The Pain that Comes While Waiting During the Holiday Season


The holidays are upon us. In the past I have loved every moment of the family focused season from decorating the house to tons of gatherings with family and friends. This year it feels a bit different. I’m still excited for most things but as this is the first year that we will be experiencing the holidays as a waiting adoptive family, I’m already feeling an aching of sorts in my heart.

My husband and I experience things differently and so he isn’t worried about how to survive the holidays this year like I am. And that’s ok. I feel guilty many times when I confront this deep feeling inside. It’s the holidays, I should be happy. Someday I will get to experience them as a Mom. But honestly those thoughts don’t stop my feelings of sadness or anxiety. We have been waiting in the books for close to a year and while I know people who have been waiting much longer and also those who got picked just a few months after going in the books, it’s very personal for me. I experienced a similar feeling this past summer when I attended a dear friend’s baby shower. They were so excited and she was glowing and while I was I was absolutely thrilled for her and her husband, I was so sad for myself.

That’s when it really hit me that for many, there is a duality in most big events. For those who have lost family members, the holidays can be extremely hard. For women who have chosen adoption, Mother’s Day as well as many other holidays can be really rough. It’s not that there must be only one or the other. Both happiness and sadness can live in the same moment.

So, I made my very own survival guide for this year:

Counting my blessings in a unique way

I have come up with a list of things that I can do easily this holiday season that would be harder to do if I had a little one. For example, I can join my other crazy friends who will be waiting outside Best Buy at 3am this year to snag that really awesome gift I’m going to surprising my husband with. Another thing on my list is all the traveling we do for a few days right before and after Christmas. While driving from my in-laws house to my parents, we take a 2 hour detour to hit up a town saturated with antique shops. I’m not sure I’ll want to be on the road as much once we have a little one joining our road trips. It may seem silly to some but celebrating these little things as if they could be my last have eased some of my anxiety. I also add one thing I’m glad not to have to do yet – that darn Elf on the Shelf. I see parents posting bloopers about times they forgot to move the elf and the excuses they gave their children for it being in the same place. It’s something I’d like to do when I have a child who might have fun with the idea but for now I’m happy only have to remember to lock the door and shut off the lights before going to bed.

Knowing My Triggers & Being Honest about My Feelings

As the invites to special gatherings pour in, I’m choosing to be honest with myself about my triggers and what may or may not be good to commit too. I don’t want to bring anyone else down but I do want to protect myself in some ways. This year, I’m choosing to decline a friend’s invite for a party the weekend after Thanksgiving to welcome home their newborn son. I just know that it might be too hard for me this year as many of the strangers will be asking how I know my friend and if my husband and I have children as well. However, I have already made plans to stop by their house myself earlier in the week with food to greet their newest addition. The point is not to have a woe-is-me attitude but to identify things that might really be painful this year and navigate around them.

Find Support in Other Waiting Families

Throughout the adoption process, I have become close to a few other couples and singles who are pursing adoption. I reached out to them with a simple two-line email letting them know that I’m not sure if they are dreading the holidays in the same way I am but that I’d love to come together in support with anyone who is. I immediately got a response from two of them and the three of us have created a text thread so when we are feeling blah, we send each other a message.

The other day I got an email about an event our church was hosting for new families during the holidays. I texted my friends with a screen shot of the flyer followed by Bah Humbug. One of the women replied with humor reminding me that being Scrooge isn’t all bad as he often spent his nights swimming in a pool of gold. The other friend said that unlike the millionaire duck, her money would only fill a baby pool and so it’s a good thing she is only 5’2”. The joke continued for most of the day easing my original feelings of sadness and later that night we actually met at the YMCA to go for a “support swim.” Of course, I don’t feel down all the time. It just hits me sometimes but I’ve found humor is a great way to get the feelings out while also connecting with those who truly “get” it.

 Seeing the Future Joy of Celebrating the Holidays Together as a Family

Ultimately, I’m choosing to look into the future with excitement. There will be a Thanksgiving in the future when I’m holding a little one in my arms while trying to devour turkey and stuffing while it’s still warm. Someday I will have a third stocking added to our mantel on Christmas Eve. When I am finally a mother, I will love seeing my child play with their cousins at my parent’s house. I know there is so much in store for our future and when the time is right it will happen. Until then I have bundled up for the cold and have prepared as best I can for the highs and lows this year may bring.

My ultimate wish for all those having a tough time during the holidays – whether it’s a birthparent who is missing their child, someone who has lost a loved or family members who are estranged – is for peace, love, and laughter even if it’s when we are laughing at ourselves.


