Should we adopt this baby?
April 7, 2010 9:59 PM   Subscribe

My wife's friend just had a baby. She is a single mother. She does not want her baby. She wants us to take her baby. What to do?

My wife and I have been planning to get pregnant later this year. We've thought about having a baby and then perhaps adopting a child in the future. We know nothing about adoption. It's just a nice thought we've had that has not been held up to real world light.

Wife's friend (who is 42) got pregnant last year. She gave birth prematurely - in the fifth month - but the baby made it through in good health. After 4 months in an incubator, the baby went home with its mom 3 weeks ago. Doctors say the baby is performing remarkably well.

The friend is freaking out though. She has absolutely no 'connection' to the baby. She can't even look at it. She is experiencing some kind of extremely severe post-partum depression/psychosis. Her whole body shakes and she is clearly not in control of her self. She talks about not being able to enjoy her life anymore because of the baby. It is scary.

She has moved in with her elderly parents, who are assisting her (read: taking all the responsibility of caring for the baby).

At first (about 10 days ago), she spoke to my wife and I about taking care of the baby if something bad should happen to her (the father is married and has a family of his own; she is an only child and her parents are elderly) but after a couple of questions, it was clear that what she really wanted was someone to take the baby now ('it will be better if the baby grows up with both parents, and you guys will surely have a great family'). We didnt take this very seriously because it was clear that she didnt really know what she wanted to do, so my wife tried to support her with positive words, etc.

Since then, she has reached out to us 3 times, each time more explicitly acknowledging that she can not and does not want to raise the baby. She is now saying that she wants to look for someone to adopt the baby.

We're not sure what we think. We are thinking of the baby, the friend, and our future family. Though we've mentioned adoption as a 'nice thing to do', we havent really educated ourselves about it nor thought through its potential difficulties. We weren't planning to have our own child until next year, so we are not exactly ready to just take the baby right now - even if we thought it was a good idea to adopt it.

Also, this adoption would have its own nuances as the biological mother happens to be a currently unstable friend of my wife's. I'm thinking this could present problems in the future (should the mother rethink her decision).

What else should we be thinking about?

(I feel awful hesitating to adopt a baby that I know is in a terrible situation and needs someone who cares about it while I safely fantasize about my future self some adopting some poor baby from Africa. But I need to put half-baked aspirations of being a great person aside and think about the realities of the situation and if we are really the best people to take care of the baby - and if it is what is best for our lives. Truthfully, I have had to do a lot of mental preparation to be ready to have my own child next year - and I didn't think I was there yet. This situation just happened to pop-up.)
posted by meantime to Human Relations (44 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
First priority should be getting encouraging your wife's friend to seek some professional help for what is likely postpartum depression or some other mental illness. The easiest place for her to start seeking treatment would be from her OB, and he can refer her to a mental health professional. If she's as unstable as it sounds, it may not be a terrible idea to approach her parents and let them know you're concerned for her well-being.

Even if you were willing to adopt this child right now, she does not seem to be in a place to make rational decisions of this magnitude. Do not feel pressured into adopting a child before you're ready because of guilt.
posted by chiababe at 10:19 PM on April 7, 2010 [20 favorites]


One option could be to encourage and help her to contact the hospital about finding a referral to an adoption agency, and a therapist and/or psychiatrist. ASAP. The adoption agency should also be able to help assess whether this is an appropriate time to move forward with the adoption or what.

If it's in your heart right now to adopt this baby, go for it. It doesn't make you a terrible person if you're not ready to have a child in your lives. It takes a lot of character and strength to say "I want this someday, but am not capable of being the parent this kid needs right now".
posted by so_gracefully at 10:19 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're not ready to have a baby, you're not ready. You shouldn't force it. It is definitely not a good idea to adopt a child from a friend, especially one who seems as unstable as you describe.

