Understanding Why a Pregnant Woman Has Decided to Parent

When you’re anxiously waiting to adopt a child, hearing that the expectant parents who had selected you have changed their minds can feel devastating

You may feel conflicting emotions when an expectant parent decides to raise their child. You may be happy for them but also sad for yourself. Most of all, when an expectant parent changes their mind, you may wonder, “Why? Was it something I did or said?”

People can change their minds about adoption for many different reasons, depending on their situations. However, in most cases, it has nothing to do with the adoptive parents. 

Here are six of the most common reasons why expectant parents change their minds about placing their child for adoption:

1. New resources became accessible

An expectant mother now may be able to parent her baby (whereas before she didn’t have the means to do so), because her personal circumstances have improved. 

Resources may come in the form of financial assistance, the newfound support of the baby’s father or a family member, or general improvements in areas of her life that were previously unstable. Maybe:

  • She received a new job offer with increased pay.
  • Her housing situation improved or stabilized.
  • She was able to safely leave an abusive partner.
  • She recently qualified for federal assistance to help with raising her children.

If you’re the adoptive parent she selected, these improvements in her circumstances can feel bittersweet; you’re happy for her and her family, but you also know that you’re going back to “the wait.” Celebrate her successes, even while you mourn the loss of something that “could have been.”

2. The father of the baby decided to help her parent

Many women choose to place their child for adoption because the baby’s father isn’t going to be an active part of the child’s life. Maybe they want their child to be raised in a two-parent home, or they’re just not ready or able to raise a baby without the help of a partner.

However, sometimes the baby’s father will adjust to the idea of parenting later in the mother’s pregnancy. It can take a while for reality to sink in for some expectant fathers, and when it does, he may feel ready and able to try to parent the baby with the mother.

For many pregnant women, this is a pivotal change in their situation. They may feel ready and capable of raising the baby now that they have the support of the father. 

If the baby’s father is loving, supportive and ready, this is a positive development. The child will be raised by his or her two biological parents — the first choice for many expectant mothers.

3. A family member offered to adopt the baby

A woman may feel more comfortable placing her baby with a family member whom she already loves and trusts. She may like the idea of being able to be a more active participant in the baby’s life than most open adoptions could realistically accommodate, even if that’s not as the maternal role. 

As long as the family member is properly screened and formally completes the adoption as any adoptive parent would, this can be the best solution for some families. Placing a child with a family member often comes with its own set of complications but, if you’re a hopeful adoptive parent, you’ll need to support an expectant mother’s choice to take this path.

4. The bond with her baby surprised her

While all women will bond with their babies as they’re carried through pregnancy, that natural biological bond can intensify at different times for different women. Placing a child in spite of that bond is what makes adoption so difficult for birth mothers who do ultimately choose adoption.

The birth of a baby is an intensely emotional moment, and the biological mother of that child may feel too bonded to follow through with placement after the state-mandated minimum wait time

It’s important to note that biological mothers love their babies just as intensely, whether they choose to place that baby for adoption or not. The difference isn’t in the strength of that bond, but in whether or not the bond will outweigh the mother’s concern for her ability to provide for that child. 

Adoptive parents can understand why this is such a difficult choice to make and should appreciate the strength of that bond — even though the disruption of the adoption opportunity is painful.

5. She fears that she might regret adoption

For many women and their children, adoption is the best choice. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy — there is an inherent loss in adoption, despite the positives. When a woman places a child for adoption, she is losing the experience of being “Mom” to that child, and so it’s natural to fear regretting that choice.

However, choosing to parent based solely on that fear may lead to a child being removed involuntarily and placed into the foster care system, if the family also isn’t in a situation to provide for that child. In those situations, women regret their inability to choose a family, choose the preferred level of openness and more.

Only the expectant parent can know whether or not adoption is the right choice for their situation. It often comes down to a gut decision. It’s not the place of an adoptive parent, an adoption specialist, a nurse at the hospital or the loved ones of the expectant parent to say whether or not a person may regret an adoption decision.  

6. A loved one expressed their disapproval 

This is hard to witness. Sometimes an expectant parent has made an adoption plan and feels confident in that choice, but then the father of the baby, a parent or grandparent, sibling, religious leader or someone close to the expectant parents expresses their disapproval

Disapproval can be subtle but still emotionally painful, or it may be extreme. An expectant parent may even face threats of homelessness, be shouted at, or be disowned for making whatever choice they feel is best.

Even if the expectant parent still feels positively about their choice, the backlash they receive from people close to them may become too much. When someone you love and respect criticizes the plans you’re making, it’s emotionally draining. It can make you reconsider or ultimately change your mind. 

Expectant parents need gentleness and support as they consider adoption, especially if someone in their lives is unsupportive. An expectant parent deserves to make whatever decision they feel is best in their situation, including parenting or adoption, without the judgment of others.

Expectant Parents Can (and Should) Change Their Minds if They Need To

For an adoptive parent, it can be hard to remember these things when you’re grieving the loss of an adoption opportunity, but try to keep in mind that:

  • A biological parent’s baby is always “theirs” up until the moment they sign consent.
  • Parents have the right to make the decisions they feel are best for their child — including choosing to parent or choosing adoption.
  • When someone decides to parent their child, it’s not really a “failed” adoption — it’s hopefully a success for that family!
  • If an expectant parent is ready and able to care for their child, they deserve to do so, and their American Adoptions specialist will help them connect with whatever parenting resources they might need.
  • You will complete your family (just like these families who experienced disruptions), even though it’s not with this child. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” and “who.”
  • American Adoptions will continue to support you through a disrupted adoption and help you move forward when you’re ready.

Biological parents, whether they choose to place their child for adoption or choose to parent, deserve our respect for trying to provide the best possible future for their children. If you’re struggling to heal after a disrupted adoption, don’t hesitate to contact your American Adoptions specialist for support.