A Guide to Meeting an Expectant Mother for the First Time

First impressions are crucial and they are even more important when you are meeting an expectant mother who is considering you for adoption. This is a nerve wrecking stage in adoption. You wrack your mind with questions such as: “Will she like me?”, “What do I say?”, and “What should I wear?”. This is your big shot at becoming a parent and you don’t want to let it slip through your fingers. Below is a guide of do’s and don’ts when meeting an expectant mother for the first time.


  • Be yourself
  • Find a comfortable location
  • Don’t just talk but listen
  • Bring photos of your family and pets
  • Be honest and respectful
  • Dress professional
  • Ask questions
  • Be open-minded and optimistic


  • Make prejudgments
  • Be insensitive
  • Meet at an unfamiliar location
  • Rush her to make a decision
  • Jump right into tough questions
  • Lie

Meeting a potential birth mother can be scary and it is important to be prepared. Remember that it is just a meeting and there is no guarantee that you will hit it off. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to grow your family and it will happen when the time is right. Adoption is both an exciting and nerve-wrecking time for all members of the adoption triad, so be sure to stay open-minded and be yourself!

Adoptee Speaks Out About Her Adoption Story!

Q&A with Maddie O’Brien who we had the pleasure of speaking with about her journey through finding out she was adopted. Maddie is a nursing student at Desales University.

How long have you known you were adopted?

I have known for as long as I can remember. I don’t remember being told a certain day or at a certain age— it’s just something that I’ve always known.

Do you remember how you were told?

My mom used to read this book to my brother and I when we were little called How I Was Adopted. She also used to tell us bedtime stories repeatedly pertaining to our adoptions. My story always was that I came home through the PHL airport, and every single person in my family who met me there ALL got sick— fever, chills and profuse vomiting. My dad, who is a teacher, had a surprise baby shower for me the next day and there was a “beautiful cake that said Welcome Maggie” (my name is Maddie haha) and the sight of that cake made my dad throw up even more.

Maddie and her father.

Maddie and her mother.

Were you adopted as an infant?

I was adopted at six months old through Pearl Buck. I was born on March 26th and my Gotcha day is October 1st.


Do you have other siblings that were adopted?

I have an older brother who is from Korea and was also adopted at six months old through Pearl Buck. We are not blood related even though everyone swears we look alike. We are 18 months apart and we are best friends.

Maddie and older brother Jerry.

Have you met your birth mother or father?

I have not met my birth mother or father although I wouldn’t be opposed to it. I unfortunately had a closed adoption so it’s very hard to find your parents in that case. My friend, who was always so intrigued about my culture and my birth parents, would constantly do research about Korean adoptees and eventually found this group I could be a part of through Facebook called Korean Adoptees of America. This is a closed and private Facebook group where people can share their stories about their adoption and our culture. Through this group, you can be sent a DNA kit in hopes to find your birth parents in Korea. Supposedly there is a huge desire in South Korea where parents who gave their children up for adoption are yearning to find their birth children. Parents who are in that situation were given free DNA kits, as well as Korean American adoptees in hopes that they will be connected. I requested a DNA kit and it’s actually sitting on my desk right now. I am very apprehensive to take it. Although it would be cool to see if I could find my birth parents or any other siblings I may have, it’s not super important to me because I love my parents and brother here. Those people are my family and DNA is the least of what makes someone family. My friend and I have tentative plans to visit South Korea next summer.


What is your adopted family like?

They are amazing. They have given me a life I couldn’t have ever dreamt of. My mom and dad are both teachers and my brother is a business finance student at LaSalle University. My Irish Catholic parents have raised my brother and I to have great morals and have blessed us with an amazing house, education, amazing vacations and best of all, their endless love.

Mom, dad, Jerry and maddie

Any advice or words of wisdom you live by? comments

I read this quote one time that said, “if the world was blind, who would you impress”. That quote stuck with me ever since because something I am a huge believer in is good character. Also, it is crazy because I didn’t think that answering these questions would bring back so many emotions and thoughts I haven’t even thought of. I still have my bag that I came home from Korea with- it has two outfits, a bottle and a blanket. And I looked at my birth certificate and it said that I was 2.3 pounds when I was born which is so crazy.

Maddie and Jerry today.



