Life in 2020 has not gone as expected for most of us, and if that’s not enough of a complicated matter, some of you are facing pregnancy during this time as well. I remember when I found out that I was pregnant, my first thought (okay, maybe my second thought) was, “How did I get here?” Yes, the answer is obvious, but I genuinely never thought that it would happen to me. I had to make a plan because I was alone and barely scraping by. I decided to look into Dallas adoption.
What do I want my child’s life to look like after adoption?
I grew up as an adopted child. My parents went to an agency, and took me home at two days old. Three years later, they did the same thing with my sister. We both had a closed adoption. We always knew we were adopted because my parents regularly told us, so it was our “norm,” and I never knew any of my biological family. My parents sent in pictures or letters to the agency to give to my birth mom when she would ask for updates, but I didn’t ever see her or have a connection to her. When I turned 18, I had the option to put my name on a list saying I wanted to meet her, and if she did too, the agency would help us connect. I did not do that at the time, but I also was able to get my adoption record unsealed starting at 18. I did not end up connecting with my birth family until I was 22. Closed adoption today looks pretty similar. When thinking about your child’s future as an adoptee, it’s good to start with whether you want a closed adoption or an open adoption.
Because I grew up with a closed adoption, I knew that I did not want that experience for my child. I wanted to see them grow up, even if it meant in glimpses. Open adoption is ever changeable. Every birth mom’s open adoption plan is as unique as they are. This is probably the best part about open adoption, because we as humans are ever evolving and have different needs at different times. I suggest that if you’d like to have a connection to your child, open adoption is right for you. Sometimes it starts out simply with visits at the agency, then to emails and visits, and then social media friends and seeing one another any time someone plans something. My open adoption basically took that timeline, but I believe what opened it to where we are today is mutual respect of boundaries. I knew that my child had a life outside of me, so I never imposed on that, but made it clear I would love to see her when I could. So we would meet at a restaurant halfway between us and my parents, sister, my son, my daughter, and her mom, and I would sit and chat about everything that has gone on between our last visit and now. Because my children have had the opportunity to get to know me, I’ve been able to live my love out loud and be intentional with them. I believe we are all the better for it.
Where do I go to make an adoption plan?
There are two general ways that adoptions take place. One is through a lawyer with a couple/person that you have already picked out to parent your child. The downside to this is that you have fewer resources available and that you won’t always find someone advocating for your needs if you go straight through a lawyer. As someone who has been there before, I believe that you need as many advocates as you can during this journey, because it is challenging and it’s nice to have someone thinking about what you may need in the future so you can focus on your child’s needs. That is why I decided to go with an agency when placing my daughter. Dallas adoption has plenty of options when searching for an agency. Gladney Center for Adoption, in my opinion, is the best of the best. When you first arrive or contact Gladney, you get to speak with an options counselor. They will go over all of the options you have when faced with pregnancy. They never just go in assuming you will place your child for adoption, and I think that is a big deal. They empower you to make whatever choice is best for you, even if you decide to parent, go with another agency, or choose something else. At the end of the day, this is your baby and your decision alone. If you decide to move forward at that point, you will speak with a lawyer and get a caseworker, so that they can have all of the details of your situation. This helps them have all of the information to best advocate for you and your child. The law team will work on all of the legal side of adoption, and your caseworker takes care of your needs and helps guide you through the adoption process. During pregnancy, Gladney offers counseling that can be extremely beneficial, and they even continue to offer it to you after you place your child for adoption. Your caseworker helps you also get connected to any resources you may need during pregnancy like financial assistance, schooling, childcare, or housing. After you place, you have a new caseworker that works in post-adoption support, and they will be your cheerleaders in life. They help you get connected to schooling, counseling, support groups, and so much more. The post-adoption support is my favorite thing about Gladney because they want to see you succeed. They truly care about birth mothers, and that’s not found everywhere.
What do I picture my child’s parents to be like?
