Trying to connect with a prospective birth mother? Wondering what’s the best way to set yourself apart and get matched?
If you’re planning to sell yourself, Brittany Hudson has one word of advice: Don’t.
She would know. A birth mother with extensive sales and marketing experience, Brittany and I recently exchanged tweets after I posted an interview I did with a hopeful adoptive couple about how they were reaching out to prospective birth parents.
“[Adoptive families] appeal to different [birth mothers] for many reasons,” she tweeted. “Honesty, integrity and trust are key. Don’t ‘Sell yourself’. It’s fake.”
Brittany is a widow and the mother of a six-year-old daughter she is parenting as well as a nearly three-year-old daughter she placed for adoption. She has used her first-hand knowledge and experience to raise awareness about adoption to mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy. You can find out more about her here.
And you can find out more about her advice for hopeful adoptive parents and prospective birth mothers here.
1. Why is selling yourself fake?
The art of the sale, based on my 15 years of sales and sales consulting experience, is creating a feeling that makes the consumer of what you offer trust you that they would be dissatisfied with something else. The whole game is designed around dissatisfaction of either what they currently have or a greater likelihood of not being satisfied with a competitor. That being said, to say that you need to “sell yourself” to a birthmother in this case scenario is nothing short of seduction. You are trying to create a feeling in her rather than provide a way of getting to know you.
Most birthmothers will tell you that even with the scrapbooks and “our story” sites, the decision of one adoptive couple over another didn’t have as much to do with what was being presented as it was a feeling of connection. I get asked a lot what expecting mothers are looking for in an adoptive couple and I can tell you there is no formula.
The reasons for why they make the selections they make are as varied as the mothers are. The best way to convey who you are and what you are setting out to do is to be honest. Plain and simple. Tell her what you’d like someone to know about you if they were forming a partnership with you, because that is what this is. It is not a sales transaction. To make it out to be an acquisition makes the goal of the sale more important than the people involved.
2. Is there a way to get yourself out there and still be true to yourself?
There are websites to be a part of, social media has been a help to those who are pursuing adoption and friends and family networks although I will be quick to tell you that I discourage expecting mothers from pursuing those avenues only because they end up having very little, if any, independent representation and no aftercare offered following. A reputable agency is still the best place for an expecting mother to be able to be protected and cared for legally and emotionally.
3. Faith was a big factor in your choice of adoptive parents. What do you think other expecting parents are looking for?
They could be looking for almost anything! The expecting mother is going to look to a prospective adoptive couple to reflect her values and her personality. That is why it is important to portray yourself in the best way that is honest and detailed so that the expecting mom that is interested in those kinds of traits will be able to see that in your profile.
Don’t anticipate what she’d want to hear, tell her what you really want her to know about you. Do you like to travel? Tell her so. Maybe she is someone who also likes to travel or wishes she could. It could be something as simple as tell her how much you enjoy baseballs games. Perhaps her father liked baseball and that resonates with her. Be honest, be detailed and leave the rest to the expecting mother making a connection to you, not what you are trying to present to her.
4. Wanting your daughter to be the first child in the family you chose, or the only girl, was another factor that influenced your decision-making. Do you think that’s a common consideration for other expectant parents?
It seems to be a common factor although I have had expecting mothers who were only children seek families with children so the child they are carrying would not be an only child.
5. When most people think of birth mothers, they think of teenagers. You were 38 when you placed. Tell me a little bit about how you decided that adoption was right for you?
The reason why I decided to seek adoption, even as a mother already to a three-year-old girl, was because I was in mourning over the death of my late husband. The pregnancy came out because I was seeking comfort in the arms of a man to help me feel better about being a widow and a single mother. I was horribly depressed and I didn’t see how I could feasibly and responsibly be able to deal with two children with no fathers.
The father of Alex was an alcoholic and con artist. I was also protecting both of my daughters from him. I made my decision because it was the most rational thing to do in the best interest of both of my children. I had to remove my emotions from the equation. I get asked a lot of I wish I had changed my mind or if I have any regrets because I am doing so well now but I don’t.
The adoption’s goal was to create the results of what you see, a child with a very loving and supportive adoptive family, an older daughter who has a good relationship with her mother and is well-adjusted following the death of her father, a birthmother/mother who is thriving and a and a cohesive bond between all parties involved. I don’t know what else I could have asked for.
