Many things can lead to a pregnant woman considering adoption. I grew up in the 80s. Back then, we had back-to-school specials to entertain and “educate” us in the afternoons. These shows covered serious topics that were relevant to stories covered in the evening news. The episodes covered any and all topics, including drugs, underage drinking, sexual and physical abuse, and teen pregnancy. The teen pregnancy episodes left an impression that teen pregnancy was only a result of assault and that adoption was the only outcome. Keep in mind; it was the 1980s. Topics were heavy, but there was typically a singular focus. These portrayals left me thinking that was the only reason why someone would choose adoption for their unborn child.
It is important, when thinking about supporting a mom who is considering placing their child for adoption, to remember there are many reasons why a woman would consider adoption. There are many reasons a mom would consider adoption. And you need to consider her reasons as you walk alongside her on this difficult road. Whatever the reason, she will need support. There are many ways to support someone who is considering adoption. Let’s look at real ways of helping, shall we?
1. Sit With Her Through the Struggle
There are so many things going through your mind when you are faced with a big decision. You must know it is not an easy decision and while you may understand some of the struggles, keep in mind that you can not fully grasp the heaviness she must feel in her heart. I think it is a good practice to be open to sitting in the discomfort and pain with her without trying to fix things. Be willing not to have answers and be okay with not saying the right thing.
2. Support Groups
Did you know there are support groups for women trying to decide if they will place their child up for adoption? There are many resources available, and sometimes we just don’t know what is out there, and even more, we don’t know what questions to ask to help meet the needs of those we love and care about. The isolation that must come with this decision has to be overwhelming at times. Knowing you are not alone and that other women have walked this road before and survived is invaluable. 2020 was a hard year for everyone. When Covid hit and life as we knew it came to a grinding halt, the need for connection often defaulted to an online scenario. This was an important part of our lives and a way to maintain some normalcy with meetings, doctor visits, and therapy. It also gave us an outlet to see family members we would otherwise not have been able to see face to face. The beauty of the normalizing of online meetings is the outburst of online platforms to conduct support groups, and other systems that allow us to connect where we are when meeting in person is not an option. One of our children has very difficult mental health struggles.
During Covid, we were able to meet with her therapist weekly because of online meeting platforms. I discovered my comfort level increased because the stress of getting her to yet another appointment on time was lessened. After all, I only had to walk into the dining room instead of driving to her appointment. Simply having the option to utilize an online platform as a meeting space can make attending a support group less intimidating. Now that Covid restrictions have lessened, we have returned to 100% in-person meetings. It was a nice respite from traveling to and from appointments, but I know my daughter does better and engages more when sharing literal space with her therapist. There are some hands-on aspects of the type of therapy we are doing now that the online platform just couldn’t accommodate. It is really important to know that there are online and in-person options for therapy and or support groups.
When you sit with someone and honestly listen to them and where they are in processing their decision or situation, you may discover that you are not qualified to help them progress in their thinking. This is a great place for you to initiate the idea of professional therapy or support groups. If you are the primary support person for the woman wrestling with the decision of adoption, you need to be aware of how you are doing as well. You may find the need for you to seek help from a professional as well. This is an incredibly hard decision, and its weight is just too much to bear at times.
It seems so simple, but often we get in the mindset of helping without considering that we may not really know what the person needs. If you are supporting a person who is considering adoption, you must be very sensitive and humbly realize that you just don’t always know what the person needs. Let’s walk through a scenario.
Meet Kelly. Kelly is a (fictional) 40-year-old woman who has five kids. She is facing an unplanned pregnancy, her sixth child. She is considering adoption as an option for baby number six because she feels she is not financially, physically, or emotionally able to parent another child. Kelly is your sister, and you two are extremely close. You are very in tune with how she carries herself, her humor, her style, pretty much everything. So you talk with Kelly about the struggle she is having with the decisions she is trying to make for her baby. You want to help, but don’t ask.
