You’ve finished writing your “Dear Birthmother” letter and posted it online.
It’s got energy, emotion and insights. Everything you want it to have except one thing: readers.
For some reason, the people you’re trying to reach are ignoring it.
And that’s not good, considering that a “Dear Birthmother” letter is considered one of the best networking tools for couples hoping to adopt.
So what gives? Why isn’t your letter being read? Here are three reasons.
1. It begins “Dear Birthmother”
Want to connect with an expectant mother with an adoption plan? A good way to start is by addressing her by her proper name.
I don’t mean by her actual name. You don’t know that yet. But one thing you do know, or should know, is this: a woman doesn’t become a birthmother until after she’s signed the relinquishment papers, and legally she can’t do that until after she’s given birth.
So, for now, rather than think of her as a birthmother (and think of your letter as a “Dear Birthmother” letter) think of her in terms of what or who she really is: an expectant mother or an expectant mother considering adoption.
One day, if she decides to place her baby, she could become a birthmother. But that’s one day. There are too many unknowns, too many uncertainties, to say anything for sure right now.
All you know is that she may have an adoption plan. Whether she goes through with it is anyone’s guess. So avoid making any assumptions and labelling her as a “birthmother.”
This may sound like a trivial point. But believe me, it isn’t. Words matter. Language matters. And adoption language is always evolving. The days of addressing expecting mothers as birthmothers are long gone, and for some folk, not a moment too soon.
Today, thanks to open adoption and the internet, expectant mothers have more choices, more control and more of a say in the process than ever before.
They’re more educated and more informed. They know what their options are and they’re ready to exercise them. Referring to an pregnant woman as a “birthmother” prematurely is a no-no. In fact, some would go so far as to call it a pressure tactic, a form of coercion.
Personally, I think that’s going a bit far. For me, it’s more of a case of ignorance. Many adoption professionals commonly refer to expectant parents as “birthmothers,” and their clients, not knowing any better, are simply following their lead.
So now that you know the difference between an expectant mother and a birthmother, try to avoid creating extra problems for yourself. You probably have enough things to worry about already. Do the right thing and instead of starting your letter with “Dear Birthmother,” start it with the words that you would use to address anyone you met for the first time: with a simple “hi” or “hello.”
It’s an easy fix. And not only is it more natural, more conversational, simpler and safer, it’s also a sign of respect — not to mention a great way to get your relationship with an expectant mother off on the right footing.
2. There’s nothing distinct about it
If you’ve gone through any adoption profile letters, you’ve probably noticed one thing about them: they all sound alike. In some cases, they seem indistinguishable, identical from start to finish. They all have the same introduction, the same elements, and the same promises.
This isn’t a coincidence. Many adoption professionals have a format that they use for all their clients. The thinking being, this has worked for us in the past, why wouldn’t it work now?
The problem is, there’s no magical formula for success. There’s no right way to write an adoption profile.
Every expectant mother is different, and every expectant mother is looking for something different. Imagine for a moment that you have an adoption plan and you’re looking for adoptive parents for your baby. Now imagine you have to read through 5,10, 15 or 50 profiles to find them, and that each adoption profile letter sounds the same.
From the beginning (“We can’t imagine the decision you’re facing…”) to the end (“We promise to give your child a future filled with…”), there’s nothing that distinguishes one from the other or stands out for you.
If you were overwhelmed before you started reading them, just think about how you’d feel afterwards. Who would you choose? How would you choose them? How would you know if you were making the right decision?
So, as you’re writing your adoption profile letter, be mindful that your goal isn’t to sound like everyone else. It’s to be yourself and to tell your personal story in a way that only you can tell it and lets you stand out in the crowd.
It’s not easy. But it is essential if you want to find an adoption match.
Save yourself the time and trouble now by zeroing in on three or four things that make you unique and create short narratives around them. They don’t have to be dramatic or earth-shattering. In fact, it’s better that they’re not. But they should tell a story — about the kind of person you are and the parent you would be.
3. It’s all about you, you, you
Confused? Don’t be. I know I just said that your adoption profile letter should be about you, and it should shed light about who you are and about your hopes and dreams for the future.
If you want to create a connection with an expectant mother, you definitely need to talk about yourself — about your interests, your relationship with partner, your home, your family and your thoughts about parenting and adoption.
But if your adoption profile letter is ONLY about you, that could pose a problem.
Why? Two reasons. First, don’t forget who your reader is. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an expectant mother (someone who is thinking of placing), as opposed to a birthmother (someone who has already placed).
Yes, she wants to know about you. But she also wants to know about the life you can offer her baby and how she will fit into your future. Or rather how you will fit into her future.
As with most open adoptions today, she doesn’t plan to go away after the adoption. She wants to have some level of ongoing contact with you so that she can see for herself how her child is loved and cared for and know that she made the right decision.
So if you don’t address her concerns about the future, you may not have one with her. Rather than make her guess what your intentions are, spell them out clearly. What kind of relationship do you want to have with her after the placement? How often do you want to get together and how — through text messages, phone calls, emails, photos, a blog, Facebook page, or visits?
I know, it’s still early in the process. You don’t even know each other yet. It’s not like you have a crystal ball and can predict how things will unfold after the placement, let alone before it.
And yet while it may be premature to get into the specifics of your relationship or the relationship you want to have with your future child’s birth family, there’s nothing that says you can’t start thinking about it now. Determine what your comfort level is and get the conversation started, even in broad terms, in your adoption profile letter.
You can always change your mind or work out the details later, once you and your future child’s birthmother know each other better and have a firmer understanding of how things will work. But at this stage of the game, it’s important to show her that you’re thinking about her and that you care about her and about the relationship you could have together down the road.
And of course, don’t make any promises that you don’t plan to follow through on after the placement.
Doing so will only create false hopes and unrealistic expectations for her that could come back and create problems for you later. If done honestly, talking about your hopes for your future relationship with an expectant mother could be the game changer — the one thing that could help you create a connection with her and set you apart from the rest of crowd.
So how do you get someone with an adoption plan to read your “Dear Birthmother” letter and take notice of you? Stop calling it a “Dear Birthmother” letter; don’t start it with the words “Dear Birthmother”; include details that differentiate you from other hopeful adoptive couples and show what kind of relationship you want to have with your child’s family after the adoption has been finalized.
What do you think of the term “Dear Birthmother” letter? What helped you create a connection with your future child’s birthmother? Share you comments in the space below.