coping when expectant mom does not choose you in adoption

Adoption is all about “hurry up and wait”. First you submit your application.


Complete your home study and adoptive parent profile.


Start being shown to expectant women or foster care caseworker.

Wait. (and sometime wait and wait some more)

Waiting sounds like a passive activity, but it usually involves a lot of hovering around your phone, jumping every time it rings, and hoping against hope that it is your social workers calling or emailing to tell you that your profile is being shown to a prospective birth mother or that you are being considered for a foster care adoption placement. Then you wait some more to hear whether you are chosen.

But what if you aren’t chosen? What if someone else gets The Call?  They will soon be a mom, and you are left waiting yet again?

We were contacted on Thursday by our adoption agency about an emergency situation where the baby was being delivered today via c section. Of course we said yes and we were kind of excited (how could you not be). I woke up to an email from the agency saying that if she went through with the adoption plan, she had chosen another family that she would want to meet.

I understand that it just wasn’t our time, but how do you not grieve? I couldn’t help but feel kinda down today thinking it could have been our baby born today. We told some of our family and friends due to the timing of both of our mothers being out of town at the same time and needing some help getting a few things. I can’t help but feel like I lost something I never had.

You did lose something– you lost an opportunity.

Few people outside of adoption understand the pain at “losing” a child that you never really had – that wasn’t yours to have. Few understand the pain of not being chosen.

It happened to us twice. It is very important for you to grieve. It took me a long time for my heart to heal. Although I’m now a mom to a wonderful 1 year old, I still get emotional when I talk about our 2 failed adoptions, and I still think about the 2 babies I never was able to meet. Take your time for your heart to heal.

The feelings of a failed match are much the same as having an early miscarriage, only somehow you feel less entitled to grieve when you have every reason and right to.

[from a birth mother] I can’t help but feel that every single family of the profiles I read probably felt like I was going to choose them, but there were still like 20 profiles for me to look through at the time. I felt so sorry for the others, because they each had to get a phone call to say I had not chosen them. I am so happy with the family I chose. If I had not chosen them I don’t think the adoption would have been even nearly as open as it has been, although I still feel very sorry for the other amazing families that I didn’t choose. I really feel for you.

After the first time or two, you start to question what it is about you that is unworthy of being chosen.

It may just not be your time and there is nothing to do but perfect your waiting (and we can help with our list of 42 Things You Need to Do While You Wait for Adoption), but if you continue to be passed over, it doesn’t hurt to reevaluate your profile and what type of placements you are open to. These resources may help.

How did you cope with not being chosen? How long did you wait for the call that you were going to be a mom?

First published in 2014. Updated in 2016
Image credit: Jamie McFarlane