A job interview? Blind date?
Actually, she was about to meet an expectant mother who had contacted her after connecting with her adoption profile. As she described it, this was her big chance to become a parent and she was worried about blowing it.
I knew exactly how she felt. I had felt the same way about our first match meeting.
Meeting with an expectant mother who’s considering adoption is like a job interview and a blind date rolled into one — only ten times more stressful, especially if you’ve found each other on your own.
Most of us know how to prepare for the other two events. But meeting face-to-face with the woman who could one day be the mother of your child — that’s something else entirely.
- What do you say?
- What do you do?
- What do you wear?
I survived the experience, although it wasn’t exactly painless. For one meeting, my wife and I got lost and drove endlessly around the block before we found the right address — 15 minutes after we were supposed to be there.
At another meeting (or rather meetings, since there were several of them not only with the expectant mother but also with her family, both before and after her delivery date), everything went great — until the expectant mother changed her mind about her adoption plan.
Just like any job interview or first date, there are no guarantees that you’ll hit it off or that your get-together will go off without a hitch. Keeping that in mind, here are some suggestions about how you both can make the most of your first meeting.
Remember, it’s just a meeting
Open adoption can often feel like an obstacle course. Every time you overcome one hurdle, another one comes along. Each new challenge feels like it’s make or break, do or die.
So before you meet with an expectant mother, take a deep breath and put things into perspective. Remind yourself how far you’ve come and give yourself a pat on the back. Not every couple or person seeking to adopt gets to this stage.
Chances are if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll get to the next stage, too. If you don’t, there will be probably a good reason. And it won’t be because you got lost in traffic and showed up 15 minutes late.
If you were about to meet a total stranger for the first time, that would be one thing. But by now you probably know quite a lot about each other, apart from what’s in your profile. Maybe you’ve exchanged emails. Or you’ve talked on the phone. Or your adoption worker has screened her.
(If she hasn’t, make sure she does. Never agree to a meeting, and especially one that involves long-distance travel, without running it by your adoption worker or attorney first. Not everyone who will be contacting you will be doing so in good faith. Always be on the look-out for scammers).
The woman you’re meeting then isn’t exactly an unknown quality. You’re not going into this blindly. You’ve already established that you have things in common. Perhaps quite a few things. Otherwise, she would never have agreed to meet with you.
There is something there — a connection, even if at this stage it may seem tenuous. First meetings can be awkward, but they can also be exciting. Think of this one as a first date, as the next step in your relationship — a chance to build on the bond you’ve already created.
That goes without saying, doesn’t it? Who else could you be? Still, as your meeting date approaches and as you go through all the things that could go wrong, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not good enough. That in order to succeed, you need to be someone else.
Thing is, that other person isn’t the one the expectant mother is expecting to meet. She’s expecting to meet you. That’s why you’re getting together. To some degree, you’ve already won her over.
This meeting is her chance to find out more about you — to make sure you’re a good fit and to see whether you have a future together.
So don’t try to be someone else, the person you think she’s interested in. It will only confuse her. And it could backfire on you.
What happens if she doesn’t like you?
She might not. But at least on your end of things, it won’t be for a lack of trying. So don’t go out of your way to impress her. There’s only so much you can do to create an open adoption match.
Instead, the question to ask yourself is: what if I don’t like her? That’s important, too. Yes, she will be checking you out and asking you questions. But you should also use your get-together to check her out and ask her questions. You also have a say in the process.
Open adoption relationships, just like all relationships, are a two-way street.
If you do decide to go ahead with the placement, the expectant mother will be part of your family for the rest of your life. It’s just as important that you get along with her and can visualize her as a member of your family.
What if you say the wrong thing?
You probably will. But again, it’s okay. That’s one more thing you’ll have in common. You’ll be nervous. So will she. Probably even more nervous than you.
Like you, she’ll be worried about rejection. Chances are, in addition to the usual ups and downs of an unplanned pregnancy, she’s already been through a lot already. The father of her baby may have turned his back on her — perhaps her family, too, necessitating her adoption plan.
That’s where you fit in. She not only wants you to like her. She needs you to like her.
Talk, but more importantly listen
Keep the conversation light and upbeat. If you have questions, ask them. But don’t drill her. This is your opportunity to find out about each other, not an interrogation.
And don’t make any assumptions about her or the circumstances behind her adoption plan. Contrary to myth, not every woman who places a baby is a drug addict or a teenager.
Birth mothers come from all walks of life, in all shapes, sizes and colors.
