How open are you hoping for/ planning for?
Open adoption is always evolving, always changing. It can go from letters to visits to sharing holidays to “whenever works.” At the beginning, it’s healthy to get an idea of what the potential birth mother would prefer. Some want to start as open as the couple will allow; some are leery of the pain that will come from openness right away. I knew I would be emotionally unstable at first, so I wanted a strict schedule to follow until I could gather my thoughts and begin thinking rationally again. We found a perfect one for us—monthly visits with weekly emails for the first six months. After that, we would reevaluate.
And after six months, I was emotionally ready to handle this again. We knew one another better. My fear that they would run away after the papers were signed had been replaced by trust; their fear that I would be a source of heartache to their son had vanished. Since then we have connected on a “as needed” basis. When I need to Skype, we Skype. When he needs to write me a letter, he does. When I want to take him on a quick birth mother/ son date, we get it arranged. Both of us try to respect the other’s position in our son’s life, and I think that’s what has made this openness work. It’s important to start off on a solid foundation.
How does your family feel about you choosing adoption?
This question can be two-fold. One, for knowing what kind of support system she has, and two, for knowing whether or not you need to plan for visits with the extended family (if you’re willing to do that). If her family isn’t supportive, it’s important to tell her how you feel about it. Hopefully, you feel that that is OK and are willing to allow them to be a part of the child’s life if they ever change their minds. If that’s how you feel, it will help her to see how comfortable you are with the adoption and help the child know about his or her biological roots. The child might have grandpa’s toes, or Aunt Sue’s spunky attitude, and knowing about those connections can be a comfort. Whatever the case, it will be helpful for her to know that she can find support (support, not pressure) from you, especially if she’s not getting it from home.
What would you preferred to be known as?
This can be a tough one! When I met my couple, I knew I wasn’t going to be my child’s mother, but at that time I was his mother. Deep inside I wanted to be called “Mom,” but I knew how inappropriate it was—and that it could be interpreted as threatening to his adoptive mom. We explored many options—“birth mom,” “tummy mommy,” “angel mom,” “Mama Kacey,” and so on and so forth. Finally we decided that he would call me by my first name, but have “birth mom” as a subtitle for other people. When I meet his friends I’m “Kacey—his birth mom,” but when it’s just his family and me I’m only Kacey. I love it. He knows our relationship so I’m OK being called by name. It works for us. It’s important to ask any potential birth mother what name she would prefer so there will be no confusion as time goes on.
Have you thought of any names you like for the baby?
I know, I know! It is the parents’ right to name their own child. But hear me out, my couple asked me this and I LOVED it! They told me some of their favorite names and told me they would probably choose one of the names they liked for his first name, but wanted my help with his middle name. We brainstormed a little. I was a little sad I wasn’t having a girl who could have my name as her middle name, but the couple came up with a brilliant idea. What about making his middle name my initials? I told them I loved it and they went ahead with that name. They told me that he is part of me and they always want him to know that. Through his name, he will always be reminded of what I did for him.
These are just a few ideas that I remember all these years later. They made an impression on me and I think they helped with our relationship! I encourage all adoptive couples who are going to meet a potential birth mother to include a few “fun” questions (what foods are you craving?) as well as serious ones, such as the ones listed above.