For the caller who asked this week, this is why you cannot sell a baby… (Where do we even start?)
What immediately comes to mind is to shout “because it’s wrong!!” but we suspect if you’re even asking the question, this answer isn’t going to hold water with you.
We do understand that babies don’t always happen in the best of times nor the best of circumstances.
And the irony is not lost on us, that you are asking this in a month in which the world comes to a standstill to remember a baby born to an unmarried mom in the most disadvantaged of circumstances.
We hear what you’re saying; you have nothing, you can’t even care for the children you have already, and the pregnancy is making it even harder for you to get by, and you need to look out not just for this baby but also for yourself.
Yet to buy or sell a child is against the laws of every state. Children are not supposed to be “for sale” and babyselling is a felony offense.
Your response is that you know this… but you have needs, too.
The law says that the baby’s father is supposed to be helping you with your bills, since a father’s responsibilities don’t just begin when a baby is born.
He’s not in the picture, you say, and you’re still not going to be able to work after giving birth.
The State of Texas does allow licensed adoption agencies like Abrazo to help expectant moms with inadequate resources with basic living expenses, such as rent and groceries and clothing and rides to maternity appointments.
(This does not, however, allow us to pay for your car, as you asked.)
The State doesn’t allow agencies, attorneys nor adoptive parents to “compensate” you for placing your child for adoption. Nor can Abrazo cover lost wages or do back-payments for bills that preceded your adoption plan with our agency, or pay more than costs unrelated to pregnancy needs.
Well, you say, the doctor gets paid for delivering the baby and the agency gets paid for handling the adoption arrangements and the attorney gets paid for going to court, so why shouldn’t you get paid, too?
The answer is that there’s a difference between fees charged for professional services rendered and payments made for human flesh, which is a form of slavery or human trafficking.
But shouldn’t you get something out of this, for what you’re doing for your baby and the adoptive parents, you ask?
It’s an interesting question, and we do understand why you’re asking. We know plenty of people who claim they were given gifts of value or lump sum payments for giving up a baby for adoption, even though that isn’t legal (and it’s not the kind of adoption we’d ever feel good about doing.
The blackmarket does exist. And the laws in Texas DO allow surrogate mothers to be paid for their “services,” which seems odd to us, given that mothers placing their own babies cannot be paid anything.
But just as the law doesn’t allow adoptive families to charge birthparents for raising their children for them, the law doesn’t allow birthparents to charge adoptive families for the placement of a child.
You say you’re talking to someone you found online who is out-of-state and thinks they have figured out a way to give you thousands of dollars in exchange for your baby, and we warn you to ask the State Bar Association about any proposed arrangement, since you can be charged with a felony even if someone tells you it’s okay.
Plus: there’s this.
You ask who it would hurt, if nobody finds out about it?
And we tell you this: it hurts every child who ever gets bought and sold.
Even if you think nobody needs to know, the truth always comes out at some point, and no child should have to go through life with the shame of having been bought nor sold like produce in a supermarket.
And here’s the thing: would you really want to entrust your baby to the kind of people who are willing to purchase a child?
How will those kinds of people treat a kid who may not always “live up to” whatever price they paid?
And how would the kind of people who are fine with buying a child teach your child the difference between right and wrong?
And if someone is willing to break the law to get what they want, why would you trust them with a baby?
Well, what if they just give you something (money, a car, whatever) as a gift, not as payment? Same difference, under the law. Gifts of value are still against the law, so the damage is the same.
We know we’re not telling you what you want to hear, but sorry (not sorry.) The truth is that agencies like Abrazo exist to do the best possible adoptions, and truly, you and your child deserve nothing less from us.
If you’re considering adoption, this is way too important to cut corners or do it wrong. The stakes are too high, and trust us: you’re going to need way more out of this than just a payoff.
You’re going to need peace of mind. You’re going to need emotional support you can count on for long afterwards. You’re going to need the love of a family. You’re going to need everything done just right, and you’re not going to want to sell yourself short… nor your child.
You may still do what you want, and we all know this. But at Abrazo, we won’t steer you wrong.
And whether you move ahead with adoption planning here or not, you will leave here knowing your rights, knowing your options, and knowing why you cannot sell a baby (at least, under the laws of this and every other state.)
Please, choose wisely… or you’ll find yourself wishing you had, one day.
(It really shouldn’t take a shining star to see this clearly.)
From the perspective of a big brother who’s too small to fully understand yet, today was mostly about a boring bunch of big people in an old building where you had to be really quiet and show off your baby sibling to a man in a black robe.
To the parents of the two little big brothers who were in court this morning to finalize their third babies’ adoptions, however, today was certainly the culmination of a long and hard journey.
These two boys are both firstborn sons adopted years ago, by two Abrazo couples who have come to know each other through Camp Abrazo, our annual reunion, and have since become dear friends.
It wasn’t by mere coincidence that they happened to be celebrating their adoption finalizations together today, though.
Because not so long ago, both families were likewise united in a very different kind of adoption experience, the sort that nobody voluntarily applies for…
A Tale of Two Bros
The two fine young men who joined us at the Bexar County Courthouse today are both big brothers (and were, even before today.)
One boy is four-and-a-half. He brought his grandma with him to witness the adoption of his second sister. He is into dinosaurs, big-time, and he came to court today decked out in a Christmas dinosaur t-shirt, a dinosaur jacket, and black cowboy boots.
