As I write this, I keep thinking back to a sweet girl I met in an expectant mother’s support group. She had made an adoption plan, then decided to parent once her little girl was born. She took her sweet girl home, parented for a full three weeks, then realized that it was too much for her. She was 15, mature for her age, and responsible. She felt so ashamed that she was considering placing her little girl after parenting for three weeks. A caseworker in the support group said something I will never forget, along the lines of, “There is no perfect time to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life and your child’s. Either decision is difficult. Some make it early, some make it late, and some decide to not make a decision at all–the only wrong decision is neglect. You are actively choosing to care for your daughter. That shows the depth of your love. It is never too late.”
I made the decision to place pretty early in my unplanned pregnancy. I struggled with the decision and made other plans throughout, but ultimately went back to placing my son. I chose his family two months before I was due. We built a relationship, we loved each other, and they showed their genuine concern for me when I dealt with some extreme situations just before placement. I placed two days after my son was born, and although the grief was fierce, I have never regretted the decision.
A good friend of mine chose to place three days before her son was born. She quickly chose a family, met them, then placed two days after placement. While she didn’t have as much time to prepare, she knows that the way she chose was correct for her.
Another friend chose to place the day her daughter was born–she had to meet her, she had to hold her. Then she called a social worker and was given a stack of profiles to view. Their relationship now is nothing short of incredible.
There is no perfect time to choose to place. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t even be a situation to be considered. There isn’t a “by the book” plan for choosing to place.
So when can you decide to place your baby? Whenever you want to. You can decide when you first find out you are pregnant. You can decide when your baby is three weeks old. While I don’t suggest it, I even met two sweet girls who were placed when they were two years and eight months old–their mother had a terminal illness and the birth father was not in the picture. This is an extreme situation, but my point is this: There is no set timeline on when you can decide, but there are pros and cons to any time.
If you decide when you first become pregnant, you have a (relatively) long time to choose a family and decide what kind of relationship you want to have. Many expectant mothers who begin to search for families early on will meet more than one couple, and may even change their minds once forming a relationship if they feel that couple will not provide the level of openness that is desired. The downfall can be that when a loving relationship is formed early on, it may cause extreme guilt if the expectant mother decides to parent. This is okay; it is your right to parent if you choose. That couple knows that it may not work out. Your choice should not be swayed by guilt or obligation.
Deciding to place later on in a pregnancy can give you the time that you need to weigh all options. Can you make it work financially to parent? Are you in crisis, and will the situation become better with time if you parent? If you choose to place, will your situation become better? A long-term decision is not the answer to what can usually be viewed as a short-term problem. Placing for the right reasons, whatever those may be for you, is the most important part of the process. Not making a decision immediately is beneficial for most expectant mothers. There are usually fewer “what ifs” when all options are open for a longer amount of time.
Even when a plan is set in place to parent, you can choose to place your baby once she is born. You can choose to place your baby when he is a few minutes old… or a few months. With the right support, you will be okay. Nobody can make the decision for you, and nobody should. Only YOU know what is best.
Even though I made the decision pretty early in my pregnancy to place, it wasn’t until I held my son in my arms that I knew it was the right decision. The overwhelming love I had for him and my desire for him to have more than I could provide was stronger than my natural instinct to be his mother. He needed more. He needed better. I would have been a good mom, but as I have written before… he deserved more than a “maybe” life. I didn’t need extra time as a parent–some women do.
You can choose any time to place. What you cannot do, or at least in most states, is choose to parent after you have signed relinquishments. Adoption is a beautiful, wonderful, heartbreaking and bittersweet experience… but it is not right for everyone. Take all the time you need to make your decision. You’ve got this, momma. You are strong enough and capable enough to decide when it’s right.
**If you feel coerced or are told that you have a deadline to decide, especially before your child is born, please know that it is untrue. No ethical agency or attorney will give you a due date for your decision. If this is happening, please reach out to someone. You are welcome to contact me at the information below, or use the resources provided on this website.