I wasn’t feeling very lucky at the time, but by going through a failed adoption placement with our first match, it turns out I was able to learn a lot from the experience! With our first match, the expectant mother and I talked a lot—but looking back, I can see that we skated around most of the important topics and were not firm with one another on expectations. This ultimately led to a breakdown in communication and all parties feeling let down.
When that match dissolved, we were able to move on, dust off our shattered hearts, and pick up the pieces to throw ourselves back into the waiting pool, but this time around we were better prepared and felt more confident in how we would move forward. I felt much more educated and prepared to enter a second match with my eyes wide open and rose-colored glasses off.
From that experience, I learned that it’s important to have the following conversation with an expectant mother before placement:
What Lead her to Create an Adoption Plan?
You can get to know each other a lot with this topic. She may want to know more about why you are choosing adoption to grow your family and you can ask what lead her to create an adoption placement plan. Knowing your future child’s adoption story is an important piece of his/her identity. Understanding the expectant parent’s mindset with adoption placement can also help you determine if she has been offered the resources necessary before choosing adoption—and that her adoption counseling and procurement has been handled ethically by the professionals she is working with.
What does each party envision for the ongoing level of sharing information, communication, updates, visits, etc? It is good to discuss this from the beginning to set a minimum expectation. Many factors can play into how often you will be able to see each other, like distance and employment. But not leaving room for false hope and future let-down is very important in growing a strong bond. Discuss these expectations early on and very frankly so there is no confusion later down the road.
Naming of the Child
Many times the adoptive parents have a name or two selected that they have dreamed of using for many years. I feel it is “best practice” to ask the expectant mother if she has any input on how the child is named and if she wants to be a part of the selection process. She may have a name she would like to give to her child, and if you are dead-set on naming the baby, it could be a deal breaker for her. But more often than not, a middle ground can be found. You may want to ask her to choose a middle name or second middle name, offer her veto rights on names, or she may even want to give a name for the original birth certificate, yet have no problem with the adoptive parents changing it to their name of choice at finalization. As long as you have the discussion in advance, you can avoid unnecessary conflict and show her respect.
Formula or Breast Milk?
While most of the time adopting means formula feeding, some birth mothers may want to breastfeed during the hospital stay. You should encourage and support this without fears and insecurities! If you’re planning on formula-feeding, and your child has birth siblings, ask her what formulas have worked well for them. One or both of you not want to formula-feed the baby, so discuss alternatives: Could she pump for you after placement? Could you find a breastmilk donor? Are you interested in inducing lactation? All of these options should be discussed in advance to evaluate if they are something either party has a strong stance on.
Medical History and Prenatal Substance Exposure
Sometimes while in a rush or out of fear, important things are left off the medical questionnaire that the expectant parents fill out with the adoption professionals. Ask about allergies, genetic disorders, cancer history, age of living parents and grandparents as well as any drug, alcohol or tobacco exposure during the pregnancy. If you have agreed to accept an adoption placement with exposure or possible special needs, she shouldn’t fear you changing your mind with some reassurance, but a general medical history and family knowledge will be beneficial for you and your future child’s pediatrician.
Doctor’s Appointments and Birthing Plan
It is best to talk about her desires when it comes to attending doctor’s appointments or if you should be at the hospital during delivery. While some expectant mothers would love for the hopeful adoptive parents to attend medical checkups and be in the room for the birth of the child, other mothers would like the pregnancy and delivery to be their special time with the child. It is best to know those things upfront and also respect that her desires may change at any given moment. Follow her lead and do not push her to allow you in if she is uneasy.
Get to Know Her!
Time to get down to basics. How can you have a real relationship with anyone if you know nothing about them? These initial conversations will build the foundation of a lifelong relationship, friendship, and extended family. What is her favorite color? Favorite show? Favorite food? Family traditions? Best vacation taken? Most interesting school subject? Does she like to read? What does she do in her free time? Talk about childhood. Anything you can think of that could possibly lead to common interests and connections are great conversation pieces and will help you get to know one another.
Lastly, reassure her that while you are honored to have matched with her, you will back her in any decision she makes. If she chooses to follow through and place with you, you will uphold your agreement to the openness plan you have discussed and raise her child with the utmost love and respect that she has entrusted with you. On the flip side, if she decides to parent her child, you will support her decision and wish her the best of luck.
There will be many conversations to be had, but these basics should be discussed as soon as possible to make sure the match is a great match! You will build a solid foundation for your relationship by setting precedent for open and honest communication.
What other topics do you feel should be discussed prior to placement?
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