Don't do it (and don't let her make you feel guilty about your decision), but you and your wife should be as supportive of her in other ways.
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:20 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


My advice would be that you shouldn't even consider it until her postpartum depression has been dealt with by a medical professional. It sounds like she's in no state to be making decisions like this, and you don't want to end up in a disaster. My cousins recently had an adoption fall through and it is absolute hell.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:22 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Oh, and she is seeing a doctor and has been given some medication for her psychiatric condition...though it doesn't seem to be helping, yet.
posted by meantime at 10:24 PM on April 7, 2010


Your friend is not in her right mind, sadly, and needs experienced professional help before she can be trusted to make any rational decisions or judgments about her child's welfare and what will be best for both of them in the long run.

She needs to get help, and it sounds like you're positioned to encourage her to get it-- if she wants to trust you with her child, she'll have to accept that you won't act on her wishes one way or the other until she's certified of sound mind. Likewise, I don't think you should be seriously considering this until she's recovered and her care providers think she can handle this magnitude of decision-making.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:24 PM on April 7, 2010


Tell her how many families would be overjoyed at the prospect of adopting her baby. Great, kind, loving families just like you. Help her facilitate an adoption with another family. If you adopt it yourself, there is a strong chance that she will eventually want it back, and your relationship with her will complicate things.

Rushing into being responsible for a child is a bad idea. Helping a desperate mother through a difficult time is a good one. So many families want a baby that I don't think you should accept it unless your absolutely 100%.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 10:28 PM on April 7, 2010 [24 favorites]


I honestly don't think you should take the baby. Either decision you make has the potential for future drama/difficulties down the road, but adopting the baby and maintaining contact with this lady may be the perfect recipe for never-ending intermittent strife.

It is harsh sounding but, this baby is not your responsibility and it sounds like she is just trying to find a quick fix for her problems and emotions. I think the idea in helping her find a reputable, honest and well run adoption agency is the best idea. The child will (most likely) be places rather fast and if done correctly it will benefit everyone involved.
posted by edgeways at 10:30 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


first, she sounds like she really needs psychiatric help. Once she gets more emotionally stable, she may or may not still want to give up the baby for adoption.

However, she may need to know right now that she is not trapped into a parenthood she can't handle. There are many good people who would be so happy to be able to adopt a healthy baby. it doesn't have to be you. Tell her that if she doesn't want the baby, you will help her make sure it has a good home. A more arms-length transaction might also be better for the adoptive parents.

Finally, before you go much further, you might want to touch base with her parents and see where they are with all of this.
posted by metahawk at 10:31 PM on April 7, 2010


Your friend has been through what I imagine is a tremendously stressful experience. When my nephew was in the hospital for four days with jaundice my brother was a wreck (in fact, he made himself sick with it). Having your newborn in an incubator for 4 months has to be so much worse. Assuming she wanted to have a baby in the first place, she deserves an opportunity to get healthy enough to make an informed decision now about whether to keep it.

If I were in your situation, rather than considering whether or how to adopt her child, I should be looking into helping her get medical and psychiatric treatment, as well as just helping her with day to day stuff. That would mean helping her make and get to doctor's appointments, which can be very difficult when you're severely depressed, and just helping out with stuff - shopping, cleaning and simple things like going for walks. There may also be social services that can help, and I bet she can find a support group for parents of preemies, even if it's just online. If she's taking medication for depression, remember that it takes weeks for it to start to work, and for many people it's a matter of trial and error.

On preview - don't contact an adoption agency for advice. Some adoption agencies exist solely to serve the adoptive parents and will do everything to encourage giving up the child adoption. I'm sure there are lots of agencies that are totally ethical, but now isn't the time to take chances.
posted by smartyboots at 10:36 PM on April 7, 2010


I don't know what the social services are like in your state, but this baby would be an excellent candidate for short-term respite or foster care. Lots of kids go into foster care while their parents are temporarily unable to care for them, and then return permanently once Mum or Dad have their lives sorted out.

Does the mother have a long history of severe mental illness? Because if she was previously healthy, and this is post-partum depression/psychosis, she may be able to get treatment and make a full recovery. If she recovers, her feelings about the baby might change. Not bonding with the baby and saying she doesn't want to raise it could be her genuine feelings, or they could be symptoms of her illness. Until she gets well, you can't be sure.

