It was overwhelming. What if I chose wrong? What if my child resented who I picked? What if I gave them the chance to be a family and it didn’t work out? What if, what if, what if? I felt I had already been making so many seemingly terrible decisions that I didn’t trust myself to make this one. I sank as far as I could into my bed, letting my laptop fall to the floor. Hundreds of hopeful adoptive couples were flashing into my mind, all of them wanting a child. I could only choose one, but how? Looking back on this decision almost six years later, I’m still so grateful for the couple I picked to be my son’s parents. But there are a few things I wish I had known to make the decision-making process a little easier.

I wish I had known about how my couple was feeling.

Yes, of course I was emotionally drawn out myself. I was falling in love with a child, one that I was growing inside of me, and I knew I wasn’t going to raise him. The world around me dissipated and I ached for improvement that seemed like it was never going to happen . . . I felt justified in thinking about myself. Then one day somebody pointed out the loss that adoptive couples face. Many of them have lost the ability to pass on their genes or to know what it’s like to feel your own child grow inside of you. I was reminded that adopted couples grieve a certain way, and that it would be proper to respect that (of course, my agency counseled the couples to respect an expectant mother for grief that they don’t necessarily understand).

I wish I had known to look for a couple that was “adoption educated.”

There are so many fears surrounding the relationship with the couple, birth mother, and child. I wish I had known that couples can be afraid. We all are guilty of it: fear of the unknown. I was afraid that I would sign my relinquishment papers and never hear from them again, in spite of our agreements for openness. I was lucky—the couple I chose had taken extra steps, extra classes,  extra caution before proceeding with adoption. They had their minds changed about open adoption, long before I met them, by birth mother panels. They understood why open adoption can be successful for all parties.

Because of their extra efforts, which I had no knowledge about, they were fully educated, and I feel like I owe a lot of our success in openness to their willingness to learn and communicate. I truly think that education makes a difference in the relationships birth moms have with their child’s parents. If adoptive couples know that birth mothers grieve over and over, sometimes in waves of emotion, it can help them understand the periods of silence or the days of requests for pictures, updates, and so forth. It can take away the fear, thus, take away the actions that come from fear.

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I wish I had known that it was OK to be specific.

I chose my son’s parents through an agency specific to religious couples hoping to adopt, then narrowed my search by education levels. I wasn’t specific at first, but slowly learned that it was OK to be. Throughout my search, I realized I wanted someone with a personality as close to mine as possible to raise this child. Someone with the same core beliefs that I held. My religion, my respect for education, my requirement for the marriage to be solidified. Family had to be the center of their lives, and all of that needed to be enriched with a sense of humor. And they had to love dogs.

Yes, I will admit, I was nervous when I met my couple! What if they didn’t like me? What if they “turned me down” and decided I wasn’t worthy enough to be the person who carried their child? I can’t really imagine that kind of rejection and I couldn’t imagine recovering from it. In hindsight, I realize those fears weren’t justified, but they were still very real.

When I met them, she was nervous, so she made a joke. He quickly responded, and I soon witnessed a “tit for tat” staccato of humor. I’m certain it wasn’t on purpose—the jokes were too personal and too awkward—but I laughed. They told me about the trials they experienced with infertility and how together, as a couple, they had trudged through the hardship. They told me it brought them closer together.

On that note, they don’t love dogs. So I would like to prove one more point:

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I’m glad I knew to follow my instincts.

I knew the minute I saw them that they were the ones. When they told me they had never thought about getting a dog, I knew it was probably not going to happen. But my heart was screaming, pounding, trying to tell me that that didn’t matter. For some people, details like that do. What’s important is that I found where my heart and my brain met, compromised, and satisfied them both. My adoptive couple was educated enough to know to be honest and tell me they had never planned on pets (let alone a dog), and I still knew they were the ones. Especially because of their honesty on the subject. Seems minuscule to some, seems major to others, to me, it meant more than anything else we talked about. It showed me who they were and how they were going to be after the papers were signed.

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Are you pregnant and considering adoption? Take some time to browse through the profiles on Adoption.com Parent Profiles. Who knows? Maybe the perfect family for your baby is waiting for you there.

Read our Guide to Choosing Adoption for Your Baby.