I've put a lot of thought into this post. It was inspired by a conversation with a mother the other evening who had just lost her second child to open adoption in Florida, four months ago. Now, when little can be done due to the horrible laws in this state, she is regretting, grieving (badly) and wanting to fight.
I had to tell her that her chances of getting either of her children back were slim to none and how much I wished that she has contacted me or other older mothers BEFORE any papers were signed or agencies contacted. Once you become a target of an agency, you're screwed.
Quite a few of us Senior Mothers have drawn back from the battleground of the un-winnable, current tragedies of babies lost to adoption and are trying to concentrate on revealing the Baby Scoop Era and the wrongs done, back then, to Senior mothers and their children, hoping it might lead to a serious reconsideration of the entire mechanics of adoption. We have also posted our fingers raw, trying to talk some of these young moms-to-be into giving themselves and their babies a chance to become a family. You win some, you lose some. It's heartbreaking and enervating.
Since the young woman I spoke to has a clear and verifiable case of coercion on the part of the agency, she might be, at least, able to file a civil suit against them for pain and suffering and hope the agency's license gets pulled or they receive some sort of punitive action. As for her daughter and baby boy, Honey, they are probably gone for good. And, believe me, a heartfelt letter to the female adopter is not going to do the trick. She is latched on and holding and she has the financial means to fight, as long as it takes.
So, I am going to try, one more time, to reach the mother-to-be BEFORE she is drawn into the net by social services, agencies, so-called "crisis" pregnancy centers and avid PAPs. Here are some basic rules that put YOU in control of the outcome. We are going to assume that you did not avail yourself of birth control or decided against termination of the pregnancy....both options that were not there for the Senior Mother. If you have made the decision to have unprotected sex and to eschew termination, then you still have more than one choice and one of those choices is to keep and raise your child within the family of that child's origin.
1-Even if you are considering surrender (you don't "place"..agencies do that), do NOT contact an agency or a "crisis" pregnancy center. You can find all the info you need online and don't go into a message forum full of adopters and wannabe adopters. They will turn into the vultures and you will be the dying meat. Read, but don't approach these entities because they will pressure you until you wave that white flag and surrender.
2-Try going to the "horse's mouth." Talk to other and older mothers who had lost children to adoption. They won't lie to you and they won't steer you wrong. You might also want to speak to some moms whose promised "open" adoption was slammed shut in their faces as soon as the adopters became a little bit insecure about the mother's very existence. One mother took her own life after this happened. Find out what the guidelines are for open adoptions as they affect the mother in your state. Also, know that adopters will skip town, hide and draw out any legal actions until the child is older and a judge is reluctant to disrupt the life of an older child.
3-DON'T SIGN ANYTHING!!! Pre-birth agreements are usually not bindable (except in a few states with adopter-heavy legislatures), but they can make your life Hell on earth. And, do not allow agency officials, social workers or potential adopters into the labor and delivery room with you, or into your hospital room after the birth. Give yourself a chance to recover from the birth and to spend time with your baby. Don't accept offers to "come into the agency's office and talk about it." That is how one mom got pressured into signing when she truly did not want to lose her baby. That pressure is unrelenting and criminal. Look carefully, as well, at that "love-bombing" the potential adopters lay on you. It will ebb and fade away once they have their names on the altered birth certificate and the adoption decree in their hands.
4-Get your own legal counsel! The agency will tell you that the attorney they have is representing you. That is NOT TRUE. That is like a divorce attorney representing both parties.
5-Don't think that today is how it is always going to be. You will not always be poor, single or alone. There are services, mentors, day care in schools, and everything you will need to get by until your circumstances change, and believe me, change they will. It is NOT the end of the world and your baby needs YOU...not "things." And is a prom or a party more important than that precious infant? You became a mother because Nature made you one...you don't need a husband, a 3-bed, 2-bath home with two cars and a savings account to be a good mother.
6-Hold the father responsible for his 50% donation to the conception of a child. Seek child support and a DNA test will not allow him to wiggle out from under his obligations. Some young dads are good about taking the responsibility. You might be pleasantly surprised.
7-And most important....don't sell yourself and your baby short. Give yourself a chance. The bond between you and your child is already established, even if you have tried to convince yourself that it hasn't. That baby will see him/her self as a part of you for months after the birth and that immediate separation is terribly traumatic to your little one. Take time just for the two of you. You're a unit, created by Nature, herself, and nothing is more sacred nor stronger. You can do it.
8-Find those mentors...they are everywhere and can help you with all the questions EVERY new mother has, married or unmarried. If you are fortunate enough to have the support of family members, take it and rejoice. We Senior Mothers didn't have that. If you still feel that you are unable to raise your child or just don't want to, find someone in either your family or the family of the father who is willing to take legal guardianship (NOT adoption). Don't rob your child of his or her heritage. And an open adoption is not a case of legal babysitters or co-parenting. All it means is that you know who adopted your child and, if you are lucky, you will get a few pictures and some letters.
Remember, it's not education, careers, money, a husband or age that makes you ready to be a mother. Heck, even moms with all those things have moments of insecurity and fears of inadequacy. Nature prepares you and it is a process as old as the human race. Give yourself the opportunity that we from the BSE didn't have. Keep your baby. It's not easy, but it is so worth the work, worry and effort and the rewards are your heart's treasures for life.
Are you pregnant? You have options that do NOT include adoption. Keep an open mind about raising your child and be the mistress of your own destiny and that of your child. Don't let strangers make your own flesh and blood a stranger to you.
Post Script: I had to add this due to the very correct post from Shadow who talks about married couples conceiving and then surrendering a child due to financial problems. If we all waited until we could "afford" a second or third child, there would only be one child per family and no chidren to adopt (hey....there's an idea). I don't know what has happened to society over the past few years. I was not raised in an affluent family but there was always room for one more at the table. My surrenders were based more on social stigma than on finances. Prior to birth control, there was always a way to care for another child. So, married folks, either use birth control, abort or keep. Don't have a child out there wondering why you could keep their sibling but not them. It's hurtful to the child and money isn't a good enough reason.