If you feel you're able to, you could enter into an open foster care situation where you care for the baby until she's well enough to either raise it herself, or make a decision about permanent adoption. I agree that this is a tricky situation and you're right to think carefully before proceeding. Does the hospital she gave birth at have a social worker or early intervention team who can give you advice?
posted by embrangled at 10:38 PM on April 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


NO NO NO NO NO.

A baby isn't just a baby. It's a future human being. It's a future toddler, kid, teenager, young adult, adult, and so on. It's not a project you do, it's not a cat you adopt, it's not a fishtank you move next to the TV. it's something that happens to you. It's something that will irrevocably change who you are.

Under NO circumstances should you have "take care" of the baby because she's a close friend. If you were thinking of having kids anyways, go ahead and conceive/adopt when you want to -- but it sounds like you're not prepared anyways. It's your body, your life, your FUTURE FAMILY, and if you want kids you should have them the way YOU want to.

For her to shirk these responsibilities and ask you to adopt because you're 'going to have kids anyways' is incredibly selfish, irresponsible, and quite frankly ignorant. But more importantly: For you to consider this sudden adoption as a possibility is also a sign that you're not fully aware of what having kids will entail, and that you're not quite ready to have kids yet.

I think you should take the advice of the other commenters in this thread and refer her to an adoption agency.
posted by suedehead at 10:45 PM on April 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


For her to shirk these responsibilities and ask you to adopt because you're 'going to have kids anyways' is incredibly selfish, irresponsible, and quite frankly ignorant.

This is incredibly harsh. You're talking about a woman who is experiencing acute mental and emotional anguish. She's desperate for help and is reaching out in any way she can. It might not be a good idea for the OP to adopt, but it's perfectly reasonable for the mother to ask.
posted by embrangled at 10:48 PM on April 7, 2010 [19 favorites]


You should probably not adopt this baby, but this baby should probably be adopted by someone.

Help by doing research on her adoption choices. Open vs. closed, etc. Find names of reputable agencies and then present these options to her. Not as something she has to do, but if she is really serious (and reaching out to a friend who she could theoretically take the baby back from is not what I would call all that serious, yet) she will know where to go. If she wants to move forward, offer to go to meetings, etc for moral support.

Disclaimer I know next to nothing about the actual adoption process so I have no idea if you should be calling agencies or social services, so I apologize if my terminology isn't perfect.
posted by whoaali at 10:56 PM on April 7, 2010


This is incredibly harsh. You're talking about a woman who is experiencing acute mental and emotional anguish. She's desperate for help and is reaching out in any way she can. It might not be a good idea for the OP to adopt, but it's perfectly reasonable for the mother to ask.

No - I do feel for the woman, and I understand that the woman is mentally unstable and undergoing postpartum depression/psychosis. It's something that she should seek help for, and I wish her the best. However, I do not think that mental health issues should exempt someone from responsibilities -- it can mean, however, that one can decide to be vastly more tolerant and understanding of her actions.

She is still being selfish, irresponsible, and ignorant, as the request the mother is asking of the OP is an enormous one. This is like asking someone to move to a different country and to live their for the rest of their lives. It's not reasonable for the mother to ask the OP to undergo this on behalf of the mother, and it's absolutely reasonable for the OP to (politely, helpfully) refuse the mother's request.
posted by suedehead at 11:01 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


*there
posted by suedehead at 11:03 PM on April 7, 2010


Right now she may be in a place where she sees you as a safety net... sure, she says she wants you to adopt the baby and may show all signs of understanding what that means. But she knows you, where you live, who you are, perhaps what buttons to push... and she could come back sooner or later and want the baby back.

meantime: "she spoke to my wife and I about taking care of the baby if something bad should happen to her"

I would have taken this, coupled with her postpartum depression/psychosis, as an indication of possible suicidal plans and contacted someone to help her.

