Young pregnant woman lying in bed

5 Common Emotions of “Giving a Baby Up” for Adoption

Being pregnant and not knowing whether parenting or adoption is the right choice can be challenging. If you are like most pregnant women considering adoption, you are curious about the emotions you might experience. You might be wondering, “How do birth mothers feel after adopting a baby out? What kind of feelings do they experience during the process?” Even more importantly, “If I decide to go through with this process, how will I react to giving my baby up for adoption?”

We have talked with dozens of pregnant women about how it feels to go through the adoption process and  collected their thoughts and feelings into five common emotions.

Every woman’s experience is different, and what it’s like to “give a child up” for adoption varies for every prospective birth parent. You may experience certain emotions of “giving a baby up” for adoption more powerfully than you do others, and you may not experience some emotions at all. Still, learning about some of the most common emotions of adoption can help you prepare for and work through them.

Here are the five common emotions:

1. Shock, Stress and Denial

Before you experience the emotions of “giving your child up” for adoption, you will have to grapple with your feelings about your pregnancy. Learning about an unplanned pregnancy is an emotional shock. Many mothers have expressed they walked around in a daze for days, numb almost to the world around them. Facing an unplanned pregnancy when you are not ready to be a parent is one of the most stressful things in life.

Once shock wears off, there is often a wave of unwelcome emotions cascading into your life. Denial is the mind’s way to protect your from more frightful emotions like fear and guilt, so don’t be surprised if you want to buy additional pregnancy tests to confirm the reality.

It also isn’t uncommon to hope the pregnancy test is wrong or the pregnancy will just magically go away.

2. Anger

After denial, anger often presents itself as an unwelcome guest. Anger is often defined simply as an overload of emotions. Common emotions range from guilt to fear to sadness to frustration. When you experience emotion after emotion, the combination often results in anger or sadness. Anger is a way to release some of these other emotions of “giving up” for adoption. While it may not be the most effective way to express your feelings, keep in mind, you are human. Anger is how many release the overload of so many different feelings.

Moving forwards, it is helpful to talk with someone to express your frustrations, sadness, anger, and guilt.

3. Guilt

How does it feel to place a baby for adoption?

Many women wonder how it feels to give a baby up for adoption. You will find the adoption process is unique. You will experience feelings of happiness for your child but also sadness for the loss of them not being in your life every day. You will be happy your child has stable, loving parents, but sad you weren’t at a place in your life to provide that for a child. We have also heard many women express that, as mothers, they feel guilty “giving a baby up” for adoption.

Here are some helpful quotes from previous clients to better understand the guilt associated with a birth mother “giving her child up” for adoption:

  • “I have struggled for years being a single mom. When I got pregnant again, I knew this child deserved more, but coming to grips with that reality was hard.”
  • “I chose adoption because I wanted my child to have a mom and dad, a dad who was loving and involved, a dad who was there all the time. At the time, I sometimes felt guilty that I couldn’t provide a two-parent home for my baby.”  
  • “For a while, I felt guilty I wasn’t ready to be a parent, but then I got to know the family and realized if it wasn’t for me, this couple would never be able to be a mom and dad. I realized I wasn’t just giving my child a gift, I was giving an amazing couple the gift of a lifetime.”
  • “Yes, I have felt some guilt about choosing adoption but I knew I would feel way more guilt if I chose to be a single parent and struggled.”
  • “I had some people say to me, ‘I could never give my baby up like that. I don’t understand how a mother can just give her child away to strangers.’ I felt guilty until I realized that adoption wasn’t ‘giving up’ or ‘giving my baby away’ — I was giving her a better life.”

Guilt is a powerful and common emotion through the adoption process. It is helpful to realize that choosing adoption does not mean you are “giving up” or carelessly “giving your child away.” While it’s common to talk about “giving a child up” for adoption (and you will even see this phrasing used throughout this article and elsewhere on our website), it’s important to remember that this language does not reflect the brave and selfless act. Try to change the way you think about this decision, and hopefully it will help alleviate any guilty feelings of “giving a baby up” for adoption.

