To be sure, they’re nerve-wracking. But at least you know what you’re getting into. A call from a prospective birthmother, on the other hand, is a totally different and unfamiliar experience, one that typically comes out of the blue and could change your life forever.
Nearly 15 years later, I still remember our first conversation with our son’s birthmother. It was late into the night when the phone rang. Usually calls at that time signal a family emergency or a wrong number. Even though I had been waiting months for this moment, when I realized who was on the other end of the line, I found myself at a loss for words. I had no idea what to say.
A few awkward moments passed. Then the conversation turned to music and sports. Pretty soon we settled into a rhythm and I started to feel more at ease. It was like reconnecting with an old friend. About an hour later, when it finally came time to say goodbye, neither of us wanted the conversation to end. We promised to talk again the next day. Needless to say, that night I didn’t get a wink of sleep.
Not all first conversations will unfold as smoothly as that one did. In fact, when it came time to adopt again, we had more than our share of detours and dead ends. What those conversations taught me was the importance of planning ahead and doing these six key things to make the most of the experience.
When you speak to a prospective birthmother for the first time, it’s easy to feel nervous or excited (or both) and find yourself reacting in one of two ways: either going totally silent or suddenly blurting out the first thing that comes to mind — usually something along the lines of “I can’t believe it! I’m actually speaking to a birthmother!” Remember, at this point, it’s just a phone call. Nothing more, nothing less.
The person on the other end of the line may not even be a birthmother — or more accurately, a prospective birthmother. So before you do anything, do yourself (and her) a favor: take a deep breath and let her speak. If she really is facing an unplanned pregnancy and considering adoption, chances are she’ll have a lot of things to get off her chest. Be there for her. Get to know her. Show her the same compassion that you would extend to anyone reaching out for help. Find out if you have anything in common.
You’ll be nervous, especially at the outset, and that’s okay. She will, too. After all, this isn’t just one of the most important conversations of your life. It’s also one of the most important ones in her life. So if you’re wondering whether you’ll have anything in common, rest assured: you will. You’ll both be as scared as you can possibly be. She’ll worry that you won’t like her. You’ll worry that she won’t like you.
What’s more, you’ll both worry about sticking your foot in your mouth and saying the wrong thing. Which is one more reason why you should listen rather than speak. Remember, this initial conversation is about her, not you. If you do feel compelled to say something — for instance, like telling her how excited you are to hear from her or asking her about how her pregnancy has gone or about what she likes to do in her spare time — go right ahead. At every opportunity, show her how much you care about her and her baby and what her phone call means to you.
When a prospective birthmother calls, she’ll already know a fair bit about you from reading your parent profile. You, on the other hand, will know nothing about her. So one of your goals is to find out whatever you can about her. How serious is she about her adoption plan? What stage of her pregnancy is she at? What kind of parents is she looking for? Put a list of questions together beforehand and keep it nearby in a safe place. It will give you some talking points to draw on and help you keep the conversation on track.
When you do ask your questions, be friendly and positive. Don’t grill or judge her. Listen closely to what she says. Remember that note pad? Jot down her answers. This will not only give you something to do. It will give you something to look back on later when you try to piece together everything that was said.
Decide whether she’s a good fit for you
There are any number of reasons why she may be calling you. Maybe she’s decided you’ll make a great parent for her baby and wants to see if you feel the same way about her. Maybe she liked your profile but just wants to check you out and make sure you’re everything you say you are. Maybe she’s trying to decide between you and another couple and has questions about how you plan to raise her child after the placement.
Or maybe she came upon your profile just moments earlier and has no interest in adoption, no interest in you, and is simply looking for attention or a way to kill time. So how do you know which scenario fits your situation? You won’t, not right away. That’s why it’s important not to jump to any conclusions. By the end of the conversation, you should have a good sense of how sincere she is and whether you have something to build on.
Let’s say your conversation goes amazingly well. She’s sound perfect — the real deal. So what’s next? Do you take the plunge? Not yet. There’s still lots of work to do. There is, however, one thing you can start on right away: building her trust. Now you’ve found her and decided you genuinely like her, don’t lose her. Focus on developing a bond. Share details about your life, your family, your plans to become a parent, and about your hopes and dreams for the future.
Be honest and upfront. Don’t say or promise anything that could come back to bite you later. Remember, the longer you talk, the more comfortable she’ll feel. And the more comfortable she’ll feel, the more she’ll share with you, allowing you to better determine whether she really is the right person for you.
Get her phone number
When you get to the end of your conversation, there’s only one thing left to do: get her phone number. Don’t forget to ask for it. You may not get another chance. Just because you feel you’ve had a good conversation doesn’t mean you’ll hear from her again. She may lose your number. Or she may be checking out other couples. The best way to guarantee a second conversation is to get her phone number after the first one.
Your initial conversation with a prospective birthmother won’t tell you everything you need to know, but it should give you a good idea about her and whether you have a future together. So if you do move on to a second conversation, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back. After all, the hardest part is already behind you.
What do you find is the most nerve-wracking part of speaking to a prospective birthmother for the first time? How have you prepared for that initial conversation? Share you comments in the section below.