You said she is seeing a doctor... is she seeing a generalist, an OB-GYN, or a psychiatrist? Perhaps she needs to see someone who specializes in PPD.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:46 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fuck your feelings, fuck the mother's feelings...none of that matters. What really matters here is the welfare of this preemie. The baby needs to be in an environment that would be conducive for its growth. Right now, I don't see the baby as having that.

Call whoever you need to call to get the baby safe. DCFS, CPS, the police, anybody. Acquiescing to the mom's wishes isn't the answer here if the reason for her asking you two is guilt on her part.

GET THE BABY TO A SAFE ENVIRONMENT...and no matter what happens, you can be confident that you made the world a better place by looking out for someone who can't look out for themselves.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:51 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


She can't even look at it. She is experiencing some kind of extremely severe post-partum depression/psychosis. Her whole body shakes and she is clearly not in control of her self. She talks about not being able to enjoy her life anymore because of the baby. It is scary.

I had to read that over again to make sure that I read it correctly...I did. That baby is not safe. Call someone.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:52 AM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fuck your feelings, fuck the mother's feelings...none of that matters. What really matters here is the welfare of this preemie.

The baby is being cared for by its grandparents. This situation isn't ideal and it can't go on forever, but right now, the baby does have caregivers who love it and are able to care for it. The more urgent situation right now is the welfare of the mother. I agree with IndigoRain that her comments indicate she might be at risk of suicide.

Incidentally, good maternity and psychiatric hospitals sometimes have dedicated postpartum wards where mothers can receive treatment and have their babies close by. Wards like this tend to have great outcomes, because the mother gets both psychiatric care and specialist help in bonding with her child. OP, please find out if there is a ward like this near you.
posted by embrangled at 2:48 AM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Here's some more information about specialist PPD wards, and a page which lists programs and specialists across your country
posted by embrangled at 3:00 AM on April 8, 2010


Don't do it. It's a ticket to having her change her mind later (when she is hopefully better) and mess up your lives. If she wants to give the baby up, she should do it through traditional adoption methods where there is (some) anonymity and a real emotional break from having the kid in her life. Using you as a long-term babysitter is not the right option.
posted by Dasein at 4:49 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


You don't need to feel guilty. I'm sure when you've considered adoption, you've never pictured it as an....extremely...open adoption, with a very troubled birth mother who's already part of your lives, making it hard to draw "who's the parent here" boundaries.
posted by availablelight at 4:55 AM on April 8, 2010


Best answer: I wish you'd said more about what was going on with the mother during those first four months. Was she as freaked out then as she is now? Did she visit the baby? Hold it? Participate in its care? Did she exhibit signs of an anxiety disorder during that time (or prior to the child's birth)? Or is this new, since she got home?

I'm glad to hear she's getting medical help now. Blogger Heather Armstrong (Dooce) has such severe post-partum depression after her first child was born that she was hospitalized. She's written very clearly and movingly about that experience. Go read her posts on that topic. Its possible your friend may also be experiencing post-partum depression/psychosis and will need more aggressive treatment.

"It will be better if the baby grows up with both parents, and you guys will surely have a great family" also sounds like a suicide threat to me, frankly.

FWIW, I think you should reach out to her however you can, to encourage her to get effective treatment. This may include researching doctors, or even becoming an advocate for her care if she cannot. I would (personally) also tell her that you're not going to discuss adoption until she gets well. Make it clear to her that she must be well and thinking clearly before you'll have this conversation with her. Hopefully that will help her to become more of an advocate for her own care.

re: actual adoption. I have friends in open adoption situations that work well. But the adoptive families always knew they wanted - desperately - a child. If you want to seriously consider this, you'll want to talk to an attorney who specializes in adoption. Its likely you'll still need a home study and all that jazz. Have you met the baby? Babies come into our lives in all different ways; if you think you have room in your life at all to love and care for this child, I encourage you to sit down with an adoption attorney and at least have the conversation. The father has some rights here too, and you'll really need an attorney to understand what those rights are. He may decide that he does want to be involved somehow, which could make the situation even more confusing.

