Husband comforts his wife after adoption lossHopeful adoptive parents dream about the day they will bring their new baby home. Videos and images of adoptive parents receiving their baby can make the adoption process seem like a scene in a movie filled with Hollywood magic.
Some imagine the day they adopt as a private moment with the immediate family. Others dream about bringing their new child home to the warm, smiling faces of extended family and friends. At the end of the long day, the beaming parents bring the baby to her nursery. Walls are newly painted and decorated; shelves are filled with books and toys. The new family cozies up together and basks in the joy their new life brings.
By building up this moment, prospective adoptive parents run the risk of romanticizing the entire adoption process. The feelings of joy and fulfillment are real, but this scene does not reflect the harder realities of adoption.
Many scenes that could be a part of an adoption journey are missing here. The scene where the couple is rejected by the first birth mother who saw their profile. The scene where the birth mother changes her mind.
Adoption is a risky process, and preparation is key. Being prepared will not eliminate the hurt of rejection or adoption loss, but it can help you build the courage to face those risks on solid ground, and move on to a successful adoption.

Risk of Rejection by Potential Birth Mothers

Adoption risks begin when you present yourself to potential birth mothers. You have done your best to build an adoption profile that reflects the kind of family you will be. You have chosen just the right pictures to showcase your family’s unique qualities, and written a “Dear Birth Mother” letter that encompasses your values, hopes, and dreams.
As potential birth mothers review your profile, you may be rejected several times before you find the right match. Even though this process helps develop a match that will lead to a successful adoption, the rejection still hurts.
Sheila and Doug knew they might not be matched on their first try. They knew it could even take a couple of tries before they matched with a birth mother, but knowing it was different than feeling it.
They remember the eager hope they felt when their adoption coordinator informed them a birth mother was interested. Sheila and Doug were one of three families the birth mother selected to meet. After their introduction, they felt confident. Everything had gone so well! That feeling was soon replaced with devastation when their adoption coordinator informed them that they were not chosen.
Why had the birth mother rejected them? What had happened to make her think they were not the best parents to raise her child? They started to prepare for the possibility of never finding a match.
Presenting to potential birth mothers is a time of extreme vulnerability for prospective adoptive parents. You are truly wearing your heart on your sleeve. Remember that being rejected does not mean there is anything wrong with you or with the birth mother. It just means that your perfect match is still out there waiting to be found. Sheila and Doug did not give up. Empowered by faith and the strength of their relationship, they took another risk. They eventually moved on to a successful adoption and were rewarded with the child that was meant just for them.

Risk of Adoption Loss

Once you have been chosen by a birth mother, it is hard to keep from imagining your future with your new baby. You may be eager to prepare your home and possibly other children for your new addition. You may book plane tickets or make other travel arrangements to plan your visits.
As you communicate with the birth mother and your relationship grows, you form a special bond. She chose you and entrusts the future of her child with you. But the hard truth is that the risks are not yet over. The birth mother may change her mind.
Amelia and Gary remember those initial meetings with their first match. The young birth parents were struggling financially and chose adoption so their baby could have a more stable future. They were emotional but seemed firm in their decision. Amelia and Gary formed a bond with the young couple. The idea that this baby would soon become a part of Amelia and Gary’s family materialized with each passing day. However, after the baby was born, a relative intervened, offering financial support, which prompted the birth parents to change their minds and raise the baby themselves. Instead of bringing home their new baby, Amelia and Gary grieved their adoption loss.
Adoption loss may be the most frightening risk adoptive parents will take. You are not only losing the child, but also the future that had seemed so certain up until this point. For Amelia and Gary, the hardest part was telling their daughter that she would not be a big sister yet. The family carried on with their normal routine, each of them grieving in their own way. Amelia got through it by talking and was appreciative of the support offered by the adoption agency. She and Gary even wrote a letter to the birth parents, wishing them well.
They did not blame the adoption agency or the birth parents for their adoption loss. There are many reasons why birth parents change their minds, and it hardly ever has to do with the adoptive parents. Situations change, and there are complicated emotions involved.
As heartbreaking as adoption loss is for prospective adoptive parents, birth parents can’t be faulted for wanting to raise their child. Amelia and Gary had faith that this child was meant to be with the other family, and moved on to a successful adoption. The difficult memories faded as they immersed themselves in the joy of their new family.

Grieving an Adoption Loss

If you suffer an adoption loss, treat it as a real loss. Adoptive parents have compared the pain and anguish of an adoption loss to the feelings parents have after enduring a miscarriage.
Give yourself time to grieve this loss before seeking a new match. Reach out to your adoption coordinator for information about counseling or support groups for adoptive parents. You will be in a better position for a successful adoption if you give yourself time to heal before you present yourself to another potential birth mother.

Educating Yourself About Adoption Risks

There is no way to prepare for the emotions you will feel if you experience adoption loss, but you can still educate yourself about adoption risks.
While there is no way to guarantee a birth mother’s commitment to your adoption, there are red flags that signify higher risk. Does the birth father know about the adoption plan? If he has not been informed, he may want to claim his parental rights. Do the birth parents’ families support the adoption plan? When you hire Lifetime to help you adopt, our adoption professionals have the experience and training to easily spot “red flags” right away.
Adoption is a risky process, and many factors are entirely out of your control. Relinquishing that control is a terrifying risk considering everything you have on the line: your future plans, your finances, your heart. If you experience rejection or adoption loss along your journey, keep your sights on the greater reward waiting for you. There is a child who is meant to become a part of your family, and these setbacks were necessary steps to bring you together.

Linda Rotz
Written by Linda Rotz

Linda Rotz, CWCM-S, CWCM-Trainer, ACC, is the Director of Adoption Services at Lifetime. Linda has worked in the field of adoption for 20 years within the child welfare/foster care system in Florida. She has degrees in Mass Communications and Human Development, and completed graduate studies in social work.

Due to her extensive expertise, Linda was called upon to write adoption procedures and training materials in Florida. She is certified as an Adoption Specialist, Child Welfare Case Manager Supervisor and Child Welfare Trainer in the state of Florida.