When facing an unplanned pregnancy, some expectant parents may consider “putting a child up” for adoption.
There is no right or wrong reason that expectant parents may choose this route.
The most important thing as an expectant parent is to do the following:
- know your rights and the laws,
- know all the options you have,
- think with a long-term mindset.
Make sure you are able to make an informed decision because this decision is for life.
Whether you ultimately decide to parent, you decide to make an adoption plan, or you decide to have an abortion, you should know the process and complete picture of all three decisions before deciding.
Your Emotions Have Hijacked Your Brain (Really!)
When your brain decides something in life is a threat (perceived or real), your brain enters a “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.
You’ve probably experienced this before in some way. Someone may yell at you, and you get angry and fight back. Something scary may happen and you run away, or sometimes, you just can’t seem to make a decision, or you avoid doing something. Fight-Flight-Freeze.
Your brain has two parts for functioning. This isn’t a science article, so I’m just going to call them the rational and emotional brain.
There is the rational part of your brain that helps you make educated and informed decisions. Then, there is your emotional brain. That’s the brain that responds to things with feelings and emotions. Often, these decisions are impulsive, irrational, and later you may think “Why did I respond that way?”
When you are in ‘crisis mode,’ your rational brains tend to get hijacked by your emotional brain. That “fight, flight, freeze” is a real reaction to a perceived threat. Stress adds to these responses (and then add pregnancy hormones on top of that!)
It’s important to understand that this is probably happening to your brain right now.
Being able to recognize when something is a ‘rational brain’ thought/decision and an ‘emotional brain’ hijacked response is crucial as you start to sort through your options with an unplanned pregnancy.
That’s not to say you can’t have feelings! By all means, experience those feelings. It’s important to address and process your feelings as you work through this very big decision.
But, making long-term decisions with your feelings instead of logic usually leads to regret, remorse, and “I should have” type situations.
This is a really, really, really big decision. And you should make it with the best decision making, ‘rational brain,’ you can.
Good News and Bad News
No one ever teaches you how to handle an unplanned pregnancy until you are in the middle of it. There aren’t classes on this in high school; it’s not talked about much in health classes. You are left, often on your own, or faced with everyone else’s opinions on what to do.
The good news?
You only have three choices.
The bad news?
They are all hard decisions.
When you have a lot of choices in life, often deciding can be even more overwhelming and can make it even harder to make a good choice.
Think about it like this: Imagine you are at a really amazing bakery, and there are 20 different baked goods. They all look so good. Maybe you don’t care for lemon flavored things, but that still leaves 17 choices to choose from. Then you panic and buy one of everything that isn’t lemon flavored. (There’s that emotional brain, hijacking your good decision making from your rational brain!)
Now, imagine the same bakery, but you only have three baked goods to choose from. One is vanilla; one is chocolate; and one is lemon. You don’t like lemon. So, now you’re left with two choices. You love both vanilla and chocolate, but it’s a lot easier to leave with just one. You chose chocolate because it has sprinkles, and you really like sprinkles, and you’re happy with your decision. Your emotional brain didn’t hijack your decision-making process. You’re happy with your choice.
An unplanned pregnancy is kind of like that with your brain. It’s not as fun or temporary as a baked good. And it definitely is not as delicious.
Sidebar: I’m not saying your baby is a donut; I’m just giving an example of how having a lot of choices can make it harder to choose, and your emotional brain will hijack the heck out of your good decisions.
The three choices you have to make when faced with an unplanned pregnancy are simple, but heavy.
You can either…
- Have an abortion
- Place the child for adoption.
(By the way, nowadays more correct, positive terminology is to say “make an adoption plan” or “place my child for adoption” instead of “putting up a child for adoption” or “giving away a child”).
More Good and Bad News
The good news?
There is no good or bad decision.
The bad news?
You have to decide, on a timeline.
That timeline will getcha if you don’t take some action. The good news is your brain likes to take action. Often, taking action in one area of your life will help you get unstuck in another area. With a pregnancy, that looming deadline also helps you take some steps. The sooner you can research and think through your options, the more time you will have to make an informed decision.
You know your brain is either doing one of three things right now:
And you also know you have three options:
Now is a good time to ask yourself…
- What is my brain doing right now?
- Am I in fight, flight, or freeze mode?
- Do I want to be here?
- What do I need to do to work on examining my options?
- Who do I trust that can help me?
- Who can help me make the best choice for me and my child?
- Who will help me without pushing me towards one decision or the other?
Below are some steps that should help you through this process.
Know your rights
As the expectant parent, there are not only legal rights you should know, but you also have to know what your own moral compass is telling you to do.
That internal moral compass is tricky, and no one can answer what it’s guiding you to do. There is so much in a person’s upbringing: racial expectations, societal expectations, religious/spiritual expectations, and more that help you develop your moral compass. It’s different for everyone.
You also need to know your legal rights if you decide to parent, if you decide to abort, and if you decide to make an adoption plan. Laws are different in every state (and even country to country).
Adoption is a permanent situation, and you need to be aware of all of the rights you have before giving birth, after giving birth, and after the adoption is finalized.
