It used to be that the only reason a woman would consider making an adoption plan for her baby was because she was unmarried, and there was too much societal pressure to avoid "shaming" one’s family, and oneself. Likewise, the only reason anyone considered adopting was because they weren't able to conceive a child on their own. Again, the best chance at having an adopted child "pass" for "one's own" was to adopt him at birth. As a result, only babies were adopted, and many, if not most, were not even aware of their adoption status. After all, both their adoptive parents and birth parents came to the adoption out of a sense of shame.
A lot has changed in the world of adoption over the years. The "women's liberation" movement made it less and less shameful for a woman to be a single mother. Society stopped questioning and judging people’s sexual behavior, freeing women to be open about their pregnancy in spite of not being married. In addition, women started to gain more employment opportunities, making it feasible for single mothers to support themselves and their babies. Therefore, single pregnant women were no longer faced with a single option of hiding their pregnancy and placing their babies with adoptive families. Once abortion became legal, even more women felt unencumbered by unplanned pregnancies.
At the same time, with medical advances, infertile couples likewise began to see options for their childlessness other than newborn adoption. Not only were fertility treatments something that could be done without advertising the fact to one's family and friends, but if successful, it provided the desired pregnancy and baby that was expected by one’s peers. Furthermore, for those who either couldn’t afford infertility treatment or whose condition made it difficult or impossible to treat with the available medical intervention, they were able to dodge intrusive questions due to the presence of birth control and voluntary childlessness among many couples.
As a result of both of these phenomena, there are simply less newborns being adopted than there once were. Yet there are still situations that continue to keep newborn adoption a valid option for many.
Some expectant moms choose to give birth to their babies rather than aborting them on religious or moral grounds, even if they are not prepared to parent them on their own. At times, there are even married couples who simply cannot afford another baby, and so turn to adoption. The circumstances of the child’s conception may also make it a toll order to expect the mother to parent; she may not be psychologically able to parent a child whose father raped her, for instance. Also, as premarital casual sex has become common place among younger and younger people, girls with several years to go before high school graduation may choose adoption for their babies simply because they're still growing up themselves.
Some infertile couples exhaust all of their medical options before turning to adoption. However, artificial reproductive technology is not even an option for those who oppose such intervention on religious grounds. Still others, even if they don’t object to it ethically, may find the costs prohibitive. These families continue to see adoption as the best solution to their childless state.
Because newborn adoption no longer takes place behind a curtain of shame, it is no longer seen as a taboo subject among most families. Children are generally aware of having been adopted, usually from an early age. More and more, contact between adoptive and birth families exists in order to provide continuity for the child as well. Perhaps because it is no longer something done out of desperation or lack of options, today we can truly say that adoption really is a loving option.
Credits: Karolina Maria
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