I’ve had many friends share with me their experiences of trying to adopt. They ask mine because, as a birth mother, I’ve seen the another side of adoption. They ask because their audience is girls who are in similar situations that I was. I know many birth moms and recently asked a few what they thought were “red flags” when they were searching for their child’s adoptive parents. All of the answers seemed to revolve a certain theme: authenticity.

Red Flag #1 – Promising too much

The couples that promise the world. A visit whenever the birth family wants, pictures every day, an update at the snap of a finger, and so on. It’s not realistic, and the couples that promise the moon are usually the couples who break their promises once the papers are signed.

The general rule of thumb for adoptive parents is to promise low and perform high.  If you’re comfortable sending a picture text whenever the birth family is having a hard day (which will be frequent during the first year), then promise to send them weekly. If you can send one email a week with an update and pictures, then promise every other week. It is better to allow more openness than planned than to close it later on.

Red Flag #2 – Terminology

Know your audience. Adoption isn’t a decision that’s taken lightly, and the biggest turn-off for prospective birth moms is to feel underappreciated. Some pointers:

Avoid saying that it’s “your baby” when s/he isn’t yet.

Also watch for phrasing about “allowing” the birth mom to be part of the child’s life, as if the birth mom isn’t wanted but will be “allowed” out of obligation. We love that you’re going to love the child—that’s the most important part—but be careful of the phrasing.

Pregnant women don’t want to hear that someone will “love that child more than she can imagine,” because she can imagine how much love is possible. Perhaps say that you will love that child with all of your heart. That’s something we all want for the child.

Don’t be sloppy with this. If you’re not great with punctuation or spelling, get someone to edit it. It shows the effort taken and will be noticed.

Red Flag #3 – Photos

I loved seeing pictures of my couple’s many trips around the world. However, if that was all I saw, I would have kept scrolling to other couples. Traveling is a big part of my couple’s life, so I enjoyed seeing those pictures, but I also loved the pictures of them dating, their wedding, their goofiness, and their posed pictures. I loved seeing images of their extended family, their friends, and their activities. Basically, I wanted an idea of who would be around my son. I wanted to know if he would spend vacations in China or in the mountains. I wanted to see if he would play baseball or take an art class. If his summers would be spent in the backyard or on a cross-country road trip.

The pictures showed me how his quality of life would be.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to be authentic. If you travel, put those pictures on there. If you don’t, that’s okay, because not all expectant moms want that for their child. If you’re not comfortable with weekly updates, but you can do monthly, say that. Expectant moms value honesty and authenticity above all else. Be honest, know your audience, and be yourself.

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