What I learned from a failed adoption

My husband and I experienced a failed infant adoption a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to write this before I forget the details of what this experience was like so that anyone out there who is considering adoption or has gone through this can hear the raw and authentic experience.

Since receiving the news, I've had random moments of mourning, and it feels like someone died. Although I was mentally prepared for either outcome, intellectualized what transpired, and truly hold the belief that everything happens exactly as it is meant to, it still hurts in a way I can't fully describe.

I've had random moments of mourning and it feels like someone died.

Here is what I learned for the next time we are matched/adopt:

We drank the Koolaide.

I listened to many adoption podcasts, and my husband and I took mandatory classes with our home study adoption agency, preaching the benefits and amazing experience of open adoption. They never discussed the downsides or realities of when open adoption is not so peachy. We were hesitant about open adoption at first but then came around to the idea because our placement agency in Florida told us that we probably wouldn't get matched unless we agreed to one.

They never discussed or acknowledged the risks, downsides, or realities of when open adoption is not so peachy.

We got seduced by a too-good-to-be-true situation.

We were matched with a healthy teenage birth mom from a middle-class family, and she requested a very open adoption (which, in retrospect, I think was a red flag). Soon after the match, we were given a one-day notice to meet her and her family and told this was the only day they had available; excited and not wanting to miss this opportunity, we booked a last-minute flight and accommodations ($$$). We met her and her parents. The situation seemed solid; a teenager got pregnant by her boyfriend and wasn't in a place to be a parent yet. We jumped with joy to have her and her family in our lives and guzzled the open adoption Koolaide. After we flew home, we communicated with her and sent her gifts over the next three months in addition to paying her counseling, clothing, and medical expenses. I felt we developed a good relationship, and as the due date approached, she asked us to come down and expressed that she may even want me at the hospital.

We were jumping with joy to have her and her family in our lives and guzzled the open adoption Koolaide.

Flying down for the birth.

We let her know we would fly down to Florida for the birth, and she seemed onboard. We bought a bunch of baby stuff and packed a large suitcase just for the baby. We also hauled a car seat and stroller. We purchased a plane ticket for my mother-in-law to join us, and the three of us ventured down to Florida, our overflowing luggage in tow.

open adoption

After two days of waiting in Florida, we got a call from our agency representative. She told us that the birth mom had the baby yesterday, and she wanted to take the baby home to "try out" parenting for a few days before she signs the adoption papers. I felt my heartbreak at that moment, and both my husband and I were in shock.


I felt my heartbreak at that moment and both my husband and I were in shock.

Ambiguity is worse than rejection.

The agency representative tried to maintain a hopeful attitude. She said that after a couple of days of the birth mom's "trial parenting," she may choose to place the baby. Although we knew in our hearts that this was over, that slight glimmer of hope was agonizing. More days passed, and my husband and I discussed the situation and decided that we would give the birth mom one more day to "try out" parenting before deciding to walk away from this match. The day came, and she told the agency that she had decided to raise this child. Although I was devastated when I got the call, I also felt relief to begin to move on. I am still feeling these twinges of pain throughout the day, as I imagine the life that would be going on right now, and is not.

We didn't know what we didn't know.

We have never adopted before, and this was our first match. We didn't know what to expect. Now that we have had this experience, these are a few more things we want to do differently for the next match (if we try to adopt again):

  • We will meet the birth mother (unfortunately, our agency requires it), but we will have minimal email contact until she has signed away her rights so that we don't over-develop a relationship with her. In this failed adoption, we didn't just lose a baby; we also lost the birth mom with who we had grown close. That made this much more painful.

  • We will request to have a zoom meeting first before we fly down to meet the birth mom in person. Our agency expressed they don't like this approach but we spent a lot of money meeting the first birth mom and taking her family out for meals and a spa day.

  • We will not spend any money sending gifts to the birth mom or dad before we are placed. Truthfully, I feel a bit resentful about how generous we were towards the birth mom and what transpired at the end. We also spent a lot of money on her.

  • We will not agree to pay for any extras for the birth mother during her pregnancy. We paid for an optional 3D ultrasound for the first birth mom, and it was expensive.

  • We will not 100% agree to visits before the adoption takes place. That type of situation may naturally evolve, but we can't agree to that level of openness before the baby is even born.

  • We will ask the agency to give us more honest and straightforward information.

  • If the birth mom is more than a month away from her due date, we will ask the agency how many times the birth mom has come in for counseling before we agree to the match. If she has only come in once, we may ask for her to come in a couple more times first.


Next time, we will not fly down before the baby is born and the papers are signed. Nor will we bring down the stroller or car seat. We can just buy an inexpensive one there. Hauling the empty car seat and stroller back was heartbreaking. We also won't bring any family or friends with us before the papers are signed or maybe at all.

Money spent and the Adoption Tax Credit.

According to our tax accountant, the costs incurred with this failed adoption will roll into the total costs incurred once we make a successful adoption and we can apply for the Federal Adoption Tax Credit. If we end up not adopting, the money we spent on this failed adoption will qualify for the tax credit. It is claimed the year after the incurred expenses, so in our case, we would file it in 2023 when we file our 2022 taxes. I found this article as well but it wasn't quite as clear as the information from our accountant.

All-in-all we spent about $15,000 on this failed adoption. We will find ways to minimize costs for the next one.

Adoption agencies are businesses at the end of the day.

From my limited experience, I think adoption agencies, in an attempt to make a successful match, push some things to be promised to the other party that maybe shouldn't. This was a shitty experience for sure and a great learning experience for next time and other life situations.

We are now excited to try for a biological child.

Justin and I chose adoption as our first choice and have not explored having a biological child before. This failed adoption was painful enough to open our eyes to the benefits of having a biological child so we decided to have Justin's vasectomy reversed next month. Since I am just about 35 and our fertility years are limited, we are going to put adopting on hold for a while we try for a biological child. We may explore adoption again in the future.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please share below in the comments.


#openadoption #failedadoption