Not every decision that involves putting the baby up for adoption is as straightforward as it seems. Many of the women who consider adoption for their unborn child are mothers to other children already. This makes the decision a little more complicated because it involves more than just the expectant mother’s feelings about adoption. There are other little lives to consider. How will her other children deal with putting the baby up for adoption, and how will she explain this decision to them in a way they can understand?


When children are very young, we make the mistake of thinking that they are too young to understand that they will not be impacted by decisions made by their mother. But a mom has to make all kinds of decisions while she is raising her children, and most of them have lasting impacts, often changing the trajectory of her children’s future. Just because they may be too young to remember something doesn’t mean they are not going to deal with the aftermath. And to be honest, there is not enough said about how adoption affects birth siblings. But there should be.


Other Children Deal With Putting The Baby Up For Adoption As Well As You Include Them


When I was making this decision, my daughter was three years old. Even as my belly grew, she had nothing to say about the obvious changes her mother’s body was making. I made the mistake of thinking it was because she didn’t notice. This was not true. She just didn’t know how to ask in a three-year-old’s understanding what was happening to me. When I became very obviously pregnant, she started coming into my room almost every night to sleep in my bed.


This went on for a few weeks, and I started becoming frustrated by the lack of sleep between a child in my bed and a body that made it increasingly hard to get comfortable. I started to reject her requests when she burst into tears to tell me one night that she was scared because I was sick. I sheepishly scooped her up and put her in my bed to explain that I was not sick. Mommy was just fine. But how do I explain this to her? I talked to my adoption counselor about it, and she recommended a book called Sam’s Sister by Juliet C. Bond.


Having a book to explain this in a story did give me some framework to start the conversation. Does a 3-year-old understand the complexities of needing to make an adoption plan? No. But it did give us something we needed to start talking about it and preparing us both for what was to come.


Older children will understandably have more feedback about how they will deal with putting the baby up for adoption. They may express grief and loss about the decision also. This is normal and should be allowed. Grief and loss with adoption touch everyone in the birth family, especially birth siblings.


A trained counseling professional can be instrumental in preparing the family for an adoption placement with a birth sibling. If not, a clergy member or an adoption counselor should be consulted. The important thing in this process is honesty and openness with your children.


Your Children Will Grieve Too, And It Is Okay


Placing a baby for adoption is going to be hard. There are many emotions that come during your pregnancy and after. Your grief is going to impact your other children. Along with watching you grieve and try to move on, they will be grieving too. The important thing is for you all to acknowledge and process the grief and loss.


Trying to hide your grief and making your kids feel like they need to hide theirs is not going to yield good results.


Shame dies when stories are shared in safe places. -Ann Voskamp


Birth siblings who cannot express grief feel deep shame about their mother’s decision to place their sibling for adoption. My own experience was that my daughter was allowed to talk about her sister’s adoption whenever she wanted to. I was the one who dealt with looks and comments from strangers who didn’t know our story. I handled the difficult questions that were asked by school officials who would call me to say, “Katie is talking about an imaginary sister she has.”


I was willing to sacrifice whatever dignity I had to allow my daughter to feel safe talking about her sister’s adoption. What I came to realize was that the more I normalized it for her, the more confident I felt about my decision for me.


  1. I didn’t do anything ‘wrong.’
  2. I made a hard decision for good reasons that not everyone needs to understand.
  3. My daughter was allowed to express how she felt about the adoption, always.
  4. I was not afraid of her feelings about my decision.
  5. We have an open adoption she visits with and communicates with her sister.


Open Adoption Is Best When Birth Siblings Are Involved


Kids need a couple of things to feel secure about the adoption of a sibling, and an open adoption provides them both:


Transparency -Kids need a lot of reassurance when their emotions are challenged. It is not enough to tell a kid that everything is okay with their birth sibling. They need the reassurance of knowing the baby is okay. Open adoption provides a way for birth siblings to see the baby and be reassured that all is well. Kids like to know who their sibling’s adoptive parents are. They get a lot out of getting to know them, too, and being reassured by them personally that their sibling is doing well and thriving in their care. This can look like in-person meetings, Zoom calls, pictures, or all of the above. The expectant mom is the one who gets to decide what an open adoption relationship is going to look like.


Involvement -Letting your kids know as soon as possible about your plans is going to reduce their fear about it later. Ask them to meet the prospective adoptive family before the baby is born. Ask them to help you pick out a name, even if the name is just for you all to refer to the baby. Let them help pick out some small gifts for the baby. Getting them involved lets them know it is okay and allows them to talk about their feelings more.


Let Birth Siblings And Adopted Siblings Love Each Other


I relish watching my adopted daughter and my first daughter connect in their own way. They have grown up knowing about each other, and they have their own bond on this journey. And we let them have it. Being connected to one another gives them both peace in the adoption journey and allows them both to have a piece of each other that easily could have been a great, lifetime loss.


Putting up a baby for adoption when you have kids isn’t easy, but it isn’t unsurmountable, either. Talk to a birth mother who has placed with children in her care. Listen to what she says worked and what didn’t. It can make all the difference for everyone involved.