In making decisions about parenting your baby, it's best to talk to people who are in situations similar to yours but who have made different choices. Speak to birth parents--those who are parenting their children and those who have made an adoption plan. Talk to an adoption consultant and to an instructor of parenting classes. If your child has special needs or a terminal illness, also speak to people in charge of adoptive, group, or institutional homes for such children.
Discuss with these people the questions in this Appendix. How would they answer? Use their guidance and your own answers to these questions to make the parenting choice that's right for you.
CHOOSING BETWEEN PARENTING, ADOPTION, OR ANOTHER PARENTING PLAN
You can choose whether to parent your baby. Here are several questions to consider. List the good and bad points about adoption and parenting. Discuss your answers with an adoption consultant and confidant. Which list is longer? Which option is wisest for you?
* Am I keeping this baby so that I can move out on my own? Am I ready to live on my own with my baby?
* How easy will it be to manage a home and a baby myself? Can I get someone to help me?
* Am I keeping this baby to take away my loneliness? Will the baby really make me feel less lonely?
* Do I know what it is like to live with a baby full-time, communicating on a baby's level? Will this childish exchange really take away my loneliness?
* Am I keeping this baby so that people will think I'm mature? Am I really mature?
* Will I actually be any more grown up when the baby is born than I am now?
* Am I keeping this baby so that the baby's father will love me more or marry me?
* Do I think the baby's father will come around to see the baby?
* Will I still want my baby if the baby's father deserts me?
* Am I keeping this baby because others think I should? What do I think?
* Do I feel unloved?
* Do I love myself?
* Am I keeping this baby so that my baby will love me?
* Do I think that a baby will make me feel important?
Misunderstandings About Adoption
* Do I think that a child belongs with his birth mother?
* Do I have negative thoughts about women who make adoption plans for their children?
* Do I have negative ideas about adopted children?
* Am I keeping my baby because I do not understand adoption or because, emotionally, I don't like the idea? Are my emotions based on fact?
* Where can I obtain information about modern adoption?
* Am I keeping this baby because I have fears about adoptive families? What causes these fears?
* Do I fear that an adoptive family will abuse my child? Can someone relieve these fears?
* Do I know how carefully an adoption agency chooses adoptive families?
* Am I afraid to choose adoption because I can't imagine "giving up" my child?
* Would I always wonder how my child was doing?
* Do I know that I can learn how my adopted child is doing?
* Do I know that I might be able to correspond with the adoptive family and even visit my child?
* How can I find out what information I can have about my growing child?
* Am I keeping my child because I am married and because I never heard of a married woman making an adoption plan?
* Where can I learn about adoption for children of married women?
* If I choose adoption, would I feel like a failure as a wife or mother? Why would I feel this way? Should I feel this way?
* Do I know a family that might adopt my child? Could I find one by asking family or friends?
Understanding Other Parenting Options
* Have I considered other parenting options?
* What do I think of temporary foster care (no more than a year at most)? Would this help me? How?
* Would parenting by a relative work? Would I want to make this person my child's legal guardian?
* Is a group home or institution a good choice for my child? Why? Where can I locate a good home?
* Even though I like children, am I ready to have one full-time at this time of my life? Why or why not?
* What freedom do I have now? Am I ready to give up this freedom?
* When my friends go out, will I want to stay home with my child?
* Will I resent the amount of time the baby requires and the demands that this baby will make on me?
* Am I a patient person?
* Do I live in a calm, secure household?
* Would my child be in danger of abuse?
* How will I react when my child gets sick? What if the sickness lasts a long time?
* How will I handle a difficult-to-raise or strong-willed child?
* Is my partner patient? Will he be a good, loving dad?
* If my partner and I are not married, are we planning marriage? When? Do I want to raise my child with a man to whom I'm not married?
* How much do I love my baby?
* Am I willing to put my child's interests and needs before my own?
* Can I adjust emotionally to the time, sacrifice, and interrupted lifestyle that accompany raising a baby?
* Do I know how to raise a baby? Do I want to learn? Where can I learn?
* Can I handle my child as a toddler, young child, adolescent, teen?
