Anyone that knows me knows that I live in the land of ‘what ifs’. A classic over-thinker with a tendency toward pessimism, I spend more time than I would like to admit wondering how different things could be if just one decision was given another moment’s pause. When I think about all the changes that need to be made within the adoption world, it starts to spin the wheels of all the decisions in the past that brought us to where we are today. I know that we cannot change our history, but we can work to challenge ourselves to help change the path of the future. There is no such thing as a magic wand that would make the changes for us, but for this article’s sake, let us just pretend ‘what if’.
As a birth mother myself, the thing I am most passionate about is breaking through some of the adversities that birth mothers face: Stigmas, lack of awareness, and absence of lifelong support are just a few to get us started. I am incredibly involved within the birth parent community, and one thing I see often talked about starts right at the beginning of an expectant parent’s journey. For a woman considering her options regarding pregnancy, the three choices you would typically see are parenting, abortion, and adoption. All three are valid options, and the first thing I would change would be a woman’s ability to choose whatever is best for her without the opinions of others. Pregnancy can cause enough complex emotions without the added weight of others’ thoughts on the best life path for you. I wish there was more accurate information available at doctor’s offices and medical facilities regarding each option and the details surrounding them. There is a deep lack of education from health care providers and their employees, especially regarding proper adoption language and the right way to address the subject with patients. Women do not need personal opinions, only factual information about their choices as an expectant mother, and that starts from the day a positive pregnancy test is confirmed.
A lot of times parenting is something that many want to make happen, but they lack the resources, specifically monetary resources. Everyone knows that raising a child is expensive and that includes everything from prenatal care onward. Many women find themselves without health insurance, and the cost of that prenatal care and childbirth can range into tens of thousands of dollars. If I had that magic wand, I would use it to utilize a crowdfunding page to help raise money to cover some of those parenting costs. Yes, there are government programs and funds available for women, but I want to see quality health care, not shady clinics and doctors that only see you as a billing burden. While I genuinely believe in the power of adoption, I never want a woman to feel placing her child for adoption is her only option because she lacks the ability to pay the hospital bills associated with giving birth. The choice of adoption is one that should be made because a woman wholeheartedly feels that is the right path for her and her child for a multitude of different reasons.
This leads me to the subject of adoption agencies and ethical adoption. Recently an article began circulating about unethical practices, coercion, and how these for-profit practices are negatively impacting the adoption world. This is groundbreaking material because unfortunately, these practices have been in use this entire time, are still in use even as we speak, and it has never been brought to light until now. There are adoption agencies across the country that push expectant parents into placing their children for adoption, and that fact is just abhorrent to even consider. They give expectant parents false information and guilt them into following through with placement, leading to lifelong pain and suffering for birth parents all while padding the pockets of the big-wig executives. There are extraordinarily few penalties if these places are even prosecuted at all. Learning that babies are essentially sold every day right here in America should be mind-blowing to us all. My wish for the adoption community is that we could banish all agencies that practice this way. Finding another solution, such as making agencies regulate as non-profits might be the answer, but there are complications that come along with that as well. I might not have all the answers to the solution, but whatever needs to happen to abolish these sick systems needs to happen now before we turn adoption into such a negative that the true positives can never see the light of day again.
Another wave of my magic wand brings us to birth parent support. From choosing an agency, to giving birth, all the way to post-adoption, offering support to birth parents plays such a substantial role in the journey. As of right now, it is easy for society to offer words of encouragement through social media or whenever a birth parent feels comfortable sharing their story. But what about the pain, the struggle, the darkness that can come along on the ride as well? We are quick to share the highlights of our lives with others, but the lows are just as real and require even more attention. Adoption can be a wonderful thing, but even in the absolute best situation, there is still grief, loss, and trauma associated with it. These moments can quickly consume you if you do not have a proper support system and coping skill set in place. Even those with all the right tools can still find themselves struggling to keep their head above water sometimes. Providing counseling services to all birth parents from the beginning and continuing lifelong (or even private attorneys that facilitate adoptions) is something that should be mandatory for all agencies. I wish counseling services would be free of charge for all birth parents and offered to family members of birth parents because sometimes those closest to us can be the most hurtful without even realizing it. Our families need to be educated on how they can best support us through this journey. I wish there was an exuberant amount of support groups available for birth parents. My magic wand wants to leave a trail of options for birth parents to choose from because I believe the greatest support we can have is support from one another. Only another birth parent can understand a fraction of what you might be feeling, and to be able to openly share with each other without shame is some of the best healing out there.
