Last week we published a blog on the five top warning signs when adopting a baby that an expectant mom might change her mind after an adoption match with prospective adoptive parents and decide to not go through with the adoption. One of the warning signs we mentioned is an adoption match made early in pregnancy. We said that baby adoption matches between an expectant mother and an adoptive family before the 5th month of pregnancy were more likely to fail—meaning that the prospective birth mother (i.e. expectant woman) would change her mind and decide to parent.
We received a great comment from Chel Thompson, a birth mother, who strongly disagreed that adoption matches made early in a pregnancy are problematic. She proves, yet once again, that it is hard to make generalizations with all things in adoption. With her permission, I share her thoughts.
Insights from a Birth Mother Who Remains Happy & Confident in Her Decision (Yes, we do exist!):
Baby Adoption Matches Made Early in Pregnancy
Last week in church, the theme of the sermon was National Adoption Day. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as National Adoption Day. My favorite way to contribute to the adoption cause is to promote greater understanding between the many different sides of adoption, from birth parents, to adoptive parents, to adopted children, to friends and family.
I have seen far too many one-sided, negative portrayals of early matching in adoption. Articles on adoption keep holding it up as a red flag, a warning that a birth mother is somehow shady and trying to con you, or else immature and indecisive and going to back out and break your heart.
Sure, many adoptive parents would consider it ideal for themselves to get a surprise phone call saying, “There is a baby waiting for you in the hospital RIGHT NOW! The birth parents have already signed the papers, and they’ve chosen you from your Prospective Parents profile. It’s a done deal!” All the waiting, hoping, and worrying about the possibility of having your dream dangled before you with the promise of a match, only fall through – all of that suddenly, irrevocably over. But that is not necessarily ideal for the birth parents. The myriad of different possible circumstances that can lead to the choice for adoption means that each birth mother will have different needs.
Many commenters wonder why any birth mother would desire an early match, except to wheedle financial assistance and other benefits from the adoptive parents. They honestly can’t seem to put themselves in a birth parent’s shoes and think of ANY other reason. It saddens me greatly that so many people are either too jaded or too lacking in the imagination required to empathize.
The Money Hungry Birth Mother Myth
First, as to the portrayal of the money-hungry birth mother: Adoption agencies list themselves as not-for-profit organizations and accept charitable donations as such. They ought to be able to provide needed assistance for birth mothers without laying the cost of that birth mother’s needs on the adoptive couple, so there should be no risk that an early match will lead to adoptive parents being conned into providing direct financial support for a birth mother and not getting a baby, nor should a birth mother be at risk of feeling coerced or pressured into the adoption because of direct financial support a couple has provided. An agency that makes the flow of money so direct during the pregnancy is unconscionable. If it feels sketchy, run!
There are laws that prohibit the acceptance of money by a birth mother for anything but specific, proven expenses. A birth mother cannot profit from the placement of her baby. She can only get help with things like food, shelter, maternity clothes, psychological counseling, legal counseling, and medical expenses. Financial reimbursement of any kind requires receipts to be submitted through a court of law.
My situation was thankfully uncomplicated by issues like homelessness or lack of medical insurance, but I did need an early match. It was non-negotiable. I was told by multiple agencies that I could not match before the 3rd trimester, or the 20th week, or the 30th week, or some such number arbitrarily time “to protect the adoptive parents.” They came off as pushy and manipulative, telling me, “that’s not how things are done,” as if I were being naïve and totally unrealistic asking for such a thing. I immediately rejected all of those agencies, and eventually, through perseverance, found one that worked for me.
6 Reasons an Expectant Mom Might Want to Match with Adoptive Family Early in Pregnancy
These may not be all the reasons, but off the top of my head I can think of at least these six for why a birth mother might want to match with an adoptive family early.
1 …because her worry for this child’s uncertain future is stressing the hell out of her, raising her blood pressure, jeopardizing the pregnancy, and making her feel lost and miserable, and she wants to know that she has a plan she can feel confident about, not a vague idea of adoption, but a concrete plan with names and faces.
2 …because she wants time to get to know the parents she tentatively chooses and make sure they are who they seem before entrusting you with her baby’s life.
3 …because she doesn’t want to feel like she’s fighting a battle alone, with everyone around her treating her pregnancy like a tragedy, as though she has failed as a human being because she is in such a situation. Having someone to go with her to doctors’ appointments, or with whom to just share the news and updates, having someone rejoice in the miracle of the baby’s new life is a great source of strength and comfort in the face of all the criticism and negativity coming at her. It helps her to stay positive. It reminds her what is important.
4 …because she knows it will take some time to iron out the details of a post-adoption contact agreement and make that sure everyone is on the same page and that expectations are clear. The time to do this is most definitely before the baby has been placed.
5 …because she has other children, and she wants this decision to cause them as little heartache as possible. There is a world of difference between, “I’m going to have a baby brother, but my mom is giving him away. I won’t know where he is or what he looks like. I won’t even know his name. I will probably never see him again,” and “I’m going to have a baby brother, but he’s not going to live with us. He’s going to live with Sally and Ted. They have a big yellow dog and a room all decorated in blue for the baby. They are going to name him Sam, and they will send me a card with a picture every Christmas.” Whatever the details are, however little or much information he is given, a child needs something concrete to wrap his head around, to be able to picture the baby somewhere safe and loved. It’s the uncertainty of not knowing that’s most traumatizing.
6 …because the possibility that your feelings might be crushed if it doesn’t work out doesn’t mean a damn thing to her. Her sole focus is providing for the welfare of her child. A heartbroken stranger might be a sad thought, but it is nothing compared to the safety and happiness of her child. She is doing this KNOWING that her own heart will break and believing it is worth the sacrifice, for the sake of her child’s best interest. Why on Earth would it affect her choice to know that yours may break, too? If something feels off about the match, if it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, of course she will back out. Time to be certain about the specific placement, with full knowledge of the details, is a precious commodity. No one should be forced to rush a decision that determines the course of her child’s life.
Thank you Chel for your thoughtful comment explaining why sometimes an early match is in the birth parent’s best interest and ultimately in the child’s best interest.
Did you have an early match when adopting a baby? How did it turn out? Did your adoption agency or adoption attorney discourage early matches?
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Image credit:Jack Fussell (fantastic shot of a woman 24 weeks pregnant)