One of the great things about meeting an expectant mother considering adoption in this way is that it will rid you of many of your perceptions and let you learn so much more about her than you could from an email or phone call.
To maximize your chances of success, do a little planning beforehand. Spend time thinking about what you want to know about her — and what she’ll want to know about you. If she hasn’t asked you already, she’ll want to know about
- you and your family
- your thoughts about adoption and parenting
- whether the rest of your family supports your decision to adopt
- how you plan to explain adoption to your child
- how you plan to include her in your life after the placement
If you’re worried about what to say, bring along a album with photos of your family, home, and pets. They’re fun to flip through and a great way to break the ice.
Talking about the weather is another safe topic. Best of all, you never know where the conversation will lead:
You: What a beautiful day. We were thinking of going camping this weekend.
She: Oh, I love camping. I didn’t know you liked to camp.
You: Yeah, we try to go at least once a summer.
She: I do, too. Where do you go…?
At our first meeting, we were expecting adoption to dominate the conversation. Funnily enough, things went so smoothly that we talked about everything except that.
Bring your adoption worker, if necessary
Depending on how well or how long you and the expectant mother have known each other, you may want your adoption worker to tag along with you.
Having her there will create a different, less casual vibe. But it could also prove beneficial, especially if you have concerns about the expectant mother or are seeking a second opinion. And it could also help you keep the conversation moving forward.
Find a neutral or familiar location
Don’t leave the location of your meeting to chance. Find a comfortable or familiar setting.
Because you’ll likely be meeting the expectant mother on her turf, chances are you won’t be able to pick out the location. If that’s the case, choose a neutral setting — a diner, coffee shop, restaurant or park — and try to arrive early to make yourself comfortable.
Avoid bars or any place with loud music. The last thing you want is have to shout over each other. Find a place that’s relaxing and family-friendly and be sure to split the bill.
Bringing flowers or a small gift is a nice gesture, but keep in mind that each state has its laws about what’s allowable. So be sure to research them before your visit. Generally speaking, don’t offer to pay for anything, even her coffee. You don’t want to break any laws or feel like either of you owes the other one anything.
Set aside an hour to meet. That’s plenty of time to get to know each other. If the hour flies by, and it probably will, you can always extend it. And if things don’t go well, you have an excuse to leave.
Be courteous and respectful
Be mindful that the person you’re meeting is not a birth mother and she’s not “your” birth mother. So avoid referring to her in those terms or in viewing her baby as “your” baby. Until she signs the relinquishment papers, she’s simply a pregnant woman who’s considering adoption. Treat her the same way you would treat any pregnant woman.
Be open and honest, but avoid sensitive questions. If you want to know how the father of her baby feels about her adoption plan or whether she smokes or drinks, let your worker sort that out at another time.
Inquire about her pregnancy and how she’s feeling, but don’t focus exclusively on the baby. Try to get to know her as a person — find out about her interests, her family and her future plans — and show her that you genuinely care about her.
Be optimistic but protect yourself
Another hopeful parent from our site who found a match recently told me that she was feeling “cautiously optimistic” about her upcoming meeting with an expectant mother. That struck me as the right way to think of it.
With so much at stake and so many different emotions at play, it’s hard to know how to feel. It’s a bit of a balancing act: On the one hand, you want to appear excited. But on the other hand, you have to protect yourself just in case the situation falls through.
For instance, if you show up to your meeting looking uncertain or uncommitted, the expectant mother could misread the situation and have doubts about whether you’re interested in her or in adopting in general.
Be positive and let her know how thrilled you are to become parents. But keep in mind what she’s going through and don’t put any undue pressure on her.
Dress for success
As far as I’m aware, there’s no dress code or etiquette when it comes to meeting an expectant mother for the first time. Wear what you would if you were going out to meet a friend. Nothing too casual, but nothing too formal either.
Avoid t-shirts and ties, unless they’re part of your normal attire. More importantly, make sure that whatever you wear is clean and wrinkle-free.
You want to make a good first impression and be true to yourself. You also want to be respectful to the expectant mother and show her that this meeting is important to you. General speaking, if you find yourself thinking twice about a certain article of clothing, you probably should leave it behind.
Meeting an expectant mother for the first time is one of the most nerve-wracking steps in the open adoption process. But with the right planning and attitude, you can make the most of it and increase your chances of success.
How did your first meeting with an expectant parent or adopting parent go? What was your biggest fear or concern? Leave your comments in the section below.