Materials: Scriptural passage of choice
The Ritual: As director of Special Delivery, an evangelical Christian ministry to women facing unplanned pregnancies, Nellie Harris helps her clients through what can be the toughest nine months of their lives. For those who choose to give their babies up for adoption at the end of those nine months, the hardest moment of all can be when they hand their child over to the adoptive parents. If birth mother and adoptive parents are willing, Harris helps them develop a dedication service to bless and ease the difficult transition. "It's an opportunity to validate the birth mom," Harris said. "That she gave this child life twice -- first physical life, then a life of opportunity."
The ceremony, usually held at the hospital, could be led by a pastor, relative, or counselor such as Harris. In it, "the (adoptive) family promises to raise the child in the Lord," Harris said. "We acknowledge that the birth mother has made the hardest choice but the best choice." Scripture is read -- usually the portion in 1 Samuel about Hannah's faithfulness when God calls her to give her young son up to a religious life in the Temple. Then there are prayers for the baby and family to do well, for the child to come to know Jesus as his or her personal savior, and for the young woman to seek God's will in her decisions.
"It's hard," Harris acknowledges. "There are always a lot of tears, including mine. There's a lot of emotion." Nevertheless, the birth moms who do not do the ceremony, "don't do as well," Harris noted. "They don't have that closure.... Some come back, even a year later, and say 'Can we do this, even without the baby there?'"