Until papers are signed, she is an expectant mother. That’s the proper term. This one is first because it underlies the rest: the practice of putting your cart before the horse. Until papers are signed, nothing is official, and to treat it as though it is already done, is the beating heart of coercion. So, a pregnant woman considering adoption is not a birthmother. She is an expectant mom. You might say “But she calls herself a birthmom”, or even surrogate: this is not just about a woman feeling coerced by HAPs, it’s about the fact that childbirth is the climax, it’s a game-changed, a life-changer, and sometimes both expectant moms and HAPs underestimate that in their excitement and they both willingly jump into a coercive hotbed, not realizing it until it’s much too late. Take this as a precaution, given by those who have gone on before and know what boundaries need to be set in place to protect the hearts of all.
- Gifts and financial assistance
I know this one is tricky based on the fact that one of the main reasons women consider adoption is a lack of finances. And I wish the amount of money being poured into the adoption industry could instead be used to circumvent the perceived need to place your child with another family to begin with. Nevertheless, it is not the prospective adoptive family’s place to provide for her needs simply because the more you do for her, the more likely it is that she’ll feel indebted and guilty. This goes for adoption agencies which pamper their expectant moms and then let them foot the bill if they change their minds after birth, or maternity homes (still in existence) which provide for her needs on the basis that she follows through with adoption. Presenting her gifts for a decision she has not yet made creates the same emotional dilemma.
- Empty promises
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so sometimes it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that people would intentionally lie to a woman if it means a greater chance at getting her child. But it does happen, and it therefore makes the list. Many women testify that had they known the adoptions would be closed on them, they wouldn’t have made that decision in the first place. PAPs use this knowledge – that mothers want openness – and fib, exaggerate, imply, or outright lie about what level of openness they’re comfortable with beforehand. Expectant mothers may not realize openness is not legally enforceable, and oftentimes they’re trusting you and the professionals to be honest with them. Using deception to ensure her cooperation is coercion.
- Social media
I’ve seen multiple cases of prospective adoptive parents posting excessive, emotionally taxing statuses about “their” expectant moms – who are often on their friend’s lists – praising their decisions, posting about their own imminent motherhood, about “their” baby, etc well before the child is ever born. Or posting pictures from the hospital, from the birth, before papers are ever signed. It is hard enough for a woman to tell a couple they’ve come to love that they can’t go through with it; how much harder to do so when all of God’s green social media is waiting in anticipation?
- Praising her decision prematurely
Whether it’s on social media or directed to her personally, it’s all the same. She holds the right to parent her own child, and indeed this would ultimately be preferable. Adoption is not about finding babies for families who want them, but providing families for children who need them. If families can in fact care for their own children, thankfully a perceived need has been erased. So, until those papers are signed, no decision has been made and we cannot expect a woman to make such decisions before the process of birth, before she’s seen and held her child.
“Our birthmom”, “our expectant mom”, “our child”. We can debate whether these terms are tasteful post-placement, but they are absolutely uncalled for beforehand.
- Turning a blind eye to family coercion
PAPs sometimes know that a woman is coming to this decision because her parents are giving her no other option, or whoever is closest to her in her life. There may be nothing you can do about that. But you can confront her about it, talk to her about parenting, and give her the support she needs if you realize that’s something she really does want. Sometimes those women just need one person telling them they really can do it. This also goes for encouraging her to not tell the father or other family members. If you know about something, don’t sweep it under the rug. That’s being an accessory to coercion.
- Intimate pre-birth involvement
Much of this is a murky, gray area. Though some would argue that pre-birth matching is coercion in itself, it can be beneficial for those who are truly choosing adoption and don’t end up changing their minds(though you often can’t distinguish until after the fact). Nevertheless, things like inviting the expectant mom to your baby shower for her baby, or family gatherings where the expectant mom gets a taste of what’s in store, involving her in preparing for your parenthood in whatever way, asking to be at doctor’s visits, ultrasounds, or the delivery room all border or completely jump into the realm of coercion. You’re strengthening her ties to your family and to that anticipation to the point that the decision becomes further cemented.
- Not dealing with your suffering before pursuing adoption
This is the root from which coercion sprouts. If you’ve not dealt with your inability to have biological children, or your particular suffering which has lead you into adoption, if you are *needing* to be a, to be the, mother and have extreme emotions about that, you’re more likely to pursue the fulfillment of your desires at all costs – usually at the expense of the expectant parents. You may also find yourself oversharing with the expectant parents about your story and consequently overloading them with the burden of healing your broken heart. I’ve heard so many women on the brink of signing papers, no longer wanting to go through, yet persisting out of love and concern for the prospective adoptive family. Out of guilt. We must tread lightly in adoption, which deals with so much brokenness and raw emotions.
- Blatantly pressuring her
This should be obvious. Threatening to sue if she goes back on her decision, using the Bible to convince her, actively trying to persuade her when she’s on the fence, passive aggressive comments, conspiring with her family members to make the adoption happen, especially in cases of kinship adoption. All of this is just unethical. And the healing from being forced to give your child away is an entirely different animal from the healing which follows freely making an informed decision yourself.