* Do I understand that I will actively parent for eighteen years at least and then still be parenting for a lifetime?
* Am I ready, willing, and able to give my lifetime to this baby?
* How do I think a parent should raise a child?
* What values, morals, and character traits do I hope to develop in my child? Can I discuss child rearing with someone or read some books on parenting?
* What mistakes did my parents make in raising me? How can I avoid making these mistakes?
* Can I lovingly discipline my baby? How?
* How will I handle my child when I lose my temper?
* What are my plans for the future? Will raising my baby change those plans? How? How do I feel about that?
* Will having to change my plans eventually hurt both me and my baby? Will I resent my child for having caused me to change my plans?
* Can I raise my baby and still follow my plans for the future? How? Who will help me?
* How do I feel about having a larger family than I planned?
* How do I feel about returning to the "baby routine"?
* Can I think of creative ways to bring my baby into a family of older children?
* If I am pregnant due to an affair or to rape, am I comfortable raising a baby who is not my lover's?
* Will I eventually look forward to having and raising a baby even though I hadn't planned on parenting now?
* Do I have a good sense of humor?
* If I'm expecting another child and already have one or more small children, will a "light heart and merry spirit" help me raise several small children all at the same time?
* Will my determination help me raise a child even though my mental or physical health may not be good?
* Will I equally love a child of either sex?
* Can I lovingly raise my divorced husband's baby?
* Can I parent my deceased husband's baby?
* Can I love a child of a man I dislike?
Dealing With Others
* Are others pressuring me to make a certain parenting decision? Who? Why are they pressuring me? What can I say or do to deal with this pressure?
* How can I tactfully deal with comments that imply that I am "overpopulating" by having too many children?
* How will I handle the advice, support, or meddling of family and friends?
* What will be my reaction if someone tells me that parenting my baby or choosing adoption is going to be the biggest mistake of my life?
* If I am a single mother, what will I say if people ask about my baby's father? Will I resent their questions?
* Can I handle prying questions tactfully while maintaining privacy?
* What will I tell my child about the birth father?
* Do I think that parenting my baby may make it more difficult for me to get married later?
* What will I tell future boyfriends about my child?
* Can I confide in someone when I have problems?
* Who will help me when I need a break from child rearing? Is anyone available to babysit? Will I have to pay this person? How much?
* What type of relationship will I have with my parents or other relatives if I parent my baby? Will they support my decision? Will they help me?
* Am I living in an "adults only" housing complex? If I parent my child, how difficult will it be to find other housing? Will I resent moving? Can I afford other housing?
* Do I qualify for housing assistance?
* Do I need extra room for the baby?
* How do I feel about moving to a larger home or apartment or adding on to my current home?
* How will I rework a job schedule or a family routine?
* Will I need to adjust career or educational goals? How will parenting my baby affect my career or education?
* What adjustments must I make after the baby is born? Will these involve day care arrangements? Sitters? A nanny? Am I emotionally prepared to make these adjustments? If not, can I change my attitude?
* What expenses will I have if I parent my child? Will I have enough money? Can I adjust my finances? If not, how can I manage?
* Can I apply for government aid?
* Can I get an additional job?
* Will someone help me financially? Who?
* Will I have to do without some things to buy what my baby needs?
* Can a financial planner help me? Where can I find a financial planner?
* What baby furniture, baby clothing, and other items will I need? How will I get them? Can I get some from a PREGNANCY AIDgency, from family or friends, or inexpensively at garage sales or thrift shops? What government agency can I contact to be sure that secondhand items meet current safety standards?
* Do I plan to bottle-feed or breastfeed my baby? How will I be able to do this?
* If I plan to breastfeed, is there a breastfeeding support group nearby for advice and support?
* How will my feeding plans affect other areas of my life such as job, education, and recreation?
Choosing a Parenting Plan
Your choice of a parenting plan will affect you, your baby, and many others. Others affected might include your husband, children, parents, neighbors, and friends or the adoptive family and its extended family and social circle. Think through your plan frequently. Brainstorm to devise some alternate plans, even if you don't think you'd ever follow them, just to see how you feel about them. Sometimes what we once felt we'd never consider seems more reasonable with time.
