Unplanned Pregnancy Choices: Considering Adoption

Hands cradle baby's headUnplanned pregnancies can be quite a dilemma, a real crisis to find yourself in. Having fears and concerns about how you’re going to proceed and cope is normal, and it’s common to ponder, “How am I going to get through this difficult time?” Taking the time to explore your many choices can be very empowering.

Adoption is one of these many options. Choosing adoption can be one of the most difficult decisions you make, and developing an adoption plan will help you move forward with care.

In the past, adoption cases were closed and considered a secret. Girls were sent “away” to deliver a child, and the child was placed with a family that the birth mothers knew little about. Often, the birth mother may not have seen the baby and would be given little, if any, information about the baby and its new family. As the child was raised, adoptive families—who also often had limited information–might lie about the child’s history. In the past, it was common for the child to never know he or she was adopted or learn the full story. This created entire families built on assumptions and lies.

Adoption has changed for the better. Birth families have the option of creating an adoption plan that can help ease some of the real pain that accompanies this life-changing decision. It is a way to ensure that the child is given a secure, stable, and loving home. Birth families can choose an adoptive family, meet the prospective adoptive family, and make requests for ongoing contact, pictures, letters, visits, emails, and the like.

Placing your child for adoption is a very real loss and can be extremely difficult, but having some control over your baby’s plan can help with the sadness. Grief is a normal part of a loss, and birth families that deal with grief and find some peace in their decision, are usually more apt to move forward in their life in positive ways.

If the plan to place your baby for adoption is made prior to the birth, you may experience anticipatory grief. This is actually a good thing, because it means you will have more time to work through your feelings about your decision. By creating a plan that works for you, you’ll feel more in control and able to prepare for the feelings associated with the loss. It gives you a chance to deal with some feelings early on, rather than being emotionally overwhelmed at a later time.

The time you spend in the hospital will probably be engraved in your mind forever; use the resources you have to create the most comfortable environment. Your parental rights cannot be terminated until after you have given birth and are medically discharged from the hospital, so use this time to explore your feelings and re-examine your decision. This must be a choice you are making without pressure, for this decision will last a lifetime. People are likely to share their opinions in one way or another, and if you find a nurse, doctor, or family member causes more stress, ask for a new room or for the family member not to visit. Use the hospital social workers, the agency, or the attorney you may be working with to get the support you need.

Perhaps the word to hold in your heart and head throughout this difficult process is “choice.” Choice is empowering, and you’ll have more of it than you probably believe. With counseling and assistance, you can decide if and how you want to spend time with your baby following the birth. This may be your only chance to have time alone with the baby—if that is what you need to feel better about your choice, take it. You may also have some family members to consider, such as the birth father or grandparents, who may want to visit with the baby before the baby is placed. In the hospital, you will be asked to complete a birth certificate, and it is your right as a parent to choose a name on the certificate. You can choose, and you can request a copy. In the event the adoption takes place, another birth certificate will be created at the adoption finalization.

Once you have chosen to move forward with your adoption plan, it is up to you to decide how you would like to place the baby with the adoptive family. You have choices about whether you want the prospective family there right away or if you would prefer they come later, once you’ve had some time alone with the baby. Some birth mothers like the idea of having the adoptive family at the hospital from the beginning. In other cases, an adoption ceremony in the hospital chapel or somewhere private is where the families may come together. Some birth mothers choose to say good-bye to the baby and leave the hospital before the adoptive family arrives, because it’s such a difficult transition.

Leaving your baby with an adoptive family may be one of the hardest events you face. This is a time when you need to continue to seek support and allow yourself time to adjust and grieve. Include this time in your adoption plan; identify those things that support you and keep you motivated to move forward, and include them in the plan—things such as school or work, counseling, and self-care. Returning to normal activities might be expected, but do so gradually to maintain your energy. Learning to cope with your difficult decision will help you in life’s other challenging times. The more you trust yourself with this choice, the easier it will be to allow yourself to move forward and grow.

There are many different ways to plan an adoption. The more open you are with yourself, the more likely you will find the perfect match in an adoptive placement. Creating a plan that you feel good about and understanding that all of the members in the triad deal with grief and loss can help you deal with those feelings and heal.

As you wrestle with your choices and develop a plan for moving forward, normalizing the feelings that come up may help you feel less isolated.
Whatever decision you make, it’s imperative that you find a place to verbalize your feelings, gain awareness of the stages of grief you may experience (denial, bargaining, anger, despair, and acceptance), and find a supportive environment to help get you through this challenging time. Trust that you can handle this decision and the feelings that come with it, and remember that you will make it through.

© Copyright 2010 by Danielle Organista, LMFT, therapist in Seal Beach, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jim


    April 26th, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    One of my best friends is adopted and has always known it. She said when she was growing up that it was kids that were cruel about it because she “made the mistake” (her words, not mine) of telling them. Had she to do it again she wouldn’t have. This was thirty years ago. I hope that today’s children have changed their attitude towards adopted children.

  • P.M.C


    April 27th, 2010 at 1:20 AM

    In case of an unplanned pregnancy, i think its always better to put the baby up for adoption rather than abortion, which just seems like an easy way out. adoption ensures that the baby anyway gets a decent life that it well deserves and is under the love and care of parents who really want to raise the child.With the newer adoption laws,this has become even more easier and it is great that this can happen without any apprehensions or prejudices as in the past.

  • sonia


    April 27th, 2010 at 2:46 AM

    There are great families out there who want a baby and cannot have one. Please consider offering your child for adoption if it is unplanned and unwanted. Because for you it may be unwanted but for someone else it could be a wonderful blessing.

  • fred


    April 27th, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    my sister is adopted…my parents decided to adopt her as my mom’s sister got pregnant unplanned and because my parents always wished to have a daughter.hence both the problems were solved.my parents never loved my sister any less than they loved me and i never thought of her as anybody but my own sister even though we knew it since our childhood.

  • Esther


    April 27th, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Jim, I knew a few kids in school that were adopted. It would never have occurred to me to make a big deal out of that or ridicule them. It’s not their fault how it turned out. I don’t understand how kids could turn that into something to tease a child over.

  • james wilson

    james wilson

    April 27th, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    @Jim and Esther:I am adopted and I’m still in touch with my biological parents,who happen to be my parents’ friends…I know of this ever since I can remember and I consider myself lucky to actually enjoy the love of two sets of parents! :)

  • Justine


    April 28th, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    My friend adopted a little girl when she was only months old. The mother was a very young teen. They have remained open to the birth mom contacting their daughter who is now 8. Their little girl is well aware she was “chosen” as her adoptive mom likes to put it and that another physically gave birth to her. Her adoptive mom is infertile. My friend doesn’t ever want her daughter to say she stood in the way of her contacting her birth mother and expects that day will come. When it does, she’s determined that she’ll support her in that and help if she wants her to.

  • Tempest


    April 29th, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to give up your child for adoption. It truly is a selfless gesture. Knowing there’s someone out there desperate to give a baby a loving home and even when your heart’s telling you they can provide for the child better than you can, it still must be heart rending. Bless all the moms that bear such a priceless gift for the childless and can make such a hard decision.

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