The other boy turns four this month. His beloved birthmother came to court with him to celebrate the family’s adoption of their third baby boy. He’s particularly fond of climbing and exploring, and for court today, he wore a plaid shirt, a thermal vest he kept taking off, and his brown cowboy boots.
Both of these children have something else in common, besides their handsome smiles and their freshly-polished footwear.
As the boys noted in passing conversation in the courthouse hallway today, each of them has another family member who couldn’t be there today; a sibling who is in Heaven.
The boy who loves dinosaurs had another sister, who was adopted and whose life was ended unexpectedly by a cancer diagnosis at the age of two.
The boy who’s a future American Ninja Warrior contender had another brother, who was in the course of being adopted when he died of SIDS.
Each remembers their sibling in Heaven, even as each adores their new sibling here on earth.
Dreams Only Faith Can Grow
Both of these families endured agonizing losses in 2017. They supported each other in their grief, and eventually, both found the courage to adopt again, in 2018. Their respective stories are a testament to the power of faith and to the importance of dreams only faith can grow.
No one will ever “fill the place” of the children they lost, nor will anyone usurp the special spot in their hearts that is reserved especially for the birthparents of those children, of course.
Yet both birthfamilies wholeheartedly supported the adoptive families’ desire to adopt again, and as a result, these new babies and their birthparents are every bit as precious to them.
The deeper nuances of what transpired today isn’t yet apparent to the two big brothers who participated in today’s adoption proceedings, of course.
(And “participate” they did; each boy was duly sworn in by the judge, and each “testified” to his desire to love and protect his new little family member.)
Still, each boy knows his birthmother by name. Each boy knows his own adoption story. Each knows his older birthsibling.
Each one knows that his adopted siblings come with birthfamilies, too, and that birthfamilies are part of the forever family that includes him and his Mom and Dad, as well.
Each boy knows that he is deeply loved. Each boy knows it’s okay to miss people who aren’t with us anymore, and to talk about those feelings when you need to.
Each boy knows he’ll see his Abrazo buddy (and those crazy AbrazoChicks) again at Camp next summer.
And each boy knows that Texas is his birthplace, and that “Texas-strong” runs in his bloodline– and powers his stride.
And that, for now, big brother, is more than enough.
If there’s one ugly monster lurking under the proverbial adoption bed, it is this one: the illusion of control.
The illusion of control is a tricky little beast. He smiles nicely in front of company, as if to assure that everyone and everything will go as planned, but in private, he gnashes his teeth and spews cortisol as he plots and schemes to try to micromanage every moving part around him.
It’s normal to want to be instantly in charge of the variables that impact our lives. But it’s even more important to us when it involves our own bodies, or our innermost hopes and dreams.
Infertility and hyperfertility are two life challenges that shatter the illusion of control, and the adoption process is surely another.
The Adoptive Parents Don’t Have All the Control
Infertility can feel like the cruelest of blows when dealt to those who long to become parents. It shatters our illusion of control to think that those who are most ready in every way to love and nurture a tiny human being are biologically denied the opportunity to grow one of their own– for no “good” reason at all.
To then face a gauntlet of adoption paperwork and endure the indignities of matching challenges anyone’s sense of sanity, much less self-control. To have to entrust the very fate of your family’s future to the care of someone whose own life circumstances may be less than optimal (whether due to poverty or addiction or mental health or poor life choices or whatever else) is humbling at best and maddening at worst, but undeniably illustrates one’s lack of control over their own destiny in the most neon of terms.
It’s no wonder, then, that adopting parents are prone to grasping the illusion of control like a life raft in a turbulent sea. We see this in the actions of adopters who seek to dictate the pregnancy care choices of a prospective birthmom, or who want to attend every prenatal appointment with her, or who daily “overtext” to check in on her every move. It’s evident in the actions of those who want labor induced on demand, who seek to “room in” with a baby not yet theirs at the hospital, or who violate the sanctity of any good adoption plan by seeking to control the birthparent’s final decision, whether by soliciting repeated assurances that they won’t change their minds or by crossing legal lines to offer payment for placement in hopes of controlling the outcome.
Still, no matter how a child becomes yours, nothing will ever shatter your illusion of control like the job of parenthood will. Maybe, then, the true purpose of this exercise is to learn to accept the reality that control is an illusion, and the only real control we have is our ability to cope with life’s uncertainties and embrace its surprises.
The Birthparents Don’t Have All the Control
For birthparents, the very condition of pregnancy (planned or unplanned) is a stark reminder of the illusion of control. You can be diligent about using birth control and yet find yourself knocked up. You can get the very best of prenatal care and still birth a child with unexpected complications. You can walk five miles a day in your final weeks of pregnancy and still go past your due date. You can use the worst of street drugs all through pregnancy in hopes of ending an unwanted pregnancy through miscarriage, and still deliver a baby who turns out to be an honors student who thrives in his adoptive home. You can choose the most picture-perfect adoptive couple and get to know them like family and yet still see the child you so carefully placed with them end up in a home broken by divorce. You can place your child and all your trust in an adoptive family who promises to keep in touch before the papers are signed, yet who forgets all those promises once the ink is dry on their adoption decree.
The illusion of control reminds all of us that the best-laid plans can go awry, and that our daily efforts to control the factors are around us are all too often exercises in futility.
