Surviving the Time You Have to Change Your Mind

The first days and weeks you spend without your baby are likely to be the most difficult part of your adoption experience.

Many birth mothers feel devastated, strangely numb, or both. Several have described waking up in the middle of the first night and panicking when they remember having placed their baby the day before. These emotions are powerful, and they are often intensified by the fact that, depending on the state where you live, you may still have the option of changing your mind about the adoption.

Whereas in some states an adoption is legally completed as soon as the birth parents sign the paperwork, other states have a period of time called a “revocation period” during which the birth parents can still regain custody of their child if they decide to do so. In Maryland, birth parents have thirty days to change their mind; in DC it’s fourteen days, and in Virginia it’s seven days.

Renee of the blog Letters to Little Man said of North Carolina’s ten day revocation period, “That policy was torture. Those were the worst 10 days of my life.” She agonized about her decision to place and went back and forth on a daily basis. Jessalyn at Birthmothers4Adoption said almost the exact same thing about revocation periods: “Can anyone say torture?! When emotions are at an all time high, the absolute worst thing is to force a birthmom to rehash her decision every moment of every day for thirty entire days, a decision that she has most likely already been making for months prior to the birth.”

But is it really the worst thing to do? The revocation period is extraordinarily difficult, yes, and we believe our clients when they tell us they’re glad once it’s over – but we feel that it is important for birth parents to have that time to fully make up their mind about what’s best for them and their baby. This is especially true for our many clients who haven’t been planning for adoption since the beginning of their pregnancies. We have worked with a number of women who were originally planning to parent but changed their minds hastily when their support networks didn’t come through for them. It is crucial for these clients to have a period of time during which they can process their decision and change their minds if they need to.

When we meet birth mothers who want to waive their rights to proceed under their state’s law specifically so that they will not have a revocation period, it’s actually a sign to us that we may need to slow the adoption down and give them more time to process and reflect on what’s happening. If a birth mother knows for sure that she is going to regret her decision afterwards, then we need to talk to her about why she is forcing herself to make this choice, and whether there is another way.

After all, it’s one thing to grieve and to wonder, “What if?” in the days after your baby’s placement; it’s another to feel certain that you made the wrong choice and want to regain custody of your child. If you don’t want to have the option to change your mind because you are afraid that’s what you will do, your brain is telling you something important. Placing your baby for adoption will be an incredibly hard decision no matter what, but if you don’t trust yourself to stick with the plan you’ve made, it might be because a part of you still doesn’t believe it’s the right choice for you.

Did you have a revocation period when you made an adoption plan for your baby? What was that time like for you?

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