There are no words that adequately describe the heartbreaking moment of relinquishment, when a first parent physically places her child with the adoptive parents. Some agencies understand the pain better than others, allowing Mom to spend as much time as desired with her child before she places her with a new family, while others guilt and cajole until birth parents hand the child over. No matter how “good” your agency is, however, coercion within adoption still exists—here are three common circumstances that can become coercive, and how to make sure to avoid it.

Only one bio parent knows about the pregnancy.

If you haven’t told your child’s father about the pregnancy, you should absolutely not hand over that child to any agency. While some states (ahem Utah) allow loopholes that keep fathers in the dark, it is ethically and morally wrong to not notify him – and you may be opening up a huge legal can of worms if he ever finds out. It may be uncomfortable, painful, even to tell him you are pregnant and have chosen to place – but he deserves to know.

You are on medication other than antibiotics.

Most states have laws in place that require relinquishment to happen when Mom is not high on pain killers, but that doesn’t always stop agencies who want to get the placement over with quickly. If you are not 100% lucid, sign nothing and let them know you know your rights. Make sure that the nurses you have are allies with you in this – that you are not placing until your meds wear off and you can think clearly.

You are not certain that you want to place, after all.

Guess what? That’s 100% fine. If you are having second thoughts about placing your child into adoption, STOP and take a break from the process. Here is where unethical agencies will try to make you feel bad, to tell you how disappointed they are in you, how you may hurt the prospective parents or even owe living expense money – and they are completely acting in a coercive manner. Your child, your life, your choice is what is important, and if you decide to parent him yourself you have every right in the world to disrupt the placement plan. Here is when having an advocate for yourself, like a trusted family member or an attorney, really helps.

Pregnant and considering adoption? You don’t need to do it alone. Click here to connect with a caring, compassionate adoption professional who can help you figure out what’s best for you and your baby. All consultations and counseling are absolutely free.