(And birthparents typically understand this better than anyone.)
Adoptive Agencies Can’t Control Everything Either
Adoption agencies have effectively built an entire industry around the suggestion that they can somehow harness life’s hardships and bring about order and success, at least on behalf of the children involved. Sometimes, they make such a good show of control that they believe it themselves.
Many adoption professionals bristle when reminded of the truth that “adoption cannot guarantee a better life, only a different one.” Yet in truth, agency employees control very little, and even the most compassionate of adoption workers should not have the power to substantively altering the outcome of the placement decisions being made by its clients.
Prospective adopters and birthparents alike want adoption professionals to assure them that their stated goals can be easily reached via compliance in adoption planning, but such assurances merely feed the illusion of control in a process in which the unexpected must be expected– before and after placement does (or doesn’t) happen.
To exercise true control over that which you can, remember that anything worth doing is worth doing right. At Abrazo, we often remind prospective adoptive parents of the famous maxim from the movie Field of Dreams: “if you build it, they will come.” This is less about self-manifestation than it is about taking control of your own power to make good choices on behalf of the future.
You cannot fix the world’s problems, but you can make good choices to address your own. You cannot cancel out a diagnosis but you can learn all there is to know about it so you are prepared to deal with it. You cannot control what anyone else is going to do, but you can influence others’ behavior through your example. You cannot avoid the pain of disappointment if a match or placement plan falls apart, but you can learn about the depths of your own inner strength by weathering it. You cannot be guaranteed that the adoptee will never face any issues in life but you can equip yourself to be the sort of parent who will love and support them through anything.
Remember: your ultimate superpower is the ability to dispense with the illusion of control– and in doing so, you just might find you gift yourself with real control over your own fears of the monster under the bed, who is reality is little more than a dustbunny.
“I need to keep my baby safe, can you help me?” the young woman asked us, with tears in her eyes.
She’d tried everything to get away from her abuser, she told us. She’d been through the shelter programs. She’d changed her number. She’d gotten protection orders. She’d gotten off social media. She even tried moving out of town a time or two.
Each time, though, he seemed to find her. Or she went back with him. (Same difference, she said.)
Child Protective Services ended up taking her other children, concerned that she was unable or unwilling to shield them from the father who had hurt her, despite her best efforts. She was fighting to get them back.
The last thing she needed was another child, and yet, shortly after he’d beaten her for the last time and she’d left him, she’d learned she was pregnant… again.
That’s probably not by accident, either; women are often forced to become pregnant by abusive partners, as an act of control.
“I should’ve gotten a tubal after my last kid was born,” she cried. “I didn’t want this to happen again, because I knew he’d try to trap me. I knew I’d end up having to leave. And I hate to sound awful but I don’t need any more children. I don’t want another reminder of him. It’s not this baby’s fault, though. I just need a family to take him in and to keep my baby safe. He deserves that, right?”
Extra Vulnerable: Abuse & Pregnancy
Women in abusive relationships are at the very highest risks when pregnant. The March of Dimes reports that 1 in 6 women have been domestic violence victims during pregnancy and it’s a problem that is prevalent worldwide.
In South Texas, this is a particular problem as well, because the National Latino Network reports that one in three Latinas has experienced intimate partner violence, yet silence often creates a conspiracy that protests the abusers, at the expense of victims and their children.
No mother should have to forfeit her child for adoption simply to escape abuse, and we told her this. There are programs and facilities that can help intimate partner violence survivors who are parenting or wish to do so. Most communities have shelters that offer free counseling and legal services in addition to emergency housing and medical referrals.
The young mother who had turned to Abrazo for help knew all this, however. The problem she faced was that despite all she had lost as a result of her abusive relationship, she knew she would likely go back to him, just as she’d done over and over again, and despite all the risks. “I know it’s crazy, I know it’s probably not going to get better, but I know myself. I know how I am,” she said.
It’s tragic, but it’s a story that plays out month after month, in cities and marriages and families across all socioeconomic stratum. It’s one kind of tragedy when it involves only adults, but it’s a whole ‘nother nightmare when children are involved.
The Protection Adoption Can Offer
The frightening reality is that most parents who are abusive towards their partners will eventually have the same sort of anger and control issues with their kids. And children who grow up in homes where there is abuse or violence are more prone to replicate the same behaviors in their homes when they become adults, sadly.
Mothers who make adoption plans through Abrazo are not required to be in contact with the father of the child they’re placing. Unlike some agencies that put the burden on the mother to “get the dad to sign,” Abrazo takes care of all necessary legal details so that the father is required to deal with Abrazo directly and the mother’s privacy is protected by the agency. In Texas, an alleged father is not entitled to access to the child without a court order; open adoption arrangements can be structured to allow him to have an entirely separate and confidential relationship with the adopting family if necessary, so that the mother’s well-being is not compromised by his participation.
More importantly, Abrazo offers ongoing counseling and emotional support to the placing parent/s, so that they are reinforced in their intentions to seek out healthier relationships going forward.
The mother in the account above was able to safely deliver and place her baby boy with the adopting couple of her choice. He is growing up safe and sound in a home where there is no fighting, no hitting, no shouting and no police presence. His birthmother is now enjoying supervised visits with her child in state care, and she has begun working towards a home health care certification. The birthfather is locked up at present, but his relatives still message the birthmom from time to time to relay his requests that she come visit him and send him money. If she has already done so, she’s not told Abrazo yet… but that’s her business.