Use your confidant to help you formulate a plan that will work. The plan will be tailor-made for you. If one plan does not obviously seem to be the best, review your options again with a counselor or confidant. If you still cannot make a choice, placing your baby in foster care can give you a few months more to decide. Choose a plan that will help both you and your baby to become all you were both meant to be.
PARENTING THE CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS OR A TERMINAL ILLNESS
If you are considering parenting a child with special needs or a terminal illness, use the previous questions as well as these to make a choice. Answering the previous questions can help you discover why you are considering a certain parenting option. The questions in this section will help you uncover the facts about parenting your child.
Answer the questions here in consultation with a teacher, doctor, or caseworker who has experience with children similar to your own child. Write down the answers to the questions and discuss them with your partner or confidant. Speak to parents of other children whose problems are similar to those of your child, and see how they handled the difficulties that arose. Use their input as well as your own answers to make some informed choices.
* What needs does my child have?
* What is the medical prognosis?
* What treatments or special equipment does my child need?
* What experimental treatments or equipment might I try?
* Does my child require hospitalization or surgery? Might surgery improve my child's physical appearance?
* What other medical services does my child need? Are these available in my area? If not, where?
* Can someone design a piece of equipment to help my child? Who?
* Can I obtain, fit into my home, and learn to use my child's equipment?
* Is my house suitable in design and layout for a child with a physical or motor problem?
* What will my child's care and equipment cost? Can I afford it?
* Will insurance pay some expenses? Which ones?
* Will either my partner or I have to get a second job to pay for these expenses?
* Can anyone raise funds, donate money, or write a loan to help? Who?
* What might my life with this child be like?
* How would my child affect my home?
* Am I physically and emotionally strong enough to care for my child?
* How will others treat me and my child?
* Could my family grow stronger in faith, love, and courage if I parent my baby?
* Will I be able to give time and love to my other children if I care for this child?
* Will I have time for myself?
* Can I emotionally handle a child with a terminal illness? How will I feel as my child's health declines?
* Will I be able to fully love my dying child? Or will I distance myself emotionally so as not to feel the loss?
* What educational opportunities are available for my child?
* Is early childhood stimulation possible?
* What type of education might help my child the most? Do local agencies or schools provide this?
* Are any books available so that I (or others) can learn the techniques?
* Will my child need tutoring at home? Does the local school system provide this?
* Who can provide practical help if I parent my child?
* Will someone else be able to parent for a while, so I can have time alone?
* Can I hire some part-time help such as teenaged baby sitters or others?
* Do I prefer to have a live-in housekeeper or baby sitter? Can I offer room, board, and a small salary to a live-in helper?
* Would youth groups, religious groups, or community service organizations provide some free daily or weekly care for my child in order to give me a break?
* Does my city have a facility that would take my child days? How about overnight or for a weekend occasionally?
* Can another mother and I occasionally take turns child sitting?
* Can someone help with grocery shopping, child care, or stimulation exercises for my child?
* Is respite care available in my area? What does it cost?
* If I have a low income or receive public assistance, might my caseworker or social worker be able to arrange for some homemaker assistance for me?
* Will I have to lobby for help for my child?
A Plan for the Child Who Has Special Needs or a Terminal Illness
Each child is unique as is each mother and each family. What may work for another mother or another family may not work for yours. Be honest about your abilities and desires. Choose a plan that will be best for you and for your child.
CREATING AN ADOPTION PLAN
If adoption is a good choice, you can choose the type of plan you want. First, answer these questions alone. Then review them with a few adoption counselors. If you know what type of plan you want, you can choose a consultant who can help you make that plan.
* Would I want to have my pregnancy public knowledge or do I prefer to keep things quiet?
* Do I want to put this whole experience behind me?
* Would I want my husband to know about my pregnancy? If I'm not married, would I want to tell my future husband about my baby?
* How will my husband react if I keep in contact with my child? Would he feel threatened? If he did, could I choose between my husband and my child?
* If I have now or ever have had other children, how will they feel about adoption?
