As humans we’re accustomed to having expectations. We expect drivers to stay in their lane. We expect stores to stay open until they say they are going to.
We like to plan…to not feel surprised. Unfortunately things don’t always go according to how we anticipate. How do we deal with these things? How do we deal with the consequences that come with situations not turning out the way we predicted? When it comes to adoption stories, we want to foresee the outcome, but the reality is, there is no way to know fully how they will actually turn out.
As a birth mom, I can tell you that preparing to place a child is one of the scariest things I have ever done. I can mainly attribute my fear to not truly knowing what my life was going to look like after leaving the hospital. Counselors, adoption agencies, and even fellow birth moms can try to prepare you and help you understand what your adoption story might look like based on what they have seen. But the truth is – every story of adoption, every birth mom, adoptive parent, and child is different. How are you supposed to manage your expectations when no one can really tell you what you are supposed to be expecting? How do you not go crazy imagining what life with your child and their adoptive parents will look like?
When I was pregnant with my son, I had the pleasure of meeting a friend who was also pregnant and making an adoption plan. As we both started the process of getting to know the couples who would later become our child’s adoptive parents, I realized that not only were our situations very different, but we also had very different expectations. While my adoption was being facilitated by an adoption agency that was actively advocating for me through negotiations and counseling, she was having hers facilitated by a family lawyer. Also, because the separation would be too hard on my heart, my desire was to have scheduled visitations a few times a year with my son. Meanwhile, my friend was expecting her adoption situation to look more like co-parenting between her and her child’s adoptive parents. She envisioned them becoming one big family.
However, despite our planning and each of us feeling like we were fully prepared for what life would look like after walking out of those hospital doors, placement ended up looking completely different from what we’d expected. I was fortunate enough to develop a phenomenal relationship with my son’s adoptive parents. Our once perceived few visits a year have turned into monthly visits, or whenever we’re just missing each other’s faces. After placing, I never expected that my heart would be open enough to want to be in my son’s life as much as I am now but I’m so glad that I am. Often things don’t turn out the way we expect. We are thriving and I couldn’t imagine not getting to show that little guy how much I love him on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, my friend’s expectations were altered in a different way. After giving birth and leaving the hospital empty handed, she was crushed and could not seem to put herself back together. The next time I saw her, the joy and excitement for her pending adoption was completely gone. Although the adoptive parents reached out, she could not face the possible pain that came with seeing her child. It was as if my sweet friend and I switched roles. Our expectations completely failed to show us what being a birth mom would really feel and look like, in the best and worst ways.
So the real question is – If all adoption situations and the people involved look completely different, how do we manage what to expect from ourselves, the adoptive parents, our children, our loved ones, society, etc.?
1. Counseling, counseling…and more counseling!
It is so crucial and important to work through your thoughts and feelings. This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life. I suggest seeking counsel from someone who knows the adoption process and the struggles that come along with it. It’s so helpful to have someone help you acknowledge what your expectations are and speak into those expectations, with no bias. And let’s be real…we all need someone to talk to!
2. Talk (and be HONEST) with the future adoptive parents
The more you know these people, the better. When you feel comfortable with someone, you are able to more openly communicate. Communication is crucial between birth moms and adoptive parents. If there is no communication, it is more likely that feelings will get hurt and expectations will not align.
3. Plan and prepare for the worst, but hope for the best!
Okay, I realize that sounds a little discouraging, but bear with me! If there is anything I learned from my situation which has been filled with so much hope, joy and love, it is that I am happy that I didn’t over expect and then get caught off guard by the crushing weight of grief and loss. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had moments of complete devastation and heartache which I didn’t know if I would recover from. But that sadness hasn’t defined my story. I’m so glad that what I thought being a birth mom would look like and what it actually looks like for me are completely different for me.
This adoption thing is scary. It is opening a door into a lifetime of unknown. We can try to plan and we can set guidelines for ourselves but they are just that…guidelines. I couldn’t be more pleased that I didn’t let my expectations control my situation and keep me from the immense satisfaction that comes with being my son’s birth mom. To any future or current birth moms, adoptive parents, and adoptees: you have the opportunity to be immensely blessed by this act of pure sacrifice and love. Don’t let your plans and expectations stand in the way.
This article was written by Abby. Learn more about Abby here!
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