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When Birthfamily Members Don't Support Adoption Choices


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We've seen what happens time and time again, when an expectant parent or a newly-delivered parent find their family members opposed to their placement plan... and it can get really ugly, at a time when that parent is so very vulnerable and in need of support.

We've seen birthparents whose families dragged in the heavy artillery by threatening to disown them, or by threatening to take away their other kids from them, or calling in the grandparents or aunts and uncles to voice disapproval, or who refuse to let the birthparent(s) come home after placement. We like to think they mean well, but they clearly do not recognize how devastating the opposition can be to a placing parent who truly does just want a better life for their child.

Much of this is hard for the adoption community to understand. We tend to see adoption as a positive decision, yet for very traditional/minority families, the placement of a child for adoption is often considered an anomaly, akin to abandonment. Sometimes, the opposition is simply based in ignorance, and in such cases, it is possible to educate birthfamily members and eventually secure their support for the placing parent.

Placing parents whose parents had them young fear often that their decision to place will be viewed as "disloyal" to the family. (If Grandma gave up everything to raise Mom even though she wasn't ready, and then Mom dropped out of high school to have me, what am I saying about them and their choices if I give my baby away?) This is especially true if the parent or grandparent is offering to help raise the child that is potentially going to be placed; rejecting that help in favor of placing a child outside the family can be perceived as a direct offense by those whose offers are being denied.

Occasionally, the disapproving birthrelatives have had their own bad experience with adoption, or are influenced by media stories that focus on birthparents who were tricked into placing or denied promised contact after placement. Their concerns can sometimes be alleviated through access with the adopting family and education about the legal process.

Sometimes, though, the motivation for withholding support borders on abusive. (One Abrazo birthmom who placed recently has had to deal with taunts from her mother about the baby she "lost" to adoption, even though that baby's birthgrandmother has likewise relinquished parental rights in the past and more than once.) These situations are typically indicative of dysfunctional family systems in which the problems long predated the pregnancy, yet the pregnancy and/or placement becomes one more excuse for the maltreatment that occurs.

Placing parents who are facing family opposition quickly discover there is no magic solution; it takes a lot of courage to stand up to pressure from one's relatives, some of whom may eventually come around and others of whom never will.

Abrazo routinely offers counseling from independent therapists who can work with a birthparent and her family to address such issues, but the agency cannot force a placing parent's relatives to support an adoption plan anymore than an adopting family can do so with their own kinfolk.

Does anybody out there want to share their experience with oppositional birth relatives, and how they dealt with it?

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Adoption is certainly a realm of strong emotions. There are going to be few players that don't have a strong emotion of some kind. Some pushing for one outcome, some pulling for another outcome. While not to the extremes that Elizabeth shared there were (and are) strong emotions in our kid's birthfamilies. I don't know if there is a lot we can do to affect extended family members who oppose placement so adamantly. I use the word "a lot" on purpose. I think the thing we can MOST influence is how the expectant/new parent views us and their confidence or lack of confidence in placement.

The day after collin was born as we were in the hospital with C, she had some visitors stop in to see her. We went to get some food and give C some space to talk freely with her visitors. One of the visitors shared a story (that C later shared with us). His sister was planning to place a baby for adoption. She gave birth and when the adoptive parents showed up at the hospital he said they gave her flowers and were like okay give us the baby. She decided that she would parent rather than place with this couple. After hearing how we were treating C, this guy was impressed. Comparing the two stories with this visitor build a lot of confidence in us with C. This story did NOT change the opinion of someone very close to C who was against the placement. Perhaps nothing would change that person's feelings... they haven't changed to this day sadly. But the story built C's confidence in her plan with us.

My heart hurts for these new moms/dads torn in these family battles.

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And then there are those situations, where the extended family does not know about pregnancy/baby, who was placed. The day of finding out and acknowledgement is still to come...

My heart goes out to birthparents who feel like they have no one in their immediate family to turn to, during this important life decision.

Karen

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I have to say that I'm nervous about this. M and N have not told their families about the adoption and N's dad is insisting that he be able to see Micah. N and M told his parents that they cannot (their choice, we did not have anything to do with that decision) and would be ok with their families seeing him. I'm worried that I will have to face some confrontations here and don't want to. Maybe I'm letting my imagination run from me because I'm by myself the next few days. Anyone experience anything similar that can offer advice?

Jocelyn 1st-N-10 and BGE&s

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When we adopted Grace Ann, her birthmom's mom was very upset that she placed her for adoption. She said lots to Monica before and after the birth. She made many threats etc. When she finally showed up at the hospital, I was so scared what she might say or do but instead she came in and did not say a word to us or her daughter as she held a tiny Grace Ann. She was way more bark than she was bite. You could feel loads of tension in the air but it was nothing like I expected from the calls.

