Are you a young woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant? Are you unsure of what your options are? This article will walk you through different aspects of unplanned pregnancies and the option of adoption should you decide you are unable to be a parent at this point in your life.

What Does Unplanned Pregnancy Mean?

Sometimes the plan is to have kids, but sometimes kids don’t follow the plan. Unplanned pregnancies happen to many women, even young teenagers. Sometimes women get pregnant when they aren’t ready because they did not use protection, did not use birth control, believed the age-old tale that “It cannot happen the first time,” etc. The point is, pregnancy can, and does happen, even when you least expect it. 

What Does Adoption Mean?

According to the Merriam–Webster Dictionary, adoption means, “To raise a baby or child that is not biologically yours.” There are many families/individuals out there that cannot have children of their own whether it be due to hereditary issues or infertility. Thus, adoption has become more and more common. In the 1950s and 1960s, if you were found pregnant, you would be sent to a “home” for unwed mothers until the birth of your baby. This “home” would place the baby in a closed adoption, cutting all ties to your baby and never giving you the option or opportunity to see your child. Then you were expected to go back to your life as if you had never given birth. This would be extremely hard because, once you have had a baby, life cannot go back to “normal.” Luckily, this is not the adoption process in place in today’s day and age.

Reasons an Expectant Mother Might Place Her Baby for Adoption

There are many conditions and people to factor in when you consider your adoption journey. There are many reasons an expectant mother looks at adoption as the best option for herself and the baby she carries. Here are a few:

  • You might be a young teenager and know you do not want to have an abortion (terminating the pregnancy in utero), but you know you cannot raise the baby yourself.
  • You may have parents who know how difficult, and expensive raising children are and are pushing you in the direction of adoption.
  • Even at a young age, whether you are a teenager or in college, going to school, doing homework, participating in extracurricular activities, and/or working a job with the addition of a new baby is not always ideal. Some do it, but it might be more than you can do. 
  • You are a college graduate, either with a Bachelors or Masters and want to get your career off the ground before committing to having a family.

What Are the Steps to Placing Your Baby for Adoption?

  1. Making the decision.

Most likely, this will be one of the most vital decisions you will ever make, especially since it involves not only your well-being but also the life of the baby you carry. This choice should not be made lightly, and you should not feel pressured into it. If you do not know much about unplanned pregnancy and adoption, you will want to obtain as much research as you can. Know as much as you can before you decide. 

  1. Finding an adoption agency and/or adoption attorney.

An adoption agency will aid you in every aspect of placing your baby for adoption. One agency that is well-known worldwide but based in Texas is The Gladney Center for adoption. This is such a great adoption agency to work with that even if they are not the right fit for your adoption journey, they will help you find one that is. I cannot stress enough the importance of finding an adoption agency that suits your journey. It is so important because these are the people that will assist you in things like finding a family that fits your criteria, housing if needed, therapy, and financial assistance. 

An adoption attorney is just vital as an agency as they keep the “law areas” in line so that everything is handled correctly. Some attorneys do not necessarily specialize in adoption but they know enough about that part of the law that they can facilitate what needs to be done but it is in your best interest to do your research in this area just as it is in any other area of adoption. 

  1. Develop an adoption plan.

An adoption plan will help ensure that not only your needs and the needs of your baby are met but that the prospective adoptive parents are happy with the choice you work together to make. This is where the adoption agency comes in handy as they assist you when you are not sure which avenue you want to take. The three types of adoption are:

  • Closed adoption: This is the most difficult type of adoption because, before the 1990s, this was the only type available, and all records were, and are sealed. This means that the birth mother doesn’t know where her child ends up and there is no contact between the birth mother/parents and the child. A birth mother with an unplanned pregnancy might find this way easiest, hoping that life will go back to normal after the baby is born. The issue here is when the child gets to an age where he/she wants to know where he/she comes from, usually by the age of 18. He/she cannot go to the agency that he/she was placed to get the files. It generally takes a lot of paperwork to get a judge to unseal the records. 
  • Open adoption: This type of adoption was sparsely seen when it began in the 1960s. Closed adoption was still the most common choice at that point, but as the decades passed and the 1990s rolled around, people found out that open adoption actually benefits all parties involved. The tricky part is deciding what contact is allowed. This is discussed once the birth mother/parents and the prospective adoptive parents meet and agree on what is best. Open adoption means that the birth mother/parents receive updates, whether it be through letters, pictures, photos, and sometimes visitation. When the adoption becomes final, the visitation is usually chosen by the judge. Open adoption allows the child to get to know where he/she came from, why he/she was placed for adoption, and obtain a relationship with his/her birth mother/parents.
  • Semi-open adoption: This type is even a newer concept than open adoption is. This type gives the birth mother/parents updates on her baby set by the adoptive parents. This generally takes place at three months, six months, and a year, then yearly after that. There are some adoptive parents that will allow for some type of visitation at some point in the child’s life. Like an open adoption, semi-open adoptions still allow the child to become familiar with where he/she came from and why he/she was placed for adoption. but this one, like open adoption, doesn’t allow 
  1. Choosing and meeting your baby’s forever family.

