Meeting expectant parents considering adoption is nerve-wracking, especially when you’re doing it for the first time.
In fact, it may be the most stressful part of the entire networking process–and given how challenging adopting a baby through open adoption can be, that’s saying a lot!
After everything you’ve gone through to get to this stage —the mountains of red tape, the endless meetings with your social worker, the hours you’ve spent creating your profile and getting it out there— the last thing you want to do is to throw it all away by making a bad first impression with the woman or couple who could be the parents of your future child.
But let’s face it, it won’t be easy. No first meeting is. And when the stakes are this high, it’s hard not to feel anxious.
Don’t be. Just remember, the expectant parents will be just as nervous as you are. And more importantly, they didn’t agree to meet with you because they had nothing else to do.
The fact is, they like you and they want to know you better. They want to make sure that you’re everything you’ve said you are and to hear more about your hopes and dreams for their child.
The sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be and the more at ease you’ll feel when your face-to-face with them finally arrives.
That said, here are 8 common mistakes to avoid at your first meeting with an expectant mother—or parents—considering adoption for her baby.
1. Arriving late
Nobody likes to wait. So make sure that you arrive on time. Showing up late is a sign of rudeness, pure and simple.
It doesn’t matter what excuse you come up with—you got caught in traffic or lost your way. Show the expectant parents the respect they deserve.
Find out where you need to be beforehand and leave yourself lots of extra time to get there. Even better, arrive a few minutes early and make yourself comfortable. Arriving five minutes early is a lot better than arriving five minutes late.
2. Dressing inappropriately
When it comes to first-time meetings with expectant parents, there is no formal dress code. Each couple will wear what it thinks is appropriate, and that will vary from one family to the next.
As long as you don’t go too casual and your clothes are clean and not overly wrinkled, you should be fine. On the other hand, don’t go in the other direction and overdress either.
Just remember, appearances do matter, and your choice of clothing will send a message to the expectant parents.
Perhaps the best thing to do when deciding what to wear is to apply the so-called “Goldilocks Rule” —don’t go too casual, don’t go too formal. Find something right in-between.
3. Not making a good first impression
Adoption meetings can be awkward. In fact, most are. Given that they involve what could be a life-changing event, how could they not be?
That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to try to lower the stress level and make the expectant parent(s) feel as comfortable as possible.
And the best way to do that is when you lock eyes for the first time. Regardless of how nervous you are, don’t forget to smile, look them in the eye, and even give them a hug.
All of these small but important gestures will go a long way toward breaking the ice and pave the way for a positive relationship.
4. Speaking without listening
Being able to share your thoughts and feelings with another person is the key to any successful relationship. But it’s a two-way street. The other party also needs to know that they can speak their mind without worrying about how their words will be taken.
So before you jump into telling the expectants about your life and expectations, make sure that you listen to theirs. It’s important to know where they’re coming from and what they’re looking for so that you have a better grasp of the situation and where it may eventually lead.
5. Interrupting them when they speak
Chances are, when you meet expectant parents for the first time you’ll be so excited you won’t know how to contain yourself. But try to contain your enthusiasm.
Give them a chance to tell you their story. Jumping into the conversation or cutting them off may won’t do you any favours.
In fact, it may close them down and derail the conversation. Remember, your meeting with expectant parents should be a give-and-take, and both you and them should come away feeling that your questions and concerns were voiced and dealt with.
6. Showing a lack of interest in their lives
Nothing you do will show the expectant parents disrespect more than being inattentive or easily distracted.
No matter how challenging or awkward the meeting may be, you need to make them front and centre and give them your full attention.
If you find that you’re checking the time, gazing around the room or looking at your phone, you might as well wrap up your meeting right then and there. Because nothing will hurt your chances of making a good impression more than acting like you’d rather be somewhere else.
7. Interacting poorly with your partner
During your conversation, you’ll be checking out the expectant parents, watching how they interact, taking signals from what they say and do.
And you can bet that they’ll be doing the same thing with you. Do you look like you’re both on the same page with this adoption? What kind of body language do you have? Do you smile and look at each other? Are you supportive?
These are all things that are important for expectant parents as they build a relationship with you and try to imagine what kind of future they’re child with have.
8. Forgetting them to thank them at the end
I can’t tell you how many waiting parents have left an adoption meeting thinking they blew it, only to find out the expectant parents fell in love with them.
No matter how badly you think your meeting goes, don’t give up. And whatever you do, don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve.
At the end of the meeting, be sure to thank them and let them know how great it was to meet them.
Even if you think you’ll never hear from them again, talk about how to move your relationship forward and when to touch base again.
If you don’t, they could feel like the meeting wasn’t a success and that you didn’t like them. And they may decide not to follow up with a second meeting, even though they had planned to do so.
From the moment you walk into the room and meet the expectant parents, they will be sizing you up and judging you. Regardless of how nervous you feel, just be yourself and avoid these eight common but simple mistakes. If you do, you’ll be just fine and hopefully it will be the beginning of a long and successful relationship. Good luck!
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