Mercy Multiplied is a licensed child-placing agency with The State of Tennessee. Since 1983, we’ve worked with over 500 women facing an unplanned pregnancy and have placed over 150 babies for adoption.
As Mercy’s Director of Adoptions, I am excited to share about my world as we begin National Adoption Month! Throughout the month of November, many Adoption Agencies will help bring an awareness to adoption and I am honored to be speaking on behalf of Mercy’s Adoption Agency!
Since 2012, I’ve had the privilege of coming alongside many Birth Parents and Adoptive Families through one of the biggest emotional rollercoasters of their life: Making & Completing an Adoption Plan. While every Adoption Agency’s process is different, I wanted to share a few reasons and benefits when choosing to adopt through Mercy Multiplied.
1. Holding Her Hand
One of the best parts of my job is providing support to a Birth Mother during Labor & Delivery. There is always a mixture of emotions when going to the hospital to have a baby, but when you’re making an Adoption Plan those emotions are kicked into high gear. The typical questions like “will this hurt?” are always pondered, but the silent questions of “if I hold him, I’m afraid I’ll change my mind” are what I try to normalize during Adoption Counseling and then during a Birth Mother’s hospital stay.
One of the benefits of Mercy’s Adoption Dept. is that Adoption Staff will be with a Birth Mother from when she’s admitted to the hospital until hospital discharge. We provide this service for a variety of reasons:
- Working closely with the Midwives, Doctors, and Nurses as there’s a lot of paperwork I need.
- Navigating any visits the Birth Mother has with the Adoptive Family or her family.
- Providing support during active labor if she does not have someone to support her during this big life moment.
- Being her advocate and protector when medical professionals ask basic questions that a woman choosing to parent her child would easily answer, but a woman placing her child doesn’t want to constantly answer. For example, “who will be your baby’s pediatrician?” or “do you want to meet with the lactation consultant?”
I let the Birth Mother decide how often she wants me in her hospital room while she’s in labor and if she wants me to stay when she’s ready for delivery. I never take it lightly when I’m asked, “Chelsea, can you stay in here with me?” as she’s finally ready to push and see her child for the first time. From woman-to-woman, regardless of a Birth Mother’s age, I am honored that she wants me to hold her hand during her last few pushes. No matter how many births I’ve witnessed, I am always reminded of how great our God is in creating such a precious life.
2. Making THE Call
Since we’re a licensed agency, I have the privilege of working with Adoptive Families from all over the United States who want to adopt a Mercy Baby due to the support we provide Birth Mothers in our residential program.
When a family completes the Adoption Application, they anxiously wait for THE phone call that will change their lives, “I showed your profile to a Birth Mother and she wants to get to know you!” These are the phone calls I look forward to making as I know families think anytime I call or email they’ll be receiving THE news.
Over the years, I’ve had to make many of these calls and it never gets old. I’ll often call the wife first and if I can’t get ahold of her, I will call the husband and he’ll want to conference the wife in so they can hear the news together or vice versa. There’s never a dry eye when I’m making this call as these families are often waiting months or years for THE child the Lord places in their hearts.
3. Awkward First Dates
Each Adoption Agency will have their own processes for connecting and building relationship between a Birth Parent and Adoptive Family, but I really enjoy Mercy’s process as there’s still room for all parties to protect their hearts, keep identities confidential (if they desire), and to remind everyone there are always slow and steady steps to take when creating any type of relationship.
At Mercy, we conduct a few interactions to help everyone get to know each other. The first interaction is a phone call with me and both parties. Everyone is feeling a little awkward as no one wants to say the wrong thing, so I happily help break the ice as they’re at least use to interacting with me – no pressure. 😊 I happily give each party a list of questions to help guide them on what to ask each other, but most often everyone goes off script and lets their personalities shine. This phone call is one way to help both parties determine “do we want to move forward with this person.”
Afterward, if both parties are still interested in getting to know each other, I schedule a time where we can all meet face-to-face by going out to lunch. I greatly appreciate this step in Mercy’s process as we want both parties to gradually get to know each other via phone before jumping straight into a meeting. By the time everyone meets, they’ve already asked a few ice breakers, but I always normalize “this lunch is going to feel like an awkward first date.” Just like the phone call, I’m a part of this meeting so I often help break the ice so there isn’t a lull in the conversation. Always, to everyone’s surprise, there’s always a good flow of conversation.
It’s after these 2 interactions that if both parties are still interested in each other we officially say, “they’re matched” and I work with everyone to solidify the rest of the Adoption Plan.
4. Putting Pen to Paper
While each state’s Adoption Laws vary, the main similarity across all states is that adoption is legally binding which means the biological parent has legally terminated their parental rights allowing someone else to be the legal guardian and parent of their child.
While some people often say “I don’t know why it’s so hard for him/her to sign those papers – they’ve already chosen adoption – they met the family and really like them” I try to remind those individuals that while a Birth Parent rationally, emotionally, and often spiritually knows the decision of adoption is the right choice, it is the act of physically signing the legal documents in front of a Judge (in most states) that can be a lot to process.
Each time I’ve gone to the Courthouse with a Birth Mother to sign these papers I’ve seen a mix of emotions: anxious, scared, nervous, happy, and feeling guilty for being happy. It is my goal to try and not only prepare a Birth Mother for these emotions, but to normalize them and remind her that she isn’t alone – just like in the hospital I am sitting beside her holding her hand as she puts pen to paper in taking the physical action of choosing adoption for her child.
5. Doing Life Together
What I love most about working in Adoptions is that it’s now so normalized in our society. I cannot imagine the difficulties in supporting, advocating, and counseling a Birth Parent or Adoptive Family 10, 20, or even 30 years ago when there were so many myths and lack of resources. It is this type of normalization that has allowed many Birth Parents and Adoptive Families to have relationship after the adoption takes place.
My goal before Labor & Delivery is to have a solid plan created between both parties in how they want their relationship to look when the adoption takes place. At Mercy, we create a customized Openness Agreement which I help advocate and mediate, so each parties’ desires are met. This type of mediation often includes the frequency and duration of visits and/or sending photos.
There is such a stigma that if an Adoptive Family has relationship with a Birth Parent, they will cross boundaries, “try to get their child back”, or create confusion for the child. While I won’t bore you with all the research showing the benefits of an open or semi-open adoption, I will share a few benefits I’ve witnessed.
- Within the first year of placement, a Birth Parent is still processing their grief, but when they receive updates and photos of their child thriving and doing well with an Adoptive Family, they’re able to have more confirmation and peace about their choice for adoption.
- By creating specific expectations of when photos or updates will be sent, like at Christmas and the Child’s Birthday, a Birth Parent knows to expect something in their mailbox instead of anxiously checking their mail every day hoping to receive something.
- If the Adoptive Family suspects any allergies or medical conditions, they can connect with the Birth Parent to see if there’s any family history of those issues.
- Keeping a photo of the child’s Birth Parents in the nursery and frequently pointing out the individuals in the photo helps normalize the conversation of the child being adopted.
- When a Birth Parent includes their family, the child’s Birth Grandparents, within photos or visits the Birth Grandparents can create a relationship with the Adoptive Family and their Grandchild.
Relationships with all parties in an adoption can look so different, but when everyone keeps their focus on “what’s best for the child” they all benefit.
I hope these stories gave insight into the ways Mercy comes alongside Birth Parents and Adoptive Families.
Feel free to call (615-831-6987) if you’re interested in learning more about Mercy’s Adoption or Pregnancy Services as I’d be happy to share more with you.
Important: Please consult with your local Licensed Adoption Agency and/or Adoption Attorney regarding the adoption processes in your state.