Praying that the grandparents respect the plans that were made for this tiny lite boy by his birthfamily.

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I meant to say that we would be ok with their families seeing him because he is a part of their family too. I worry for us and maybe I shouldn't and that is selfish cause N and M are the ones that are facing this every day.

Jocelyn 1st-N-10 and BGE&s

Thanks Melissa, glad you could post right away cause it does calm my nerves a bit. Too many emotions all around, this is tough.

Jocelyn 1st-N-10 and BGE&s

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I'm sorry you're having to be nervous about very heated or angry emotions - and I have so much sympathy for M and N and their situation. You don't have to share too much with us, but maybe some of the initial divulging with extended family can be done away from the hospital by M and N (after M's release), unless that's not a physically safe situation. Then all 4 of you guys will be able to assess if time can cool everyone off to actually visit while you're in town - since it may be a few weeks before you're heading home. Take time, go slow, give M time to recover more if the family can be held off a bit somehow.

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I wonder if M and N are trying to stall informing grandma and grandpa of the adoption to protect you and baby from the heated confrontation? Like if Grandma and Grandpa don't know until you are gone or out of the hospital then they know baby will not be in the middle of it?

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Jocelyn, it's not likely the NICU would welcome additional visitors for the baby at this point, since it's usually restricted when babies are in special care? but certainly, in time, it may be advisable for a visit to be arranged, and there are ways to implement controls that help everyone act appropriately.

Please keep in your thoughts and prayers another of Abrazo's families. The mom they are matched with has delivered and is under the constant watch of her father and her roommate, both of whom are trying fervently to prevent her from placing, despite the months she has spent putting this plan together.

We pray that God will grant her discernment and courage to do whatever truly is best for her baby, and that the prospective adoptive parents will find peace in knowing that they are where they are for reasons beyond those which we may know at this point, and if this is not meant to be their child, that the way will be made clear for them in time...

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Hang in there Jocelyn- I can only offer support as I don't have any experience with extended birth-families. I would listen to Stork's counsel, she won't steer you wrong.

Keeping the Abrazo family in my thoughts & prayers as they all work through this difficult & delicate time.

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I feel for all these expectant & birthparents.. This journey is so tough already and I just can’t even imagine how much tougher it is for those dealing with this added stress.

I could have easily been one of those birthfamily members that didn’t agree (that is if I hadn’t brought up adoption first, of course I did it in the heat of anger and disappointment).. I once read critical comments somewhere of how critical a first grandmother was (that was ironic I thought at the time) on the tv show 16 and pregnant, whose daughter and boyfriend chose to entrust....And all though I myself felt bad for the teens and the pressure they were getting put on them, I understood why the mom (grandma)felt like she did, I felt for her, though everyone has their own way of dealing with situations and no one handles things exactly the same, I could identify with her, and I thought/think the teens made a good choice given their environment and situation, but I cringed when I would read comments about her, because I thought how can people judge her when they haven’t experienced what she is feeling…

We had our share of people who didn’t agree, many have come around others still may not have, and that was/is their choice, but the difference for my daughter was/is that she had me to protect her and fight for her, for the right to make the choice she felt was best for HER child as I would have expected people to respect my choices of what I felt was best for my children. She had me to stand up for her and not allow people to bully her had they tried. That saying that nothing is worse than a woman scorned, NO nothing is worse than a mother feeling her child is being hurt. We all have made decisions and choices in our lives that may not have been something everyone we knew to agree with, as parents we have done this more times than we can probably remember, and how many times as parents making these choices did we dislike or take offense to someone trying to dictate to us what we should or should not do for our children.. I would venture to say that all of these upset family members have been no different. How I wish I could have a conversation with these parents, not as someone judging them or criticizing them, but as someone who has been there and can identify with their fears, with possibly their hurt, share my story and hopefully dissipate what may be perceived as shattered dreams and hopes by them. But all I can do is keep not only the expectant/first parents in my prayers as many of you are doing as well, also their family members and ask God to heal all their hearts, bring them all strength to handle the situation with compassion, to enlighten them to the added hurt they are generating on these parents who are only trying to give their children a better life, better opportunities and more advantages then they could provide for their children themselves.

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Mari, thank you so much for being so open and honest with us. It's so amazing that Lauranda has you and I'm sure you have brought her much comfort through this journey. You are a beautiful person and I'm so thankful I got the opportunity to meet you and Lauranda.

Naomi still cherishes the necklace you gave her :).

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Mari - you are a blessing to so many. Your point of view is honest and so heartfelt. You write beautifully!

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