The Sadness of Not Being Chosen by Expectant Mom for Adoption

Dawn Davenport


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

19/09/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 14 Comments

14 Responses to The Sadness of Not Being Chosen by Expectant Mom for Adoption

  1. Pingback: The Sadness of Not Being Chosen by Expectant Mom for Adoption – ababystepadoption

  2. Avatar Desiree says:

    Awe this made me cry I am pregnant and looking for adoption it is last minute very unexpected and so overwhelming. Some reason I happen to look after asking god for forgiveness for even wanting to do this, and your story came up. Hope you finally got the family you been waiting, I’d choose you without hesitation just made me feel a bit of peace I can’t explain.. Thank you.

  3. Avatar Hope4babyover40 says:

    Delighted to find your site through ICLW. Currently undergoing IVF but if it doesn’t work, adoption will be the next step at some point. At least, applying to adopt with be the next step – approval is up to someone else!

    I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it must be to “lose” a potentially adoptive baby because the birth mother changes her mind. Just cruel. My heart goes out to Anon, Jen and Tara. I think what Tara requested, about only being contacted once she has been chosen, is very wise.

    I’m in the UK and adoption is very different here. I would never expect to be matched with a baby. Instead, assuming IVF doesn’t work, I will request a sibling group, as we have the bedrooms, and there are many groups of siblings who are split up because there aren’t the adopters willing to take them.

    I wish everyone luck on their journey. 🙂

  4. Avatar John says:

    Thanks for this article Dawn. It hits home for my wife and I pretty regularly. In April of 2010 we were chosen by a birth mother, but 2 days before the baby was due she decided to parent the child. We grieved hard, and had to tell quite a few people about the news and re-grieve a few times. Our faith helped us eventually believe that it wasn’t our time. Then the next month we said yes to having our profile shown. We were picked for an interview and then chosen and then became parents to the most wonderful daughter – all within 2 months of the previous “disruption”. Amazing blessings in so many ways. Now, we are over a year into waiting for a second infant adoption. We are not getting any younger and our daughter is 4 years old. We’ve set an unofficial end date of February 2015. If our daughter in an only child than so be it, but we are hopeful she’ll have a sibling. Our profile has been shown at least 12 times that we know of from asking us about it, and each time we’ve gotten the email that another couple or family was chosen. Two wees ago the scenario seemed like a perfect fit, but no. Even today we said yes to our profile being shown, so we are praying hard again. If we’re not blessed again, we know someone else will be, but we want it to be us. And we really can’t imagine what the birth mothers go through trying to choose. We pray hard for them, too.

    • John, you summed up the roller coaster of waiting in adoption well: [If we’re not blessed again, we know someone else will be, but we want it to be us. And we really can’t imagine what the birth mothers go through trying to choose. We pray hard for them, too.]

  5. Avatar Tara says:

    I went through this process 5 times, it was depressing because my hopes were raised every time. I would get myself to a place where I was ok if I was never chosen then I would get a call.
    I finally told the social worker that she should only call me if I was actually chosen, not if my profile was being considered. That worked nicely.

  6. Avatar Jen says:

    This post really resonates with me. In January 2012 my husband and I started the adoption process for our second child. We adopted our first child in 2009 and it took us 3 years working with an agency before our daughter was placed with us.

    For our second adoption, we spent the first 6 months pursuing an independent adoption with a young woman who ultimately chose another family. Then we spent the next 2+ years working with the same agency we used the first time around. During that time, we were contacted by our agency and had our profile shown to birthmother’s approximately once a month. Each time, there was this overwhelming excitement, followed by several days of grief when we discovered that we weren’t chosen. It wasn’t as hard to cope with when it was a family that had been waiting longer than we had, but more often than not, we watched family after family go on the agency’s website after us and go off before us. It felt like being the last kid in gym class to get chosen for dodgeball! Eventually, much like the grief of getting one’s period month after month for years while trying to get pregnant, the grief of not getting chosen each time got much easier to bear.

