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Birthmothers Who Change Their Minds About Adoption

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Adoption Alert

Do not assume that if the birthmother you're talking to falls into one or two of these “likely to change her mind” categories, then all is lost. However, if she fits most of the high-risk categories, proceed with caution. Just because she doesn't have any of these characteristics, she can still change her mind. It's just less likely. Remember that nothing is 100 percent certain.

You might think that some of these factors would lead the birthmother toward adoption rather than away from it. For example, a birthmother who is only age 15 is not in a good emotional or financial position to raise a child. But in most cases, she has not achieved the maturity to realize this. Also, she might be strongly influenced by her peers, and if her friends are parenting babies, she might choose parenting, too. (If she has friends who've placed their babies for adoption and are comfortable about that choice, that's a positive sign for you.)

Conversely, a 20-year-old woman is more mature and might decide that adoption is the best course for her child. She is less likely to be influenced by others.

Education appears tied to the decision to place for adoption; the less educated the birthmother is, the more likely she will choose parenting over adoption. This maybe because if a woman has no career goals (which is more likely with less-educated women), she may see parenting as a default choice. By “career goal,” I don't mean the birthmother must be an aspiring brain surgeon. Wanting to be an X-ray technician or a hair stylist are career goals, too.

It's not clear why a woman would change her mind after a difficult delivery. Perhaps the birthmother has become worried about and attached to the child. Perhaps she fears she won't have more children in the future. Other factors are easier to understand. A woman who was raised by two parents is more likely to believe that her child should have two parents, but a woman raised by a single mom is more likely to think single parenting is okay. Also, if the pregnant woman is already on public assistance, she might not see a problem with single parenting; whereas, if the birthmother is very opposed to going on welfare, as many are, she might see adoption as a better choice.

A woman who is religious might believe that God has called her to place her baby for adoption, and she might also see adoption as a means to atone for having a baby when unmarried. (Some people think nonmarital childbearing is a sin.)

What to Do If It Happens to You

If she's going to change her mind, when does it happen and what should you do if she does?

During early pregnancy and even through the second trimester, the pregnancy may seem unreal to a pregnant woman, especially if she is in a crisis situation. (This is one reason why some adoption arrangers don't like to work with women in their first trimester. She has too many psychological issues to work through before she can decide for or against adoption.) Do not count heavily on adopting the baby of a woman who is only two months pregnant.

When birthmothers who have truly committed to adoption do change their minds, it's usually either close to the birth or just after childbirth. Sometimes the imminence of birth makes the birthmother realize that she wants to parent the child. In other cases, the birth itself has an impact. She may experience a change of heart after seeing the child. Or she may be affected by others, such as the birthfather or her relatives, who want the child to stay with the biological family. Very few women decide months after a child is born and with an adoptive family that they want the child back from the adoptive family—although it can happen.


In many states, when a birth-parent consents to an adoption, the consent is either irrevocable or can be revoked only for a brief period.

If an adoption falls through because a birthmother changes her mind about the adoption before the baby is placed with you, it hurts, and it hurts bad, even when you never saw the baby. It was already your baby, in your mind. I have heard from adopters whose adoption fell through that they would “never ever” think about adopting a child again. It was too painful, too scary, too hard. Clearly, they needed time to grieve. Do you know what happened later? After a few months, they decided to try again, and they ultimately did adopt a child.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption © 2004 by Christine Adamec. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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