In the spring of 2013, we were hopeful adoptive parents once again. We had adopted our son nearly three years earlier, and this time we were older and wiser. The first time, I had fumbled around, not understanding how to be a friend to a woman who was considering adoption for her child. By the time we were hoping to adopt our second child, I had immersed myself in the adoption world. I had read countless books and articles, and I had become friends with birth mothers. I had real perspective, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the woman who would want to place her child with us wouldn’t be pressured by me to do so.
I remember one phone call in particular. I got a call from my agency asking if I’d like to speak to a woman who was considering adoption for her baby. She was black, and we were white. They told me she had some concerns about a white family raising her child, but she wanted to speak to us anyway. I left work early that day, drove to a nearby park, and called the number. A quiet woman answered, and conversation was difficult. She was scared, and she had no clue what to do with me. I found myself leading the conversation, saying things like, “If I were considering adoption, I might want to know a few things, like what the family’s religious beliefs are or how long they’d been married or what kind of openness they wanted after placement.” She then asked me those three questions, and I answered those three questions. Then there was silence.
I took a deep breath, and I just asked her how she felt about a white family parenting her baby. She paused for what seemed like forever.
“I’m fine with it,” she said, exhaling. She breathed in deep, then blurted out, “I want to give my baby up for adoption. But should I?”
“Should you want to do it, or should you do it?” I asked.
“I guess both,” she said. She opened up then, saying, “I feel bad that I want to, and I don’t know if giving her up is right, but it feels like the right thing to do. I feel like a bad mother, or like I should be fighting to keep her, but I can’t give her anything she needs. I can barely take care of myself, and I don’t have a safe place to live or any help from anyone. But does that mean I should give her up?”
I remember that moment of finally hearing her speak. This is what she wanted to say to someone all along. She didn’t want to ask how long I’d been married or what my religion was. She wanted to know if placing her child with an adoptive family was the right thing to do, and she was hoping I had that answer.
Who knows what I would have said in 2010, before we’d ever adopted. I’m sure there’s a small chance I would have told her that, yes, adoption sounded like the right thing. But the woman I was in the spring of 2013 was prepared for this, and I told her that there was no right or wrong. If she felt in her heart that adoption was right for her child, and she had considered all of her options, I thought she was doing the right thing by speaking with an agency and families to see how she felt after she hung up the phone. I asked about a variety of resources I knew for mothers who were seeking a way to parent. She said she would call those people as well, then think about her options. If she wanted to move forward with adoption, she would call me. I never heard from her again.
Maybe you’re reading this article because you’re considering adoption. Or maybe you’re trying to help a friend who’s considering adoption. Whoever you are, your situation is unique. There is no perfect answer to this question. No matter what you choose, there will be times you wonder “what if,” times you doubt yourself, and times where you have stark clarity. If you’re an expectant parent who is considering adoption, or if you’re helping a friend through this tough time, look into the resources in your area for mothers who need help getting on track so parenting is possible. If adoption still seems to be the right fit, consider looking at a site like ParentProfiles.com, where you can get a feel for the kinds of families out there. If you feel you need a family who’s local to you, research the agencies that are close to you; don’t just blindly agree to work with one.
Your rights and your freedom to make a choice for you and your baby are always important. No one can tell you whether parenting or placing is right, but one option might give you the confidence you need to plan for the future. Find someone who will listen to you, challenge you, and validate you. Find people who will support you no matter what you choose. Find what brings you peace, and when you do, you’ve found the answer to your question.
Written by Melissa Giarrosso