birds of a feather, flock together” is true and what makes up social circles. Our own social circle will want us to remain a resident, continue to conform to the pre-established beliefs and reinforce what we already believe to be true. This is where adoption can be the proverbial “red-headed step-child.”
Adoption is a selfless act and in my own personal opinion, a sacred one. There are so many misconceptions, preconceived incorrect beliefs and stereotypes that perpetuate throughout all socioeconomic levels. My goal in this blog post is to set the record straight. To use my fifteen years of professional experience and 45 years of personal experience to weigh in on these incorrect misconceptions, inaccurate understandings and untrue stereotypes. This is not to say that another agency, another adopted individual or another adoption professional would not have a different opinion or viewpoint.
Women who make the selfless decision to place their baby for adoption are not selfish people or feel that their accidental pregnancy came at an inconvenient time in their life. The vast majority of these women, whom we refer to as birth mothers, are in a place of despair in their lives and choose a life they cannot provide for their child. Some women want their baby to have the ability to break out of the negative life cycle they cannot break on their own. Some birth mothers have child protective services in their lives and would prefer to choose an adoptive family and have an open adoption, rather than to have their baby be raised in a crisis shelter, group home or a foster family. These women may be a single parent, who cannot afford to feed one more child, or pay for childcare, or take on the challenge of a 4th, 5th, or 6th child. The pregnancy may be the result of a rape, one night stand, or an extra-marital affair and the birth mother may not want to raise a child under those circumstances. An adoption decision is a highly personal one and until you have walked in that particular woman’s shoes, judgement is unfair and unwarranted.
When a woman chooses adoption, she is choosing to “place” her baby for adoption. She is not giving up her baby or giving her baby away, she still remains a mother and she is not giving away anything or anyone. “Placing a baby” with an adoptive family carries a very different connotation than “giving up a baby.” The terminology is important because beliefs and viewpoints follow these statements. Birth mothers remain mothers after they place a baby for adoption, the only thing birth mothers are giving is the gift of life and love.
Birth mothers are not all teenagers or college students, in fact we see very much the opposite. The age range I have seen in the past fifteen years ranges from the age of thirteen up until the age of forty-five. The majority of the birth mothers we work with are between the ages of twenty-two to twenty-nine. The races of the women we work with are very reflective of the demographics of the state we live in. Many of the women we work with may have financial struggles, homelessness, are on state assistance, may have drug use or have been incarcerated, children in state custody; however this is not all of the women who place for adoption.
Stereotypes surrounding adoption are vast. Adoptions are not all open and they are not all closed. Most adoptions we see are semi-open; where they receive letters and pictures and maybe a visit or two. Adoptions happen in state and out of state, and are not limited to one. I have never seen a birth mother try to steal their baby back, or an adoptive family try to purposely deceive their birth mother. I also have never seen or heard of a birth mother and an adoptive family accidently running into each other at a supermarket or baseball game.
For birth mothers, adoption can be a tough choice, but not for everyone. Some women feel that they were not meant to be mothers. I have had many a women sit across the desk from me and say “I know this sounds bad, but I don’t want to be a mother, I just don’t have it in me.” I don’t believe these honest, heart-felt statements sound bad in the least! Not all people want to be parents and that is okay! Sometimes women will say things like “I want to go to college and become a doctor and I just can’t do this this, but I don’t believe in abortion.” Again, we commend her for giving the ultimate gift of life and the selfless choice of adoption. A woman’s reason for adoption, is hers and hers alone and should be respected as such. When adoption is a tough choice, then that’s where family and friends need to be a source of support, encouragement and stability.
Judgement on an adoption choice from family, friends, and co-workers, combined with pregnancy hormones, can be a recipe for disaster. I have seen more than one woman who had a solid adoption plan and worked with our agency for the majority of her pregnancy, be coerced by family and friends after delivery into parenting her baby. She was promised and reassured that she would receive financial help, babysitting, emotional support, and on and on, only to realize that a few weeks after the baby was gone the help disappeared along with many of her friends. This is not an uncommon occurrence. If family, friends and co-workers don’t assist a pregnant woman during her pregnancy, why should she trust that this will change after the baby is born? A leopard doesn’t change his spots!
This blog topic could become a book as there are so many untruths about adoption. There will be a “Part Two” to this blog to explore and define more about what actually is true and misunderstood about adoption.
“A birthmother puts the the needs of her child above the wants of her heart.” ~ Skye Hardwick