Because keeping children safe is Abrazo’s business, something this mother acknowledged in a recent text to the agency staff, which read simply :
“THANK U for helping to keep my baby safe. ABRAZO IS :100:!!!”
There’s a movie opening today about foster parents by the same name, but at Abrazo, every month here is an episode of Instant Family in real time.
Any one of our parents-in-waiting knows that any day, they may get The Call, and they have to be ready instantly to drop everything to be here for a birthparent and her child/ren.
Years ago, it was a young childless couple from New Jersey who were summoned by Abrazo to become an instant family to a beautiful sibling group of three young children, ages 1, 2 and 3. They were chosen to become parents by the original parents of that sibling group, a young married couple living too close to the edge and wanting better for their children.
The Jersey couple had infertility, so adoption was their only hope of building a family, yet neither spouse had ever parented before, so going from being a childless couple to the parents of a baby and two toddlers was surely a sharp learning curve. Not only did God answer their prayers for freedom, He answered the prayers of the desperate birthcouple for relief, and both couples found themselves blessed abundantly, as all three adoptees have grown up to be smart and vibrant adults.
Nothing about becoming instant family was easy, of course. But it was definitely worth all the sacrifices it required– on everyone’s part.
How do people become instant family?
To become instant family typically requires an approved homestudy with cleared background checks, for starters, a safe home, and children who need you. You’ll also need patience, supervision, legal representation, a steady income and a strong support system.
Becoming instant family requires resilience, flexibility and stability and not everyone can handle this. It’s okay if you can’t; it doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of adoption, nor that you are never meant to become a family. The reality is that not everyone can (or should) sign up for a process by which they need to be able to turn their lives upside down at a moment’s notice on behalf of a child or children they’ve never even met (yet.) People who are planners and whose comfort level is largely control-based typically do not respond well to the demands of becoming instant family. Children in crisis and kids who have been traumatized likewise do not find the concept of “instant family” familiar or comforting, and they too may need a slower process in which to bond and attach.
Abrazo’s application form specifically asks people wanting to adopt how soon, realistically, they might be ready for placement, and how many/what sort of children they could accept? Some applicants probably agonize over this, thinking it’s a trick question, but it’s not. It’s simply intended to encourage prospective adoptive parents to give some real thought to what they are (and are not) prepared for, and when.
For a pair of Texas doctors, getting The Call that Abrazo had a baby for them before they’d even gotten their nursery ready was truly a wake-up call on the way to becoming instant family. They had to call each other at work to be sure they were both feeling ready, and then they called a dear family friend, who ran to the store to buy them all the basics that were needed to accommodate the needs of a new baby joining their home in literally a matter of hours. Beyond that, though, they had to work through years of unresolved emotions about infertility and childlessness to be able to embrace their new roles as the immediate parents of a newborn who knew none of their history yet needed them to be instantly ready for all of his future.
Another childless couple from California met a single mom-to-be from Colorado who was stationed in Texas. She had a career path laid out for herself that did not enable her to parent at that time in her life, and the adoptive couple she chose wanted nothing more than to become parents. They got to know each other during pregnancy, chose to do their adoption through Abrazo, and when that soldier gave birth and completed her adoption paperwork, not one, not two, but three beautiful babies went home with that stunned set of new parents. Instant family, indeed… but again, a very grateful one. Adopting triplets is not easy (and neither is placing multiples for adoption) but the parents have maintained their friendship over the years, and the three teens they all love so are an immense source of pride for each.
Take note: “instant” means anything BUT “easy.”
Adoption doesn’t just happen when the time is right for the adults involved, and children’s needs don’t always accommodate new parents’ schedules. Becoming instant family is trying even under the best of circumstances, and especially when the circumstances are not optimal.
Newly-minted parents need support and understanding, and they need to know it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s all right to secretly (or not so secretly) feel that they’re merely babysitting, and it’s normal if they don’t feel particularly connected to their new child/ren right from the start. It’s incredibly difficult for new adoptive parents to feel they can be candid about their anxieties or fears or regrets, in a culture that celebrates immediacy and glorifies the idea of happy endings. Yet parenting is an enormous undertaking, however it comes to you, and those who have had little time to prepare may need much more room to adjust.
The movie “Instant Family” is getting mixed reviews. Some say it is racially insensitive. Some find it funny or inspiring. Others are raising concerns that it should not be mistaken for family entertainment. (Largely, the same things were said of the 1989 movie, Immediate Family, too.)
Still, in the words of a social worker quoted in the Instant Family movie (which was based on movie director Sean Anders’ adoption of foster kids with his wife Beth):
“This is never going to be easy, but with some structure and love you could make your house a home.”
And that, essentially, is the entire challenge facing every instant family– in public or in private.
There’s nothing in adoption that evokes such joyous anticipation as getting The Call.
(That’s right: The Call. Capital T, capital C.)
There are lots of different kinds of calls in adoption. There are intake calls, when prospective adopters or prospective birthparents first call adoption agencies like Abrazo to get information. There are check-in calls, when our staff calls our clients just to say “hey, wassup?” or “please do this” or “please don’t do that.” There are introductory calls, when prospective birthparents first speak with potential adoptive parents, and vice versa. There are match calls, when adoptive parents first hear that they’ve been chosen to match with someone who is planning to place. There are touching-base calls along the way.
