The topic of pre-birth matching is a hot one. On one hand, an expectant mother would like to get to know the people that will ultimately (if she does indeed decide to go through with an adoption) parent her child. On the other, the emotional and psychological issues that go with such a delicate relationship often do have an affect on a mother’s decision, in the end.
Developing a relationship with a prospective adoptive couple, for an expectant mother, will undoubtedly include huge emotional investments on both sides. Adoption agencies and attorneys teach both parties about the importance of a “good match” being made. After all, you will have these people in your life for the rest of your life, like it or not. To determine whether or not it is a “good match” you would have to make a huge emotional investment, wouldn’t you? Not necessarily. For an expectant mother, this will likely be more important. What does an expectant mother lose, once she becomes a birthmother, if she does not have a solid emotional investment in the relationship between her and her child’s adoptive parents? Pretty much everything. Openness and continued contact absolutely relies on how great this relationship will work out. She will invest everything she has to make sure this does not fall through and she is left with nothing but crumbs. What does an adoptive parent have to lose if they do not make a solid emotional investment with the mother of the child they are seeking to adopt? At best? The baby itself prior to the signing of termination of parental rights (TPR). After relinquishment the end goal has been achieved. The baby is theirs, forever, irrevocably and permanently. They are the legal parents to that child from that point forward. They do not need to continue to work on a relationship with that birthmother if they don’t want to.
Can prospective adoptive parents fake putting forth an emotional investment in an expectant mother?
Absolutely. They can and they do. Why do people seek adoption? Because they want a baby. The reason people seek adoption is not to gain a grown or teenage woman who is facing a crisis pregnancy. The ultimate goal is to attain parenthood via that woman’s unborn child. Faking sincerity about how much they are really investing into the relationship, prior to birth and during the expectant mother’s pregnancy, would be easy to do.
Pre-birth matching and relationships work much like a courtship in a romantic relationship. Initially everyone is in love. The prospective adoptive parents love the woman who is going to make them parents. She is seen as a “vessel” (barf) through which their dream of parenthood is attained. She is like a saint, in their eyes, doing the one thing they cannot do – bear a child. The expectant mother is in love with the prospective adoptive parents. She has to be. These people will decide the fate of her child. These people adore her and what she is doing for them. These people will decide if she ever lays eyes on that child again. You can see how it would be hard to not become emotionally wrapped up in the prospective adoptive parents and how they are feeling. However, as time goes on, and once the fresh and new feelings have worn off (typically after relinquishment) the adoptive parents are under no legal obligation to continue any kind of contact at all. And many don’t. The sincerity they had during the pregnancy, it seems, was the equivalent of a lovesick teenager crushing on the lead singer of a boy band. Their dreams of parenthood, having been achieved through the birthmother (she is sort of like a celebrity to them in the beginning), are now the reality and there really is no immediate use for the birthmother.
And so it goes. An expectant mother gives her all into the emotional investment. She has to. A prospective adoptive couple may think they are giving their all (or may truly be faking it) but, in reality, they are swept up in the moment much like someone meeting a famous person for the first time.
There are always exceptions to the rules and there absolutely are prospective adoptive parents who truly do bond and make a huge emotional investment in the expectant mother and continue that investment for the rest of the child’s life. However, that investment would not otherwise be made if the expectant mother had nothing to offer that couple. In fact, they would never have even known each other. The basis of the entire relationship is what the expectant mother can give the adoptive parents – a baby. This creates a dependency for the adoptive parents on the expectant mother and, no matter how good the intentions are, will have some influence (maybe a little, maybe a lot) on the expectant mother’s final decision.
Where do I stand on pre-birth matching? Well, I don’t believe it should be pushed. I believe post-birth matching would be fine while a mother is given the resources needed (from the adoption agency) to parent her child during that time. I go back and forth on the time period I believe is right but let’s just say anywhere from thirty to ninety days. Instead of providing housing, food, clothing and other resources to the expectant mother, while being matched with a prospective adoptive couple, why not use that money to provide her with post-birth resources while she is forming a relationship with a prospective adoptive couple and deciding whether she would like to continue parenting? Well, because there would be far less babies available for adoption. That’s why. The fact of the matter remains, and don’t let any agency claim they are unaware of this – they use it, pre-birth matching plants an obligatory seed in the mind of the expectant mother. She has invested everything, emotionally, into these people and has fallen in love with them. The thought of breaking their hearts is almost as unbearable as the thought of relinquishing her child. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “newly minted” (thanks Phaydra) birthmothers talk about how they wanted to parent but knew they were doing the right thing because of how happy they made the adoptive parents. They couldn’t bear the thought of shattering their infertile dreams. I don’t exaggerate. This is the reality.
