Thursday, March 25, 2010

Advice for Waiting Couples (from a Birth Mom)

The following is by Jill Elizabeth.  Jill is a birth mom who placed her daughter last fall, after parenting for 9 weeks.  She has a wonderful blog called "The Happiest Sad" and wrote this post for couples who are hoping to adopt.  ("Roo" is her daughter's nickname, "P&M" refer to her adoptive couple.) 
Re-published with permission

I first started this blog as a record for Roo. I wanted her to know where she came from, how she came to be with her family, and what sort of person her birth mom was.

It's grown since then. I would have figured I'd hear from birth moms about my blog. I've heard from more adoptive couples than anything, which has been great. I've gained a new perspective and a better appreciation of couples who adopt.

I would never presume to speak for every birth mom or potential birth mom out there. I only speak for myself. But, that said, I am a birth mom (and I have birth mom friends). I went through the process of looking at couple profiles and trying to choose parents for my baby. I saw a lot of profiles that were very well done ... and some that were a turn-off. No couple's profile or blog should be a turn-off! No couple sets out to make themselves unappealing. But it happens sometimes because they simply don't know what to say - or what not to say. As such, I offer the following suggestions (for blogs, profiles, meetings with potential birth moms, and relationships with your child’s birth mom).

Meetings and Relationships
-Don’t make promises you won’t/can’t keep – forever. When in doubt, don’t promise. In that vein, don’t start something you can’t keep up. As in business, it’s best to underpromise and overdeliver.

-Remember, when planning for openness, that things will be very different once placement is done. Your feelings about contact and/or the relationship will likely change. This is why it’s best to avoid overpromising.

-When in doubt, err on the side of too much contact with the birth mom. There almost can’t be too many pictures or updates or input or visits. The birth mom will let you know if you need to back off. Just because something may hurt a birth mom (baby shower, court date, sealing, etc) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer her the chance to be there. Not being invited can hurt worse.

-Be open and honest to a fault – COMMUNICATE. Don’t ever let communication between you and your birth mom get awkward or stressful. Love her and trust her enough to be honest, open and communicative. (P and M excel at this, which I love.)

-Remember, when you’re going to meet with a potential birth mom, that she is as nervous as you are. Gifts are nice, but she’s not going to expect it, and if you do want to bring her something, keep it inexpensive and neutral. Flowers are good. You don’t want her to feel like you’re plying her with gifts to get her to choose you.

-Relax. Don’t try to sell yourself or be pressuring. Just get to know her for her, not for her baby. If you happen to have the exact same tastes and views as she does, great. But don’t pretend you do to try to get her to like you. Be yourselves.

-For the love of all that is good and decent, don’t refer to her pregnancy as “unwanted.” Unplanned does not mean unwanted. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that birth moms choose adoption out of love, not because they don’t want their babies.

-Pray every night for your birth mother, whether you’ve met her yet or not. Pray before you meet with a potential birth mom. Follow the Spirit. Don’t let your desire to be parents override your feelings. If a situation isn’t right, you’ll know. Remember, you’re not just looking for A baby, you’re looking for YOUR baby.

-Don’t take it personally if you meet with a potential birth mother – even if you meet more than once, and e-mail and talk – and she doesn’t choose you. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you or that you’ve done anything wrong. The couples I met with but didn’t choose couldn’t have made a better impression on me. They just weren’t my baby’s family.

For Blogs and/or Profiles
-Proofread, please. You don’t have to be the world’s best writers or even have a knack for spelling. But when you’ve typed “ans” instead of “and” and not fixed it, it just looks lazy. Not every birth mom is going to be as picky as I was, but the first thing I noticed about P and M’s profile (after their picture) is that it didn’t contain any glaring errors. I appreciated that.

-If you’ve adopted before, mention what things are like with that birth mom – how open is the adoption? If you’ve got pictures of her with your child, that’s awesome. Post them! Birth moms want to know that they won’t be dumped after placement.

-Speaking of pictures, please please please have some nice ones taken for your profile. They don’t have to be glamour shots, and you don’t need to be Photoshopped, but do try to look your best. Be yourself and have fun in your pictures, but birth moms don’t want to see your his-and-hers “white trash” Halloween costumes.

-Do you enjoy hunting and fishing? Good for you, and go ahead and mention it. Maybe your birth mom does, too. But maybe she doesn’t. And she might find your blog a bit off-putting if it contains multiple pictures of bloody, entrail-strewn deer carcasses or slimy large-mouth bass. I’m going to put high-risk activities in this category, too. If you enjoy 4-wheeling, that’s fine. But please don’t post pictures of the gory flesh wound on your back from the last time you crashed. A birth mom wants to feel that her baby will be safe and protected, and that the baby’s parents will live long lives, unmarred by any sort of horrible accident or disfigurement.

-If you waited several years after marriage before trying to conceive, keep it to yourself. I’m REALLY not proud of this, but there are a few profiles that mentioned that and my knee-jerk reaction was, “Well, you should have considered your fertility ten years ago when you were young and ‘enjoying it just being the two of us’ and travelling the world and building up your careers!” Whether you did or not is your business, and it’s not my place to judge (although obviously that didn’t stop me). But you might want to keep it to yourself.

-Blog! Update at least monthly, too. If you haven’t updated in 10 months, a birth mom might wonder if you’re no longer hoping to adopt, or if you’ve dropped off the face of the earth. You might feel like you have nothing to say. Make something up. Are you wondering how “Lost” is going to end? What did you think of the latest Twilight movie? Blog about it. A blog is a great chance to really be yourselves and show potential birth moms what your lives are like and what great parents you would be.

And Finally …
Try to anticipate what kinds of questions a birth mom might ask. What would you want to know about a couple if you were in her place? Here’s a messy, random list of some things you might want to mention.

-Will she be a stay-at-home-mom?
-Do you have any family traditions you hope to carry on?
-Do you have a nursery set up (are you ready, right now, for a baby)?
-Do you have any pets?
-Any plans to move in the next 10 years?
-Do you attend the temple regularly? What are your church callings? Do you have Family Home Evening every Monday night?
-Do you have immediate and/or extended family living in the area? (Roo has tons of family nearby, and I love it.)
-Besides infertility, have you overcome any other hardships/adversity? What did it/they teach you?
-Do you have any experience with adoption? Do you know anyone who has adopted, or anyone who was adopted?
-What would adopting a child mean to you? You can’t oversell how precious a child would be, although you'll want to avoid sounding desperate, as though your lives are empty and worthless because you aren't parents yet.

Overall, be yourselves. You don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to take any of the advice I've given. Odds are, your child's birth mother will love you anyway, warts and all.

3 comments:

Derek and Laura said...

This is some great information you have shared. Thanks so much!

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journal said...

I would also like to say that if someone in the birth family asks you to commit to something that you and your spouse haven't talked about or aren't comfortable with... don't say yes.

Say something like "We haven't discussed that with each other. We'll have to get back to you on that one." or, you know, just tell them "That's not something we're not comfortable with." :)

Shaun said...

Thanks for the info. It's really great to get as much help as we can.

Shaun (shaunandlanette.weebly.com)

An Open Adoption Documentary

Adoption Isn't Selfish

Straight from a Birthmom...

The Open Adoption Project via The R House