by Joni S. Mantell, LCSW, MSW, IAC Center Director

A Quote from a birthmother – “I did not think I could do adoption because I did not fit what I thought to be a birth mother. I felt very alone and isolated in the experience.”
birth mother and adoption
1. Each of us is an individual who is placing for our own reasons, yet we do share some similar issues and emotions.

2. We have never done this before (usually) and are surprised to find ourselves in this position.

3. Please treat us with dignity, respect and honesty. We appreciate your compassion and interest in us, not just the babies we are carrying.

4. When we make a direct call or email a prospective adoptive parent, we are taking a really big step and feel quite anxious. We would like some time to get to know you before we are instructed to call an attorney or agency. This would feel more personal.
JM’s comment:

• Prospective adoptive parents will want to be educated to handle this step more adroitly so as not to alienate prospective birth parents.

• Take a workshop on communicating with expectant parents considering adoption for their baby; or speak with adoptive parents who have been through the process.

5. Sometimes pre-adoptive parents and adoption professionals are impersonal or say things that make us feel uncomfortable in other ways.

Joni Mantell’s (JM’s) comments:

• Keep in mind that hurtful comments made to birth parents during the adoption experience may sting for an entire lifetime.

• Discomfort may lead a woman to call someone else. In fact, many women report that the first contact with the prospective parent, attorney or agency can make or break the relationship or particular plan.

6. Adoption is not just a legal transaction; it is an emotional process and a life-altering choice. Once we have decided to make an adoption plan, we need guidance and preparation for the process, including the smaller decisions that are involved as well as attention to our emotions.

JM’s comments:

• There are many books telling the adoptive parent’s what their experience will be like before, during and after the adoption.

• Birth parent’s need this guidance too and report that they cannot find similar books.

• It is really important for a woman or couple placing their baby to have some support.

• Solid preparation as to what to expect during and after the adoption process is needed.

• Non-directive counseling is available as well either through the adoption agency or private counselors who can often be found through the adoption attorneys.

7. We may need help in communicating about our adoption placement plans to our families or to our partners.

JM’s comment:

• When expectant women considering adoption for their babies avoid telling or facing issues with their families, this frequently leads to crises at delivery and sometimes a pressured decision not to place.

• These expectant parents will clearly benefit from counseling to help them to deal with social or familial pressures.

8. We need someone at the hospital to help us with the emotions we will be feeling. The fact is that being pregnant and having the baby are two very different things. Plus we will be dealing with our own feelings and at the same time trying to relate to the adoptive parents and their reactions. This is not about us changing our minds. This is about our needs and uncertainty about handling this complex, emotionally challenging life situation. Support and planning are imperative.

JM’s comment:

• This is something pre-adoptive parents will want to discuss with their attorneys or agencies so that solid plans can be made for handling the delivery BEFORE the birth, mindful of the fact that things can change at the birth; and still be fine.

• All of the details and ritualistic symbolism involved in placing a baby for adoption must be respected. (EG. If a birth mother chooses to breastfeed her baby, this is most often not a sign of her waffling. Rather this is a gift that she can give her baby and can help her to let go knowing she did the best she could for the child.)

• How you will leave the hospital including who will be there for the birth parent, whether or when you will follow up with a call or letter to the birth parent, etc. are amongst the many aspects to think through.

9. Relationships with prospective adoptive parents can be very confusing. I need some guidance about the boundaries for communication, during and after the placement.
Birthmother quotes:

• “I viewed the adoptive mother as my friend and wanted to confide in her my feelings, good and bad about the adoption.”

• “After the placement I felt like I lost my baby and my best friend – the adoptive mother.”

10. What exactly is open adoption? What should I ask for and what can I expect? How do I know what I will want in the future? What is really in the best interests of the child? How do we deal with this over time? We never had a relationship like this and want what is best for the child.

About the Author

Joni S. Mantell, LCSW, CSW, Director of IAC Center is a Psychotherapist and a recognized authority on the psychological and social aspects of infertility and adoption. She has a Masters in Social Work from The University of Pennsylvania and completed a 4-year Certification Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at the Post-Graduate Center for Mental Health in NYC. She is particularly known for her expertise in helping people to transition from infertility to adoption; and for her capacities to integrate and to differentiate adoption, child development and other psychological issues in her understanding of each individual and family situation.

She founded the IAC Center in 2002 because she felt that people needed a place to have a safe and professionally guided discussions about infertility and adoption at multiple points in the life cycle.

The IAC Center offers counseling, support groups and psych-educational workshops for families and for professionals. Please visit our website for more information and resources or call 609-737-8750

Joni Mantell, LCSW is also a frequent writer, consultant, trainer and speaker; and enjoys doing original research on infertility and adoption topics. The unique combination of her psychological training, extensive clinical work with infertility patients and all members of the adoption triad; academic and research based experiences gives her particular insight into the mindset of people whose lives are touched by infertility and adoption.


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