Prospective Adoptive Couple Opening Themselves Up to Being “Catfished”

There was recently a news article out of North Dakota featuring an adoptive couple who fell victim to an adoption scam. The family decided to pursue an identified adoption which means they themselves are responsible for finding an expecting mother who is considering adoption. Families often do this by way of social media. The problem is that this route to adoption also opens up emotionally vulnerable prospective adoptive parents to scammers. This couple in particular were contacted by a pregnant woman reaching out about placing her child only to find that the ultrasound photos she had sent to confirming pregnancy was pulled from a Google search. Unfortunately, it’s not a new story. This particular couple discovered the scam before they offered financial assistance and lost money in the process.

Prospective adoptive parents may steer towards an independent adoption first and foremost based on the lower costs associated with the process. Unfortunately, the cost gap isn’t the only difference and a higher risk of being scammed isn’t the only pitfall. Even those couples who choose to work with a facilitator should do their due diligence and know some of the downfalls of working solely with a facilitator as outlined here.

The National Council For Adoption insists that both expectant parents considering an adoption plan and prospective parents hoping to adopt to work only with licensed nonprofit adoption agencies and attorneys.

From Our Experience (those using facilitators):

It is disheartening when couples contact AFTH in a state of emergency looking for an agency to complete their adoption already in process because after receiving a match through a facilitator they have now learned the expecting mother’s state makes it illegal to use facilitators. 15 different states have such laws. Unfortunately, the adoptive family is now in a position of needing to hire an adoption agency on top of the fees they have already paid the facilitator making the process more expensive instead of less than working with an agency from beginning to end. Not to mention, if the adoption falls through, facilitators and matching services often do not extend credit towards another match. Typically their fees are deemed earned when the match occurs no matter the outcome.

Pitfalls for Expecting Parents too:

The prospective adoptive parents are not the only ones who are at risk of getting a raw deal when choosing to work without an agency. More often than not, expecting parents do not receive any sort of professional counseling. This is one of the most important decisions of someone’s life yet they don’t have the opportunity to have a counselor who is there is advocate for their needs to walk them through every step of the process. Not having counseling is a huge downside for expecting parents and also puts the prospective adoptive parents at a higher risk of a disappointment or disruption as well.


Recently, AFTH has been contacted by several families to assist them with situations they have been matched for and need an agency to continue with the process. On more than one occasion, when working with both the prospective adoptive parents and excepting parents our social workers have discovered that they are not as close as a match as they had been lead to believe. Differences in desired openness or drug/alcohol usage, mental health backgrounds etc. created gaps between expectations and realities. One party is then put in the awkward position of having to decide to walk away or continue even though it’s not good match.

Anytime prospective adoptive parents seek to connect directly with expecting parents without the help of an agency, they can sometimes give into the temptation of the carrot dangling before them without fully vetting the situation. Meaning they can be contacted by someone who isn’t a strong match for what they were open to but because there is the light at the end of the tunnel of waiting they might be tempted to quickly say yes even if it is outside of their comfort zone. When working with an agency, they act as the intermediary to make sure matches are a good fit for everyone involved.

State Regulations:

There is a reason that adoption agencies undergo licensing and are required to adhere to strict state adoption regulations. Organizations that solely serve as a matching vessel are able to skirt around those requirements while unfortunately putting both the expecting and prospective adoptive parents at risk.

Finding What’s Best for Your Family:

Each family needs to find what best fits their own needs. If you are considering a matching service, facilitator or going it completely on your own and foregoing an adoption agency or attorney, please be sure to do your research so you are aware of the potential risks you may be exposed to. The adoption process is complicated and riddled with many unknowns. An adoption agency is there to advocate for and protect all parties involved in the adoption. Don’t be caught off-guard by being underinformed about the entire process from start to finish.

If you would like to contact one of our adoption social workers to talk more about your situation, call 800.355.5500


Tips for an Open Adoption

 The most common types of adoption agreements are open, semi-open, and closed. Each of these agreements affect you and your child differently. With an open and/or semi-open adoption agreement, fostering a relationship with your child’s birth parents is important. This is the biggest distinction between open and closed agreements. Given the open nature of this adoption agreement, the child can explore their background more freely. However, when discovering they are adopted, children often need support and reassurance. There are helpful tips from both the birth and adoptive parent viewpoint to consider at each stage in the adoption journey.

Before Placement – From a Birth Parent’s Perspective

Before you place your child, try to form a relationship with the adoptive parents and have a clear understanding about how involved you would like to be in the child’s life. You guys can plan the first couple of visits with each other. Talk about the frequency of visits, photographs, and updates during the child’s life. Of course these plans may change as the child gets older, but do your best to be understanding and flexible with the situation at hand. If both parties are consistent, this will also offer peace of mind to the child(ren).

