When my husband and I first sat down with our son’s birth parents, the social worker began the conversation by saying, “I’m the only one here who isn’t nervous.” Truer words were never spoken. That first meeting can be a terrifying prospect for both the potential adoptive parent and the expectant mother, but if you keep a few things in mind and ask the right questions, conversation can flow freely, allowing both of you to learn more about each other and possibly create a lifelong bond.
Before I list some specific questions to ask these women, I’d like to being by giving some tips for how you ask certain questions. Please remember that these women are not yet birth mothers. They have not placed their child for adoption, and they may still be thinking about parenting. Be considerate of how difficult a choice this may be for them. And know this is 100% their choice. No question you ask or don’t ask is going to be the deal maker or breaker in this situation.
With that being said, here are a few suggestions of questions/topics to have prepared when you first talk with an expectant mom considering adoption.
Ask about her family.
This topic gives you and her lots to talk about and very easily can lead to adoption-specific discussions. When you understand how a person grew up and what her current family life is like, it can help you get a sense of what she’s been through in her life. Also, it’s an easy introduction topic: Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their childhoods.
Ask about her hobbies/occupation.
What do you do professionally? What do you enjoy doing for fun? These questions are still part of the “getting to know you” phase of the conversation, but they’re great not only for learning more about each other, but for learning more about what the child might possibly be interested in. My son’s birth parents are both runners, and I often wonder if he’ll gravitate towards running as he gets older or if he’ll choose a different path.
How do your parents/family feel about adoption?
You can’t beat around the bush forever: Adoption talk must come up sometime because that’s the main reason you’re talking in the first place. Both of you are thinking about adoption, and this is a good way to bring it up. When talking about how other people in her family feel about adoption, an expectant mom will probably bring up her own feelings as well. Be sensitive to the fact that some people may not have much familial support during this time and it may be a difficult question to answer.
What does an open adoption look like to you?
Discussing expectations for open adoption during the first meeting/phone call is absolutely appropriate. Getting on the same page regarding the flow of information and visits is important to the future of your relationship, especially because the law does not mandate open adoption. Don’t promise more than you are comfortable with; relationships based on lies don’t usually turn out so well in the end. You don’t need to come up with a specific plan during this conversation, but you do need to be willing to discuss this important topic.
What are your hopes and dreams for your baby?
Every mother, whether she plans to parent her child or not, has dreams of what her child will someday do or be. This question puts focus on the child and on the future. It’s sometimes hard to see beyond the day-to-day during pregnancy and the adoption wait. This question allows both parties time to imagine this baby years down the road accomplishing so many dreams.
What are your expectations of your child’s potential adoptive parents?
Don’t ask this question expecting to get a laundry list of “do’s and don’ts” or parenting advice, ask this question because it allows you, as a potential adoptive parent, to get an idea of what this expectant mother is thinking about her child growing up and being raised by someone else. It also can lead to meaningful conversation about how the potential adoptive parents and the expectant mom may share some of the same hopes, dreams, and goals for this child.
Whatever specific questions you ask, remember to keep the conversation focused on the best interests of the baby and it should go smoothly, facilitating thoughtful conversation that will get easier as times goes on.
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