6 Ways to Survive a Failed Adoption Placement

You may feel crushed, but how do you keep moving after a failed adoption placement?

Sarah M. Baker October 17, 2015
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It was before the birth that our adoption match fell apart, but it hurt nonetheless. We had bonded with the expectant mother, the father, their children, and the baby we envisioned to be ours. While we fully knew that the baby was theirs until placement actually occurred, she encouraged us to bond and love that baby growing in her womb. I don’t regret that; I still love that child and them.

When you wait months, maybe years, to become parents, and then it finally looks like it may actually happen, you get pretty excited. An expectant mom is planning to place a baby with you! You continue to remind yourself that this is still her baby up until the day she signs the papers and places the baby in your arms, but that doesn’t stop you from having a dream of that child in your heart and home.

It can be a traumatic and emotional experience for the hopeful adoptive family when a mother decides, for whatever reason, to parent her child—or place with a different family. How do you overcome the pain and move forward?

1. Allow yourself to mourn.  You may think you have no right to mourn the loss of a child that wasn’t yours to begin with. You may struggle with the emotions that come with a failed placement and not quite know how to process them.  Give yourself time to be angry, be sad, be ugly, be happy, be proud, be supportive . . . be whatever you need to be. I spend many days sobbing. Nights I clenched a onesie I tie-dyed for the baby-to-be and cried myself to sleep. My husband looked like a lost zombie, filled with grief and the need to comfort me.  It’s OK to feel.

2. Regroup and reconnect. Take a step back and regroup. What did you learn from the failed placement? Don’t allow the sorrow you are feeling to damage your relationship with your partner, but rather grow as you grieve the loss together. You can celebrate the future in knowing that your family will soon be expanding, while appreciating another opportunity to relish the beauty of what you already have.

3. Busy yourself with hobbies. Dive back into some of the things you may have set aside while preparing for a baby. If adoption has been your sole focus lately, you may have missed out on some of your favorite activities. Make it a point to go do something you enjoy. Not only will it help you heal, but it will also pass the time faster.

4. Educate others. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your failed placement experience. People may think they are comforting you by bashing the mother who chose to parent by saying things like “she shouldn’t have gotten your hopes up if she wasn’t sure.” That’s when you can teach others about how adoption works; in doing this, you will be gently reminding yourself not to be angry with her as well. In education, you can also find support.

5. Seek support from others. If you are a member of an adoption support group, share your experience with others. Talking about your emotions and hearing that you are not alone in this journey can be very beneficial. Or you may need to take a step back from all the adoption talk for a bit, and that’s OK too.

6. Put yourself back out there. Don’t be afraid to jump back into waiting for a new match. When our match fell through, we were emotionally and financially invested in the baby and the expectant mother. My husband was terrified if we proceeded with our plans to adopt we would be hurt again and that we would not be able to rebound from another loss. But we had to push past that fear; if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have our amazing son today!

No one can claim that a failed adoption placement is easy, but you will survive it. You can learn from it. You can grow from it. You can come out on top. In the moment, it feels like your world is crashing down around you, but soon you will rebuild and become even stronger. Surviving a failed adoption placement was difficult for our family, and at the time I thought it was the hardest thing I had ever endured.  But where there is a low, a high is sure to come.  Not even two months after our match fell apart, we were matched with another expecting couple, and soon after our son joined our family.

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Sarah M. Baker

Sarah is a Staff Storyteller for Adoption.com and passionate about teaching others the power of open adoption. She is very active in the adoption community, where she spends a lot of time advocating as the founder of Heart For Open Adoption. She is the mom of two boys in addition to parenting her niece. She is a mother biologically and through domestic infant open adoption. Sarah promotes adoption education and ethical adoptions. She and her husband were featured on Season 2 of Oxygen’s “I’m Having Their Baby,” which tells the story of their first adoption match failing. Sarah hopes to bring her personal experience to you and help anyone who wants more information about adoption to find it with ease. Though it was once a taboo subject, Sarah hopes to make adoption something people are no longer afraid to talk about. You can learn more about Sarah and her family on her blog.


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