After Placement – From a Birth Parent and Adoptive Parent’s Perspective

“I just placed my child up for adoption, now what?!” After placing your child in an adoptive parents’ care, there are a ton of questions running through a birth mother’s head about what’s next: “Will they stick to our agreement?” “Is my child going to understand my decision?” “What can I do to make this experience better?” With so many lingering questions, it is easy to be overwhelmed with emotions. Remember, you are not alone in this situation. There are other birth parents experiencing these same feelings.

As the adoptive parent(s), be sensitive to the birth parent(s)’ emotions. They have empty arms, changing hormones, bodily pain, and potential postpartum depression. While on the other end, as the adoptive parent(s), you are filled with excitement because of your new addition to the family. Keep in mind the grief the birth parent(s) may be feeling at this time, so don’t be alarmed if they begin to pull away. Try to be sensitive to their feelings and respect their needed time and/or space.

 If They (The Birth Parents) Begin to Become Distant

Don’t feel at all offended when a birth parent seems to be become distant or taking time for themselves. This could be a very confusing time for them and they may be feeling a sense of grief or anger. This is very normal in most adoption cases and can occur at any time, even years after the adoption.

Although they maybe distant and pulling away, keep the lines of communication open. They may not respond, but that is okay. Seeing that you put forth effort may encourage them to respond eventually. It is important to not bombard them repeatedly. Have patience and reassure them that they are welcome in their child’s life.

Stay In Touch

In the adoption journey, it is good to stay in touch, keeping in mind that the birth mother is no different than anyone else. Most likely, they have their own issues and events in their lives. There is no harm in becoming a friend to them. Do your best to show that you are interested in their lives and care about what is going on. If you are both comfortable, set a date where just the two of you go out for lunch or meet in the park. This can be a great way for you to get to know each other better and bond over things you have in common.

In the end, adoption plans don’t always go as expected but remember to be considerate. Enjoy those precious moments to remind you during hard times. Ultimately, both the birth and adoptive parents want what is best for the child – unconditional love.

Adoptive Parents Offer Open Adoption Advice to Prospective Adoptive Parents

For those  just beginning the process, open adoption can seem scary at first. We asked AFTH’s Facebook followers:

What is your advice to those just beginning the process? What would you tell them about open adoption?

Here are their responses:

Zarah: As a birthmother, it is very difficult at first. You are very unsure the relationship and where you stand. But as time goes on and I got more comfortable, it is a wonderful blessing. Figure out the amount of openness you would like, and as time grows so does the relationship.

Erin: We went into adoption with the mindset that we would have a closed adoption. From the first moment that we met our child’s birthmother, we feel in love with her and all of our fears of “open adoption” were gone. It’s an incredible feeling to know that when/if our daughter ever has a question about her birth family, we have access to get those questions answered for her by loving people that want nothing more in life than to see her prosper.

Ashley: The expecting mother that chooses you as the adoptive family will feel the same way. Wondering if they are choosing the right family. Talk to as many adoptive parents as you can and hear all of the fears and joy! The classes are amazing and the information and knowledge you receive is priceless.

***click here to see upcoming Open Adoption Panel details**

Joni: When my daughter decided to place my grandson for adoption, I was devastated, but she chose Open Adoption. It’s the best decision she ever made in her life. It wasn’t the end like I thought. When you do your face to face meeting, make sure you get all your questions on the table and out so there are no questions in your mind when you leave.

Kevin: I would advise people to examine their fears and find common threads with birth families. Are you feeling you won’t get picked or that you are being judged by strangers? Birth families might be struggling with those same issues. Are you worried that you will be picked by someone who, as the TV movie scripts go, changes their mind? Birth families have to put a tremendous amount of faith in you, too, and hope that you won’t “change your mind” as well. You and your child’s birthparents — because you WILL get picked — are always going to have one thing in common: All of you will always put your child’s needs first. So you might as well find common ground from the get go.

Dina: There are so many varying degrees of open adoption. The openness of each situation is really a comfort level between birth family and the adoptive family. It will also change and develop as your child grows.

Mitzki: Open adoption can mean a LOT of things, from limited contact through an agency to complete openness, to the many places in between. As far as starting the process, educate yourself as best you can, ask questions, and make copies of everything!

