Yesterday, I replied to a 22-year-old woman who is pregnant. The father of her baby was a long-time friend who was regrettably using drugs. albeit promising to stop. Her family and his were supportive of her keeping the baby, and yet she was considering placing I for adoption.
I wrote the lengthiest reply I had ever written in the year or so I've been doing this. I took a risk in telling her all the reasons she might adoption because all of our letters are reviewed by a quality control team before being sent and I feared they night see it as "slanted" against adoption; lacking "balance."
I referred "Sara" to Origins-USA, Inc. and in particular their list of resources for expectant moms. Here's what I wrote:
You have explained the situation very well and I understand. I understand very well.
You need to separate issues. The three do not have to be connected.
1. You are a mom-to be. You are expecting a baby.
2. The father of the baby is an addict who may or may not get clean.
3. You and your best friend may have outgrown one another.
The baby is the most important part of this equation, so I will deal with that first. Your baby is the only one here who is totally innocent and who needs you! You have family support; you can do this!
The very first thing you need to do is get healthy prenatal care. Take care of yourself and that baby growing inside you. You do not need to make any decisions about adoption until you meet your baby and hold him in your arms. Right now, it is not a reality, and you cannot and should not make any decisions that will impact both of your lives for ever.
You are considering adoption and many people may tell you that it is the most unselfish thing you can do. They will tell you how many loving couples would love to have your baby. That is true, but not your problem. People may tell you that it is selfish of you to keep your baby; that he or she deserves a mother and father who can provide more than you can.
The first thing you need to know is that adoption is a multibillion dollar industry. Your baby is a much sought-after "commodity"! As a result you will be getting a lot of pressure from many sides.
It is not selfish to want your own baby. It is natural. Further, adoption does not guarantee a "better" family for your child. Adoptive parents die and divorce and can leave your child with a single parent, while you may be married and stable. The fact is that there are no guarantees in adoption.
Most domestic adoptions in the US today are "open adoptions." I think that is also true in most of the UK as well. There are degrees of openness, however, so there are many questions you need to clarify. Getting to pick adoptive parents from photos and bios is pretty much standard today. But choosing them and even getting to meet the adoptive parents prior to the birth and adoption is merely an "identified" adoption. Be aware too, that it can complicate your ability to make an informed objective decision by getting too enmeshed with prospective adopters. Many mothers report that they went through with adoptions they didn't want to to because they felt "obligated" and "indebted."
Beyond identified adoption there is semi-open adoption which involves contact via letters and photos from the adoptive parents on various schedules such as yearly. Fully open adoption consists of actual visits with you and your child with his new family, again on preset schedule that the adoptive parents decide upon.
Adoption experts all agree that openness and honesty is healthier for all the parties in adoption, as opposed to closed, secretive adoption - which is still a choice. But these arrangements are not without problems that you need to consider.
First, open adoption contact agreements are unenforceable in most US states. Please be sure to check the laws in your locale. Even when agreements are legally drawn up and notarized, they are merely promises. Open adoption is not joint custody as takes place in divorce. In divorce both parents maintain parental rights and interfering with visitation is a criminal offense. Every adoption - even open adoptions - begins with you signing a relinquishment of parental rights. You give up ALL of your rights as a parent and the adoptive parents have all the rights. Thus, if they decide not to continue allowing visitation, they can stop them. They are the parents and you are not.
Also, often times mothers who relinquish their babies in open adoption, find that they cannot continue with visitation. They find it too painful to watch their baby calling someone else Mommy and running to another when they're crying. Others have to stop because of the distance and cost of traveling to visit, or it simply interferes with their schooling or career.
Much has been written about the feelings of rejection and abandonment adoptees suffer in traditional closed adoptions, in addition to difficult identity crisis. It adds an extra burden to the teen years and beyond. Little has been studied about children growing up in open adoptions. In the days of closed, secret adoptions adoptees were told that their mothers were generally too young to keep them. As they grew they learned to understand that back in the previous generation single parenthood was not accepted. It was shameful and society demanded "unwed others" be sent away and place their children.
But today things are different and children - your child - will have to deal with understanding why a capable 22 year-old with family support CHOSE not to keep them. What will you tell him or her when he or she asks that? If you are fortunate enough to have any subsequent children later on, what will you tell them?
What will you do if you are promised an open adoption, and then as often happens, it fails to remain open? Many mothers to whom this has happened feel devastated and deceived. Or, how would you feel if you find it too painful to see your child with another mother?
These are the serious issues you need to think about. Remember that there are many sharks out there seeking babies for adoption. The average fees paid to adopt today are approximately $40,000. Adoption agencies advertise online pretending to want to help you. They will offer to pay all of your medical expenses and more. Be cautious!
To speak with mothers who have been through this and can offer you insight without any agenda, contact: http://originsusa.memberlodge.org/. They have a direct link to support services for mothers-to-be and single moms that will help you without trying to persuade you in any direction: http://originsusa.memberlodge.org
/Resources_to_Help_You_Keep_Your_Baby. You can also find support at: Family Preservation.blogspot.com and for assistance in Canada, contact http://www.originscanada.org/. In New South Wales: http://www.originsnsw.com/
As for Z, it is his baby too. Hopefully, he will get clean and stay clean, but maybe he won't or won't for many years. You need to do what is best and your baby and make that plan not expecting much from Z. His addiction is his and you cannot help him. It is too easy for you to fall back into his charms and wind up enabling him. If he stays in your life in any capacity, I strongly urge you to attend some Al-Anon 12-steps meetings and find out about enabling behaviors to avoid. Find a local meeting in the US at: www.al-anon.alateen.org/. In the UK: www.al-anonuk.org.uk/
But, regardless of whether he cleans up or not, and regardless if you stay with him or not, it is his child, too, and any decision about adoption concerns him. He must also consent. It is also your parents grandchild.
As for you friend, R, it sounds to me like you have outgrown her. It happens. You see her reliance on you now. Hopefully, you and she will be able to reshape your friendship in a different way.
I hope I have given you some food for thought and offered you some resources for support. There is a lot of support for you and your baby! I wish you both the best! Please feel free to write again.
Best Regards,I pressed send and crossed my fingers that it would not get bounced, or I'd not get asked to tone it down...
And then I got this reply from "Sara":
Thank you so much for your advice. I've read it several times and I am continuing to absorb it. I will think very hard about the things you have mentioned. This website is wonderful and the advice is very helpful. Surely I will email again! I'm happy these sorts of places exist because there are truly so many people who just need an outside source to give them some form of input.One such save makes my day, month, year! If you are over 60, competent with the computer and want to help others, consider volunteering at Elder Wisdom Circle. I find it very rewarding!
P.S. I hope "Sara" - and others in her situation - find this site, this post and me. It was very helpful having so many resources all in one place, at Origins-USA, to give mothers in need of this information.
I hope you will bookmark this page and the resource list.