blue valentine

So, hey, you’re pregnant. And it’s not welcome news, because you’re in college and hope to go to medical school.

You’re not sure if the champion sperm belongs to the scruffy-cute ukelele player or the asshole college wrestler. (But you kind of know it’s the wrestler.) Neither is exactly well-positioned for fatherhood.

You live with your parents. Let’s be frank; your family is not great. Your dad is an asshole. Your mom is a doormat. I doubt they’re much help right now.

We don’t see a lot of your deliberation process, but you decide to get an abortion. Then, just as the procedure is starting, you call it off. And that’s fine. Choice means choice. The doctor, nurse and everything about that clinic seemed appropriately sober and professional.

You decide to marry ukelele guy. I won’t offer any spoilers about how that turns out.

I’m actually writing to call your attention to one other undramatized choice: adoption.

Yes: it would have messed up the plot of your movie. But in terms of the plot of your life, I think it could have worked out pretty well.

Many young women in your situation would be wise to keep adoption in the mix. But I can’t blame them if they don’t strongly consider it. Movies and TV shows generally do a crappy job portraying adoption, either ignoring it as a choice or getting the details wrong.

For instance, maybe you watch Glee.

Quinn’s first-season pregnancy seemed fairly well-handled — given that it’s a show in which characters break into song without practice or provocation. But Glee whiffs it in the last minutes, sending the infant off to live with a troubled diva for thematic convenience rather than logical sense. That’s not how it works.

So, Cindy, I want to talk you through what would actually happen if you or another woman in your situation considered adoption.

And since this happens to be a site aimed at film and television writers, it might be a handy guide to how to portray such scenarios.

How it actually works

First, you’d probably Google “adoption” (or “private adoption”) and quickly realize that there are a bunch of agencies that try to match up pregnant women with people hoping to adopt children. A lot of them are essentially attorneys who specialize in adoption.

They’re not attorneys in the scary sense. They’re attorneys in the getting-things-done-legally sense.

Clicking through the websites, you’d read the FAQs. You’d realize that a pregnant woman has her pick of families, each of which has written a letter to potential birth mothers explaining who they are and why they’re hoping to adopt a child. They’re not strangers. There’s no mystery. And in order to adopt, they all had to go through state screening.

If you called the number on the site, you’d speak to a case worker who would talk you through the process and answer your questions.

And you should ask a lot of questions. Let’s be clear: the agency and the case workers are getting paid by the prospective parents. Strictly speaking, that’s who they’re working for. But you hold all the cards. The agency’s job is to match pregnant women with prospective parents so that everyone has a good experience.

If you get a bad vibe from an agency, keep looking. You have your choice of places.

If you decided to go ahead with the process, you’d read a big pack of letters from prospective parents (all addressed “Dear Birth Mother”) and pick one who seemed like a good fit. Depending on the situation, you might hang out with them for a while before giving birth. Or not. There are a lot of ways it can work, and it mostly depends on how you want it to work.

Adoptions in the U.S. are increasingly open adoptions, which means that there’s no mystery about who the birth parents are. (That’s another thing TV and movies tend to get wrong.)

In addition to private agencies, there are public agencies, plus adoptions arranged through clergy, doctors and other groups. Basically, there are a ton of people who will find a family for this kid if you decide to continue the pregnancy.

I don’t want to sound Pollyanna here, Cindy. Nine months of pregnancy is a big fucking deal. But all the choices in front of you are big choices, so I want to make sure you give them all a fair shake.

Screenwriters: same advice.