To answer your question on a more personal level, I'll say this: If this happened to my husband and I (and given here that we already have one child), and the mother were thinking clearly and asked us to take her child, we would probably do it - despite the fact that we're not planning on ever having another biological child. I know a lot of people here are saying "you don't want this crazy woman in your life" but its not clear from your question if her disordered thinking is a new thing or not. I tend to think (from your description and from people I know who have gone through this) that it is a new thing -- that, with treatment and time, she'll be well. If, after she's well, she still wants to give up the child, this could be a great thing for all of you (including the grandparents).

Good luck, and, as I said at the start, concentrate on helping the mother get well. That needs to happen before anything else.
posted by anastasiav at 5:29 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, not going to weigh in on whether or not you should adopt this baby per se (and I doubt I'd get past the chorus of "NO NO NO" regardless), but I would like to address the issue of adopting this baby v. adopting some hypothetical baby from Africa.

International adoption, particularly from Africa, is romantic and trendy, but does not necessarily make you a better person than adopting this baby right now. Not only are there manifest transparency problems with some international adoption agencies, but the moral value of adopting a child really shouldn't depend on geography. If anything, and again, logistical issues aside, adopting a child that you have some personal connection to who you know for a fact needs a different situation represents a far more personal sacrifice than essentially parachuting in to adopt a child from somewhere you've never been, born to people you'll never have to deal with, all the while reaping a not insignificant boost to your own social cache here at home. When you adopt a child who has literally nothing to offer you but need, like this one, that seems to me to represent a far superior moral act than one which scratches unrelated social and karmic considerations.

If you want to adopt, hey, great. But focus your analysis on whether 1) you are ready to adopt right now, and 2) whether this particular adoption situation is likely to work for both you and your potential adopted child. The mother in this case seems likely to make this adoption difficult and messy, and that's definitely something you need to consider. But if you want to adopt and think you can make it work, don't let dreams of a more fashionable adoption process at some nebulous point in the future get in the way of doing the right thing here and now.
posted by valkyryn at 5:39 AM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I honestly don't think you should take the baby. Either decision you make has the potential for future drama/difficulties down the road, but adopting the baby and maintaining contact with this lady may be the perfect recipe for never-ending intermittent strife.

This is what I was going to say. As an adoptive mother, I can tell you that an unbalanced birthmother with a life of drama who knows your names and where you live is probably not something that's going to enhance your future quality of life.

Also, though, if she is open to it: she's clearly dealing with severe postpartum depression. Whether or not placing the baby for adoption is the right choice, she needs treatment for this, and I'm glad she's getting it. The caseworkers at adoption agencies have all kinds of experience at counseling women through the decision to place a baby--or not. One reason they're useful is that they provide a safeguard for adoptive families, that you have a fairly good idea that you're not taking a baby from someone who is just overwhelmed by a passing thing. They are also very knowledgeable about resources available to pregnant women and new moms. In your situation, that's the direction I'd point her in.

Best of luck to you and to her.
posted by not that girl at 5:43 AM on April 8, 2010


I think you should consider the fact that, if she is able to get successful mental health treatment and get back to a good place, she may want the child back. How will that work if you attempt to permanently adopt the child? For that reason, I'd be leery of being involved in solutions that aren't transient or temporary--e.g., perhaps you could take some of the load off the grandparents if she seeks in-patient treatment.

I tend to concur with others that the request isn't being made of sound mind and should be approached as such.
posted by stevis23 at 5:45 AM on April 8, 2010


Support her through treatment, and don't make any decisions until she's better.

