25 years ago I gave birth to a baby boy and … lovingly placed
him into the waiting arms of his parents. …I pray that his life has been full
of joy, laughter, and abundant love. My thoughts and prayers also turn to my
beautiful family and friends that lifted me up then and now. – Maya*
Maya discovered she was pregnant six
months into her freshman year of college. When her son was born, she placed him
with a very kind adoptive family; she "just knew they were the right choice." Now,
years later, Maya emphasizes the importance of offering ongoing support to
expectant mothers considering adoption. Would you know how to do so? Maya makes
the following suggestions.
- Let compassion guide
whether your words and actions consistently convey understanding, compassion,
and empathy. Would a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy know she could turn
to you? If you are a parent, consistently reinforce to your children that you
love them unconditionally and they can come to you with anything.
- Do not pit adoption against abortion.
O'Malley once noted while chair of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life
Activities, to a pregnant woman in crisis, adoption is often seen as worse than
either raising or aborting an unexpected baby. Placing a child for adoption is
"perceived as a kind of double death. First, the death of self by carrying the
baby to term," and second, "the death of the child thru 'abandonment.'" Be
aware that "studies suggest that in pitting adoption against abortion, adoption
will be the hands-down loser."1 So first focus on
encouraging her that she can carry this baby to term.
- Reassure her that
she can "breathe." She may feel as though her world is ending. To women with an unplanned pregnancy, Maya says, "This is survivable. Have hope."
an unexpected pregnancy, decisions begin to accumulate quickly, which can be
stressful and overwhelming. Reassure her that she doesn't need to resolve
everything right away. She will eventually have to make decisions on parenting
or adoption, but for now, she can just breathe. Maya explains this reassurance
helped her consider what she wanted for her life, which, in turn, made it
possible for her to consider adoption.
- Love her for
In some of her
friendships, Maya remembers, "I ceased to be Maya at that time. I was just
'that pregnant friend.'" Show your expectant friend or family member you love
her for her own sake, and affirm that she is not defined by her pregnancy. She
is still herself, and she will continue to be herself after the pregnancy.
- Affirm that adoption is a loving
As alluded to
earlier, adoption is sometimes negatively portrayed or perceived as abandonment;
this misperception is reinforced by the phrase, "giving the baby up for
adoption" (an expression many don't know is insensitive). Your friend or family
member is likely experiencing a number of conflicting emotions. Let her know
that placing a child for adoption is a loving and generous option that shows
her long-term motherly care. In placing, she gives her child the gift of a
family, and gives that family the gift a child.
- Help her see beyond her pregnancy.
A woman who
becomes pregnant unexpectedly may feel as though her world is ending. To women with
an unplanned pregnancy, Maya says, "This is survivable. Have hope." Help your
pregnant friend set and work towards goals that extend beyond the nine months
of her pregnancy. At the same time, be particularly careful not to trivialize
her motherhood or the difficulties she may be facing.
- Be present.
Invite her to
spend time with you, and don't be afraid to invite her to join group outings.
If you are concerned for her comfort, don't cease inviting her (which can be
unintentionally hurtful); be honest about your concern, and ask her what she
needs. Maya continues to cherish those friendships in which nothing changed because
of her pregnancy—from frequent phone calls and movie nights to invitations to watch
her team's volleyball games.
- Reach out.
Maya explains that
the mother, as well as her family members, need support; the baby's grandparents,
aunts, and uncles are affected, too. Sometimes people may not know what to say,
so they don't say anything; break the silence. Express your support to the
expectant mother as well as to her family. Communicate you are there for them,
and ask how you can be supportive. They may not have an answer or respond right
away, but keep showing you care (unless they ask you to stop). Pray for them, mail
a note, send brownies or a gift card to an activity that is not
pregnancy-related, or make other creative, thoughtful gestures.
- Keep reaching out, and encourage her
to seek support services, if needed.
also emphasizes the need for continued support of the birth-mother and her
family after the placement. Some birth-parents grieve after the placement. It
doesn't mean the decision was wrong, but simply that the experience was life-changing.
These can be very normal emotions. Be aware that this season of transition can
be difficult as the mother and her family mourn the baby's absence and adjust
to a new normal. Encourage her to seek "aftercare services" offered by adoption
agencies, if needed.
Every situation is different, so the manner of
appropriate support will vary, but the need for continuing compassion remains
the same. Help them hold onto hope. May we show others God's tender loving care
through faith strengthened by prayer and lived out in love.
*Name changed to protect
1 Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, OFM
Cap. "Homily, Opening Mass, 2013 National Prayer Vigil for Life." Basilica of
the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC. United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops. http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/cardinal-sean-p-omalley-opening-mass-2013-national-prayer-vigil-for-life.cfm
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