As an expectant parent, you may have a lot of thoughts and emotions going through your heart and mind during this season of unknowns. You may have found yourself in a situation where you were not expecting to be expecting and are not sure of your next steps. You also may be researching all of the options for you and your baby, which is a great first step. Gaining as much information as you can regarding your future and the plans for you and your baby will help you make the best decision for both of you. It may be difficult to wrap your head around the next few days, weeks, or months. It may also be even more difficult to picture life after you place your baby for adoption. It is important to understand that your life will be rich and full and that you have lots of options for the relationship you wish to have or not have with your child and their adoptive family. After placing your baby for adoption, life will go on.
You Are Not Giving Up Your Baby
As you walk through the journey of adoption you may think, “what will I do after I give up my baby for adoption?” First, it is most important to understand that you will not give up your baby for adoption. You will be creating an adoption plan for your child. An adoption plan is a loving and beautiful option that you can choose for your child. Positive adoption language is essential during this time because words matter even if they do not seem important when you may already have so many other things to think about and choose. Saying that you will give up your baby alludes to you giving up. You are not giving up! Making an adoption plan and placing your child for adoption is a beautiful, positive, life-giving choice for you and your baby. This choice is empowering and shows your strength and resilience. You should feel proud of it. Remember that words are powerful and when you speak about your decision try to use the words “creating an adoption plan” instead of “giving up my baby for adoption”. You are not giving up, you are choosing. It is also important for your self-care and mental health to use positive adoption language when you think about your adoption decision. You are making a critical, empowering choice, and words matter during self-talk. Words have healing power. Before we even discuss what you will do after you place your baby for adoption, it is important to understand the reality of the situation and the appropriate language. This is your choice for you and your baby— your decision and your life— no one is giving up!
What Is An Adoption Plan?
So, after understanding the positive adoption language you may still need answers. As an expectant parent, you may just be contemplating an adoption plan for your baby or you may be close to the birth. You may have just found out you are pregnant and may be immediately thinking of life after the adoption placement. At whatever stage you are at in the process, understanding what an adoption plan is will help you understand what you will do after you place your baby with their adoptive parents.
An adoption plan is created by you, the expectant parent (or parents), and is a written plan for the decisions you make for your child in the adoption. You will hear about adoption plans frequently as an expectant parent, however, all adoption plans are unique— just like you and your child. Some expectant parents create a very detailed outline for all of the specifics they wish to include about the pregnancy, labor, prospective adoptive parents, and communication post-adoption placement. Other expectant parents create a more fluid or less detailed plan for themselves and their baby. The plan may be simple details regarding the adoptive family and their wishes post-adoption placement. It may just include the most necessary information for the adoption and nothing more. Neither is right or wrong or better than another. The one thing that makes every adoption plan the same is that it will include whatever details are important to you for the adoption for you and your baby.
One of the important pieces of information included in adoption plans is the information about your child’s adoptive family. You may choose someone you already know to adopt your baby such as a family member, a couple from your church or synagogue, or someone you met through adoption profiles online. If you have not chosen an adoptive family for your baby yet, an adoption attorney or adoption agency can help you with this part of the process and all other parts too.
Having an adoption service provide either an adoption attorney or adoption agency is necessary to ensure that all of the legal requirements are met for the adoption. You can decide on either an agency or an attorney, but it is important to remember that if you choose to use an adoption attorney, you need to make sure they specialize in adoption. If you wish to use an adoption agency, here is a wonderful dictionary for adoption agencies in your area and around the country that serve women in every state.
An example of a wonderful adoption agency that helps expectant parents better understand their options is the Gladney Center for Adoption. Gladney Center for Adoption can be contacted via email, phone, or online. Their options counselors work with expectant parents to help them understand their options. If adoption is what you choose for your baby, they will hold your hand through every step of the process.
Although the Gladney Center for Adoption is amazing, any adoption agency or adoption attorney will help you understand what type of openness you would like with your child and their adoptive family after you place your baby for adoption. This level of openness will be included in your adoption plan. An open adoption, a semi-open adoption, or a closed adoption are the options you have as an expectant parent.
An open adoption is when you as the birth parent or parents have some level of communication with the child’s adoptive parents and your baby after the placement is complete. The level of openness and communication is up to you and can be in the form of regular phone calls, emails, or even visits. It may mean visiting once a year on your child’s birthday or getting sporadic video calls throughout the year. It may mean infrequent phone calls that you make or emails from the adoptive parents at certain points of the year or milestones. Other expectant parents wish to have an open adoption with no regular contact, but emails at milestones, photos at different stages, or maybe just a once a year with a scrapbook of pictures and updates. You can decide what you want for you and your baby and your adoption agency will help you choose an adoptive family with the same ideas.
Other expectant parents choose to have a semi-open adoption. This is less frequent in an adoption plan. A semi-open adoption is usually when the expectant parents do not want to have an open level of communication with the adoptive parents and their child post-adoption placement. They may not exchange phone numbers, addresses, emails, or even last names. However, the expectant parents will share information about themselves in a way that shares the story of who they are as people, maybe what they do for a living, and family history for the child to know one day. Medical history will be shared for the sake of the child and often the adoptive parents will communicate updates on the child, which can include videos or photos. These will usually be shared through a third-party intermediary, such as the adoption attorney or adoption agency.
The rarest level of communication in an adoption plan is a closed adoption. A closed adoption was very common decades ago, but as we now know, is not in the best interest of the child and often the expectant parents. A closed adoption prevents any communication or identifying information to be exchanged between the members of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and child). It is often called a confidential adoption now and it means that as an expectant parent you can still choose the adoptive family for your child, but the adoptive family will not know anything about you as the expectant or birth parent. You will know their names and potentially other information but they will not know this information about you as the birth parent. Most expectant or birth parents will share medical information through the adoption agency. It is important to know that even if you choose a closed adoption today your state will seal adoption records, meaning that your identity is protected. Unfortunately, this does not mean that will always be the case. Adoption laws often change and states that protect the identity and contact information of birth parents today may not in the future.
Finally, in the adoption plan, you will share information regarding your wishes for communicating with the adoptive family you choose during the pregnancy. It will outline your wishes for labor and birth. This portion of the adoption plan will share what interventions you are open to and how much time you wish to bond with your child, if at all, and who you would like in the labor room with you. It will also include information about birth parent expenses, which is the reimbursement or expenses paid, per your respective state laws, for expenses an adoptive family can pay for during your pregnancy to ensure the adoption does not cost you anything. Depending on your state, this could include rent, groceries, medical bills, counseling, and clothing. Your adoption agency can explain what can and cannot be included in these expenses.
After understanding the importance of positive adoption language, choosing an adoption service provider (agency or attorney), and creating an adoption plan for your child, you can now begin to decide on your life post-adoption placement. You have decided on the level of communication you wish to have with your child and their adoptive family, so that part is planned for already. Now you can focus on yourself. What dreams do you have? What are your plans for your future? Will you finish school? Will you pursue your dream career? Will you heal and focus on growing and rebuilding emotionally if you have experienced trauma?
Counseling is important during this time! Leaning on your social workers in the short term post-placement and the counselor you built a rapport with during the pregnancy is critical during this time. Find your support system made up of friends, family, and colleagues you can depend on as you take these next steps in life. Journal, pray, practice yoga, workout, heal, build, create, and dream. You will have the rest of your life ahead of you so take it one day at a time. Adoption is a lifelong journey and as addressed at the beginning of this article, you are not giving up, you are just beginning!
Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.