by Sarah Saccone, Program Director, Lamb of God Maternity Home
So much has changed in the past 30 years with regards to adoption, especially as it relates to maternity homes.
In past decades, a woman would disappear to a maternity home cloaked in all of the shame of being pregnant out of wedlock. She would then re-enter her community, carrying a huge secret, and in many cases not even knowing into what family her baby was placed.
Although things today are completely different there are still misconceptions from some of our biggest family influences and in the media.
There is a great deal of confusion between private adoptions and foster care. Also, many beliefs that are deeply rooted in families that play a crucial role in what a woman in crisis knows and feels about adoption.
In today's society, pregnancy out of wedlock has become the norm. We as pro-lifers know that life is ALWAYS better than death and strive to work with women to aid them in making the best decisions for their babies and themselves. Sometimes women feel that the best form of parenting they can give, is to lovingly choose an eager couple to take on the job. It is OUR job as maternity home leaders to make absolutely certain that a woman making the courageous decision to place her baby is comfortable, supported, and well informed in our maternity homes. We have found that this can be a tricky task.
There is so much that goes into finding the perfect balance of honoring women who choose to parent and honoring women who choose to place. Below are ten ideas on how to make your maternity home more friendly to women who are making the decision to place their babies for adoption.
- Use positive adoption language. Stay current with the words and phrasing that honors adoption as a heroic choice. Examples of this are placing or making an adoption plan vs giving up, parenting vs keeping, birth parent vs real parent.
- Vet those coming into the home. Screen volunteers to be sure they are pro-adoption or at the very least, able to keep their opinions to themselves. Have regular training for staff so that they can speak about adoption with respect and ease.
- Use personal experiences and stories with extreme caution. Allow each woman to experience adoption in her own way. She does not need to know that you were married at her age and made it work or that your cousin adopted children overseas who have significant challenges or that you watched an adoption story gone wrong on television.
- Discuss clearly with each resident, upon admission, about their thoughts on parenting and placing and their ability to honor others’ decisions. Uphold an environment of respect for each mom's decisions and teach birth moms how to be advocates of their decision.
- Baby showers are lovely but can be painful. While adoption-minded women may enjoy having baby items to send along with their child’s placement, there may be more appropriate ways to “shower” adoption-minded women (i.e. new pajamas, perfume, educational supplies.) Perhaps, there should also be the opportunity to opt out of the shower all together. Consider holding baby showers in a neutral location.
- Note visual cues within the home. Look around your home at the photos, quotes, and artwork. Is it strongly suggestive of mother and child? Does each room come pre-stocked with baby items? Be sure that the message the home is promoting implicitly communicates support for adoption as a possible outcome.
- Think of ways to make a woman who placed her baby feel loved, special, and honored when she comes home from the hospital. For example, a welcome basket, weighted Teddy Bear, or necklace with baby's name engraved may be appropriate gifts.
- Match the adoption preparation with the parenting preparation. While women who are parenting go to parenting classes, women who are placing go to support groups. Bring in adoptive parents and adopted children to give their testimony. Find appropriate education and support for their decision. Create or use appropriate curriculum for each population.
- Be mindful and empathetic. Don't gush over a resident’s baby right in front of a woman who is placing. Know that this will happen often so it doesn't need to also happen with their mentors and most trusted influences.
- Acknowledge birth mom’s joy, loss, suffering, and strength. It's ok to talk about adoption! Women who choose adoption should know it will be the hardest decision of their lives and one that brings them much joy and strength. Rituals and other supportive procedures at key moments help to honor the individuals involved.
Sarah Saccone serves as the full-time Program Director for Lamb of God Maternity Home, daily giving witness to her passion for women in crisis pregnancy through the gift of adoption.Utilizing her Bachelor degree in Sociology from California State University of San Marcos, she worked as a counselor of homeless youth in a shelter-home atmosphere for nine years. She has served on the boards of several mental health non-profit organizations, been a long time volunteer for San Diego Hospice, and spent time teaching children in East Africa. She resides in San Diego, California.