You found out you were pregnant and are not in a position to raise a child yourself. So you have decided to make an adoption plan, but the term “put my baby up for adoption” keeps being used. What does that mean? The term “put my baby up for adoption” stems from the orphan trains that ran from the mid-1800s until the early 1900s. These eras were filled with orphans, left by their parents for many different reasons. These children found themselves abandoned and homeless. The children were then “placed” on these trains and were usually adopted by families that needed manual labor.

Before the trains got to a city, an advertisement was sent out, and families waited for the children to arrive. Some children were even “matched” with families before the trains arrived, very similar to the customs of an open adoption today. At some of the nicer stops, when the trains arrived the children were ushered into theaters, schools, or some sort of stage to perform for the adoptive families. That way the adoptive parents could “see” them before they adopted them. At other stops, when the trains arrived the children were “placed” on a block or platform. That is where the term “put up” for adoption came from.

Today’s adoptions are very different. Now there are several resources a birth mom can explore. I can honestly say, I have no idea what it would feel like to be in your shoes and how to make this decision. But I do know that if adoption is the right plan for your child, it is probably one of the hardest decisions you have faced in your life.

In order to decide if adoption is right for you, you should know this is a decision you should make—not a family member, not a friend, not a co-worker. Make sure you are educated about your decision, but don’t base it on what everyone else tells you. As with most things in life, everyone has an opinion, whether good or bad. Find a local adoption agency and get in contact with a social worker to discuss your options. If you can’t find an adoption agency, most churches or a local organization will be able to help you find an agency or social worker to work with. I will say that you should feel very comfortable with your social worker. You will want to have open and honest conversations with your worker, so it very important you feel comfortable talking about those things with him/her.

Once you feel you are ready to proceed, you should prepare an adoption plan. What type of adoption do you feel comfortable with? Do you want an open adoption where you have the opportunity for contact with the adoptive parents? Or do you want a closed adoption, where there is no communication at all? These are all conversations you should have with your social worker.

Again, depending on what type of adoption you want to proceed with, the process will be different. If you are going through an open adoption, your social worker will probably have a list of families for you to choose from. Make sure you are making this decision based on what you feel is right for your child. You may want to choose a family that does not already have children or you may want to choose a family that already has children so your child has siblings. You may even choose a family because one of the adoptive parents looks like you. Whatever your reasoning is, make sure you feel it in your heart.

Once you have chosen a family, you will have to decide when you want to meet them and how much contact you want to have with the family going forward. Will you have contact without your social worker? Will you meet in person, if geographic location isn’t an issue? Will you have email, text, or phone communication? Again, as big of a decision as adoption is, choosing an adoptive family is just as important. Make sure you have contact with your social worker to explain how your relationship is developing.

We first met our son’s birth mom at an Olive Garden when she was just 19 weeks pregnant. At first, the conversation was led by our social worker, to sort of break the ice. After dinner, our social worker left, and we stayed and talked a little while longer. We have a very open adoption with our son’s birth mom and see her several times a year, and we are always talking about the day we met. Apparently (and I don’t remember saying it) at some point in our conversation, I said to her, “Well, I am glad we like you.” My husband looked at me like, what did you just say? I was really nervous, but we have a good laugh about it now!

Once that first meeting is out of the way, you can develop your relationship with the adoptive parents. You will also have to discuss a hospital plan and make sure it’s in place. Will the adoptive parents be there? Who will you have there to be with you for support? Will the baby stay in your room at the hospital? Does the hospital give the adoptive parents their own room? What will the day look like when you leave the hospital? Will you want to say “goodbye” to the baby?

We were very fortunate to be in the hospital room the day our son was born. In fact, my husband and I cut his umbilical cord together. It was the most beautiful moment of my life. Not every birth mom is going to feel comfortable with that. We spent 19 weeks getting to know our son’s birth mom. She felt comfortable having us in there, and we felt comfortable being with her. Again, make sure you are doing what you are comfortable with, not what the adoptive parents want.

Whatever you choose, know that your decision is not easy and is commended by many, including your unborn child.