When I reflect on my unplanned pregnancy and the journey that followed, I remember it vividly. There were so many bits and pieces to the story and process that it always surprises me how much I retain in my memory, but it was life-changing not only for me but for my baby and for an amazing couple that I now call her parents. One of the biggest decisions I made outside of choosing what to do about my unplanned pregnancy was choosing who I wanted to raise my daughter. My hopes for those of you expectant mothers reading this who are either considering placing a child for adoption or who are hoping to adopt a child is that you will read through some of the main things I advise when you are at this step of the adoption process, especially in regards to viewing couples looking to adopt.
The Process for Expectant Mothers
There are of course some steps that you will have when you begin this process, so let’s start there.
You hopefully have already found an agency, but if you have not, I would advise that you do some research on a few in your area or even Google “adoption agencies” and see what pops up. There are a few articles on Adoption.com that you can find on this as well as their sister sites: Adoption.org, Adopting.org, Unplannedpregnancy.org, and Christianadoption.org that can shed some light on other members of the adoption triad (adoptee, adoptive parents, and birth parents). There is also the option of having a private adoption, which is usually straight through a lawyer. This is where you hear about familial adoptions or people that you are already familiar with who adopt your baby.
Finding an Adoptive Couple
When you find the right fit—be it through an agency or private adoption—you can begin the fun stuff: looking through parent profiles. When I was placing my child for adoption, social media and technology were not what they are today. I remember that adding a video message from couples looking to adopt to the agency website was a brand new feature that they were starting when I was placing my child through their agency. An agency can help you narrow down your selection by showing you couples that match what you wish for in parents for your child. When I was going through parent profiles, I had a few things I desired in a family that were the most important criteria for a couple. I wanted a local, two-parent home with faith-based values so that my child would be abundantly loved. Aside from those three things, anything else that I found appealing about them would just be a bonus. In 2009, the profiles I looked through were photo books. I found quite a few things that caught my eye but, at the end of the day, I just knew in my heart that I had found them. So my advice here is to find the criteria that matter to you, to look at as many or as little as you need before you feel confident in your choice, and to follow your heart. Don’t doubt yourself as you know what is best for your child.
When you choose an adoptive parent or an adoptive couple (single people can adopt, too) you get to decide what kind of relationship you want to have with them while you are pregnant. They need to agree to whatever expectations you may have, but it’s an option if you want to hang out with them, email them, or connect with them on some level. I don’t remember why it was important to me, but I wanted to spend time with them. They lived a few hours away, so it was not too hard to make a day trip to Fort Worth to see me. They would come about once a month after I chose them, so we hung out three to four times before I gave birth to my daughter. We went to look at baby gear in stores, and they even asked my opinion on things; looking back, this was so considerate of them. We painted pottery for the nursery, and we went out to eat as we got to know one another. If you don’t have a desire to connect during pregnancy with the adoptive parent or couple you choose, that’s also a great option. Your story is yours alone and you get to narrate every chapter. Again, just be transparent about what your expectations are in this part of the journey and see where it takes you.
This part is the hard one. You have two options here—either have the adoptive couple at the hospital during birth or don’t have them at all. For whatever reason, I had this unspoken pressure or feeling that it wasn’t appropriate to have my daughter’s parents at the hospital during my labor. I don’t remember anyone saying that to me or even suggesting something like that, but that’s my recollection of feelings. So I kept her parents in the loop but did not invite them in until I had had her and had moved to postpartum in the hospital. A decade later, I wish they would’ve been there. Her mom is such a huge part of my life as she has become family; I wish I could’ve given her the memory of our daughter’s first breaths. I spent most of my time with her while I was in the hospital and, whenever she was away from me, I grieved deeply. This is why I also understand how some women want that time to themselves. They want to share those intimate moments alone with their child before they are gone forever. Either way, you get to decide when your adoptive parent or adoptive couple meets your baby. Make sure to give yourself time to be alone with your baby even if you can only bear five minutes; they are such precious memories to cling to in the future.
