Writing that “Expectant Parent” letter is hard. It is hard to put all of who you are on paper and look real and not like you are “marketing” yourself. Here are a list of the 6 things that stuck out to me when we wrote our first letter.

1. Who takes pictures of themselves?

Seriously, how often since you have gotten together have you and your significant other taken pictures together? And even if you have, how many of those pictures would be from parties? How many have alcohol in them? Finding pictures that aren’t too posed or inappropriate is one of the biggest complaints seen on online forums for hopeful adoptive couples. Sure, I had a ton of cute pictures of me and my husband. On New Year’s Eve, birthdays parties, family celebrations, you name it we had them. And in every one it never failed there was some kind of alcohol or unsuitable photo bomb!

2. How do you make yourself stand out?

So even once you have the pictures, how do you make your profile stand out from the others? I mean, of course you are the most awesome person/couple ever. But in reality most of the other couples who are trying to adopt through your same attorney or agency have gone through infertility and are around the same age and similar median income as you. Trying to put ‘you’ in just a few sentences is downright daunting. And you don’t want to look too pretentious/crunchy/old/young/poor/desperate . . . the list goes on and on. AHHHHhhhhhhhh.

3. How do the expectant parents feel?

Unless you have ever placed a child for adoption, and even then, you never know how the person reading your letter feels. Maybe they have struggled with placing their child. Maybe they were raped and are unsure how they feel about their future child. Maybe they have known it was what they would do since finding out about the pregnancy. Saying things like “I’m sure this has been a really hard decision” or “We know how hard this must be for you” may not be the case of this individual or couple. Never assume you know how someone else is feeling.

4. You never know WHO the audience is.

The expectant parent could be a 13-year-old girl and her 12-year-old boyfriend. Or it could be a 44-year-old husband and wife with 3 other children. Or even the family and friends of the person searching for the “right” family. It is always easy to picture the expectant parent as “a young girl who got pregnant by her boyfriend who she loves very much but they are heading off to college, so . . . ” In reality, that isn’t usually what happens. Expectant parents come in all different shapes and sizes and situations.

5. You don’t want to be coercive.

A lot is discussed on adoption forums about coercion and adoption. Some feel that any pre-birth matching is coercive. Some birth parents express that they “needed” to know the family they chose before they placed. Neither is right or wrong and both sides have valid and truthful points. Just keep in mind when writing profile letters that you are talking about someone else’s child. That child may be yours down the road if the parent chooses you, but at the point in time that you are writing, that child still belongs to that expectant parent.

6. What kind of relationship DO you want without the birth family?

It is easy to say you either don’t want contact or that you want a fully open adoption. But in reality, no relationship is black-and-white, so trying to be open while not over- or under-promising can be difficult. You don’t know the person who will choose you. The person you have created in your mind may be very different than the person you meet. Are you willing to maintain an open relationship with someone who is incarcerated? Has a mental illness? Is homeless? People change over time and the person you first meet may not be the same person in a few years. Keep in mind that when discussing openness, you are in essence signing a moral contract to be open. Don’t promise something you may not be able to follow through on.