Many birth mothers/parents have a list of criteria that the prospective adoptive parents must meet to be considered. Some of these criteria could include having a good job, a stable marriage (of more than a couple of years), family traditions, and family time values, to name a few.

Choosing the right family for your baby is not easy. But, as the years have gone by and technology has developed, sifting through files has gotten easier with an advancement called photo listing. It used to be that you had to filter through paper files, which took a long time. Photo listing allows you to see everything about a couple at a glance from a computer. It does go into greater detail just like the paper files, but it does not seem to be as overwhelming, especially if your caseworker from your agency is helping. 

Once you have selected the family/individual you believe to be the best fit, then comes the meeting. Most of the time, the first meeting is by phone call. Then, you would set up a meeting face-to-face. A helpful way to prepare for the meeting in person and make it feel less ominous is to come up with questions you can ask them that can help “break the ice.” These may include:

  • How did the two of you meet?
  • Was it love at first sight?
  • What attracted you to each other?
  • Are your other children aware that you are adopting; how do they feel about it? (If the family you choose has other children)
  • Are there family traditions you have for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter?

After you have decided that the family is the one, that is when you discuss what you want as your adoption plan. Most families work with you as they do not want to cause any more undue stress than you already have.

6. Constructing your hospital plan.

You, the birth mother/parents, have the opportunity to decide who is in the delivery room with you when you give birth. Some birth mothers are keener on having the birth father in the room. This would give you both some much-needed time to bring your baby into the world and allow you the opportunity to have a moment with your baby before placing him/her with his/her forever family. There are other birth mothers who have the support of their parents and family and want them in the delivery room; some a best friend or mother. Yet still, there are others who want to invite the prospective adoptive mother to take part in the experience as much as she is able. There are many adoptive parents who are sensitive to the wants and needs of the birth mother/parents and do their best to give her/them the time needed with the baby. 

7. Coming to terms with your “new normal”.

What are your plans after placing your baby for adoption? You cannot go back to who you were before you got pregnant, and you are not the same person who gave birth, so how do you deal with this new you? A good place to start would be therapy if you have not yet considered it. You may find that even though you went through the grieving process after finding out you were pregnant and then making the heart-wrenching decision to place your baby for adoption, you could be going through it again, or it could even be a continuation.  Your therapist helps you navigate the different areas of grief, which are:

  • Denial: You do not want to believe any of this has happened. You wish it all was a bad dream, and you want to wake up and have everything the way it used to be, but you know it will not work that way. 
  • Anger: You find yourself angry. You could be angry at yourself because if you had “just made him wear protection, none of this would have happened,” or angry at the birth father for a similar reason. You might be angry at the both of you because you are not the one raising your baby, even though it was an unplanned pregnancy and you knew there was no way you could have done it.
  • Bargaining: You could be feeling the emotional pain of knowing your baby is not with you and you might be tempted to make a promise that you cannot possibly keep. 
  • Depression/Isolation: You might be more depressed and want to isolate yourself from family and friends. Even though your circle of friends might have changed, therapy and finding groups with other women who have been where you are or are going to be could help get through this rough patch.
  • Acceptance: This happens when you are genuinely living your best life knowing that there is a little person that you created who is better where he/she is and that is because you put his/her needs above your wants. 

You may find hobbies that you did not have before that help you build your new normal as you learn and grow just as the baby you placed will be. And that should make you proud.

DISCLAIMER: Although this is a guide to assist expectant mothers in their choice to place their baby for adoption after an unplanned pregnancy, please contact an adoption agency or adoption attorney for assistance.

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.