* Will it be good for my other children to know how their brother or sister is doing?
* Which type of arrangement could my other children best deal with?
* How will keeping in touch with my child affect my future? How about having no contact?
Knowledge of Your Child's Progress
* Would I want to know where my child is and how my child is doing?
* Would I want to choose and meet my child's adoptive family?
* Would I ever want to see my child again?
* Do I want to assume any responsibility for my child? How much?
* What will I feel if I know my child's whereabouts? Will knowing cause me emotional strain?
* How will my child handle knowing who I am and where I am? How will the adoptive family feel?
Contact With Your Child
* What degree of involvement do I want with my child?
* Am I content to have no contact with my child after the adoption is complete?
* Would one or two yearly exchanges of information be enough for me?
* Would I want to visit my child? How often?
* Would my contact disturb the relationship my child has with the adoptive family? Would the child be "mine" or "theirs"? Could the child be "ours"? How do I feel about this? What is best for my child?
* Will the adoptive couple feel threatened if I know where my child is? If I write to my child? Visit?
Taking Your Child Into Consideration
* How will my child handle a relationship with me? How will this affect the relationship with the adoptive parents?
* How might my relationship with my child affect my child's sense of family, stability, and belonging?
* Can I be a biological mother and still allow my child to have a family other than my own?
* Will my presence have a good or bad effect on my child's self-image? Will my presence help my child or be confusing?
* Will my presence have any effect on my child's relationships with others, especially if I live nearby?
* How will I handle the following questions from my child: "Are you my real mommy?" "Why did you give me up?" "How could you give me up if you loved me?" "Do I have to listen to my adoptive family?" "Can I go home with you?"
* Would my child or I ever achieve the freedom necessary to go on with our own lives? Would we always have confusion and unresolved feelings in our relationship?
* What kind of relationship would I have with my child?
* Could I talk openly to my child about any problems I might be experiencing? Could my child talk to me?
* Would I want to parent my child? Would parenting be wise for me? Good for my child? What conflicts can I foresee with the adoptive family?
* Can I accept visiting my child without parenting my child?
* What if I don't like the way my child is being raised? Would I interfere?
* Is it good for my child to have two sets of parents and two sets of "rules"? If not, could I accept the parenting techniques of the adoptive family while keeping my own ideas to myself?
* Would I want to talk over some of my ideas with the adoptive family? What if the adoptive parents reject my ideas?
* Will careful choosing of the adoptive family enable me to find a family whose parenting style is similar to my own?
* If my situation improved, would I try to reclaim my child?
* What if my child doesn't meet my expectations? How will I react? How will I view the adoptive family? Will I blame them? Why or why not?
* How will I feel about conflicts between my child and his adoptive family? Whose side will I take?
* What if my child loves the adoptive family more than me? Would I try to "steal" my child's love?
* What if my child rejects the adoptive family in favor of me?
* Suppose my child wants to come home and live with me? What will I do? Can I rationally evaluate such a situation to determine if my child has valid reasons for wanting to leave the adoptive family? If my child is simply being rebellious or manipulative, what will I do?
* Suppose my child has valid reasons for wanting to reject the adoptive family. What will I do then? Who can help me make a wise decision in this case?
Living Near Your Child
* Would I want to live near the adoptive family or far from them? How would I handle either situation?
* Suppose the adoptive family moved away? Or moved nearby? Could I handle the new arrangement?
* Suppose I had to move away from or closer to my child? How would I feel about that?
Handling the Biological Father
* How will my child's biological father fit into the picture? Would I want him to know my child's whereabouts and be involved with my child?
* How will the adoptive family feel about the biological father?
* How will he answer the questions in this Appendix?
* Are the biological father and I in conflict over any of the answers to these questions? Can we resolve our conflicts?
* How will my ongoing relationship (if there is one) with my baby's father affect the adoption?
* What if he and I no longer get along, yet we still maintain contact with our child? Can we handle this situation?
* Suppose we should marry each other? How will we handle the adoptive situation?
* How will we handle each other's future spouses? What will be their relationships to our adopted child?