Post-Placement Adoption Plan
There are three types of adoption plans: closed, open, and semi-open. Closed adoptions are far rarer as they do not provide any connection to the baby after placement. The soonest that this could change would be if your child wants to seek you out when he or she turns 18. At least in Texas, that is the law. Open adoption is having some type of connection, but usually, visits are incorporated into this situation. It can grow over the years, or it can decrease into a semi-open adoption. In this situation, you get pictures in the mail or through email every few months or so. While it can grow or digress, it’s the most common adoption plan in modern adoption. I have a very open adoption with my daughter and her mom. We are connected on social media, we text, I know their address, and we see one another whenever we want. It did not start this open, but over time we saw that we respected one another’s boundaries, we grew to trust each other, and we became a family who loves one another deeply. So naturally, we just grew our relationship to what it is today. Getting to see and know my daughter has been vital to my healing. She never has to wonder about my love for her and that’s been quite a comfort to me as well.
Profile Tips for Hopeful Adoptive Couples
I often get asked questions by adoptive parents and couples looking to adopt when I speak on panels and share my story. The biggest one is the following: “What can make us stand out that we should implement in our profile?” Here are a few of my suggestions for couples looking to adopt.
Share pictures of your home and what traditions or holidays you enjoy there with the family. Birth mothers like to envision their child in the adoptive couple’s home as they look through, so that’s always a great way to do that. Also, if you have some neat home features like a farm it’s fun to highlight that, too.
Family and Friends of the Couple
Add lots of pictures of your family and friends. Adoption is hard and messy and I love seeing that an adoptive couple or family has a support network that will lean in when times get tough, or when the mom needs a shower and a hot meal because the baby won’t sleep through the night. That’s bound to happen. Highlight little blurbs about people who are special to you. Perhaps you want to be patient and parent with such grace that you are always trying to meet your child where they are at—just like your dad always did with you growing up. Share those sweet, authentic tidbits.
I am obsessed with all of the furry, scaly, and feathered friends and I want to see the 15 pictures of your donkey Chris and your cat Felicia. Someone out there will gush over that as well. Give your dog a page and add a cute photo with the caption, “big brother/sister to be” or something sweet like that.
Culture is extremely important to many couples. It makes sense that many birth moms would be curious to see where you travel to or why your heart is tied to a certain country. Share what you love about your favorite country and its culture, or even where you go every year for a family vacation. Again, someone will see that feature and it’ll click.
Faith, Culture, and Values of the Couple
Share about your values and heritage. I heard a birth mother share once that she loved that the adoptive couple made homemade pasta with their family every Sunday. I’ve heard birth mothers say as I did above that faith is a huge part of their decision on who parents their child. Add these things and be transparent.
Time and time again, I hear birth mothers share that they just want prospective adoptive parents to be authentic. Share your heart for adoption, how you want to honor and support a birth mother, how you met your spouse, et cetera. Just stay true to you and the right fit will find you.
Share what you love about your spouse and how they’d make a good parent or already do in a love letter.
Do you have any specific ideologies that you want to try in parenting? Maybe you are all about the cloth diaper and homemade baby food thing; share that and maybe someone will value that.
Do you go skiing every year or hike the state parks on weekends? Those are fun things to share with expectant mothers considering adoption. Adoptive couples never know what will connect them with someone, but all it takes is some common ground.
Earlier I mentioned that my daughter’s parents came and spent time with me throughout the end of my pregnancy. I mentioned that they were so considerate and let me help pick out baby gear. This was so huge, but I haven’t unpacked this until now. That was so touching to me because even though I was placing my daughter for adoption, they were making sure that I got some of those normal experiences that come with being pregnant and excited about the baby. They even asked if I wanted to name her, which was super flattering; however, I chose to keep my names for future children someday. I highlight this because expectant mothers choosing adoption need to feel valued, normal, honored, seen, acknowledged for their grief and loss, and cared for, too. That was the most unexpected treasure I received in finding a couple to adopt my daughter; I gained a family and I am so blessed by their love for me. At the end of the day, I was focused on what was best for my daughter but, long-term, it’s been the best for us both.