Coping with an Adoption Disruption

Your baby’s due date is written on your calendar, and you are counting down the days until you finally become parents. You are busy preparing for the new baby, thinking about names, decorating the nursery and dreaming about all of the things you will do together as a family.

Your dreams of parenthood are finally within reach — until you get the devastating news that your baby’s prospective birth mother has changed her mind and decided not to continue with her adoption plan.

This is referred to as an adoption disruption, and it happens in an estimated 10–25 percent of cases. You knew that the birth parents could change their minds up until the papers are signed and, depending on the state, for a revocation period following relinquishment. But you didn’t know how heartbreaking it would be until it happened to you.

An adoption disruption is a very real loss, complete with feelings of grief and sadness. If you are struggling to overcome an adoption disruption, here are four suggestions for how to cope:

  • Grieve – Everyone processes grief and loss in their own way. Allow yourself to move through the process and acknowledge the difficult feelings you are having. The sooner you give yourself permission to experience pain, anger, sadness and disappointment, the sooner you will be able to find peace, comfort and closure.
  • Accept support – You are not alone in your adoption journey. You have friends and family who have been there for you throughout all of your highs and lows, and when you are ready, they can help you through this, too. Try to open up and welcome the support they offer. You are also not alone in experiencing a disrupted adoption. Talk to your adoption professional and ask for recommendations of adoptive family support groups, where you can talk to families who have had similar experiences.
  • Give it time – You will likely never forget the pain you experienced during this difficult time, but the intensity of these feelings will fade with time. It might be hard to imagine, but know that this will pass and eventually, things will get better.
  • Move forward – When you are ready, determine what you need to do to move forward. Do not let an adoption disruption discourage you from pursuing your dreams of parenthood. Remember your reasons for choosing adoption, and then open your heart to new adoption opportunities. The right adoption situation will come along eventually, and once you become parents to the child you were meant to be matched with, you will be grateful that your adoption story ended the way it did.

Remember that every situation is different, and there is no wrong way to handle an adoption disruption. Cope at your own pace. And when you are ready to try again, know that your experiences throughout your adoption journey, good and bad, are leading you to a happy ending.