Deciding to place your child for adoption is a decision so difficult to make that I won’t even try to describe it. The stress and pain and anxiety that come with that decision is the most overwhelming mix of emotions I have ever felt. As I drew near my due date, I thought I was prepared. I laugh about that now. Nothing can truly prepare you for the emotions you will experience in placing your child, but knowing what to expect might save you some grief and anxiety later on. I got together with several of my birth mom friends and came up with a list of ten questions every expectant mother should ask before placement.
If you are using an agency . . .
What is your process?
How will you help me choose an adoptive family for my child? Will I receive counseling pre-placement? Getting a general feel for how your agency treats you is vital. In the process of choosing an agency, if you feel mistreated, judged, or pressured at any time during your pregnancy, get out. Poor treatment pre-placement almost guarantees poor treatment post-placement. This is your life, and your decision. You have the power to choose an agency you feel good about.
What kind of counseling is offered post-placement?
For many birth mothers, counseling is vital in their grieving process. Some agencies provide counseling for a set amount of time after placement, others for life. Finding out what services are available and how to access them now will save you the headache of trying to find help later on.
How involved will your agency be post-placement?
If the adoption is open, will all contact with the adoptive family be through the agency? How will the agency make sure that all of the updates are passed on? Will a caseworker be there during relinquishment? Being specific in what to expect will ease stress and help you prepare a plan that works for you.
Questions for the adoptive couple . . .
Really, what are your preferences for openness?
If an exact expectation for openness is not discussed pre-placement, often one or both parties end up bitterly disappointed. I have seen many birth mothers hear the phrase “open adoption” and assume that that means frequent visits, texts, and pictures. In reality, openness can vary from a photo and update every few years to weekly or monthly visits. This conversation can be awkward, but if you want to have a good relationship with your child’s adoptive family, you must be on the same page on openness.
How do you plan to maintain openness?
What if one or both of us move? What if your schedule suddenly becomes very busy? How will openness change as baby grows older? Openness often changes over time, and being able anticipate those changes will help both parties feel comfortable in the relationship.
How will you explain adoption to the child?
Some couples choose to wait until the child is older to tell them that they’re adopted, and others tell their children from day one. Some choose not to tell the child you are their birth parent, and others choose to explain who you are at an early age. Some birth parents go by their first names, others by names like Tummy Mummy, First Mommy, and a myriad of other titles. There is not necessarily a right or wrong way to explain adoption, but it is important that you agree on how adoption will be explained to the child, or there is sure to be friction.
What is our birth plan?
This is an area where you need to be very clear on your needs. I chose to have the adoptive mom attend labor and delivery class with me so she could coach me through labor and cut the cord. I know other women who have chosen to not see the adoptive family until placement. Again, there is no right or wrong answer here, but making a birth plan with the adoptive family will ensure a much smoother birth experience.
Asking some of these questions might be difficult. Maybe awkward or too upfront. But I can promise you that these questions, and any others that feel important, are much easier to talk about before placement than after. Never be afraid to ask.
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