You will definitely need help in making this decision.
My best suggestion is to find a trained counselor to talk about your emotions and feelings. Your resources. Your circumstances. Counselors are trained to listen and help you work through making a life-long decision like this. They will assist you in making your own decision and what is best for you and the child. They should be unbiased and will only guide you into making a decision you can be at peace with.
You can also turn to the Internet to help you. There are tons of adoption forums, Facebook groups, etc., for expectant parents and some adoption triad groups that can offer advice. Some groups are for birth parents only, but other groups have a variety of people in the adoption triad that can offer suggestions, thoughts, and guidance.
One word of caution: Adoption has changed a lot over the past 20-30 years. There are a lot of birth parents from many years ago who are very, very angry because their children were (literally) taken from them when they became pregnant, unplanned. A lot were told they were unfit to be a mother because they were not married. These women are still very angry and very bitter. And they definitely have every right to be!
When researching in forums and other Internet resources, you want to make sure you are given well-rounded experiences and advice so you can get a better idea of the “good and bad” parts of making an adoption plan.
Some red flags to alert you to the fact that you may not be in the best group or forum to help you understand the adoption experience are the following:
The group or forum is all rainbows and sunshine about adoption and how amazing it is. Simply put, that’s not the truth. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Life, adoption plan or not, never is.
- The group or forum is full of anger and hate. Adoption is messy and hard, but a group full of anger and hate won’t give you a true picture of adoption options either.
- “Overly helpful” people when you post questions about people’s experiences in adoption.
Examples of ‘overly helpful’ people in adoption forums are when people PM you to “save you from your adoption plan” or even potential adoptive parents PMing you that they want to adopt your baby.
“Overly helpful” in and of itself is a red flag. You will probably feel this in your gut. Listen to your gut here; it is right. You’re not in these groups to be ‘saved.’ You are in these groups to get information and experiences. You want truth; you want honest experiences; you want a variety of emotions and feelings, and a bonus is if you can gather these experiences from a variety of members of the adoption triad.
Research agency and private adoptions
There are kinship adoptions where another family member will take custody. There are private adoptions where someone outside your family can adopt your child but through a lawyer. Then there are also adoption agencies that can introduce you to a myriad of potential adoptive parents and help you. There are open, closed, semi-open adoptions.
It is important to understand all of the above steps in order to make an informed decision.
Once you feel that you’ve gathered enough information to make an informed decision, you need to examine the best path.
- Take time to examine all three options, to really sit with them, contemplate them.
- Imagine 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years from now after making this decision.
- Think about this decision and how it will affect you.
- Think about this decision and how it will affect your child.
If you decide you may want to make an adoption plan, then you will need to move forward to put a plan in action.
Find an agency or an adoption lawyer
The next steps are finding an agency or adoption lawyer to help you choose a family, make a birth plan, and help guide you through the steps after giving birth so that the adoptive family can adopt. The laws are different in every state.
There are still some horror stories about unethical adoption agencies and the adoption industry. Unfortunately, it still exists.
Make a good choice about the agency you want to use
An ethical social worker at an agency will inform you of all your options, and they will not pressure you into making a decision one way or another about your choice. They will make sure you understand your rights and the laws. If you ask your social worker questions and they don’t give you straightforward answers with resources (articles, pamphlets, etc.), that is probably a red flag. A good agency and social worker want you to do what is best for you and your child. A good agency will also have post-placement support for you to help you heal after the baby is born.
An expectant mother should also have her own lawyer that specializes in her rights. The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys specialize in adoption law and will make sure your rights as an expectant and birth parent are met.
Something to note
You are allowed to move forward and examine families and change your mind later.
Deciding to investigate potential adoptive families and what adoption looks like for you is not a commitment to making an adoption plan. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Until you sign your papers after the birth of your child (the timeline after birth to signing is different in every state), the child belongs to you, and it is your decision to make whether or not you want to parent.
Even if you have given birth, even if the adoptive parents are with you at the hospital when you give birth, you have no legal or moral obligation to follow through with your plan.
Adoption is permanent
Make the best, most-informed, ‘rational-brained’ decision you can with the information you have in the time you have.
If you ultimately decide to make an adoption plan, find support as soon as possible after birth. You will need to heal in all areas of your life. The sooner you find the support, love, and connection you need after birth, the better the rest of your journey will be.
Caroline is a birth mother in an open adoption. She is a co-founder and facilitator of post-placement retreats and support network for birth mothers in Ohio, Caring for Birthmothers. Caroline is the owner of All Abilities Swim, LLC which she founded in July of 2018. She is an Aquatics Professional with over 23 years of experience teaching and coaching in aquatics, on top of her own state-level, collegiate, and masters swimming competitive swim background. Outside of Aquatics, Caroline is married to her husband, Don, and they co-own YoFresh Meal Prep-a healthy meal prep company that just launched in December of 2018. She is a published 2017 American Swim Coaches Association Fellow. She holds a BS in Early Childhood Education from Baldwin-Wallace College. Caroline swims masters swimming, reads, plays piano, and loves to be involved in passion projects.