Two young woman allowed the True Life documentary team to follow them as they decided whether to parent or place their unborn children for adoption. When I first heard about this project I had a lot of doubts as to how it would be handled. But after speaking with one of the production assistants, I looked forward to the episode.
No narration or "expert" interviews were added to the production, just the expectant mother's shared thoughts through personal interviews. Cameras followed the young women as they went about the day-to-day activities, trying to decide the future of their babies. This was not a Juno type adoption experience. The pain of the decision was real and lasting.
Kayla is 19 and shared that her boyfriend told her to figure out the pregnancy issue on her own. She shared how she had struggled with drugs since the age of 15. She was trying to decide whether to place her infant with distant cousins or to parent. She had the help of private counseling, a social worker, as well as an adoption facilitator.
Kayla parented her baby girl while she struggled to make her final decision. Kayla processed her feelings of regret over how she envied the prospective adoptive mother's resources of a supportive husband and the ability to be a stay-at-home mom. It was plain to see that the weight of the decision before her was overwhelming.Favorite Quotes
Kayla - "This whole back and forth is killing me. I need to do what's best for her and not what's best for me even though I feel like dying in my sleep, just so I don't have to wake up and feel the pain."
Kayla - "I just want her to have the best and I might not be able to give it to her."
Lisa, social worker - "But you'll give her your best."
Kayla feared placing her daughter and then returning to her drug lifestyle without the baby there to keep her focused. That's a lot to place on a little one's shoulders.
Amanda is 22 and became pregnant after a casual fling with Rob. Rob lives at home with his parents and 6-year-old son. Amanda is in an on again, off again relationship with her girlfriend, Casey. Amanda met a gay couple, Cliff and Conio, as prostpective adoptive parents online. They have already adopted a little girl and were eager to be considered as adoptive parents of Amanda and Rob's infant daughter.
After meeting the prospective adoptive couple, Rob and Amanda both liked them, but Rob was not convinced that he wanted to place the baby. Amanda seemed more settled on adoption, but couldn't decide whether she was "strong enough."
Amanda seemed to be focused on providing Cliff and Conio with the "gift of a baby." She was very interested in making them happy and having a friendship with them. She even stated that after she gave birth, "When baby first came out, all I was thinking about was Cliff and Conio. I really let them down. I feel so much guilt."Favorite Quotes
Amanda - "I just don't want to want it."
Rob - "Your kids are your family, they're your future. I want my daughter."
Lessons We Can Learn About Helping Expectant Parents Decide Whether to Parent or Place for Adoption
It was interesting to note the differences in the support these young women had going into this decision. I believe that these differences offer lessons to those of us in the field trying to improve adoption and adoption practices.
- The importance of an adoption literate licensed therapist provided by a resource outside of the adoption agency. - According to a comment to my latest blog post about this episode of True Life, Kayla utilized a therapist to help her process the decision. It's important that this therapist not be tied to the adoption agency. Remember, there is money to be made in adoption. It's best to keep this service separate when making such a huge life decision.
- The use of a case manager to further help manage the case and help encourage the setting of life goals outside of the pregnancy and parenting. - Kayla was encouraged to finish her education and set new goals as well as to form better coping skills to better handle life's trials.
- The importance of the mother parenting her infant before making a final decision. - Kayla parented her child for 3 weeks and was surrounded by supportive people as she parented. This gave her a bit of experience parenting her child, as well as time to make a decision with less pressure.
- The focus on open adoption. - Kayla and Amanda were both seeking open adoptions for their infants. Kayla's adoption facilitator directs a monthly open adoption support group for birth and adoptive parents to meet and share.
- The importance of healthy, stable relationships to help make life decisions. - Amanda seemed to live in more chaos than Kayla. Amanda's supports seemed to be off and on. This did not help her make a choice that she felt secure about in the end. It's important that young women facing the decision whether to parent or place a child for adoption, to find that support whether that be at church, at home, or in a therapist.
It's difficult to discuss this episode without telling too much and ruining it for those who have yet to view it. I think MTV did a wonderful job in presenting another side of adoption, a side that is rarely seen. Placing a child for adoption is not a joke-a-minute laugh fest nor a heart sting pulling, rainbow moment. It's raw emotion that is for life.
One of the biggest lessons here, is that of support. Whether an expectant mother or father, an adoptive parent, foster parent or adoptee - support is the key to a successful placement. Heck, it's the key to be a successful parent of any kind.