Nearly 7 years ago, my husband and I met with a birth mother. After a few meetings, she asked us if we would be willing to parent her child and she began to make an adoption plan. When we got the call that she was in labor, I was in the delivery room with her and was the first one to hold her beautiful baby girl. She asked us to take the baby to another room and told the doctors and nurses we would be parenting the child.
The next morning, the agency called and said that we should take the baby back to her mother’s room and that a social worker would be there soon to work things out. This woman was apologetic as she explained to me, both of us in tears, that she was choosing to parent her child–as was her right.
Was it hard for my husband and I? I’m not going to lie; of course it was, but was it our child? No. Parents have every right to keep their children, no matter what they’ve discussed previously and in a perfect world, they would get to without even having to consider other options. But, as we know, the system is broken and sometimes, people are convinced by people that they love that they can’t be a parent, when that’s just not true.
When an expectant parent changes their mind, what do you do and what should we learn from these experiences?
An Expectant Parent Changes their Mind. Now What?
Again, and I can not say this enough, we don’t have any right to parent someone else’s child. This is a decision that they have every right to make. Sometimes situations seem impossible, but as we know, there are services that can help those who need financial support, housing, etc. As a prospective adoptive parent, you never have the right to someone else’s child. In fact, birth parents can change their minds up to a certain amount of time in the process. Though in every state, a birth parent has the right to change his or her mind before papers are signed, there is often even a period after that takes place where they are able to opt to parent. Remember this and know their rights when you take a child into your custody.
Though some prospective adoptive parents can be upset by this, the reality is that this isn’t your child and situations can change. More recently, I had a conversation with a woman who was prepared to adopt a child, but a family member stepped forward to adopt the baby, meaning that the birth parent could still have an active role in that child’s life and the adoption would no longer be taking place with the individuals that the expectant mother had been speaking to. This was entirely in her right and something to consider.
As a prospective parent through adoption, this process can be difficult and in some instances, can cost money. Be sure that you understand what costs are to you during these processes. (We had only paid for a home study fee, which we would need as we continued the process and more often than not, when this situation occurs, there is little to no out of pocket expense for those intending to adopt). Though only about 10% of adoptions don’t go through as planned, it is still something to plan for and to learn more about to help support expectant parents. Still not sure why an expectant parent may change their mind? Read this article.
Understanding the Realities of Adoption
I was upset when this happened to us because I didn’t yet understand the realities of adoption. I now am an advocate for expectant parents who have every right to parent their child. In fact, after the expectant mother we had met opted to parent, a few weeks later, we met with other parents who clearly weren’t convinced this was something they wanted to do. I encouraged them to speak with the agency to get more resources to parent as that was clearly what they wanted to do. The unfortunate situation for them was that their family and friends were convincing them otherwise and the reality is that we live in a society that might do the same to some expectant parents.
The more you learn about the adoption process, not just from the side of a hopeful parent, but of an expectant one, you may learn a little bit more and understand clearly why these situations do happen. As you go through the process of adopting, it’s important to understand the rights of expectant parents and know that they’re able to change their mind as they figure out what is best for their own family.
There are so many factors at play–many of which you may not understand, and that’s ok. Be patient and remember that no expectant parent should ever feel pressure to make an adoption plan or be pushed into making a decision without having all of the information themselves.
What Can you Do for Yourself?
This situation is difficult for everyone. For those of you that hope to become parents, it’s an emotional journey, particularly if you’ve already struggled with loss or infertility. The best thing you can do for yourself is trust the process and take time.
After we came home to an empty nursery, it was easy to be caught up in my own emotion, but it was at that moment that I realized that when I did bring a child home, someone else would be going home without theirs and that is a level of grief I’m still not sure I was ready to handle. And despite adopting my child as an infant, she still has a level of trauma and grief that she’s working through, so no matter what, this is a process fraught with emotions.
As with any loss, if this happens to you, you’ll need to take time to grieve, get out of your house, and decide what your next steps are.
For my husband and I, it was to continue the process and to wait and see. We learned a lot through this experience, both about ourselves and about the advocates that we wanted to be to ensure that expectant parents were being supported to make educated decisions.