Unplanned pregnancies can be an uncertain time full of decisions, one of which is adoption. If you are wondering how to put a child up for adoption or rather better put, how to place a child for adoption, it can be a very rewarding choice, long term wise. While it is full of challenges, emotionally and physically, it is also full of hope and possibilities. If you are considering this choice during whatever situation you are in, I want you to know, I believe in your strength and wish you the best in whatever decision you make.

The term “putting a child up for adoption” was coined from when orphan children were brought to cities by trains, called orphan trains, and put up on a platform to be chosen. Since history began this term for orphans, it is still commonly used today when talking about adoption. While the term is literally accurate, it also has a very harsh and negative tone. As a woman who has chosen an adoption plan for my children, if you were to ask me “How to put up a child for adoption?” versus “How to place a child for adoption?” I would cringe at the first question versus the second. Once you get a glimpse into the process of how a birth mother places a child for adoption, you will get a better understanding of how flippant “putting a child up for adoption” sounds.

1. Agency or Independent Adoption?

When I first found out that I was pregnant, my world was rocked. I literally remember thinking, “well I didn’t think this was ever going to happen.” I was young and not being the most cautious when having sex, but I really did not think I was ever going to be that girl. I myself was adopted when I was two days old from an agency, so I knew that adoption was an option for me and my baby. I immediately went into the Gladney Center for Adoption to consider my options. For this first step, I recommend doing a little research and decide first if you want to go through an agency or if you want to do an independent adoption. Independent adoption is where a birth parent and adoptive parents link up without an agency matching you with someone. For example, if you know a couple in your church who is looking to adopt, you could choose to have that family parent your baby. Also, you should/can look at a few different agencies, and don’t be afraid to talk to several. At the end of the day, I chose to go with Gladney because I had heard of this agency my entire life as a reputable agency and it was a bonus that it was local to me.

2. What Resources Are Available to Me at an Agency?

Going through an agency, you have a lot of resources that help you through your process. When I was placing through Gladney, I had access to a caseworker who checked in with me consistently to help navigate my emotions, questions, and help me know what next steps were along the way. I also had access to counseling, housing assistance, and support from other women considering adoption. When I first got to Gladney, I went through a simple chat with a staff member to learn what the process looks like, how to get started, and I got to hear more about Gladney as an agency. When I decided to move forward, I spoke to a lawyer to discuss my situation so that she could be the best advocate for me and the baby as she takes care of the legal side of adoption. This part was a little uncomfortable for me as I was not with the birth father anymore, and having to share those details was hard for me, but I remember the lawyer being very supportive in those moments of vulnerability. I then moved into a dorm that Gladney had at the time to be around other women who were making adoption plans. While some agencies do not offer dorms, there are some who will give you assistance with housing or groceries, or even childcare if you are already parenting. There are many resources available that agencies offer to help make the process less overwhelming at home.

3. Pick an Adoptive Family.

When I was about four or five months along, I was handed about five photo books to look through. These books were profiles of hopeful adoptive parents. Nowadays, you can find profiles online as well. Before I got these, I had filled out a checklist of things I would prefer in a couple and things I would like about these different family’s lives. Initially, this was just simply a two-parent, faith-based, love-grows-here home. When I began looking through profiles, things stuck out to me that I really appreciated in the couples. Some had animals (which I adore all animals so that was a plus), pictures of the couple traveling, which showed me that culture and adventure were enjoyable to these people, pictures with lots of family and friends, which showed me that the family had a good support system, and some had letters from the husband about the wife and vice versa, which showed me that the love for one another was authentic and that the couple would surely love my child to the fullest. When I chose C & A, the couple, I loved the things about the family that I just listed, but mostly I listened to my heart when making the decision. I just knew this couple was the one; it was like all of me was beaming, “this is it.”

4. Meet the Adoptive Family.

After I picked C & A, I made a short phone call to introduce myself and to let the couple know that I had picked the family to parent my daughter. It was around Christmas time, so we scheduled to meet up in-person in January. I remember being more worried about what the couple would think of me and if the hopeful adoptive parents would be willing to accept me as part of this journey. I never once thought, “Will I like this couple? Will I still want this family to parent my baby?” I knew from the moment that I chose C & A that I was sure it was the right couple, so moving forward I was just hoping to make a good impression. Meeting in person was awkward, it’s like a first date where everyone is on his or her best behavior, but once we got talking, I quickly realized this couple was wonderful, and my choice felt so validated at that moment. I spent several more times meeting for lunch, running baby shopping errands, and even painted pottery with the couple one day during the remainder of my pregnancy. This is something that is situational, I wanted to have a natural bond with the couple, so I chose to see if the family was open to getting to know me better during that time. My best advice with creating a bond with adoptive parents is to follow your heart and do what you are both comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way to go about it.

