Choosing to place your child for adoption is not a decision to be made lightly. There are many wonderful things about adoption. Oftentimes, choosing adoption means ensuring the safety and well-being of the child. Open adoption can be a beautiful experience and often has the best possible outcome for both the birth mother and the adoptee. However, there are challenges associated with placing your child for adoption. Here are six of them.
Placing your baby with another family means signing up for a lifetime of grief. Placing my birth daughter was by far the best decision for her, but it was devastating for me. It was heartbreaking to leave the hospital with empty arms, and I still miss her every day. Having a wonderful open adoption relationship is very healing for me, but it does not completely make up for the loss I experienced. Many birth mothers experience a continuous cycle of grief, shock, bargaining, depression, and other challenges. However, the further out I get from placement, the longer I stay in periods of acceptance.
Words do hurt. Even if placing your child is the most responsible decision, there will always be some who don’t see it that way. I have been told that I was selfish for “getting rid of my baby.” Some people hear about my open adoption and say that I “got away with my mistake” because I still have a relationship with my birth child without the financial and emotional difficulties of parenting. Sometimes people assume that I am without morals, giving myself to every man that comes my way. All of these things are so untrue. I placed my child because I truly believed it would give her the best shot at life. Most people are understanding and supportive of my choice, but not everyone.
In a closed adoption, many birth mothers never reunite with their children. They likely will not know their whereabouts or how they are doing. They may never even find out their birth child’s legal name. Uncertainty about the well-being of her child compounds a birth mother’s grief and may make it much harder to heal from this experience.
In an open adoption, there is also some level of uncertainty. Post-adoption contact agreements are not always upheld, and many birth mothers enter such an agreement before placement only to be cut off from contact after the adoption is finalized. Open adoptions can be challenging to navigate, and there is always a possibility that it will close.
Being a birth mother is complicated. Are you a mother? You’ve borne a child but are not a parent—where is your place? Sometimes your identity as a birth mother can consume you, and that’s not healthy. Being a birth parent is a life-changing experience, but it’s not all that you are. It’s easy to feel lost and unsure of where you fit in.
Fear is one of the normal challenges of any new experience, but it’s especially relevant when it comes to being an expectant mother or new birth mother. What if I place with the wrong family? How will I survive after placement? What if my birth child resents me in the future? These are all very valid fears every birth mother has to work through.
The System Does Not Serve You
The adoption industry does not typically make birth parents the priority. Adoptive parents are the ones paying, so they are better served. Sometimes expectant parents are taken advantage of. This is a harsh reality, but it’s one of the challenges to be aware of. Choosing an agency and adoptive family carefully, as well as finding support in other birth parents, is important to counteracting the disadvantages.
Adoption has its pros and cons. It’s not all good, but it’s not all bad either. The best way to decide whether adoption is right for you is to keep your child’s well-being at the forefront of your mind. Some things may be hard, but they will be worth it if your child is safe and happy.
Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.