And then there is The Call, that moment every hopeful adoptive family imagines and dreams of, when you get the call that seemingly changes everything for the better.
“The baby’s here! You’re needed now. It’s really happening.“
And just like that, the landscape of someone’s life gets forever altered in the nicest of ways.
How It Feels
What goes through a prospective adoptive parent’s mind when they get The Call?
Most adoptive parents would tell you it’s as if a tsunami of emotions strike, all at once. They’re stunned. Excited. Anxious. Overwhelmed. (And then some.) Some people cry. Some scream. Sometimes, folks just respond with stunned silence, as they slowly process what this means.
For Catherine, The Call was like she was watching a movie of her life; nothing seemed real after she heard the words “the baby” and it was as if the people in the office around her were all moving in slow motion. For Richard, who was in an airport and who got The Call when his wife, a schoolteacher, wasn’t answering the agency’s calls, “I wanted to run up to complete strangers and tell everybody I was about to be a dad!”
For Marcus & Cynthia, The Call evoked very different emotions. “Cynthia couldn’t stop crying, but I was in manic mode, grabbing suitcases out of the closets and throwing everything I could think of in them to get us packed to go to Texas on a moment’s notice,” is how Marcus remembers it.
Single mom Beverly said that for her, The Call was very sobering. “After I hung up, all I could think of was the baby’s mom and what she must be feeling. I felt really responsible for her, as well as the baby, and I was worried about measuring up to her expectations.”
For Colin, The Call was secretly frightening. “All I could think was, oh, boy, are we really ready for this? I would’ve never told you guys at the agency this, but I was pretty freaked out about all that change happening to us all at once.”
Whatever you feel, it’s okay! No matter how long anyone waits to become a parent, getting The Call is a sign that the Universe believes you are ready for change, and that somebody (a placing parent and an adoption professional) agree.
What To Do
When you get The Call, know that you’re not likely to remember most of the details, so write down whatever notes you can. Whomever is calling you may not have all the stats yet, but be sure to ask “how is the mom doing?” and “what can you tell me about the baby?” Most adoption professionals will try to have at least basic info for you, like the date and time of the birth, the baby’s gender, weight, length and APGAR scores.
The first thing you’ll want to do, if you’re able, is to speak with the baby’s mother, whether she’s still in the hospital or already home. This is an overwhelming time for her, too, undoubtedly, so be sure to be sensitive to what she’s feeling and what she needs from you. Assure her that you appreciate the faith she is placing in you and that you will be there for her and for her baby in any way you can be. (You might want to ask your adoption professional to take care of sending flowers to the newly-delivered mother; just say how you want the card to read, and what you’d like to send/spend.)
Next, you’ll want to make your plans to get to wherever the baby is. If you’re traveling from out-of-state, your adoption professional will likely need you there ASAP. Book a flight, pack your bags and your car seat, grab a checkbook with your insurance cards and any medications you may need, and kennel your pets if need be, because if you’re not in-state, Interstate Compact may keep you in whatever state in which the baby was born for 7-10 days or more.
You’ll want to pack a bag for the baby, too, but remember that anything you forget, you can pick up later, wherever you’ll be staying. So what do you pack for a baby you’ve never even met, yet? Here are the basics: five onesies, three baby nighties, one hooded towel, 7 layette blankets (the thin ones,) 7 pairs of baby socks, a small pack of baby toiletries, a baby carrier or sling, and one heavier baby blanket. (And here’s the big challenge; remember that anything that’s going to touch the baby’s skin should be washed in baby detergent first.)
Diapers, formula, bottles and pacifiers can be purchased once the nursery staff advises you of the baby’s needs and preferences. (Keep in mind that most hospitals will provide a supply to last you the first day or so.) If you don’t have a head insert for the baby’s seat, you can fashion one out of a baby blanket, of course. You probably won’t need things like a stroller, although you may want to bring a pack-n-play or porta-crib, or at least bring your own cleanly-washed baby sheets, if you’re borrowing one from a hotel or from the agency.
Make arrangements for a friend or relative to notify anyone else in your life that may need to hear the news about The Call, so you’re free to focus on your baby and his or her birthparents without distraction. (Kindly ask them to remind people that it’s not appropriate to post well-wishes on your social media pages until or unless placement’s been done.)
For all the excitement it causes, The Call is likely to be one of the parts of your adoption journey that you will remember always– even if you struggle later to remember exactly what was said during the phone call that changed everything forever?!
When people ask what makes Abrazo different from other agencies, one thing in particular comes to mind: we truly have a heart for birthmothers.
Years ago, adoption agencies were largely an outgrowth of orphanages and foundling homes, and their focus was on caring for children and getting adoptive parents placed with the children that best met their needs.
So those agencies served children and adoptive parents, but the birthparents were considered nothing more than a means to their ends. Once papers were signed and the child was placed, the support services for the birthparents ended abruptly, and so did any contact the adoptive families may have had with them.
Those birthparents were left to suffer in silence, and many did– for decades on end.
(That’s so not how it is here at Abrazo.)
A Different Kind of Agency
At Abrazo, the mothers who place children here are family to us. We get to know them well prior to placement and welcome them like the sisters they are here. We don’t want them to “just disappear” after placement (and we don’t want to place children with the kind of people who secretly or not-so-secretly hope they’ll do so, either.)