You go into sister muscle memory, make a few calls, and arrange for friends and family to provide several meals for Kelly and her family. You call Kelly and she breaks down in tears and lets you know you have overstepped. You feel terrible but don’t understand what made her mad. Well, let’s break it down. Kelly is facing a potentially devastating loss. She feels overwhelmed by the fact that she doesn’t feel capable of caring for another child. She is extremely sad and feels like a failure. One of the only things helping her feel adequate is having dinner on the table for her family, and you just took that away from her. Unknowingly, you made her feel like she can’t provide for the needs of her family.
Do you see how asking Kelly what she needs would have made a difference? Your heart was in the right place, but it made things worse. The truth is, sometimes, we just need to ask how we can help before we jump in to help. Kelly may not even know what she needs, but when you ask, she will know that you are there to help and be there for her however she needs you.
4. Don’t Judge
There are reasons why a woman may choose to place her child up for adoption. Whether she is concerned she cannot financially afford another child, or her baby was created during an act of sexual abuse, or she has medical concerns; whatever the reason for considering adoption, the decision is extremely difficult. While you can ask questions and offer options, even weigh in on her decision to choose adoption for her child, you cannot judge. If you are supporting a woman who is seriously considering adoption as an option for the child she is carrying, you must try to understand where she is coming from. This is not the time to cast judgment and treat the pregnant woman with anything other than love. She is fighting for the best option for her child, and knowing that decision is unbearably heavy should color the way you care and support her.
One way to support a woman who is considering adoption is to research her options with her. When you are in a heightened state of stress, you don’t always know what options are available that could help. If the woman you are supporting agrees to it, it might be helpful to look into the options available for her. Starting with a checklist of sorts may help give a framework of how to walk through the unknown trail that lies ahead of her. It can be beneficial to know there are many options, but sometimes the stress of the situation can give you tunnel vision and make it hard for you to even know how to ask for help. Researching options is a way you can tangibly support your friend.
If you have never walked down the road of making such a difficult decision, you may not know how to support someone trying to decide if adoption is the right choice for their baby. It can be very beneficial to listen to the stories of birth mothers to help you better understand how you can genuinely be there for your friend or loved one. There are many resources available online, but this free ebook is a great place to start. Read about what it was like for these 23 women who walked down the road of placing their precious babies into adoptive care. Hearing their stories as they share the trials and successes may open your heart and mind to different parts of the journey common in all women who choose adoption for their child. The more you know, the better you can understand and support the person you know and love.
In closing, I want to let you know that you have already started to support your friend or loved one who is considering adoption for their unborn child by reading this. Just being here, in this online space, shows that you plan on actively showing up for and supporting your friend who is inevitably going to need support during her pregnancy and for an indefinite period of time once their child is born. There are plenty of resources offering options on how to support post-adoption too. The truth is, there is no easy part of the journey, and knowing you are there to love, support, care for, and not judge your friend will help in ways you may never fully understand. The journey of a woman wrestling with the decision of whether or not she should choose adoption for her unborn child is wrought with a myriad of difficult decisions. The process is fragile, and your willingness to walk alongside her through the seemingly most difficult time in her life will likely stretch you in ways you could never imagine. Remember to take time to breathe, seek counsel, and accept love and support as you walk with her, so you can counsel, love, and support her to the best of your abilities. You cannot be the only support in her life, but you can be a constant shoulder to cry on and carry open arms to embrace. As you walk with her during such a difficult time, you are showing her love that can stand the test of time. It is a beautiful opportunity to lay down your life for your friend and solidify a friendship that can withstand many storms.Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.
Becky Dell is a Staff Storyteller for Adoption.com. Now married for over 20 years, her journey to motherhood started with a miscarriage, followed by the birth of her 2 biological sons, and brought to completion with the domestic adoptions of 2 daughters. You used to be able to find Becky baking cookies and playing trains with her two tiny sons, but now, you will find her learning to parent through the rough and rewarding world of adoption, attachment, and trauma. She is a fierce advocate for adoption and processes the many facets of adoption through written word.