5. Let’s Have a Baby!

When I went into labor, I quickly traveled to the hospital and called C & A to tell the couple that soon the baby girl would be here. Both wished me swift labor and said that I was in their prayers. I said I would update C & A when I could. Shortly later, with my own mom by my side, I welcomed a beautiful daughter into the world. This was my second pregnancy, so I was pretty prepared for what was to come, but I was thankful that my caseworker came by regularly to support me, my birth mother friends from the dorm sent love, and a few visits and my family was my rock during this time. The first night after the baby girl’s birth was probably one of the hardest moments in my journey. I remember being beyond exhausted but felt so selfish for wanting to sleep and send her to the nursery for a few hours when I would never get that alone time with her back again. At that moment, I reached out to a birth mother friend who had just been through this and simply said, “how did you do this?” I explained what I was feeling, and she reminded me of my strength and that a mother’s love is infinite. I slept a few hours and quickly called her back to me for those precious moments of beaming love.

6. Embrace the Hard Stuff.

When I went back to the dorm from the hospital, the hardest part began. Grief is a reality, and I was in the deep of it. After 48 hours post-birth, you can sign relinquishment papers to finalize the adoption on the birth mother’s side. This legal document is very coldly stated, in my opinion, and literally explains that you are relinquishing all parental rights–you are “putting up your child for adoption.” But again, there is that harsh tone. In reality, you are doing something out of love, sacrifice, and hope, not rejection or cold choices. While that part was difficult for me, I held on to love and that I was impacting my child’s life for the best outcome. That helped a lot. For the week after I got out of the hospital, I had visits with my daughter, who was in transitional care, frequently. Transitional care is where the baby goes after relinquishment papers are signed. Usually, it’s with a lovely family who loves the baby, and, as the birth mother, you can set up as frequent visits as you’d like. After a week of visits and spending time to grieve, I placed my daughter into the arms of her parents on a Friday. It was an emotional whirlwind, and there was not a dry eye in sight. The main three things that I remember about that day was the joy of the family I just helped create, the overwhelming love on all sides, and the support and care that was present for me. It was not a secret that this was a hard thing for me, and the adoptive parents loved me through that. That couple still does.

7. Open Adoption or Closed Adoption?

Life after placement can look several ways either through a closed adoption or an open adoption at different levels of openness. Closed adoptions were the norm back when I was adopted in the 1980s. These usually consist of updates being shared through only the agency. Some are even as closed where members of the adoption triad never meet, never know names, and updates are not even requested. That’s rarer in today’s world of adoption. The norm now is open adoption. Open adoption takes so many forms because everyone’s situation and level of comfort are different moving forward, but the main definition is where there is a connection between adoptive parents, the child, and birth parents. My open adoption has progressed over the years from emails sent to a generic email address to Facebook friends, and one visit a year, to now visits whenever we plan something. It has taken us ten years of growth together to naturally get to that place though, and a lot of it was just respecting one another’s boundaries and being appropriate. I have seen open adoptions ranging from visits taking place at the agency and letters through the agency, to the opposite end of going to the child’s birthday parties. Whatever your idea of open adoption, the main things to focus on is everyone’s comfort level with the expectations being put in place, and whether seeing the child often or less is beneficial to your healing process. Some birth mothers find it harder to do visits, while others find it therapeutic to spend time with her child often. Regardless, you set the pace.

8. Replace “Put Up” with “Place.”

In summary, why is it so important that we switch the verbiage of how to “put up a child for adoption” to how to “place for adoption?” The difference in the most simply explained ways, is that I decided to place my children for adoption because I loved my children more than anything, and knew I wanted a different life for those children than I could give at that time. I did not give up on my children or put the children up in a careless fashion. It took a lot of strength, courage, and emotional toil to sacrifice motherhood for my children to have that life I wanted for each one. I hope that in learning the eight steps of how to place a child for adoption, that you have a better understanding of what you want your journey to looking like moving forward, and that you carry out the positive adoption language to lift up birth mothers and her beautiful decision of placing a child for adoption.