I wasn’t there when my son was born. But I knew he was in good hands. Sterling was induced on Saturday morning and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at 5:31pm. He was 8lbs 2oz, 20 ½ inches long. We were in Chicago for our layover when he arrived. She invited us to stop in and see all of them at the hospital after our plane landed that night, although we were pretty certain that by the time we made it there, the exhaustion would have caught up with her. We were thrilled to see this new little one, but we felt fine with seeing him when she was ready. We had already decided that the hospital would be her time, and it felt right for us. We texted her when we landed, but the fatigue of childbirth had caught up to her, and she was ready for sleep. We went out to the hospital the next day.

We waited in the parking lot until they were ready for us to come up. We knocked on the door and were surprised when Sterling, looking beautiful and calm, was up walking around in the room. Also in the room was the baby’s birth father, sitting on the couch with the newborn baby in his arms. He looked like he was in heaven—cherishing every second he had with this little guy. We couldn’t believe this baby was really there. We wanted to hold him. But as soon as we saw his birth father and the look he had on his face, we didn’t have it in us to ask.

It was like time stood still at that moment. This baby was in the arms of his father, someone who would do anything for him. Although we didn’t ask to hold him, we couldn’t help but touch him. My husband gave him a kiss while I looked at his long piano-player fingers. Sterling pulled off his hat so we could see the short brown hair that covered his little head. He was perfect. This moment was perfect. Everything about it felt right. We had a short visit and decided we needed to let them have this time together. We felt completely at peace.

Through all of this, I never said thank you to the nurses who took care of her. I never thanked the doctor who unwrapped the cord from around my son’s neck. Or those that made sure he and Sterling were healthy and comfortable. I am a nurse and a mother who adopted. I understand the hard work and top notch medical care that occurs behind the scenes. I never met those who helped bring my son into the world. As I reflect on my own adoption experience and those of others, there are a few things I hope to share with nurses who perform this kind of work:

It’s OK to ask questions.

You can talk about adoption plans. Find out the details. What has given her strength through this decision? How has her family responded? Are there other challenges she is facing right now? Does she plan to breastfeed? Does the adoptive mother plan to breastfeed? Will she have visitors while in the hospital? Does she want the baby to room with her? Part of providing excellent care is knowing the needs of your patient. Childbirth is a life-changing experience. Placing a child for adoption is life-changing. It is a beautiful experience that you have the opportunity to witness. Take time see the big picture to help make her care as smooth as possible.

She is the mom. 

A woman is not a birth mom until she has placed a child for adoption. Before placement occurs, she is the mom. The adoptive parents do not have the right to see this child before placement. Do not assume that the adoptive parents are allowed to visit the baby. Ask the mother about her comfort level with the adoptive family visiting in the hospital. Ask her to give you a cue if it is time to end the visit. She will remember forever the way you treat her during this time.

Learn Positive Adoption Language.

Don’t say “give up a child for adoption” or “adopted out.” Use “placed a child for adoption.” If she is not choosing to place, it is called “parenting,” not “keeping the baby.” Simple phrases that are commonly used can give the wrong impression. Make sure you know what is accepted and what is not. For a great resource, look at pages like this or this.

Know the laws.

What are the rights of the birth father? Can her family fight the choice for adoption or parenting? When can a mother sign adoption paperwork? The laws vary from state to state. Remember that you are a patient advocate. Part of advocating for her is knowing the laws that will impact her.

Don’t suggest a family.

Everyone knows someone who is in the adoption process. It is not appropriate to suggest someone. Be aware of resources that can help her make her own decision about placement. She is adding people to her family. She is the only one who can decide the best fit.

Don’t make assumptions.

A lot of people think that the only women who place children for adoption are single, teenage mothers. This is not the case. Teenagers may choose to parent. Women in their 30s with other children may choose to place. Each woman makes that decision for herself. Do not assume you know what she will choose. If you can’t offer care without judgement, ask for a change in assignment. Sometimes the worst comments you can make are, “you don’t have to do this” or, “you can change your mind.” Instead, say “You are a very strong person” or “Let me know if you need ANYTHING.”

You will be remembered. 

I want to thank all of the nurses who have cared for the guardian angel mothers out there. These women who have placed a child for adoption have changed lives for generations. I promise that even when you are filling a water pitcher for the eighth time or calling the doctor at 3 a.m., your work will be remembered forever. Trust that your efforts will be cherished.

There is a lot to learn! Please share this information to help make other experiences as positive as they can be.

Are you a Labor and Delivery nurse? What have you learned about adoption?

Are you a birth mom? What was your experience like?