Helping A Woman Who Has Chosen To Place Her Child For Adoption

When someone decides to place their child for adoption, they haven’t decided to give up on their baby. As I’ve seen in numerous placements, women make an adoption plan in order to improve the lives of their children. It’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength and dedication. Making an adoption plan is courageous and, for many pregnant women, extremely difficult.

Making An Adoption Plan Can Be Lonely

It can also be isolating. Lots of prejudices about adoption, and specifically about expectant parents who choose to place their children for adoption, are still floating around. Often, family members and friends don’t understand a woman’s decision, leaving her to face what will almost always prove an emotional roller-coaster effectively alone. That’s not how it should be.

We all agree that women deserve support through all of life’s trials. And for many expectant parents, choosing to create an adoption plan is extremely taxing. No one who decides to place her child for adoption goes through the process without being changed forever. And despite the fact that expectant parents choose adoption to provide their children with a better life, it can be a deep source of pain long after placement. So how do you, as a friend or family member, help a loved one who has decided to make this momentous choice?

Listen With An Open Heart

Your first job is to provide a compassionate ear. Listen, when your loved one wants to speak. And when you speak up, validate your friend or family member’s emotions and concerns. You don’t have to assume those feelings as your own, but you should confirm that their emotions are legitimate and real. Ignored, our emotions tend to fester. Ideally, feelings of grief and loss can be faced without shame. Our ability to do so often hinges on whether or not the people to whom we disclose our feelings recognize them as human and justified.

Don’t Try To Speed Up The Healing Process

There’s no timeline for healing. So don’t be too quick to help your loved one “get better.” Handling the emotional weight of placing a child for adoption isn’t a process that ever really ends. It’s certainly not a “phase,” something that your friend or family member will someday overcome. Even though it’s hard to watch someone you love deal with painful emotions, know that this isn’t a journey that you, with an insightful comment or helpful suggestion, can speed up. What you can do is listen and support.

Affirm Your Loved One’s Decision

Alongside grief and loss, many expectant parents will come to doubt their decision, at times to the point of self-flagellation. But you know that your loved one did what was right, both for herself and for her child. That’s the important thing, so let her know. Emphasize to your friend or loved one that her choice was made out of love, not some personal shortcoming.

Help Your Friend Find Other Sources Of Support

Also important to remember? You might not be the right person for your loved one to speak to all the time. Of course, you want to be as supportive as possible, but without having gone through a similar experience, it’s hard to truly understand it. It might be a good idea to help your loved one find a local support group, made up of women who also placed their children for adoption, with whom she can discuss her emotions.

Maxine Chalker, MSW / LSW, is the founder and executive director at Adoptions From The Heart, a private non-profit adoption agency recognized for leading the advancement of “open” adoption.

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