“She gave up her baby for adoption.”
“She placed her baby for adoption.”
Both sentences convey the exact same message but they come across totally different to the reader or the listener.
“She gave up her baby for adoption” or “She gave away her baby for adoption” is a more old-school way of talking about the decision a birthmother made to place her baby for adoption. It sounds just as it reads: like the birthmother just gave up, accepted defeat, and had no choice. It also implies a lack of value for the object you are giving away and, in this case, you are referring to a baby.
In today’s world of positive adoption language and political correctness, “she placed her baby for adoption” is the more preferred way of saying the same thing. You give away things like the old pair of jeans two sizes too small laying on the closet floor. Or you give up your favorite running shoes because they have holes in them. But you don’t flippantly make the choice of adoption and subsequently “give away” your child.
I think that “give up” or “give away” can also imply that a birthmother did not want her child. Unplanned does not mean that the baby was unwanted. Most birthmothers wanted their child the minute they found out they were pregnant, even though they weren’t planning to get pregnant. Once they knew they were pregnant, they fell in love with their baby and desperately wanted to give him / her the world.
The choice to place a child for adoption is so much more than “giving away” something. It is an active choice and a heart-wrenching decision that typically requires lots of thinking, soul searching, praying, countless sleepless nights, and many tears on the part of the birthmother (or birth parents, in some cases). Once a mother comes to the decision that adoption is the best choice for herself, her baby, and her situation, then comes the task of finding a family and making an adoption plan. Many mothers spend hours looking over profiles of adoptive families. She might also take time to meet with or interview prospective adoptive parents and then ultimately choose the family she thinks will be the best fit for her child. She may also spend time getting to personally know that family before the birth of her baby. A birthmother doesn’t just carelessly give away her baby; she places her baby into the arms of the adoptive family she has chosen.
It is often times the media and those who are not an active part of the adoption community who use the “gave up” terminology. Recognizing just that, birthmother Jessalyn Bills created the #placed campaign, an awareness campaign asking other birthmothers to join and spread the word via social media that “placed” is the preferred terminology amongst most birthmothers nowadays. Many of the photos shared through Facebook and Twitter included the tag line “gave love, gave life, but never gave up.”
While most birthmothers, especially newer birthmothers, prefer using the word ‘placed’ over ‘gave up’, it’s important to know that not all birthmothers feel that way. There are some birthmothers, especially birthmothers from the baby scoop era, who felt as if they had no real choice. Consequently they prefer to use the phrase ‘gave up’. And that’s OK. It should be an individual choice as to which words fit each birthmother’s personal situation and which words best describe how they feel.