Adoption: The Difficult Decisions and the Greatest Gifts

"We were struggling and I've always heard the saying, I'f you can't afford to feed yourself, you can't afford to feed a baby,'" she said. "So that was the main factor. I just really wanted her to have a stress-free life."

Both girls seemed committed to placing their babies for adoption and moved to the Gladney Center. But it was still early in their pregnancies, and they were dealing with complicated emotions, as well as physical and hormonal changes.

Two out of every five girls who go to Gladney change their minds and decide to keep their babies. During one counseling session, Erin became unnerved when another girl she had become close to ran out of the room in tears unable to talk about her adoption plan.

"It made me realize how strong some people can seem and then, it's just like, 'Oh man, if she can't do it I don't know if I can," she said.

Choosing Prospective Parents

One of the steadying influences during this turbulent time is the Gladney Center. It provides the girls with counseling, room and board, and medical care for free.

Most important, though, according to the women living there, is that Gladney, like most adoption agencies today, gives women control by encouraging them to hand-pick the adoptive parents to raise their babies. Erin's counselor at Gladney, Paula St. John, showed Erin profile books made by couples who pay the agency an average of $25,000 dollars. The fee helps covers the womens' services and pay for background checks and processing costs.

"I wanted my child to be raised with Christian beliefs," said Erin, adding, "I wanted her to be an only child, kind of like me."

One of St. John's roles is to manage the expectations of both Erin and the prospective parents of her baby. "We try to make the match with the adoptive parent and the birth parent appropriate so that they want the same level of contact afterwards, so that there's not problems after," said St. John.

Erin would be the ultimate judge.

After looking through about a dozen profile books, she chose Mike and Wendy, a couple who had struggled with infertility and had been on Gladney's waiting list for nearly a year.

"I hate to say, but it's almost like a sales approach you're selling the mom on yourself," said Mike. "But you want to come across as genuine as you can. And that's what we tried to do, is just show everything that we could to offer."

'Nervous and Scared'

"When a birth mother meets her adoptive parents for the first time, she's got the control at that point," said St. John. "She's still carrying that child and the adoptive parents don't know whether that's gonna end up being their child in their home or not."

There was a lot at stake when Erin met Mike and Wendy for the first time, a meeting arranged by Gladney. Mike and Wendy seemed far more nervous than Erin. "We've been so nervous and scared. You are so beautiful. I'm so glad we met!" said Wendy.

Nationally, for every infant placed for adoption, there are dozens of couples hoping to adopt. Approximately 22,000 infants are adopted by non-relatives each year. And the adoption isn't final until Erin signs the adoption papers after the baby is born.

Brookanne, meanwhile, had also picked what she thought was the perfect couple to adopt her baby. Their names were John and Dana and they had already adopted two baby girls from Gladney.

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