Woman talking with mother

Keeping Adoption Secret vs. Telling Friends and Family

Adoption is a very personal decision that a woman makes based on what is best for her and her baby — but when it’s time to reveal the news of the pregnancy and adoption plan to family and friends, she might be nervous to hear their thoughts, feelings and reactions.

Some expectant mothers are fortunate to have a close support system of accepting friends and family, and they are able to talk openly about their adoption decision and receive support throughout the adoption process. However, this isn’t always the case for everyone, and some women even choose to keep their pregnancy and adoption plan a secret.

As a pregnant woman considering adoption, you are in control of nearly every aspect of the adoption process — including who you tell and don’t tell about the adoption — and there are several considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to keep your adoption a secret.

Should I Keep My Adoption Plan a Secret?

When you choose adoption, it’s because you love your baby and you know that this is what is best for him or her. It takes a lot of strength and careful consideration to make that decision.

But even when you are confident that adoption is right for you, you may worry about what your friends and family will think. You may be concerned that they will be disappointed, unsupportive or judgmental. You may even worry that they will try to talk you out of your adoption decision. These concerns might lead you to keep your adoption plan from your loved ones.

It is generally recommended that women only keep their pregnancy and adoption secret if they are concerned for the health and safety of themselves or their children. However, if you feel strongly that you do not want to disclose your pregnancy or adoption to friends and family, that is your right.

If you are struggling to decide whether or not to tell loved ones about your adoption plan, consider the potential benefits and disadvantages of keeping it a secret:

Pros of Keeping Your Adoption Decision Secret

  • You may be able to avoid uncomfortable conversations and negative reactions from loved ones. Friends and family members who are unsupportive of your adoption plan can add to your stress and potentially take your focus and energy away from your baby. Not telling them about the adoption could be one way to prevent potential conflict.
  • If you are concerned about your wellbeing or the wellbeing of your child, keeping your adoption plan a secret could be the best way to protect both of you. If you are in an abusive situation, it is important to seek counseling and find a way to remove yourself and your baby from that situation. An adoption professional can help you find the resources you need to keep both of you safe and healthy.

Cons of Keeping Your Adoption Decision Secret

  • Hiding your pregnancy is possible, but it will be challenging. You may be able to hide your weight gain and other symptoms with baggy clothes, and you may be able to avoid certain people altogether during your pregnancy to prevent them from knowing. Some women even relocate to keep their pregnancy secret from family members or friends. In addition to the practical challenges of hiding your pregnancy, hospital stay, and physical and emotional healing process, it can be stressful and exhausting to successfully keep such a big secret hidden from friends and family.
  • Keeping your pregnancy and adoption secret may make it more difficult to access resources like prenatal care. To keep you and your baby healthy during your pregnancy, you should attend regular doctor’s visits, and you may need to make additional appointments to talk with an adoption counselor or prospective adoptive parents. These tasks may be more challenging when you are trying to keep your situation a secret, which could potentially impact your health as well as the adoption process.
  • In general, lying about your pregnancy, the baby or your adoption plan to anyone throughout the adoption process, especially the birth father, can legally complicate the adoption. You should speak with your adoption attorney to learn more about your state’s birth father rights and ensure all aspects of the adoption are handled legally.
  • It can be very difficult to go through the adoption process without a support system. By keeping your adoption plan a secret, you are missing out on the opportunity for comfort and support that your friends and family members may be able to provide. Adoption is a lifelong process, and if you choose not to tell anyone about the baby you place for adoption, it will be a lifelong secret. You may have difficult emotions that linger long after placement. Having friends and family to turn to when you need them could make those difficult emotions much easier to process and could make you feel less isolated.

You are the only person who can decide when, how and who to tell about your pregnancy and your adoption plan. Regardless of whether you decide to tell friends and family or keep it a secret, you should not have to go through the adoption process alone. Adoption professionals, especially adoption counselors, can provide necessary support and guidance throughout the adoption process and can advise you on how to discuss your adoption with loved ones if you do choose to tell them about your adoption plan.

Tips for Talking to Friends and Family About Adoption

Every adoption situation is different, and the way you talk with friends and family about adoption will vary based on your circumstances. If you do choose to talk with your loved ones about your adoption plan but are struggling to start the conversation, here are some general guidelines to make those difficult discussions easier:

  • Talk to a professional – Experienced adoption specialists and counselors can provide support, encouragement, insight and even mediation as you approach friends and family and tell them about your adoption decision. For friends and family members who are particularly struggling to understand your choice or the adoption process, these adoption professionals can provide helpful literature. You can also suggest that friends or family contact your adoption specialist to learn more.
  • Plan first – Consider waiting to tell friends and family until you’ve made your adoption plan. Many people are unfamiliar with the process, don’t understand adoption or are overwhelmed with your news and don’t know what to do or how to help. In these cases, having your adoption plan in place when you announce your decision may be helpful. When you’ve already started the adoption process, it will show your friends and family that you’re serious about adoption, you’ve done your research and you have taken responsibility and control of the situation.
  • Start with your strongest supports – Start by telling the friends and family who you trust most and who you believe will be most supportive of the adoption. This will help you build an adoption support system to fall back on as you tell more difficult friends and family members. You can even ask them to come with you for moral support as you tell others of your pregnancy and adoption plans.
  • Take it one thing at a time – Consider telling your family about your pregnancy before telling them about your adoption plan. An unplanned pregnancy is big news, and in some cases, it is best to let loved ones process this information before overwhelming them with your adoption plan. Gauge their reactions, and decide whether it would be better to let them digest this information before introducing the topic of adoption.
  • Write a note – Sometimes, it is easier to sort through difficult feelings and introduce a sensitive topic in writing. Put some time into creating a handwritten note that explains your adoption decision. Delivering the note in person will allow you to control when and where your loved one finds out about your pregnancy and adoption plan and will set the stage for a conversation.
  • Address their concerns – Your friends and family may react to this news in a variety of ways and with a variety of emotions. Do your best to stay calm and listen to their concerns. Be prepared to address any qualms they may have about your adoption plan with a working knowledge of the adoption process. You’ve likely done plenty of research about adoption, and sharing that information with friends and family who don’t understand can help make them more comfortable with the idea.
  • Explain your reasons – Adoption is a personal choice, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for doing what you think is best for you and your baby. But when you tell friends and family that you are making an adoption plan, it can be helpful to explain your reasons for choosing adoption. You have put a lot of thought into your decision, and explaining that to your friends and family may help them see the situation from your perspective.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Let your family and friends know that you could use their support throughout the adoption process, and tell them how much their love and encouragement is appreciated. If you feel comfortable, you might even ask supportive friends and family to be involved in your adoption plan. You could ask them to help you create a keepsake book for the baby or accompany you to the hospital. Including them in your adoption planning may help them process their emotions and come to terms with the adoption, and having that support system in place can be extremely beneficial for you throughout the adoption process.

Adoption is a difficult secret to keep, and creating an adoption support system — even if that means confiding in just one trusted friend or family member — can make it easier to let go of fear and focus on your baby and your future.