Besides their role as expectant parents considering adoption, they wear other hats such as “daughter”, “sister”, “friend”, “aunt”, “mother”, “co-worker” etc.
Sometimes when you’re reaching out to them as a prospective adoptive parent you may forget that. You may be so consumed by your own longing to build your family that you could overlook the fact that a prospective birthmother has a life of her own, outside of adoption, independent from you and your plans for the future.
She too has wants and needs as well as her own thoughts and feelings about her adoption plan and whether to go through with it it.
Sometimes a prospective birthmother will connect with you and you’ll hit it off from the get-go, in which case, Congratulations! It could signal the beginning of a long and lasting relationship.
But other times, your interests and plans won’t mesh or they may at the beginning but she may eventually change her mind and decide to parent, in which case you’ll feel disappointed, frustrated and maybe even used.
No matter what comes out of your initial connection with an expectant mother with an adoption plan, it’s important to remember three things: She’s in a crisis situation. She has options. And she has rights, and that includes the right to change her mind.
Yes, she’s looking for parents for her baby. But she’s always looking for information, support and encouragement.
Here are six things to say to a prospective birthmother the first time she contacts you that will show her you’re interested in her and help you build a strong foundation in your relationship.
1. “Thank you for contacting us”
Five little words but they mean so much. Placing a baby for a adoption is not an easy decision, nor is it a popular one. Most prospective birthmothers agonize over it. They feel guilt and shame. Even those that believe in their heart of hearts that it’s the best decision have doubts about it.
And, if they’re not careful, those doubts can eat away at their confidence and self-esteem, especially when they feel like the people closest to them are trying to talk them out of their plan or are shunning them. Thanking a prospective birthmother for reaching out to you and telling her how happy you are to hear from her will immediately take her off the defensive. It’s a simple, natural way to put her at ease, welcome her into your life, and help validate her decision.
2. “Tell me about you.”
Prospective birthparents are looking for the perfect family for their child. But they’re also looking for an adoptive family who shows an interest in them as individuals. A genuine interest that goes beyond their adoption plan. After all, if an expectant mother goes through with her placement, one day she will become part of your extended family.
Being open and honest with her and asking her to share her story will not only let you show your empathy and understanding. It will also make you more approachable and allow you to assess whether you’re the right match for her, and vice versa.
3. “How has your pregnancy been?”
Every pregnant woman likes to be asked how she’s coping with her pregnancy. A prospective birthmother is no different. Remember, at this point, she’s still a pregnant woman, not a birthmother.
And while she may eventually decide to place her baby for adoption and wear that title, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care for her child or that she’s not a mother now. Treat her with the same respect and dignity you would any other pregnant woman, regardless of how she decides to proceed with her plan.
4. “How can we help you?”
Placing a baby for adoption is a difficult and often lonely journey. There’s no manual on how to do it right or how to do it at all. Plus, it is often met with very degrees of opposition and negativity. By the time you’ve been contacted by a prospective birthmother, you will have gone through all of your adoption education and training courses. You will also have people — your partner, family, friends — that support you in your choice.
Not so for a prospective birthmother. Isolated and alone, she will be struggling with her decision and wondering whether she’s about to make the biggest mistake of her life. As a result, she will need all the help and guidance she can get. Although you will want her to choose you as parents of her baby, ultimately it’s her baby and it’s her decision. And in order to make it, she will need to undergo counselling and educate herself, just like you did, into the pros, cons, and consequences of her decision. So move ahead with a clear conscience: be prepared to give her as much space and time as she needs during this emotionally difficult time.
5. “What would you like to know about us?’
A prospective birthmother will likely have a million questions about you. Your profile may have answered some of them, but there will be many more things she will want to know about you. And she may not be at the point where she feels comfortable asking them.
Inviting her to ask you questions about you will show that you’re open-mined and having nothing to hide. Plus, through her questions, you’ll get a better sense of what she’s looking for and what’s important to her. And finally, opening up your life to her will give her a chance to get her mind off her own challenges and look to the future rather than the past.
6. “When would you like to talk next?”
One conversation with a prospective birthmother doesn’t make an adoption. You both still have a long road ahead of you. But supposing you do make a connection with an expectant mother and you feel comfortable moving forward. The last thing you want to do is lose touch with her.
Establishing a time to continue your conversation — and obtaining her contact information — will help propel your relationship forward. It will remove any doubts she may have about whether you liked her and about who contacts whom and when. And it will give her hope and encouragement by showing you’re interested in her and in taking your conversation to the next level.
Placing a baby for adoption is a difficult life-changing decision. Being kind and considerate to a prospective birthmother is an effective way to make her feel good about herself and her decision. Asking her questions about herself and her pregnancy will not put your empathy and compassionate on display. It will also help you learn more about her and whether you’re a good match for each other.
Do you have an open adoption story? Email us any time or find out more about how to share it with our community.
Help us remove the stigma surrounding open adoption. Like us on Facebook.