We rejoice in their successes. We agonize over their hardships. Our counseling program and our birthparent support group meetings are always available to birthmothers, whether they placed here or elsewhere, and to see Abrazo birthparents back at Homecoming or at Camp Abrazo is like old home week for us. Even when they’re not proud of their circumstances, we’re still proud of them, and we want them to know it.
Having a heart for birthmothers doesn’t say anything about the agency, though. What it really says is that the first mothers with whom our agency works are women truly worth getting to know, and worth staying in touch with, for the long haul. They have grit and guts and grace and resilience. We all can learn much from them. They have faced down some of life’s greatest challenges, fallen off the horse at times and gotten themselves back up and in the saddle, for their kids’ sakes. Many of the birthmoms with whom we work have battled motherlessness and addiction and poverty and abuse and self-doubt and dysfunction and risen like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes.
A Different Kind of Social Worker
It takes a special kind of social worker to serve the diverse needs of the birthparent community, and Abrazo was most fortunate to find and hire Rachel Moen, who truly has a heart for birthmothers.
Rachel is an LMSW, which means she went through a whole lot of schooling to learn to serve the needs of others, but beyond her credentials and her resume, Rachel is a hardworking and strong woman of faith, with spunk and style and wit and wisdom well beyond her years. Her love language is service, and in a day’s time, she can twist her hair into countless perfect styles. She loves camping and hiking, and she wears vintage-style clothing with dangly earrings featuring Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo, and she’s the kind of resourceful person you would definitely want in your canoe even if you’d lost all the paddles in the rapids.
Rachel doesn’t see it as her responsibility to compel women to surrender their children for adoption. (Trust us, she’d be out of here if she thought this was expected of her.) If you ask Rachel, she’ll be the first to tell you that her job is about supporting females as they make their own best choices for themselves and their children, and helping them find whatever resources and support they need along the way to their chosen destination (and beyond.) We appreciate this about her, because Rachel approaches her work as a calling (and this is why she often makes herself available to our clients beyond her paid work hours, even when she probably shouldn’t.)
She finds her clients medical care, and housing, and gets them to their prenatal appointments and creates special memories for them along the way, too, just because that’s how she is. She gets them tacos and listens to their guy problems and helps them search for opportunities when needed, and she even went the extra mile to once handpaint an eggshell to make a gender reveal extra awesome. Her work takes her into hospitals and jails and sometimes, the sort of neighborhoods that make less-hardy professionals steer clear. She hears some of life’s most sordid tales and doesn’t judge. She meets people where they are, and then works to help them figure out their goals. She anticipates her clients’ needs with kindness, and whenever we see her interact with clients’ kids around our office, we’re reminded of why she is the favorite aunt of all her many nieces and nephews.
One thing most folks don’t know about Rachel is that she has no family here in Texas. She was raised in Alabama, but most of her relatives are now in Tennessee, and she misses them terribly. It’s because she has a genuine desire to serve that she feels called to be where she is right now, however, and we love her for that.
To have a heart for birthmothers means you have empathy, respect and admiration for those who have endured life’s greatest sacrifices in order to put their child’s needs before their own. It means actually being there for them, not just saying nice things to them or posting adoption-friendly memes on social media. Rachel does all of these things and more.
Rachel’s birthday is this weekend, and we share this tribute not to embarrass her, but rather, to thank her parents for raising their daughter to be the kind of woman she is, with a heart for birthmothers, a great work ethic and a true passion for all that is good and kind and decent.
Assuming we all need a little relief from the ugliness of political ads, Abrazo is proud to sponsor the first installment of the future hit television program… BABY IN PARADISE!
Chris Harrison: Welcome to the most dramatic season ever in Bachelor History, Baby in Paradise! We’re here in exotic San Antonio, as seven excited couples begin their journey to find the love of their lives. Let’s meet them now!
(Couples begin descending on the San Antonio Riverwalk, wearing Abrazo tshirts, and hauling empty car seats and diaper bags and rolling suitcases.)
Couple from Wisconsin: Whew! Is it always this humid here?
Couple from Tennessee: We drove… woulda got here sooner, except for all the outlet malls along
Couple from Missouri: We’re from the Show Me State, so please show us some babies!
Couple from Virginia: Which way is the Alamo?
Couple from Arizona: You think y’all make some good margs? Hold my beer!
Couple from Texas: Howdy, y’all! How ’bout them Cowboys, huh?
Couple from New Jersey: Hey, how long is that Interstate Compact thing again?
Chris Harrison: Now let’s review how this goes down! All of these lovely couples have infertility. They’re come here to meet our beautiful bachelorette birthmoms-to-be; all of whom are expecting and considering adoption. They’re here to get acquainted and hopefully find a connection, however, there won’t be any nights in the Fantasy Suite, of course, because being happily married already, your master bedroom already serves that purpose, right? But instead of our friendly bartender, Wells, you get the AbrazoChicks around to bounce things off of. Here’s the thing, though: the placing and adopting parents all have to agree to choose each other. (That’s what’s going to make this the Most! Dramatic! Season! Ever!)
Couple from Arizona: Soooo, will there be new bachelorette birthmoms available every day?
Chris Harrison: No, sometimes, a match may present itself when you least expect it.
Couple from Virginia: Is there going to a right match for each of us?
Chris Harrison: That may depend on you, because everyone’s looking for something different.