Pamela: The cons of open adoption seem to be about the communication and social issues between adoptive and birth parents. While the pros all seem to point to possible benefits to the adoptee and to the overall best interest of the child. You can work through any “cons” if both sets of parents always put the child first.

Sharon: Fear is a normal part of an open adoption, but the benefits completely outweigh any fears that you may have. Go with an open mind and not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how small or silly you may think it might be.

Cynthia: When my husband and I first heard of open adoption it scared us to death. Would someone come and just knock on our door to see our child? We learned through our info sessions and talking to other adoptive families how unique this journey could be. Two unique journeys and a very huge family now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Melissa: We looked at “open” adoption as an amazing gift. We often thought about how the birth mother must feel about placing her baby and how scary it is for her… this way she would always know how her baby is doing and growing.

Stephanie: My first bit of advice is to meet with couples who have been through the process. Listen to their stories; ask very open and honest questions about their process. The process can be very overwhelming and it’s certainly educational. You learn a lot about yourself during this time. It is a very emotional journey but certainly one worth taking.

So as you can see, open adoption means so many different things to so many people. Over and over again, AFTH social workers hear adoptive parents say how fearful they were of open adoption but how that fear began to disappear once they learned of the benefits and heard from others with open adoptions. So take time to listen to the voices of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees involved in open adoption.

How to Spot An Adoption Scam

When we think of adoption, we think of someone choosing to grow their family. We think of the expectant mother who wants to give her child a better life. We think of a child receiving love from all angles. Rarely, do we consider a person taking advantage of someone’s need or want to adopt. It is sad to say, but adoption scams happen all the time! Scary, right?! But don’t worry, we are going to give you helpful tips on how to spot warning signs and red flags down below.

Warning Signs

One of the first warning signs you could receive is a vague or questionable email address and subject title. If you receive an email with a subject titled “Baby waiting for you!”, an eyebrow and a question should be raised. If the email address ends in,,, or anything other than the company’s name, make sure to do your research on the facilitator or agency. Also, beware of generic messages. These are emails that lack specifics. You could be one of many receiving the same message. The usual scammer makes their first point of contact via email.

A sure-fire warning sign is the recipient requesting money. Money should never be exchanged without discussing it with an adoption professional first. At this point, all communication should cease until you speak with an adoption professional. The recipient may also request a plane ticket. This is common for overseas scams. The recipient may explain they want to have their baby in your country. Only problem is the baby may not actually exist or the recipient does not plan to complete the adoption process.

An expecting mother approaching you about adopting her twins could tug at your heart strings. Unfortunately, this is a classic scam that happens around major, sentimental holidays like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. Scammers rely on these holidays to lower your guard. They hope you want a child bad enough that you will agree to the situation quickly with little to no objection.


Red Flags

  • Pressure to sign documents you don’t understand.
  • If any guarantees are made.
  • If they rush to the topic of you paying expenses.
  • If they refuse to meet with the adoption professional or agency.
  • If agency or facilitator refuses to return your phone calls or emails.
  • If birth mother doesn’t provide proof of pregnancy.
  • If agency or facilitator says they will be in touch with you instead of giving their phone number.
  • If anyone is selling a baby online for money.



Whether you choose to go through an agency or use an adoption professional make sure to do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company or the professional. Learn your legal rights to adoption. You can join groups online that discuss tips on how to avoid adoption fraud. If you are a prospective adoptive parent here are a few ways to avoid “Birth Mother Scams”. Set up a phone conversation. Get confirmation of pregnancy. You can request a copy of her ultrasound. If she can’t send it or doesn’t want to, find out if your adoption professional has the right paper work to request the ultrasound. If she refuses to speak with your adoption professional and refuses to send an ultrasound, things may not be as they seem. When in doubt always contact your agency or adoption professional. They have more experience in these situations and can help you navigate through the process. Adoption professionals don’t have any emotional attachments to the situation, so they can ask the expectant mother the hard questions.

Relax & Breathe…

Don’t let the possibility of a scam scare you away from adoption. Adoption is a great way to expand your family. Just keep in mind, never jump into a situation that seems too good to be true. Do your own research on whomever you choose to use as an agency or as an adoption professional. Take the time to learn adoption laws in the state you reside. Find adoption information meetings that you can attend to familiarize yourself with the process. It’s unfortunate, scams like these make adoptive parents leery of posting their profiles, specifically on the internet. Remember, that the internet is just a tool being used. Scams can happen at any time, on any platform, and can involve professionals. I can’t say it enough… DO YOUR RESEARCH!