The young mother cradled the baby in her arms one last time before handing her so carefully to the baby's new mom. The young mother, braced against the onslaught of guilt she expected at that moment, was almost stunned when what came was mostly relief. This baby, wonderfully healthy and happy, wouldalways be her baby; but now she was placing her into the care of people who would love and protect and provide for her, as she herself could not.

Parenting the baby had never been a possibility; but she had tended her so lovingly throughout her pregnancy that she knew the baby had gotten the best start possible, and now had the promise of a happy future. I have done the very best I could for my baby, she smiled inwardly.

Few moments in life are more difficult and confusing than suddenly finding yourself unexpectedly pregnant. Just a short time ago the future did not at all include the many responsibilities of being a mom.

Should a woman find herself in such a position, no available option presents an easy way out. Abortion may seem to provide a fast and easy remedy, but many women feel deeply uncomfortable with this choice. A majority, in fact, choose not to exercise it.

Of those who choose to have the baby, over 95% parent the child themselves. However, becoming a mom, whether married or single, involves a tremendous commitment. Often school and career plans get derailed—permanently.

Many young women who find themselves in this position frequently do not know all the options available to them. The Adoption Handbook® provides information about adoption that birth parents, particularly birth mothers, ought to know, but rarely have an opportunity to learn.

Frequently young women, their family and friends, know very little of what the adoption process involves; and that little knowledge tends to be more misleading than informing. Adoption has changed dramatically in just the past decade, significantly improving the process for all parties: the adoptive parents; the child; and particularly the birth mother.
For decades before the 1980s nearly all adoptions were confidential, or "closed:" adoptive parents and the birth mother were kept strictly separate and secret from each other, with records permanently sealed or "closed." Until the 1960s, the vast majority of children born out of wedlock, particularly to teen-aged mothers, were placed for adoption.

In those days birth mothers who chose adoption for their babies were given little or no choice of adoptive parents. During the 1960's and 1970's, however, women were given greater personal control over unplanned pregnancies through birth control and abortion on demand, while at the same time the social stigma of being a single mother largely disappeared. Rather suddenly, far fewer babies were being placed for adoption.

But infertility affects as many as 15% of all couples; and though better treatments for infertility are now available, about the same proportion of infertile couples continue to look to adoption as a route to building a family.

The current great surplus of adoptive parents often enables a birth mother, if she desires, to choose amongst a group of prospective adoptive parents. While some birth mothers still prefer the privacy and simplicity of confidential adoption, many now participate in selecting their baby's adoptive parents.

The active role that a birth mother may take in selecting her baby's adoptive parents is discussed in the following pages, along with other topics of vital concern to pregnant women considering adoption:

• Financial aid in dealing with lost wages and increased medical, transportation, clothing, and other costs of pregnancy

• Counseling: the uniquely powerful need for it throughout the adoption process

• Legal rights and responsibilities, including the birth father's

Precisely because abortion represents a relatively swift and simple resolution to an unplanned pregnancy, carrying a baby through birth and completing an adoption plan stands as an act of most extraordinary courage and love. Perhaps no gesture expresses motherhood in its most purely loving form.