6. What was the biggest surprise after you made your decision?
I didn’t anticipate the level of the feelings of loss. I don’t think anyone can. It is all in what you do with the feelings. I wrote, spoke and tried to help others who were walking the same journey. I had my faith in God to turn to in times of doubt. The feelings have to be dealt with. No one ever does well if they don’t. The best surprise was the love and welcoming that came from the adoptive parents following the adoption. Our relationship is much more than we all agreed to and I am grateful for that.
7. You’ve said that focusing on a positive outcome was important for you. How long did it take you to get through your doubts and get to that point?
It wasn’t easy. The period of time that I had to trust in what I was promised as far as an ongoing relationship and seeing that come to fruition was intensely difficult. I remember clinging to my cell phone, desperately waiting for emails and pictures. The agony in-between communication was at times unbearable but as we went on and I could see their faithfulness in what they said they would do I started to settle down. As I recall, that took about three months and maybe almost six before I got over those feelings of fear of being forgotten.
8. How difficult was it to stay the course after Alex was born, especially when you saw her being held by the woman who would go on to raise her?
As far as staying the course, I never second guessed if it was something I could make good on. In hindsight, I wish I’d held her more. I was afraid to hold her and get attached. That is something I would have changed. I love her adoptive mother and we have a good relationship. I am very grateful for that.
9. You mentioned that most birth mothers aren’t prepared for the pain and the grief after placement. How much education did you get?
Even if someone is telling you that you are going to feel grief and loss following the adoption, there is no way to emotionally prepare yourself for something you have never experienced. It is more than you think it will be but it is something you can get through with proper counseling and/or aftercare support.
I wish more emphasis was put on talking to expecting mothers about the level of grief and the importance of setting up an aftercare plan that works for her before the baby is born, not afterwards. I also wish they would keep offering it until the birthmother says, stop offering it. It seems as though it is presented by the agency once and then nothing. More needs to be done for the birthmother to heal.
10. Why do you think that is — do agencies underestimate those feelings or downplay them?
It isn’t that they underestimate them or downplay them as much as they don’t really bring it up and spend as much time on it as they should. I wish agencies would take a more proactive role in coming up with an aftercare strategy with the birthmother and have it in place before the baby is born.
I am sure the reasons why they don’t range a lot and I often wonder if a lot of it has to do with not scaring off their prospective birth mother. As an advocate, I do my best to talk about aftercare and in a lot of cases, be that phone support for the first month and continuing to find her aftercare options that work for her.
11. What has helped you to work through those feelings since placement?
I write. I write blog articles, articles for publication and I just finished my first book. The writing and subsequent speaking engagements I do, as well as, caring for women who have walked the same road all help me with the feelings and life afterwards.
12. Your relationship with Alex’s adoptive parents started with a little communication at first and then expanded over time. Do you think that’s a better way to handle it than making all kinds of promises about something you know very little about at the outset of your relationship?
I think the way that we did it is the best way to do it and I tell adoptive families that all the time. It is so much easier and better to add to the relationship rather than retract. I know that many adoptive couples fall into the trap of agreeing to more than they are really comfortable with because either someone told them it would be best or in an effort to ‘cast a wider net’, neither is a good reason to agree to more than you want.
In my talks I present the idea of thinking about the most that they would really want to agree to and walk it back by two but leaving room for more if they feel more comfortable with adding to the relationship once it actually develops.
13. Some birth mothers find it hard to live with their decision and prefer to keep their story private. Why is it so important for you not only to share yours, but to promote open adoption?
I think it is the sharing that helps me feel more comfortable and secure in what I’ve decided to do. It also raises awareness and fosters conversation in an effort to make this decision better for the next woman who needs to make this choice. I promote open adoption and fostering good relationships in the adoption circle because I want this to be better for the future birthmothers and their children out there.
We can’t fix what is broken if no one wants to talk about it. I want people to ask questions, raise concerns and help make this a better situation for all, especially birth mom. Most of what goes wrong in adoption is really fear-based decision making rather than facts. I hope that by bringing my story forward and encouraging others to do the same will help with that.
In my verbiage on my site I talk about “bringing the voice of the birth mother to the forefront” but it isn’t my voice that I am talking about as much as the voice of me and others. I am not taking a crown, I am trying to raise up an army because I am tired of agencies and adoptive families talking for me. I think that the world needs to know what we have to say!
What do you think of Brittany’s advice? In your view, is there a right way to reach out to a prospective birth mother? Leave your comments in the section below.