This guest post is by Rachel Garlinghouse, an adoptive mother and author.
You’ve waited, and waited, and waited even longer. But then the day finally arrives. Congratulations! You are matched with an expectant mother.
Once the initial excitement wears off, worry and doubt will sink it. You ask yourself, “Now what?”
After all, building a relationship with an expectant mother can be uncomfortable and awkward, especially in the beginning.
Essentially, strangers are suddenly thrust into forming a relationship, one where a child’s future is on the proverbial line.
Expectations tend to be too high. But don’t fear! With these practical tips, you can begin the journey of learning about one another and building a relationship based on trust, respect, and joy:
1. Ask her appropriate questions.
You may be wondering, “What’s appropriate?”
If the match results in a placement, for the sake of the child you will want to have as much information as you can about the expectant mother (and father, too).
Ask her about herself: her likes and dislikes, her favorites, favorite traditions, memories, and things that are important to her racial culture or religion, if applicable.
Let her know that you want to be able to tell her birth child as much as you can in the future.
2. Avoid interrogating her.
Yes, I just told you to ask her lots of questions, but let me re-emphasize that they need to be appropriate questions.
Just because you are matched with an expectant mother, it doesn’t mean you have the right to know every little detail of her life.
Every person has the right to privacy. Be sure to let her know that you won’t be offended or hurt if she doesn’t want to talk about certain things.
3. Encourage her to ask you questions.
What does she want to know more about, especially if she does place with you and you are raising her birth child?
The getting-to-know someone goes both ways. Let her know that she can write down questions and pass them along to the social worker or ask you directly.
If you and the expectant parent are struggling to get to know one another, your adoption professional should be able to provide you each with a list of questions or discussion prompts.
4. Discuss some of the bigger topics when the time is right.
Your adoption professional should help you and the expectant mother discuss plans for the birth, for medical decisions (like circumcision, for example), for hoped for openness in the relationship after the birth of the child, etc.
Please remember, if and until the child is placed with you, these choices should be up to the expectant mother.
Don’t push your own agenda in any way, and if she asks you how you feel about a certain decision, always answer honestly.
Respect is so important to a healthy, trusting relationship.
5. Consider co-naming the child.
Depending on what you and the expectant mother have decided upon (see point #4), co-naming a child can be an incredible gift to the child.
All of our children were co-named, and it’s really special to have all the parents involved in making such an important and life-long decision.
We love telling our children, over and over, how we came to name them.
6. Give a heartfelt gift.
This gift shouldn’t given with a tit-for-tat expectation, meaning, you are giving a gift because the expectant mother has expressed intent to place a child with you.
Instead, treat her as you would any expectant mother in your life.
Things like a blank journal, a pampering gift basket of items, or a bouquet of flowers is kind yet does not attempt to manipulate the mother into placing.
Avoid gifts that are expensive or pushy (such as a birth mother necklace, since she is not a birth mother if/until she places).
7. Tell her you support her in whatever choice she makes, and mean it.
I remember telling our children’s birth parents (prior to placement) that no matter what they chose, I would respect that choice and support them.
When you meet and get to know expectant parents, you learn to truly love them. Because of this love, you realize that as the hopeful parent, the adoption isn’t about you and your desires.
Rather, it is what the expectant parent decides is best for their child.
I realize this vulnerability is difficult, especially as someone waiting to build a family by adoption, but out of love, you can do this!
The decisions you make today have a forever impact on the child you adopt. Therefore, it’s important that from the very get-go, hopeful parents choose to act ethically, even when it is difficult.
By choosing to make thoughtful, deliberate, and educated decisions, every person in the adoption triad (the birth parent, the adoptive parent, and the adoptee) is more likely to have a successful, ongoing relationship where the child is at the center.
Rachel Garlinghouse is the mom of four and the author of six books, including the newly released The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption: The Wit and Wisdom You Need For the Journey. Read more about her family’s adventures on her blog.
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