Finalizing an Adoption Plan
You have much to consider in making an adoption plan. You must consider your own needs and desires as well as those of the biological father and adoptive family. In addition, you must try to foresee how your child might respond to the plan you choose.
Don't just think about your plan. Talk it over with those you trust and those who have been involved in adoptions. You might even talk to some teens or adults who have been adopted. What type of plan would they choose for themselves?
Your answers to these questions, as well as the input of others, may cause you to change your plans a bit. Always try to choose what is best for all concerned, right now and in the long run.
CHOOSING AN ADOPTION CONSULTANT
Answering the questions earlier in this Appendix should help you determine what sort of adoption plan you want. Write down this plan. To find an adoption consultant who will help you make this plan, ask a few consultants the questions that follow. Write down the answers or tape-record them, then review them a few times before choosing a consultant to work with.
Questions About Plans the Consultant Offers
* What type of adoption plans do you offer? Will I be able to make the adoption plan I choose?
* Can you help to make an alternate parenting plan such as foster care, institutional care, or parenting by a relative?
* How much counseling will I receive? If I feel that I need more counseling, will I receive it? Suppose I feel that I need less counseling?
* What financial arrangements can you make for my health care? For other expenses?
* If I decide to parent my child myself, what bills will be my responsibility?
* What legal services do you offer? Who pays my legal fees?
* Will I be pressured to choose any option? Can I request another consultant at any time? Switch agencies? Make an alternative adoption plan?
* How will you handle my child's father? My desire for privacy? My family? Will I have to tell them about this adoption? Who else will I have to tell? What if I don't want to tell them?
Questions About the Consultant's Credentials
* Is this agency government sponsored? How does this affect me? How does it affect the adoptive family?
* Are you registered with a local business bureau?
What references can this bureau give me about your firm? (You can check with the bureau on these.)
* What governmental office, such as a department for children and their families, would have information about you? What information can this office give me? (Again, check up on the consultant.)
* What can a legal association tell me about you as an adoption attorney or about the attorneys whom your agency consults?
* Do you provide references of clients previously served? May I speak to these references?
* How many adoptions have you arranged?
* How many adoptions do you plan to arrange this year?
* Can you arrange adoptions across state or national boundaries?
* How do you "find" birth mothers and adoptive families? Through advertising? Referral from doctors? Community agencies?
* What professional degrees do you hold?
* Are you a professional counselor? Lawyer? Psychologist?
* What type of adoption arrangement can you legally offer in this area? Can you refer me elsewhere if this is not the plan I want?
* Who do you represent--me or the adoptive parents? If not me, alone, can you refer me to someone who will represent me?
Questions About the Consultant's Arrangements for the Baby
* How long will my baby have to wait to be adopted?
* Will my baby go into foster care before going to the adoptive family?
* How many adoptive families are you working with?
* If my baby has special needs or a terminal illness, can you place my baby with a family?
* How many families are willing to adopt children like mine?
* What counseling do adoptive parents receive?
* How are adoptive families chosen? What requirements must they meet?
* How carefully are adoptive families screened? Are any rejected? For what reasons?
* Can I choose my child's adoptive family? How?
* Can I choose my child's religious upbringing? Ethnic family background? Social status? Environment? Financial situation? Family makeup?
* Do you allow adoption by single parents?
* What happens to my child if the adoptive family divorces or one or both parents die? If my child is abused or neglected? Who checks on this?
* What type of parenting advice and instruction do you provide to adoptive parents?
* How do you check on the adoptive family after my child goes into their home?
* How can I be sure that these parents are the ones I want for my child?
* Can you arrange an adoption with a family that I know who wants to adopt my baby?
A Consultant Who Will Work for You
Interview several adoption consultants until you find one who will give you the type of plan you want. Then ask yourself if you feel comfortable talking to this person. Does this consultant respect your feelings and treat you as a person of worth, dignity, and intelligence? It's very important that you choose a consultant with whom you feel comfortable and whom you trust. Adoption can be an emotionally difficult choice even though it is the best choice for you and your baby. The right adoption consultant will guide you through the decision and provide answers and support.