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“What does adoption mean to a child?”

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Preparing for How Family Members May React to Your News

And What You Can Do About It

It shouldn't matter what others think. It's your body and your life. So why is it that, when most women learn they are pregnant, one of the first of the many thoughts that begin racing through their minds is telling their parents and family?

While it is never healthy to feel afraid of being honest with your parents or family, it's important to remember what lies beneath the surface of the reaction, that the way they appear to feel rarely matches the true nature of their emotion.

For a parent or family member, your pregnancy may symbolize many different stress factors simultaneously, such as loss and grief, among many others.

Everyone handles stress and anxiety differently, but the following are some categories psychologists and counselors have noted as patterns in human response to stress and anxiety. Under each reaction are some ways these responses may be expressed on the surface.

Denial or Numbness:

Self-preservation, protection, emotionally distancing to lessen pain

  • Upon telling your father the news, he pretends he didn't hear you or that he hasn't in any way been affected.

  • Your boyfriend doesn't believe that you are pregnant, even when you show him the home pregnancy test results.

Emotional Releases:

Tears, even laughter, are ways for the body to physically release stress

  • When you confide in your mother about being pregnant, she bursts into hysterical tears as though she has just received news of loved one's death, instead of learning that a new life has been created.

  • Your sister starts laughing!


A reaction to loss of control

  • While at the doctor's office to confirm the pregnancy, your boyfriend begins to sweat, tremble and even hyperventilates.


Rather than confronting the issue at hand, ruminating about what could and should have been done

  • As soon as you tell your parents the news, your mom and dad begin to list ways they could have raised you differently.

  • Your boyfriend begins beating himself up over not using a condom.


Threats to a person's basic beliefs or understanding of life in general can manifest as anger or even violence

  • You father throws a chair or punches a wall out of anger.

Need to Talk:

Verbalizing the situation, or repeating stories or memories is another coping mechanism people use

  • Despite having confided in your older sister about being pregnant before telling anyone else, you learn she didn't keep the news to herself when your mother calls and says she knows.

  • At the grocery store, you run into your aunt standing around a group of people, all talking about you and your pregnancy.

Physical Ailments:

People may experience real physical symptoms in response to grief, stress or anxiety

  • Every time you see your mother, she seems to have a different physical complaint, though you've always known her to be healthy.

Not only will knowing the real reason behind your loved ones reactions help you feel empowered and more able to face the reality of your situation with strength and rationale, it can help you help your loved ones process their emotions in a healthy way. While it may not be the best thing to tell your mom, who is in tears, that the real reason she is crying is because her body is in need of a physical release, knowing this can help you find ways to handle your pregnancy in a healthy way.

Your Adoption Specialist can better help you understand the emotions of your family members. She is available at 1-800-ADOPTION or by requesting free adoption information.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is American Adoptions the right adoption agency choice for many birth mothers?

American Adoptions is one of the largest licensed adoption agencies in the United States. Each year, we work with thousands of women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and offer assistance to these women. Our large, caring staff is able to assist you seven days a week and provide you with one-on-one counseling about your pregnancy and available options.

You should choose an adoption agency where you feel completely comfortable with their services and staff. With American Adoptions, you will work with an Adoption Specialist who is on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Adoption Specialist will be your advocate and will provide support and guidance as you create an adoption plan that is right for you.

How will the family tell my child about me and the adoption when my child is older?

Each family has their own style of introducing adoption to the child. When you are matched with an adoptive family, you can ask them this question. If you would like your Adoption Specialist to discuss it for you, just let her know. He or she can share your wishes or provide good ideas from other adoptive families.

You will also be able to share what you want your baby to know about you. You can complete a keepsake booklet to share hobbies, stories, photos of you and your family and a letter to your baby. The adoptive family can provide this to your child as he or she grows older. Be as creative as you like! Some birth mothers have even knitted a special blanket as a gift to their baby or given a similar symbol of their love.

The father of your baby can fill out the birth father's keepsake booklet or write a letter too. You may have other family members who would also like to share photos or a letter to the baby. This is your opportunity to pass on your and your family's love and to share your personality, history and reasons for choosing adoption. The adoptive family will treasure whatever information you provide and will share it with the baby at an appropriate age. In most adoptive homes, the word adoption is in the child's vocabulary early on, and adoption is celebrated in their lives.

Additional Resources

Teen Pregnancy - Information for Young Women

While not every woman who chooses adoption is a young mother, many are. Through adoption, many young women have found an ability to give their babies the best life possible, while finding the opportunity to realize their own dreams, as well. Call American Adoptions today at 1-800-ADOPTION.

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Adoption Glossary

Do adoption terms and phrases leave you feeling confused? Learn the meaning to key adoption words and phrases with our comprehensive adoption glossary.

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