Couple from New Jersey: What if none of the matches seem to fit our needs?
Chris Harrison: Then you may be forgetting you’re supposed to be here to meet a child’s needs.
Couple from Texas: What if our future child turns out to not even like football?
Chris Harrison: Then pray that he or she will be a Spurs fan instead.
Couple from Missouri: So what can we do during our time together?
Chris Harrison: You’ll want to make sure you’re compatible. You’ll talk, you’ll text. You’ll go out to eat, get to know what each other is really about. (No fireworks, though… we cut that production cost after Mexico, sorry.) The bachelorette birthmoms-to-be get to give out the first and second rose, when they decide with whom they want to match. Then the hopeful adoptive couples get to give them a rose back, when they agree to the match. The birthparents give out the next rose, of course, when they decide to place. But then, there’s a plot twist, because the adoptive parents get two roses in the end, one to give the birthmama to say “thank you and we love you” at placement, and one more, that the adoptive parents can dry and save forever in the baby book.
Couple from Tennessee: Well, what about the baby? Doesn’t the baby ever get to give out a rose?
Chris Harrison: We thought about that, but roses have thorns, so we came up with something even better.
Couple from Virginia: Awesome! What’s that?
Chris Harrison: Instead of me coming out to say “and now, the final rose tonight…” I figured I’d just make my usual appearance at the very end, then pause and intone dramatically “Ladies, gentlemen… a year’s worth of dirty diapers!”
Couple from New Jersey: Hmmm. Somehow, that doesn’t have quite the same appeal?
Chris Harrison: Well, hey… welcome to parenthood, and welcome to Baby in Paradise, everyone!
We’re sorry, baby.
Your prospects recently changed dramatically, and not for the better, we fear.
(Although we’d love to be wrong about that.)
We’re not sure our paths will ever cross again, so consider this our note of apology for what we were not able to do to shield you from the rougher roads that may lie ahead in life.
Your parents had gotten out of prison not long before their first visit to our office (and yours.)
They were living at the local homeless shelter, when your pregnant mom and one of the guys that could be your father contacted our adoption agency about making a placement plan.
Some agencies might have seen them as “too sketchy,” but Abrazo gave them the benefit of the doubt because they definitely needed help.
Both of them had lost custody of their other kids. Both have long substance abuse histories and neither was responsive to available treatment options.
None of that is your fault, little one. You didn’t cause their problems, and you certainly can’t fix them. (And neither could we, it seems.)
We did try. We pulled out all our best social service resources. Highly-trained counselors and devoted social workers met with them weekly, while providing them with months of options counseling and housing and medical care and transportation to appointments and encouragement and support.
Ultimately, they chose an open adoption plan for your future, and everyone involved became part of a team they’d chosen to be a part of your future life story.
They chose somebody very special to be on their team, as well. It was a childless couple with infertility, who truly believed in your parents and saw the good in them, and wanted to see them succeed in life.
These were the people whose voices and laughter you may recall in the far recesses of your prenatal memories, for they spent time with your folks throughout the pregnancy. It was they who chose to use their life savings to help your parents out, as allowed by law. They went into this eyes wide open, knowing that their help was nothing more than an act of charity that could not and should not guarantee them a baby, much as they hoped they might get to be your parents.
Your mother has been through adoption before, so she did know the ropes. She’d also reneged on adoption before, so she knew those ropes, as well. The couple who’d hoped to become part of your forever family knew this, but they really liked your folks so they wanted to help them, regardless.
Everyone knows that expectant parents who explore adoption options have every right to change their mind prior to relinquishment, if they believe doing so is in their child’s best interests.
There is, however, a right (and a wrong) way to go about it. And we would all have rejoiced, had this couple taken the necessary steps to turn things around. (If any readers may be in a similar boat and wondering what that list might look like, start here: get a job. Get your GED. Stop drinking. Quit huffing. Go into treatment. Take parenting classes. Make some real changes. Any real changes.)
But they didn’t do that. And in that respect, we feel that we failed them (and you) because we couldn’t inspire them to stabilize their lives as they needed to, for your sake. (Sorry, baby.)
That’s what made the events of your birthday week all the more wrenching.
Because right before you were to be born, your parents flew the coop, without warning. They split town, abandoning their placement plan and forever altering the course of your future in ways that worry and scare us all. Some folks they know told the agency they planned this all along, but we hope not.
We do know they love you, and we all understand completely why they want to keep you with them, despite the likelihood that you may inevitably end up in Child Protective Services’ care sooner or later.
We just wish they’d gone about this in a different way– that’s all.
And we sure hope you’re going to be okay, no matter what.
We wish you had more security and more stability as your life starts out. We wish you could go home from the hospital to a home of your own, with parents who are truly prepared to put your needs before their own issues. We wish we had been able to better balance our hopes for their potential with the realities of their history. We wanted to believe in them but that didn’t safeguard your future.
Granted, that’s the parents’ job to do– to anticipate your needs and protect you at all costs. And we are not your parents, nor is our hopeful adoptive couple going to be. They’re not giving up, however. A failed adoption match can’t cancel out their longing to become parents. They’ll go on to find whatever child is truly meant to become theirs.
That won’t be you, though. We’ll all still continue to worry about you, regardless. We’ve done what we could for you and your folks, but our dreams for you have fallen far short, and all we can do now is move on and hope for the best.