I also want to point out how important it is for birth fathers specifically to have access to this support. Birth fathers are often forgotten but their trauma is just as real and valid. While there are many birth fathers that are absent or even refuse to participate in making an adoption plan, we cannot pigeonhole all birth fathers into that negative role. There are many birth fathers that do not feel their voices are worthy of being heard because of the actions of others, and that is simply not true. I wish I could erase those negative connotations and create a space where birth fathers feel seen and understand they too deserve to be supported as well.
Speaking of stigmas, the struggles that birth mothers face are something I wish my magic wand could erase completely. Birth mothers are commonly vilified, especially by Hollywood. I want to bolster a world where birth mothers are celebrated for the incredibly courageous path they knowingly walk for the sake of providing their children with what they feel is the best option for them at that time. Many times, we watch movies or read articles online about a birth mother who is back in their child’s life to try to ‘kidnap’ or ‘take back their child’. This could not be farther from the truth, and each time effort is put into fabricating these tales, it hurts the birth parent community as a whole. Where are the stories that highlight the journey of a birth mother without using the term ‘give up for adoption’ one time? We have to find a way to tell the realities of an adoption story without using harmful and triggering phrases and ideals. Each birth mother has a different experience, but birth mothers as a whole are selfless, strong, brave, and worthy of being seen and heard, no matter what their opinions are or what happened that led them to choose adoption. ‘Birth mother’ is not a dirty word, and I want to live in a place where you can add this title, if you so choose, to your story with pride.
My wishes continue as we think about relationships within the adoption triad. Somehow, there has been a level of competition that has developed between birth mothers and adoptive mothers. This makes my heart sad because for me personally, a huge benefit of adoption is the fact that my child has even more people that love her. There is no competition because there is enough space for each woman in her life, albeit in different ways. I gave life to a child, but I am not the one who tucks her in at night. I saw her eyes open for the very first time, but I did not get to see her very first smile. Each role, birth mother and adoptive mother, holds something special in her heart but there is not one that is to be held to a higher regard than the other. I wish we could have the ability to look past the fear that can lead to that negative mindset and embrace the differences that bring two families together in such a unique way.
While I was writing this article, I let my mind wander to all the places I try not to let it go. I thought about how my life would be altered if just one tiny action was executed differently. What kind of person would I be if I grew up in a world that accepted adoption as a valid option? How would my birth child’s life be different if I would have parented? What life would I be living if I had access to therapy from the moment I saw that positive pregnancy test? I realized that trying to imagine all the ‘what ifs’ of my past does nothing to help carve the path for my daughter if she finds herself pregnant and considering her options. I want to be able to help change the narrative so any woman in that position has access to all the things my magic wand wants to change. How do we do that? It starts with a conversation. It starts with not being afraid to speak up about my thoughts, even if faced with backlash. If I was able to get the conversation flowing, it might set into action one change that can shift things in a positive direction. I believe in the power of adoption, but I also believe that there is a multitude of things we need to do differently. We need change and we need it now, before one single birth parent, adoptive parent, or adoptee suffers from the lack of resources, education, and ethical practices this world so desperately needs. What I talked about today is just a minute fraction of the things that need a complete overhaul. So, I challenge you, what do you wish you could change about the adoption world? Is it one conversation, one moment where you consider things from another perspective? How will you use your magic wand to change the adoption world and change it forever? All it takes is one person to lead the way. Will it be you?Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Do you want more choices with your adoption plan? Do you want to regain more control in your life? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98. We can help you put together an adoption plan that best meets your needs.