I don't know if you're right about the baby being born "in the fifth month" (maybe you mean "in the sixth month," as in, beyond 5 months but before six? so could be 27 weeks or so?) but are you really sure the baby was born before 23 weeks? That is right on the cusp of what's ever been done, in terms of survival, and I find it hard to imagine that the baby doesn't have severe disabilities ahead of her. Indeed, they will not even know the extent of the baby's disabilities for years. This may actually be a large part of the mother's despair, and she may not be sharing this with you if she wants you to adopt the baby. It also would make it a very different story, sadly, in terms of her ability to find a family through an adoption agency.
posted by palliser at 6:10 AM on April 8, 2010


Correction: "severe" should be "serious."
posted by palliser at 6:15 AM on April 8, 2010


why don't you and your wife just take care of the baby until the woman stabilizes? become informal foster parents and then let her have the baby back when she's ready, if she's (ever) ready.
posted by elle.jeezy at 6:29 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Go read The Kid by Dan Savage. It's about a difficult adoption, and although there aren't terribly many parallels to your situation, it might help you get some perspective.
posted by schmod at 6:52 AM on April 8, 2010


How much respite care can you offer her? How much support does your wife's friend have, other than her elderly parents and you guys? The transition to parenting is incredibly hard, even in an ideal situation with a present father and a full-term child and no PPD. I agree the adoption question is for down the road when she's mentally more stable and able to make serious decisions like that. But right now, helping her feel her life isn't over -- socializing, with and without the baby, getting a break from the baby to go get her toes painted, seeing other adults, etc. This is a bad situation, and I imagine the father with the "other family" is adding a lot of emotional pain. In addition to medical/psychiatric help, she's going to need a lot of social support to know there's still a world out there.

One of the things that helped me the most in making the transition to parenthood was those friends where the baby was always welcome to come hang out too, so I could go over for dinner and bring the baby with. It both made my life SO much easier, not having to find a babysitter and still having a social life, AND it helped me understand myself as part of a new unit, Family-with-Baby, a unit that many of my friends welcomed and celebrated. It helped me re-find myself, and helped me understand my NEW self. (Plus it got the baby lots of extra snuggles.)

One last thing -- not everyone bonds with infants, and that's fine. Most people do, but some don't until the infant becomes a baby and responds and is interactive and fun, or even until you've got a toddler who can talk. For MOST people who don't bond with the infant, the advice is to "fake it 'til you make it" and give the infant all the outward appearances of love and affection and care, and as they grow into more interesting people, the bonding will eventually come. For a few people, they don't ever bond with their children, and that's not good. If your friend has psychiatric care, that's an issue for her and her shrink, but it may reassure her to know that not everyone bonds with infants right off the bat (ESPECIALLY after traumatic situations, like premature birth or the breaking up of a relationship).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:00 AM on April 8, 2010


the father is married and has a family of his own

That's all well and good, but is he taking appropriate financial responsibility for his child? He should be.
After securing the safety of the baby and the mental and emotional stability of the mother, follow up on making sure the father is paying the required support.
posted by rocket88 at 7:00 AM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Even if you do adopt, do not adopt this baby. You do not want some crazy lady coming back to make your life hell.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:11 AM on April 8, 2010


Nthing that she does not sound like she's in a place to be making rational decisions about her child, and that she's having some pretty frightening panic issues.

If it were my friend, I'd try to project calmness and help her tackle things one thing at a time. Adoption doesn't need to happen right now. It doesn't need to be taken off the table, either, but it's not an urgent need at the moment.

Urgent: baby is not in danger. Her parents can take care of the child for now. She doesn't need to think about the child's senior prom, we're just working on today/this week/this month right now.

Urgent: Her own mental health. Therapy, a second psychiatric opinion, etc. (I'm also curious as to how she's been dealing with the baby being in the hospital for all these months, but perhaps she was delaying the panic while the child was under someone else's care? She should talk to the NICU nurses.)

Meanwhile, her friends (including you and your wife) could perhaps help out the grandparents with the baby, help with errands, do all the sort of supportive activities that you'd do for any other sick friend with a young child.
posted by desuetude at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This happened in my family. One seriously messed up aunt had a baby she didn't think she could handle in her current condition, a deal was struck to have her sister adopt the baby on the conditions that the family all help mom get herself together AND agree that it was her kid and never attempt to undo the arrangement later. Everyone happily went along with that, of course, and over the next few years, mom gradually cleaned herself up and the kid was raised in a lovely home. Win win, right?

