What Happens When Adoptive Parents Change Their Minds?

by | Jan 2, 2020 | Adoptive Families Blog

Adoptive couple at the shoreline, thinking they might change their mind adoption matchFernando and Angela Martin had struggled with infertility since they first decided to grow their family. They came to our adoption center two years ago to explore their options, but they were not quite ready to pursue adoption. Now, several failed infertility treatments and over $50,000 later, they were ready.  

It only took a few months to locate a birth mother for Fernando and Angela. The eager-to-be adoptive parents met their potential birth mother, Janette, and they really hit it off. Janette thought Fernando and Angela were perfect, and she chose them to become parents to her unborn baby. Shortly after, this adoption took a difficult turn.  

Adopting after infertility invites even more emotional intensity into the already complex adoption process. I saw this when Angela walked into my office one afternoon, anxious and unsure. She said she needed to talk.  

“Janette’s a great person,” she said. “Very positive and outgoing.”

“I knew you’d like each other,”  I replied.

“Yes,” she hesitated. “But we’re declining her offer.”

Recovering From Adoption Disruption:
Adoption After Infertility and Other Potential Setbacks

When adoptive parents change their minds about an adoption match, it takes a toll on the birth mother. This is not a decision that anyone can take lightly. The birth mother is already plagued with an array of emotions: guilt, uncertainty, concern for her baby’s future. 

Once the birth mother finds the right adoptive parents for her baby, she may feel relieved and hopeful. She depends on this commitment. Her future now has a bit more clarity. The loss of the relationship with the adoptive parents takes all this away.      

Angela was reluctant to explain her decision. When I pressed, she conceded, “Seeing Janette pregnant like that, I don’t know, it stirred up some feelings. I know pregnancy is only a small part of having a child, but I want to be the one to experience it all. I want to carry a baby that will be my own.”  She looked away and choked back tears. “I want to be pregnant, Mardie. We’re going back to our fertility specialist to try again.”

Should I Continue Fertility Treatment While Adopting?

Birth mothers take an additional risk when they choose adoptive parents who have experienced infertility. The desire to carry one’s own child is deep-seated and very personal. It can cause even more uncertainty and hesitation during the adoption process. 

Some agencies will ask prospective parents to discontinue fertility treatment upon acceptance into their program. They don’t want parents to view adoption as a last resort or a backup plan. It is also recommended that couples receive counseling as they make the transition from fertility treatments to the adoption process.  

At Lifetime Adoption, we offer prospective adoptive parents the opportunity to freeze their contract for up to nine months in the case of emergency or for personal reasons. This option gives parents adopting after infertility some breathing room. They can change their mind about adoption and pursue fertility treatment. Then, they can come back to adopt without additional charges.  

But what happens if the prospective adoptive mother gets pregnant during the adoption process? This may raise some issues with the birth mother or with the adoption professionals. It may be difficult to bond with your adopted baby when you have a biological baby close in age, so some agencies may require you to wait. There are also health risks and postpartum depression that may accompany childbirth to consider. The adoption team may not feel that this is the best time to bring a newly adopted baby into your family.  

Some couples freeze their contracts because they become pregnant. In some cases, they resume their adoption plan in order to adopt a sibling for their biological child later on. 

It is possible to initiate an adoption plan while undergoing medical treatment to have your own baby, just not good practice once you matched. Just be sure that you are using an adoption professional who will put your contract on hold if you conceive.  

How Can We Recover From a Setback in Our Adoption Plans?

Adoptive couple who changed their mind in counseling

The adoption process, under any circumstances, is emotional and complex. If anything goes wrong along the way, it is not an indicator that there is anything wrong with you, with the birth mother, or with the adoption professional. Human emotions are complicated, and many variables can take the adoption process off course.   

When I broke the news to Janette about the Martin’s decision, she was understandably devastated. She had fallen in love with this family, and they broke her heart.

Immediately, I called the wife of another prospective adoptive couple. They were also adopting after infertility, but their story was much different. They already had two daughters. In their attempts to conceive a third child, they suffered several miscarriages. After all of that heartache, the couple decided they wanted to adopt a baby boy to grow their family.

Janette was carrying a boy, and since I was certain that this couple had resolved their fertility issues, I knew they would be a great match. When I told the new adoptive parents about Janette and her baby boy, they were thrilled. 

It took a while for Janette to recover from the Martins, but in time she did. She was able to open her heart again and place her trust in this new family. Though this wasn’t her original plan, Janette felt secure with this new path by the time her baby arrived. Just before going into labor, she said, “It’s like everything that happened was just meant to be.”

Experiencing a setback in your adoption progress is painful, but don’t let that stop your search. Learn what you can from the experience, and keep looking. The opportunity to find a perfect match is still out there. Never give up.  

Moving Past Fear to a Successful Adoption

Birth mothers are not the only ones putting their hearts on the line. Adoptive parents also risk heartbreak if the birth mother is the one to change her mind about adoption. The fear of making yourself vulnerable and getting your hopes up again can be paralyzing. Adoptive parents may wonder if they can handle another adoption disappointment. But I urge you to keep going.  

I have had a few birth mothers who decided to change their mind about adoption after they had been matched. If an adoption plan is disrupted, it typically happens right before or right after the baby is born. It’s not common, but it can happen. Adoption is a matter of the heart and, as such, can bring up many emotions for everyone involved.    

The prospective parents did not give up. They were open to another match, and it did not take me long to find another birth mother. The challenge at this point is for adoptive parents to keep from projecting their fears from the last experience onto this new birth mother.  

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, and some adoptive parents can’t help themselves. This fear could sabotage your new adoption plan. 

In one case, Michelle, the adoptive mother, was terrified that her birth mother, Isabel, would disappear. This had happened with the last birth mother they matched with, and Michelle blamed herself. She was willing to try the process again but mistakenly thought that by being more assertive, she could control the plan and everyone involved. 

Michelle moved Isabel into an apartment near her house and checked in on her at least once per day. She was so overbearing that Isabel started to doubt her as a suitable parent for her baby. Michelle’s fear caused her to cross Isabel’s boundaries, and it ultimately drove her away. Isabel felt there was no trust. She matched with another adoptive family successfully.   

An adoption disruption is a loss that can feel as devastating to pre-adoptive parents as a miscarriage. You will need time to grieve. Utilize your adoption professional if you experience an adoption reclaim. Adoption professionals can help you put your experience into perspective, and help you move on with confidence. For some, that may mean taking a few months off to recover from an adoption disruption. Others will want to jump right back in. Whatever your process, give yourself enough time to make peace with your past adoption disruptions experience so you can embrace your new adoption with a clear head and a full heart.     

Eventually, I was able to explain to Michelle that her case was an isolated incident. I found a new birth mother, who after screening and counseling, I determined was at minimal risk of reclaim. This helped put Michelle at ease, and she worked to embark on her new adoption plan without bias. Once Michelle was able to assert control over her fear, she moved on to a successful adoption. 

Love is the Reason

Infertility is just one of the many reasons people may choose to adopt.

Some adoptive parents have already raised children, but they still have love and energy to give. For some adoptive parents conception is possible but unlikely or dangerous for the mother or the child. Some adoptive parents long to provide a loving home for children with special needs.

The reasons are as unique as the adoptive parents. One quality which all adoptive parents have in common is the deep desire to be parents and to share their love with children.   

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.

Written by Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.

Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).

Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.

“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!

Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.

I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.

It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”

Read More About Mardie Caldwell

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