This is where it gets fun! Once you get started with an agency, or even if you choose to go the independent adoption route and go through a lawyer, you get to start looking through parent profiles. Your caseworker will ask you some basics to get the selections narrowed down to fit your general desires. Questions like: Are they already parenting? Do you want them to be local? Do you want them to be religious? Do they want an open adoption? These questions help narrow down the selection to a smaller amount of people for you to go through. When I was going through this step in 2009, photo books were all the rage. Social media and technology had not become trendy in the adoption world yet, but these days you can find parent profiles online, on social media, and in video format. When I got the stack of photo books to go through, I tried to have an open mind because I knew that all of these couples were waiting to be chosen and had a lot of love to give. In fact, when I speak on panels sometimes, a favorite question from perspective adoptive parents is “what should I put in our profile to make it stand out?” The truth is, all five of the couples sitting in front of me that day stuck out to me. What I hear birth mothers say all the time is to be yourself because it will stick out to the right birth mom. I have heard countless stories, and consistently during this step, they just followed their heart and it usually works out just right. When I was flipping through the profile of the couple I chose this is what stuck out, travel photos, family and friend group photos, they had a dog, and they wrote about one another in such an endearing way. I just became drawn to them and knew in my heart that they were the ones I wanted to parent my baby. I let my caseworker know who I chose, and she set up a phone call, so I could chat with them a bit before moving forward to meeting them. While that phone call was awkward and I don’t remember much, I do remember telling them I had chose them and they cried and responded “we’ve been waiting for a long time.” I was overjoyed for them and excited to share the news that I knew she was a girl. We made plans to meet after Christmas. We met at a restaurant with our caseworkers present as well, and began chatting. During that first meet-up, I was only questioning if they liked me, or would want to continue this journey with me. I had already made up my mind that they were the right choice. After lunch, I felt solid in my choice and knew that they were confident too. I wanted to get to know them during the rest of my pregnancy, so they had lunch with me a few more times; we crafted a baby’s room together, and even went shopping for some baby items. While this isn’t what everyone does, I recommend seeing if the couple is open to it, as it truly helped me feel apart of the journey and helped my emotions.
What happens after birth?
Going into labor can be emotionally heavy. You have a lot of heightened hormones, and a different plan for your child than most going into the hospital. It’s good to let the nurse know that you are considering adoption when you get in to a room. This lets them be mindful about what they say to you, and best take care of your needs during this time. I remember a sweet moment when I was in labor with my daughter that still makes me tear up. A nurse working in labor and delivery had placed her child for adoption just six months before me. She heard that I was in labor, not even knowing me, and came in to support me. Support is the utmost important thing during this stage of the adoption journey and I was so thankful that I had so many birth mothers already embracing me and letting me know I’d never be alone again. You can choose to have whoever you want there to support you during birth. If you want the adoptive parents to come up to the hospital during labor, that is definitely an option! If you want to have more alone time with your baby before calling them up, that is fine too. Go at your pace and comfort level, because this is still your choice, even this far into the journey. Once you have had your baby and 48 hours have passed, you can from anytime moving forward sign the relinquishment papers. These documents relinquish your rights as baby’s parent. After the birth, the baby goes into transitional care, but you can have visits with your baby as often as you’d like. At this point, you can decide after signing the relinquishment papers when you’d like to have placement day. Placement day is when you give baby to the adoptive parents. It’s a bittersweet moment for everyone, as it is filled with joy that a family was created, but the pain of losing a child for the birth mom is still very heavy on everyone’s hearts, especially the birth mom.
What do I do now?
After placement day, it’s hard to have a clear direction of where to go from there. You probably are feeling a lot of emotions, and need to work on those too. Post-adoption support is extremely beneficial to birth parents after placement. Most agencies can get you plugged in to counseling, so you can talk about your feelings towards your adoption plan. They can also find support groups or birth parent communities to direct you to so you can connect with other women and men who have been through similar journeys. Another great thing about post-adoption support in Dallas adoption is that they can find resources to help you on the next steps in life, like schooling or certifications. While there are many challenges after placement, I hope that if you do make this choice, you at least consider therapy or a support group to talk about what you are feeling. Feelings are not fun to process, but in order to heal, we eventually have to feel.
Being a birth mother is hard work, emotionally exhausting at times, and takes a lot of intentionality. However, it can be extremely rewarding to see your child grow up with the opportunities you dreamed for them. While you are away from them physically, you never stop being their mother, and your love for them only grows— I count that as joy. Whatever next steps you take in your pregnancy, I hope you remember you have a voice in what happens to your body and to your child. You are strong and I hope you follow your heart in making the right choice for you!
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.