When I first found out I was pregnant, I was crushed. My life came to a screeching halt. Being a single 25-year-oldbusiness professional who was raised in a Christian home, this situation that I found myself in brought about much guilt and shame. How could this be happening to me? I thoroughly weighed and agonized over my optionsand realized that there really was no “easy” choice. At first, I considered abortion, but ultimately couldn’t go through with it. Parenting or adoption were my only otherchoices after that. For about 7 months, I battled within my heart and soul on which decision to make for my baby girl. I knew I would have to meet a family who was everything and more than what I longed to give to my daughter if I were to choose adoption. I looked through countless profiles, but nothing seemed right. I was actually starting to really wrap my head around parenting my baby as I was heading into the final weeks of my pregnancy. But then, I finally met the perfect parents just two weeks before my daughter was born. I didn’t know much of anything at that time, but meeting them finally made adoption feel like the right choice for me. Spending time and interacting with them was the assurance I needed to allow myself to make that tough decision. My heart broke into a million pieces and everything within my being ached the day I said goodbye to my daughter at the hospital. The only hope I could hold onto was that I would see her again due to an open adoption relationship with her and her parents.
During my pregnancy, I worked with an adoption agency, but I didn’t feel completely supported or heard by these adoption professionals because no one was fully educating me on all the different options and decisions that are involved in the adoption process.It didn’t feel like they were really on my team, advocating for me. I think I knew deep down that there was so much more to the adoption process, yet I didn’t experience that liberty during my pregnancy. Post-adoption, I knew I wanted to advocate for other women like me because adoption is not a journey that anyone should venture through alone.
Now, as the Director of Marketing for AdoptMatch, I have an amazing opportunity to educate others on ethical adoptions and have a new platform to talk about how adoption should really be done. On top of that, I am able to come alongside birth parents and adoptive parents and make sure they are offered the proper support and guidance throughout an adoption. Especially as a birth mother, I understand the fears and needs that are present during this difficult time for every party involved. I am able to inform these expectant mothers of their right to choose adoption and create a child-centered, open and ethical adoption plan if they so choose. Also, I have the chance to educate waiting adoptive parents on what it truly looks like to honor the birth parents of their child, which is really important to me.
I would say the biggest challenge I’ve faced while working in this field has been navigating conversations around both the taboos of adoption as well as the preconceived notions of and about birth parents and adoptive parents. When I started working for AdoptMatch, I only knew my own pregnancy and adoption story, but knew nothing about the adoption community and how many hard conversations I would end up having.
For example, I feel like I keep running into different stereotypes aboutthe people who have chosen to adopt instead of having biological children. One stereotype is that these adoptive parents are some kind of radical pro-life individuals with a “white-savior complex” and the desire to “rescue” children – particularly of a different race. While I do believethere are some couples out there like that, I don’t think it’s the norm. I also believe people with the previously-mentioned mentality actually lack an understanding of what adoption is really about and probably aren’t ready to adopt with a skewed view like that. Secondly, I long to end the taboo that adoption is something you choose simply because you can’t have biological children or because you felt “called” to adopt. This, again, may be true, but people can adopt for so many reasons and it shouldn’t be reserved for a certain calling or type of people. Adoption can and should be a viable option for people from all walks of life—any religion, race, sexuality….any background at all. No two adoption stories are alike, just as no two people are alike—that’s what makes it beautiful!
I have also come across my fair share of stereotypes about birth parents as well, which are probably what infuriate me the most. For example, most people seem to think that the only kind of woman who would choose to place her baby for adoption must either be a teen mom or someone who is struggling with addiction and/or homelessness. These are, frankly, inaccurate stereotypes. This certainly wasn’t me and after having endless conversations with other birth mothers, I know thatit wasn’t their story either. Sometimes you just get stuck in a bad spot at a bad time. Even statistics say that the average birth mother is a young professional between the ages of 25-35. After spending much time meeting and conversing with birth mothers at different retreats and support groups,I can confidently say every birth mother has a different story and background that influenced heradoption decision.
Another challenge that I have come to face as I work in this field is some of the back-lash I feel when I present myself as a dual advocate for both adoption AND parenting. Not only am I a birth mother, but I am also in the adoption profession, so people tend to automatically assume that I somehow believe that all women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy should choose adoption. This is neither morally nor ethically correct, and ultimately stands against what I believe to be empowering to a woman. What kind of empowerment would it be if I only educated about and pushed womentowardsadoption? No, what I want to do is to make sure that these women truly know all the options available to them and don’t succumb to the pressure from others to choose one way or another. Overall, I believe that we all must actively, emotionally and financially support these women, regardless of the choice they make (even if we don’t agree with it). We do a great disservice to a woman when we speak at her as if she is not capable of making an informed decision. Instead, we need to listen to her needs and fears and offer her support and solutions.
An unplanned pregnancy is HARD. Period. But no matter what a woman chooses after seeing that positive pregnancy stick—that choice is hers. If we are pro-choice and for women empowerment, then we can’t limit these women to one option (which is often abortion in the pro-choice movement). That is actually quite the opposite of empowerment. To empower someone is to let her make the decision and to help her feel good about doing so. But if she isn’t fully informed or made aware of all of her options, she is limited and this ultimately hinders both her and her child’s future.
When we consider her needs and values, that empowers her to make the best possible decision for herself and her child. And that action is what I call being “pro-love”.
Emily is a Birth Mother in California who placed her daughter for adoption 3 years ago and is continuing tolearn how to navigate an open adoption relationship through visits and regular communication with her and her parents. She also works for AdoptMatch, a mobile appand online resource,which connects expectant parents with ethical professionals and prospective adoptive parents. And not only is AdoptMatch a point of connection, but it is also a platform that is promoting ethical adoptions and advocating for everyone in the adoption triad, including the birth parents and adoptees, whose voices have been ignored or unheard for a long time. To learn more, go to adoptmatch.com.