Well, it wasn't even a decade and mom decided she was well enough now and wanted to be mommy now -- to this child who knew her only as a fleeting aunt. And, predictably, most of the rest of the folk involved felt sorry for her and took up her side. Cue years of drama that have not, as far as I know, ended since.

The moral? Don't adopt babies from people you know, it's way too easy for them to find you and make your life miserable later.
posted by Pufferish at 7:32 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do not think that this woman is in a rational state. Do not adopt this baby. You mentioned yourself that you are not ready to start a family yet, and probably less ready to deal with an infant who needs medical care.

But it's wonderful that you are so caring during what is obviously a very difficult time for your friend. If you want to help more, you could offer to babysit the child for a few hours while the grandparents get some rest, or visit the friend often and distract her from her problems while she sorts things out.

My concern is that if you adopt this baby, and go through all of the legal procedures, now this baby is yours and you consider it such. But if this woman is successful in breaking free of her depression and now anguishes that she gave away her only child, what are you going to do then? Reverse the adoption? Give her visitation rights? Would you be afraid that she'd try to take the child back? Would you want her to become a surrogate aunt?

Giving up your child for adoption is very serious, and while I would support any woman's choice to do so when they do not want or are unable to care for their child, it seems possible that your friend may change her mind in the future.

Do not assume care of a child until you and your husband feel 150% ready for it. It's not fair to you or the baby.
posted by amicamentis at 7:32 AM on April 8, 2010


I personally do not think you should give adopting this child any serious consideration under the current circumstances because they exert an unnatural pressure on you that has nothing to do with what is best for anyone. Try to mentally put aside the particular situation for a moment and ask yourselves: do we want to seriously consider adoption right now? If this situation was not in play would you even be considering the question? Give that very serious thought. Allowing an external situation you have no personal responsibility for to dictate radical changes in your family planning is fraught with all kinds of pitfalls, and we are talking about decisions that absolutely, radically alter your future for the rest of your lives, period.

I can say from personal experience that having a premature child who requires a prolonged stay in a NICU is an unusual situation that exerts particular mental stresses. It is a strange and difficult in-between state as far as parenting goes and in a real sense your friend has only really been dealing with "having a baby" for three weeks. It is far too soon to start taking direct action on something as important and permanent as adoption. There is a very real possibility your friend's feelings about her child could change dramatically over the next several months.

I think you need to communicate gently but firmly to your friend that she should not be looking to you to adopt her child. She needs to start dealing with her situation realistically, not through the lens of a fantasy world where she gets to simply hand off her child to you and everyone is happy. She may ultimately decide to place her child for adoption: if she does she would need to start with seriously exploring the range of options available in that respect. She would need to seriously grapple with questions like whether she wants a situation where she is still connected with her child's life on a routine basis (i.e. an "open adoption" or similar alternative adoption scenario). She should probably be getting therapy in addition to medication to help her work through what she is really feeling and why and what she wants to do about it. These are all things you can help her and her parents work through. But I really think taking your adopting the child off the table now is the best idea.

I hesitate to say take it out of the equation entirely, because there is no one right way to deal with a child's need for a loving family and I know of at least one situation in my personal experience where an open adoption seemed to work (but this was a case of a very young mother and honestly I only tracked it through the child's 5th year, so it's not all that equivalent). But until the mother has put in a substantial amount of time (many more months) of working on her psychological issues, is still focused on adoption and has a grasp on the alternative paths to placing her child for adoption and still wants an open adoption as one of the options, it really shouldn't even be part of the conversation.