Beware of baby lust! It may sound harmless, but severe cases can be more dangerous than you know. People who truly suffer from baby lust can often be emotionally-fragile, and sometimes psychologically-imbalanced, neither of whom may be the most ideal folks to surround the tiniest, most vulnerable of human beings.
In one bizarre case in Australia, an embryo donor recently discovered on social media that a couple in Sydney falsely reported their donated-embryo pregnancy had failed, in order to nullify their agreement to keep in touch with the child’s genetic parents. The case is now under official investigation, says Natalie Parker, the embryo donor, who told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I think (the baby’s gestational mother) had baby lust. She was just thinking about the baby, and now that she’s got the baby she wants to enjoy it herself and not acknowledge it’s got other connections outside the family.”
This sounds an awful lot like any number of open adoptions in which promises made aren’t kept, doesn’t it? Yet the detrimental impact for the child/ren involved in either set of circumstances can potentially be catastrophic. The excessive measure of any parent’s desperate desire for a baby rarely bodes well for their child’s future ability to successfully fulfill their parents’ expectations, over time.
What is Baby Lust?
“Baby lust” isn’t the sexual passion by which babies are created. Baby lust is the obsessive fever for a baby that drives otherwise sane adults do turn into drooling, baby-talking idiots who pine uncontrollably for the smell of Johnson’s Baby Lotion and who coo incessantly at strangers’ photos of infants online.
We suspect the phenomenon is a conspiracy of Mother Nature, the purpose of which is two-fold; it ensures the propagation of the human race, which is likely a good thing, and it ensures that defenseless newborns have the power to get someone to care for them, which is essential, of course.
Everybody loves babies! (Understandably! We do, too.) Baby lust can strike both females and males, and it affects people at any age. Babies make us feel needed. Their mere existence give us all hope. As Carl Sandburg once said, “a baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” Babies don’t argue, they don’t talk back, and their innocence restores our faith in humanity. The sheer act of cuddling a baby causes the average person to experience a release of hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, which make us feel good, so is it any wonder that anyone suffering through an unhappy marriage or a painful infertility diagnosis or the emotional tidal waves of adolescence may mistakenly think a baby is the answer to all their problems?
Baby lust is not inherently bad, but it can make good people do bad things. Women sometimes put themselves in highly risky sexual situations in order to obtain babies for themselves. Young males eager to “sow their seed” can impregnate multiple females concurrently, with no intention of supporting any of their offspring. Elderly women sometimes undergo what is called “pseudocyesis” (phantom pregnancy) when their minds are so fixated on babies that their bodies sometimes conspire to mimic gestation. In recent years, the American news media has covered a horrifying array of reports of attacks on pregnant women and medical facilities by those seeking to steal babies. “Fetal abduction” is the phrase coined to describe baby lust at its very ugliest, perhaps. (In North Dakota, a couple who conspired to steal a baby from a pregnant woman just stood trial for her murder.)
How Baby Lust Corrupts Adoption
In adoption, baby lust can become problematic when it causes people to lose sight of the ultimate needs of children. Babies are traditionally more sought by adopting families, because of the false assumption that they are “blank slates” and therefore more adaptable than older children with their own set of needs and issues. Infertile couples sometimes long to adopt newborns only because it enables them to experience the entire span of child development, which also permits them sometimes to pretend that the child they are raising was “theirs from the start.” (The healthiest adopters opt for fully open adoptions, in which adoptees know for life all the people who belonged to them from Day One.)
Ask any adoption professional who has worked in the field for a decade or more about baby lust, and they’ll tell you how hard it can be to find adoptive homes even for toddlers? They’re likely to mention the would-be adopters who reject even a one-year-old as being already “too old, because we really want a baby, at least for our first adoption.” That’s baby lust speaking, right there.
Baby lust can sometimes compel the nicest of people to overstep moral boundaries in their pursuit of a baby to adopt. This happens when folks make adoption promises they cannot keep, or overextend themselves financially, in order to entice a prospective birthparent to place with them. (And it doesn’t just affect Americans, either. In China, last year, a couple who tried for 18 years to have a baby boy stood trial for buying a baby on the blackmarket, a crime too rarely prosecuted in the US.)
Look: there’s nothing wrong with infertile couples longing to adopt a newborn baby. Yet the truth is that newborns are only newborns for the first few hours or days, and most of that time, they’re sleeping. There are more than fifty prospective adoptive homes awaiting every one baby placed for adoption in America these days, and the number of available infants for adoption shrinks every year, while the numbers of children in state foster care already freed for adoption rises daily.
That, perhaps, is the biggest problem with baby lust, if you get right down to it.
If adoption about finding good homes for children that need them most, not good children for homes that want them most, then at some point, we’re going to need to all quit pretending that the only children who deserve loving homes all still fit into newborn diapers.
So what can someone stricken with a bad case of baby lust do about it? For starters, join your local chapter of RESOLVE and pursue some professional counseling, too, if needed. Volunteer to rock babies at your local NICU. Sign up to do nursery care at church on Sunday. Get licensed to foster babies for Child Protective Services. Offer to babysit for new parents in your neighborhood free of charge. Collect donations for the March of Dimes. Get your baby fix fulfilled by doing good for other people’s babies then take some time looking at all the former babies still awaiting families in America’s Heart Gallery, and you might just find a way to cure your baby lust in the process, in the very healthiest way possible.