I Know Open Adoption Isn’t About Giving Up Your Baby But Google Doesn’t

adoption-not-about-giving-up-baby-for-adoptionLet’s start off this post a little differently, with a quiz. Complete the following phrase: Open adoption means

a) giving up your baby for adoption; or
b) placing your baby for adoption

If you’ve read my posts, you know where I stand on the issue. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Open adoption isn’t about giving up your baby.

But Google, the world’s powerful search engine and the portal that most people use to research and begin their journey into adoption, has a different way of looking at things. And that could affect the wording of posts, and especially headlines, on this blog in the future. All of a sudden you may find the phrase “giving up your baby for adoption” popping up on a regular basis.

In this post I’d like to explain why.

Recently I was on an adoption discussion forum in which a woman who found herself unexpectedly pregnant was looking for advice about how to give up her baby for adoption. In fact, those were the exact words she used in the headline: “Giving up my baby for adoption.”

Responses were split down the middle. One camp offered her support and advice, while the other said she was making the biggest mistake of her life and did their best to talk her out of her decision.

Forums, especially those dealing with issues as polarizing as adoption, are like that. They have a way of reducing complicated issues into heated “either/or” propositions. Depending on their personal experience, users are either “for” or “against” adoption. There’s no middle ground.

Meanwhile, while this debate was raging on another discussion was quietly bubbling on the sidelines. Some people took offence to the woman’s choice of words and gently — for the most part anyway — reminded her that in open adoption women don’t give up a baby. They place them in loving homes.

Looking back, I have no idea how I found myself in the middle of that discussion. All I can tell you it wasn’t by typing “giving up my baby” into Google. The internet is one big rabbit hole. Where you start isn’t always where you end up. In my case, one link led to another and, well, eventually that’s where I landed.

“Giving a baby up for adoption.”

When most people hear about a woman with an adoption plan, that’s what they think of. But framing her decision in those terms is both inaccurate and disrespectful. For starters, it ignores the care and consideration that goes into making an adoption plan.

Not only does it do a disservice to the women who have placed their babies and are proud of their decision, it scares the heck of the hopeful adoptive parents who, having jumped through all kinds of hoops in order to become adoption-ready, are now expected to have a relationship with them.

In fact, most women who place their baby in an open adoption do so only after they’ve

  • considered all of their options, including parenting
  • carried their baby for nine months and given them the best care possible
  • spent hours going over profiles of adoptive parent profiles before narrowing the list down to the one family they believe would love their baby as much as they would

Is that giving a baby up for adoption?

I don’t think so. And I’m not alone in thinking it. No matter which way you look at it, making an open adoption plan is a loving decision — it’s about putting your baby’s interests before your own. And when you consider the pain and loss that women experience when they place and the way that society looks upon them, in many ways it’s a courageous decision as well.

Still, the “giving up” label sticks. Why?

As many people, most notably James Gritter, have noted, society doesn’t know what to make of women with an adoption plan. They typecast them as cruel and uncaring. What kind of mother would give up her baby? They equate adoption with abandonment.

And though there are babies in public and international adoption that are abandoned, open adoption is different. In open adoption, expectant mothers not only get to choose their parents. They often have an ongoing relationship with them after the placement.

Part of the “giving up” mentality, I think, is a holdover from the closed adoption era, when women had limited or no choices. Instead, they were forced to give up their babies and told to go on with their lives and forget their children ever existed. As if that were possible.

Today, the media and movies perpetuate that kind of thinking about adoption.

Even though the process has changed and become more transparent and accountable, opinions about it haven’t. Many people are stick stuck in the past. To them, adoption, and open adoption, is still about giving up babies.

That was recently brought home to me when I was doing keyword research for some Google ads. “Give up baby for adoption” was one of the most popular phrases that showed up in the results. By comparison, the interest in “placing a baby for adoption” was negligible.

As I delved deeper into the issue, I soon realized that even though most adoption agencies didn’t use “giving up” in their literature and specifically argued against its use, the keywords they used to trigger their ads told a different story.

They discovered the same thing that many anti-birthmother groups that liberally sprinkle the words “birthmother” throughout their websites have learned about Google: the words that people plug into search engines are different from the ones we would like them to use. In order to be found, in order to be seen, you need to come around and use the same keywords that people do.

So if you start seeing the phrase “giving up a baby” instead of “placing a baby” suddenly showing up on this blog, my apologies. It’s not a cop-out. Or at least I hope it’s not. It’s just that I’ve come around. Even though I know full well that open adoption doesn’t mean giving up a baby for adoption, Google doesn’t.

I’d love to hear what you have to say. What do you think of the phrase “giving up a baby for adoption?” What message do you think it sends out? What do you use instead? Please leave your comments in the section below.