Recently, Creating a Family posted an article about this subject. I take no particular issue with the article itself. While I disagree with some points, they do tend to leave the door open for free thinking. What I did take issue with was an anonymous comment on their site about the article.
Anonymous IF says: (unedited – EP’s stands for expectant parents, PAP’s stands for prospective adoptive parents, and IF stands for infertile)
“I echo your frustration, Sara. It’s funny how even though we as PAP’s are the ones with no rights whatsoever in a pre adoption arrangements, we are the ones who need to be warned and watched carefully to ensure that we do not coerce or unfairly influence the decision of the expectant parents. An expectant parent who makes an adoption plan that is yet to be followed through on (if it is ever is) is not only deciding whether she is going to be a parent, she is ultimately deciding if the PAP’s are going to get to be parents at all. That is where the imbalance of power lays in this scenario as far as I can see. I wish there was a way to protect PAP’s in this scenario by leaving them out of the equation entirely until the expectant parents have made their decision entirely on their own, without sacrificing the child by having them live in limbo until they are placed with their new family. A child needs to bond with the people who are going to be raising them from day one IMO, but I don’t see how this is possible if the expectant parents’ insecurities are going to be made the top priority.
As for the notion of EP’s and PAP’s being friends, I don’t think I would feel comfortable being friends with an EP who had the idea of including me and my husband in an adoption plan for her child. First of all, as someone who is IF, asking me to become BFFs with a pregnant woman seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Just seeing a pregnant woman causes me great pain, I don’t think I could then turn my deepest dreams of parenthood over to someone who has the potential to shatter them without consequence or remorse . Second of all, from all of the “birth mother”, “first mother”, “natural mother”, “real mother” blogs I have read over the course of my research, I don’t think that I could truly trust a person like this to not use me as a scapegoat once all was said and done. Even if a woman chose adoption free of coercion or undue influence, she might have regrets due to the grief she felt at having placed her child for adoption. I do not want to be the lightning rod towards which she directs all of her feelings of bitterness and resentment that come from her regret and remorse over her freely made choice. How can someone build anything close to a friendship with that potential bombshell waiting in the wings to explode? I hope that any adoption my husband and I would be part of would allow us to keep the EP’s at arm’s length until a decision has been made. Only then could a place of trust be built between us.”
At first I couldn’t figure out what infuriated me so much about her comment. She was echoing the same opinion I was as far as pre-birth matching. However, her reasons behind it were not the same. She was presumptuous, insensitive, uneducated, and unsympathetic. Without so much as saying the words, she is stating how she would like parental rights to be terminated prior to birth. Which is so very wrong. There are reasons a woman cannot terminate her parental rights until after a baby is born (in most states that is – subject for another day). This woman seems to think she is some kind of victim. She does understand that she has absolutely no power until after TPR is signed but holds such contempt for this fact it is truly worrisome. She seems to think that it is unfair that an expectant mother could change her mind. She thinks its unfair that she has to wait for a decision to be made by an expectant mother after birth. Her opinions on even being in the same room as an expectant mother are quite telling. This woman has deep issues in regards to her infertility that MUST be resolved before she gets anywhere near a potential infant that is available for adoption. She also, so much as, admits that birthmothers have experienced coercion from adoptive parents, in terms of the guilt laid on them to “complete their dream family” but places the blame on the birthmothers instead of unethical agencies and adoption practices. This woman is the poster child for adoption reform and she doesn’t even realize it. So to “Anonymous IF,” I say this: Your anger towards women who are able to complete a successful pregnancy that results in a healthy infant is entirely misdirected. Your pain is obvious and the resentment you feel towards expectant mothers and birthmothers is truly disturbing. You say you’ve read all the blogs but you still don’t get it. Or maybe you do. Maybe you do get it and that’s why you’re angry. Maybe you’re angry because your desire to be a parent leaves a huge wake of never-ending pain, hurt and emotional scars. Maybe that’s what makes you so mad. Because maybe, just maybe, there is a heart behind all that anger and it just pisses you off that to be a mother someone else will have to take all that pain. Pain immensely greater than the pain of infertility. Just maybe. Or maybe you’re just an entitled bitch. Who knows.