Guilt can also be alleviated as you begin to connect and learn more about the couple who will be your child’s parents. When you begin imagining your child on a farm in Nebraska, or in a big city living the American dream, it helps turn guilt into hope and appreciation. It is a wonderful transition that is made possible the more you get to know the adoptive family.

4. Fear

Fear is probably the next common emotion in the adoption grieving process.

Will my child be loved as much as I would love them?  This is a common fear and an important question to be answered. The more you learn and get to know the couple adopting your child, the more fear will be replaced with hope and love. Take it from Scott Mars, who was adopted as an infant and went on to found American Adoptions with his parents: “Because of adoption, I had a life filled with love and opportunity… I was the centerpiece of my parents’ lives.” (Watch the video)

 It is helpful to know that adoption is often the only way couples like Scott’s mom and dad can become parents. They often go through years upon years of failed fertility treatments. With the lone desire to grow their family, they realize each and every day just how much love they have to give. Adopted children are often the centerpiece of their lives.

Here are some other common fears expressed by prospective birth mothers:

  • Fear about how the process works.
  • Fears about how much control you will have through the process
  • Fear about how well adoptive families are screened to ensure they are going to be good parents to your child.
  • Fears that you will later regret “giving a child up” for adoption.

Fortunately, many of these fears can be alleviated by learning more about how the process works and how you are in charge every step of the way. In today’s adoptions, you have 100% control over how you want your adoption to go. In addition:

  1. When you work with an adoption agency, you will have your own assigned adoption specialist, who will act as a personalized guide throughout the adoption process to answer and support you along the way.
  2. You can talk to other birth mothers that have adoption for their babies to learn more about how people feel “giving babies up” for adoption.
  3. You can talk to and read stories from adoptees to learn how they feel about being adopted.

Lastly, when you work with a highly rated adoption agency, you can rest assured that they use a thorough screening process to ensure adoptive couples are going to offer a loving stable, happy home for your child.

5. Sadness and Grief

Adoption is a little like riding an emotional rollercoaster. There are ups and downs. One day you may feel sad that you aren’t ready to be a mom. The next day, you may feel excited about getting to know the adoptive family, realizing how wonderful and caring they are. But one thing most birth mothers can agree on is there are almost always some feelings of sadness, loss and grief after “giving up” a baby for adoption.

Whether you experience feelings of sadness and depression during the adoption process, or the grief of “giving a child up” for adoption doesn’t fully hit you until you hold your baby for the first time at the hospital, it’s important to remember that these feelings are normal. No one can tell you how to deal with adoption grief — this is a highly personal process, and everyone handles it differently. But you don’t have to go through it alone. Your adoption professional will always be there to help you deal with the emotional effects of “giving a child up” for adoption. Don’t be afraid to lean on them, or reach out to an adoption counselor for additional support.

When sad days come, it is helpful to lean into the emotions. Acknowledge the sadness, then let it go and replace it with positive thoughts of your child’s future. If the sadness returns, acknowledge the emotions and try to understand that sadness is just your heart’s way of healing. You have to experience the sadness as you process through the loss of a child to adoption. It is a loss for you. Many women share that the adoption grief process is an ongoing one. This means that, while your feelings of loss and sadness will get easier to deal with over time, they may never go away completely. Still, embracing the loss will help you work through and replace the sadness. You eventually will replace the sadness with good feelings of knowing your act of love for your child allowed them to live a wonderful life. These are just some of the emotions you may experience as you go through the adoption process. Many of these feelings are difficult, but remember you don’t have to experience them alone. An adoption professional will always be available to counsel and guide you through the emotional process ahead. To connect with one today, or to learn more about the psychological effects of “giving up” a child for adoption, contact us for free and with no obligation.