One last thing, this child is not really in a "terrible" situation. It is far from ideal. But its mother has access to medical care, it has responsible adults caring for its needs at home, and it has (at the least, through you) a broader community concerned with its outcomes. This baby does not need a quick fix. It needs a long, thoughtful resolution.
posted by nanojath at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


They say you should never start a business with a friend. I would imagine the same holds true for adopting a friends baby. You adopting this baby is a bad idea all around. The baby certainly need to be adopted, but not by you.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:52 AM on April 8, 2010


Social service agencies like Catholic Charities (full disclosure -- I am a foster/adoptive parent through CC) will work with parents in your friend's position. In Houston, CC offers temporary voluntary placements in foster situations for mothers who are unable to care for periods of time (jail, illness, temporay homelessness etc), they offer voluntary placement adoption, and they will take a social workers' holistic view of the situation and refer the mother for appropriate services. I'd recommend an option like that over a private adoption agency.

Also, I second finding ways to offer respite to aid the mother and her parents. Good baby training for you and you can offer material help without committing to a possibly ill-considered permanenet placement.

And while we're at it, especially since you indicated future interest in adoption, it might be worth your while to look into adoption/foster parent classes. They are usually free, provide some good basic parenting education, will help you discern any future desire to adopt, and in some cases will make you "certified" to provide official respite care for kids in foster situations. As foster parents, we were always grateful for the "weekend" respite caregivers who helped us out. And we also provided such respite care for other parents. These classes would help you know the best way to help in future situations like this -- e.g. your friends illness is not just temporary, but episodic.

And bless you for wanting to help! That is a great gift!
posted by cross_impact at 10:12 AM on April 8, 2010


Oh, and if you would like to discuss adoption/foster options further, contact me and my wife via memail. It is our priviledge to share our experiences with fostering and adoption with parents in all stages of discernment.
posted by cross_impact at 10:16 AM on April 8, 2010


Just wanted to provide a counter-example to Pufferish's story. My sixteen-year-old seriously messed up in many ways little sister had a baby who was adopted by our aunt. That was eleven years ago and the child (who knows all about her birth mom) is doing great with her adopted mom and little sister got her act together and is doing great with the two kids she had when she was ready (and who know all about their cousin/half-sister.) It certainly can work. Open adoptions can go horribly wrong, but sometimes so can closed adoptions. Matter of fact, so can having biological kids. Life is messy. Kids, doubly so.

Also, just because you weren't planning to have a child doesn't mean you aren't ready yet. Plenty of people end up with bio-kids before they had planned to and do just fine. And a child in need is a child in need, whether from Africa or down the block. Adopting a child is a beautiful and noble (but difficult) thing regardless of the origins of the child.

However, it really doesn't sound like this woman is ready to make the decision. Absolutely don't agree to anything until she is stable, particularly if she didn't start talking about adoption until after the PPD set in.

If you have the slightest suspicion that the baby is not safe or is not being cared for properly, please please please step in. This very second. Either by helping out yourself until she gets better or by alerting the authorities (or, on preview, a social service agency).
posted by Dojie at 10:20 AM on April 8, 2010


Adoption in this circumstance would be complicated, but might be a very loving act. How are the elderly parents doing? You might consider fostering the baby, formally or informally, while Mom gets treatment. This would give her an opportunity to discover what she really wants to do, as well as giving you a chance to think about it.

Has Mom used drugs or alcohol a lot during pregnancy? If yes, the baby would have a slightly more difficult time finding new parents. If the baby is healthy, there are many adoption agencies who can help the mother find a wonderful, loving new family for the child. If you choose to be that family, and allow Mom to be part of the extended family, it might be difficult, but potentially rewarding.

If there's any concern about the baby, call Child Welfare Services. They're generally good people who want the best for the baby and the Mom, and who may have a good handle on the available resources.

Babies are pretty wonderful. If somebody offered me one, I'd have a hard time saying No.
posted by theora55 at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am glad to hear she is under a doctor's care and taking medication, but if you are currently hearing things like "I can't enjoy life anymore because of the baby," please alert DHS that this baby may be in an unsafe situation. To me, this is a red flag for possible abuse, and if Mom is being left alone with the baby, even if grandparents are primary caretakers, this could be very dangerous. Thank you for being involved and concerned about the welfare of everyone involved.
posted by epj at 5:46 PM on April 8, 2010


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