In order to understand adoption, it is helpful to know what adoption is NOT. Let's examine the misconceptions about adoption and try to clarify them with the most up-to-date information on the issue. When a team of researchers asked a select group of women what they thought about adoption, they found some common misperceptions about adoption as:
abandonment • deception • unbearable sacrifice
This common misconception is prevalent because the adoption process many years ago did leave a mother feeling like she had abandoned her child. Today, however, the process is entirely different.
In Canada, 20% of couples experience infertility (inability to conceive within one year). Many of these couples will turn to adoption and will be the only people in the country who will actually have to "qualify" for parenthood. This will mean that they will have to attend months of parenting classes, undergo extensive interviews, all kinds of legal paperwork, background checks, home visits by case workers who will be scrutinizing the way in which they live, and psychological screening.
Then consider the fact that there are approximately 40 or more qualified couples for every one infant that is placed for adoption. Because only 2% of all pregnancies result in adoption, there are literally thousands of couples waiting, sometimes upwards of twelve years, to adopt a newborn baby.
Now imagine that you (the birth mother) will have the opportunity to scrutinize these couples even more and compare them to as many other couples as you want, in order to choose the best fit for you and your child. You make the final decision about which couple you feel will give your baby the future you desire for him or her.
As the birth mother you have control of the adoption process.
Fifty years ago, women in crisis pregnancies were often hidden from society. They had their babies in secrecy, relinquished them to a couple that they had not chosen, and in many cases would never meet. Then they would return to their homes, never knowing where their baby was and with little hope of ever seeing their child again. All of this happened without the knowledge or support of the community and even members of the woman's family.
Today, the adoption process has been completely renewed to help meet the needs of the birth mother and to assist her every step of the way.
There are two main adoption processes to choose from; closed and open adoption.
Closed adoption allows minimal contact with your child, and maximum privacy is maintained.
Open adoption, on the other hand, allows you and the couple you have choosen to parent your child as much contact as you mutually agree upon. Anything is possible. Some birth mothers prefer only letters and pictures. Some want to have visits at key times of the year such as birthdays or Christmas. Some are actually 'adopted' into the family as a surrogate aunt or big sister to the child and will have ongoing contact.
As the birthmother, you decide which avenue will best suit yours and your baby's needs. You are in control of the process.
There are different ways of relinquishing your baby as well. Mothers choose to spend various amounts of time with their newborn before placing the baby with its new parents.
When you place your baby with your adoptive parents it is not done via a third party, or in secrecy, but often during an entrustment service, which is usually attended by family members on both sides. This important step in the adoption process allows you, the birth mother (and father) to recognize the life-long union that has been forged through this new, precious, little life. Entrustment services acknowledge the great significance of the adoption process and help to bring closure to the birth parents. And of course, you may choose to not commemorate this event as well.
Gone are the days of secretiveness. Choosing between closed or open adoption puts you in the driver's seat and allows you to determine what will most benefit your child and address your own needs.
There is no doubt that the choice to adopt is a selfless act that puts the needs of the child ahead of your own. It is an example of heroic love and there will be many feelings and emotions surrounding the entire process that will be both joyful and painful.
If the process is handled properly, it could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
As a woman going through the adoption process, you are strongly advised to work along-side a counselor. The counselor is familiar with all the stages of the adoption process and can prepare you for each stage of your journey.
You will feel the excitement of planning your child's future and choosing the couple who will work with you to bring it to fruition. You will also experience fear and even anxiety at the actual prospect of delivering your child into their hands.
A counselor will also be an advocate during the legal proceedings. When placing your child for adoption, you should not act alone, but with a person familiar with the process who will stand up for you and ensure that your needs are being met. Case workers who work for an adoption agency represent both the adoptive parents and the birth parents, but since only the adoptive parents are paying, the needs of the birth parents can become overlooked. A counselor is aware of the dynamics of the adoption process and can advocate for you in a way that no one else in the process can.
Every act of giving life brings unexpected joys and surprising lessons that will help you to grow and mature in ways that you could never have imagined.
One of the best ways to help you consider the option to adopt is to talk to or read the stories of women and men who have gone through the adoption process. These often frank and honest biographies will give you insight into the kinds of experiences the adoption process will bring to your life.
Listen to what women have said about their adoption experience:
"[My child] has changed my life. I couldn't imagine it without her. I have purpose. She was my purpose for that time. I have a new relationship with God because of her, and a new respect for my life too. I could have contracted three million types of STD's. I could be dying of AIDS right now. But I got pregnant. God turned something that I shouldn't have done – or something that could have been really ugly – into the extreme opposite. I can't imagine anything more beautiful than this adoption situation." (Affirming the Birth mother's Journey, W. Lowe, J. Wittmeier and C. Wittmeier, Trattford Publishing, Victoria BC, 2005, p.10.)