    The exception to this rule occurred in March of this year. My sister-in-law had just gotten pregnant and my grandmother was dying of lung cancer. An hour before my grandmother quite literally died in my arms, we got contacted by our agency saying that we were being considered for twin boys who had been born the day before. It felt like it was meant to be, like it was a gift from God and my grandmother (who had raised 3 sons very very close in age) to help us cope with the overwhelming loss. Twins had always been our fantasy, we had always wanted 3 children and this would instantly complete our family. The birthmother had even chosen the names we would have chosen for the twins.

    Well, 5 days later when we learned she had chosen another family (one who had been waiting only a couple of months rather than the years we had been waiting) I was inconsolable and angry. I was a mess. But, as weeks passed, my grief eventually faded to a dull ache. And I learned something from it–I was much stronger than I had realized. If I could survive the compounded grief of losing my grandmother and “losing” the twins all in 5 days, I could survive A LOT!

    That lesson is what eventually got us our second daughter, who was just placed with us in August. It was a legally high risk placement, one that we NEVER would have even considered had we not known that we had survived years of small griefs and that one large dual grief. Because we had survived it, we were able to look past the risk of a potential disruption and take a chance at potential joy. We are now out of the time period where there was the greatest risk of disruption, and I can easily say that it was the best decision I ever made and that this precious gift was worth every tear spent while waiting for her.

  7. Avatar Amanda says:

    Apply to adoptions with the state. Its free for the most part. They can be infuriating but the kids need homes. It can’t hurt to be licenced with more than one agency.We adopted our two kids from foster care. Open your minds to different possibilities.

    • Avatar Elizabeth says:

      Exactly. If you want a child badly enough, there are almost 500,000 unwanted, extra in foster care. If you’ll only accept a newborn means you don’t really want a child, you just want a doll. Go adopt a teenager.

      • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

        Creating a Family believes that every child regardless of age deserves a safe and loving place to land. Older child adoption from the foster system is a huge need right now and is a good fit for parents who want to build their family in that way.

        However, there is room for those who desire to parent a baby as well. For those who have struggled with infertility, who mourn the loss of the pregnancy experience, and subsequently the many “firsts” of the newborn experience, domestic infant adoption is a good fit.

        It’s a very personal journey, a very personal choice and we are committed to educating and supporting BOTH foster care adoption and domestic infant adoption well.

  8. Avatar AnonAP says:

    Gained a new perspective on the choosing process today after going through a discussion with a lawyer about guardianship for our daughter if something happened to us. The things we considered in choosing the people we did! Trust; values; respect for lack of religion; respect for her extended family on all sides, adoptive and birth; parenting style; recognition of the importance of diversity; willingness to take on our obligations as their own; capacity to deal with a crisis; financial means; adoption awareness and willingness to learn; whether they like to read; do they like pets; strength of their relationship; where they live; etc. Maybe try thinking about it that way to make it feel less like a personal judgment was made – who would you choose as the guardian for your future child if something happened to you? Why? Why not these other people? Then remember that the 25 page picture book at the agency only gives expectant parents considering adoption a brief glimpse of a potential family. The final decision isn’t about rejecting anyone (can’t be with that little to go on); it’s about picking the best possible fit and making a tough decision with limited data. It hurts, but it’s not a slight. Maybe that will make it sting a little less?

    Anyway, I realized that I didn’t say anything about strategies for coping before. To keep the personal “Why not us?” pain down, we put a time cap on how long we would remain in the process to renew the idea in our own minds that there was an end time and that we married each other and were happy as a couple too. Thought about what we would do if we didn’t get chosen. Learned about forms of adoption that weren’t initially a good fit for us (IA, older child, etc.) and adjusted our profile with the agency accordingly. Attended events at our agency to remind ourselves that we were doing this thing and to stay current with staff. Each and every time there was a possibility of becoming parents on the horizon, we went all in. There was no holding back on the imagination and hope though we did try once…that was a joke. Definitely let ourselves grieve when need be because those hopes are so strong each time that you have to give them a proper send-off when they don’t come to pass in order to make room for new ones.

  9. Avatar AnonAP says:

    It’s kind of like speed dating, right? A “click” with one person doesn’t mean that everyone else is bad or that there’s something wrong. It’s just that it’s not the right fit. It is not a fun feeling to not be chosen though. Not at all…There’s nothing I can say to make it easier really. Waiting is a just a crappy, crappy time.

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