When you find out you’re pregnant, the emotions you feel are complex. Feelings of worry, fear, sadness, and even happiness are totally normal. This is also the case if you’re choosing adoption.
Adoption is a big decision, and you might not feel ready to make a choice until you go to counseling. Counseling comes in many forms, including peers, groups, and professionals. A combination of several types of counseling can help you make the best decision for your baby.
To get more of an understanding of these emotions, you might wonder who you can talk to. The best person to speak to is a person who has already done it before: a birth mother.
The Benefits of Peer Support
Peer support counseling from a birth mother provides a significant amount of support when you’re unsure what to do or feel. In fact, many women thinking about adoption aren’t sure how they should feel. They might feel a combination of grief and fear mixed with happiness and excitement. Some people may even feel guilty.
Talking to a birth mother gives you insight from somebody who has been in your shoes before. This person has navigated the same waters you feel lost in now. That means they can provide you with an understanding you cannot get from anybody else.
The best news? Peer support is available to you for free, and you also have access to counseling as you need it. Through Lifetime, you can access different support systems, including one made up of birth mothers with first-hand experience. These women are glad to help and support you in this time while you make plans for your baby. Our peer support is available to you while you think about adoption, during your adoption planning process, or after your Lifetime adoption. It’s up to you when this resource would help.
It’s so beneficial to have a support system. You may already have built a support system made up of family members and friends. Or, you may be surrounded by people who disagree with your decision. In either case, it can really help to have a birth mother who stands behind your decision and is willing to provide emotional help. Talking with a birth mother can provide a sense of security and allow you to feel more grounded and confident in your choice.
How Has Peer Support Helped Other Women?
When you’re making a life-changing decision like adoption, it helps to know that you’re not alone. Someone else understands exactly how you feel because she’s been through it herself. It can be hard to walk the road to adoption alone. Walking it with someone who understands can make the journey much easier.
Many women have found it beneficial to talk with someone who’s been through the adoption experience and is available to listen. Here’s what they’ve had to say about Lifetime’s Peer Counseling Program:
“Talking with my peer counselor has really helped me through my adoption. She knows exactly how I’m feeling and is easy to talk to. She can tell me what she went through and how she handled certain situations!”
“I feel like birth moms need other birth moms to talk to. It’s not like we can’t talk to our friends or family, but having someone who knows how you’re feeling is sooo helpful! Birth moms are the only people in the world who know the whirlwind of emotions that come with making this decision. They never judge you if you need someone to talk to because you’re not sure you can do this.”
“After I hang up the phone from one of our calls, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. We can be ourselves with each other. My peer counselor helps me realize that I made the best decision by choosing adoption!”
Peer support is so crucial for those times when you need to lean on somebody for help. Sometimes just hearing from someone who has been in a similar situation eases fears and anxiety that make your decision feel overwhelming. You may just need some assurance that everything will be okay.
What Should You Ask a Birth Mother?
You may have a lot of questions for a birth mother, and the good news is you can ask as many questions as you want. A birth mother has had many of the same questions as you, and she is well-equipped to answer them after having gone through making an adoption plan herself.
Here are a few questions you might ask her:
- How long ago did your child’s adoption take place?
- What was something that helped you after the adoption placement?
- Do you have an open adoption? What’s it like today?
- When the sad days came, how did you get through them?
- What do you wish more birth mothers could know that you learned through your own experience?
One question a lot of potential birth mothers have relates to how to choose an adoptive family. What should you look for in an adoptive family’s profile? What makes them better than other adoptive couples? The truth is that you are the only one who can choose the right family for your child, but you can still seek advice on how to look at each profile you get.
Many pregnant women who are choosing adoption want to know how they will know they are making the right decision. Uncertainty is a common emotion, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it. The birth mother you speak to might express that she had the same feelings. This can be reassuring, and your conversation can give you some pointers for dealing with emotions like guilt and anxiety that might come up in the coming weeks.
You might also want to ask about how she coped with the emotions and feelings of loss after the adoption placement. Post-adoption and post-partum feelings can be strong, and they can be mixed. Some birth mothers cope with the help of counseling, support network, and building confidence. There are many ways to deal with your feelings, and a peer can show that doing so in a healthy way can lead to new adventures in the future.
Additionally, family relationships can be complicated after adoption. You might not be sure about the boundaries that exist between you and your child’s adoptive parents. A birth mother can help you navigate this new relationship with helpful tips from her own experience.
What If I Need More Support?
Adoption is a difficult experience for many birth parents, even when they know it’s the best decision for both them and their baby. The right choice can also be the hardest one. With any major life-changing event like adoption, obtaining support and counseling is a good idea. Lifetime Adoption believes that every woman considering adoption should have access to quality, professional counseling.
In addition to peer support, Lifetime can connect you with a third-party licensed counselor. By “third-party,” we mean that this counselor has no personal interest in whether or not you follow through with adoption.
The counseling and peer support made available by Lifetime Adoption is something that you can take advantage of before, during, and after your adoption decision. We do everything we can to make appropriate mental health services a part of every adoption plan.
Thinking about adoption but have feelings of uncertainty? Call or text Lifetime at 1-800-923-6784 to learn more about the resources available to you.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 8, 2020, and has since been updated.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.