The vast majority of domestic adoptions performed today are semi-open or open adoptions. This means that after your adoption is final, the birth mother is still involved in the child’s life to one extent or another — whether that be the adoptive parents sending updates through a third-party agency or an in-person, extended family type of relationship. In the more open relationships, adoptive parents often will plan a visit with the birth mother shortly after bringing the baby home with them. This first visit can be a little nerve-wracking for everyone involved. To help you prepare for the event, here are some tips I’ve honed over my years as an adoption consultant on what to expect and how to prepare for the first visit with the birth mother.
Start with the phone
The best way to start planning your first visit with your child’s birth mother is to outline all of the details over the phone. If you decide to play it by ear once you start your visit, it can create awkward moments and possibly hurt feelings for everyone. It’s best to go over all of the details of the visit and make sure everyone’s expectations are on the same page, including:
- If you are visiting her or if she is visiting you;
- Who is staying where;
- Which activities will be done with everyone versus which activities will be done with just the baby; and
- Expected start time and end time of the visit.
Of course, you don’t have to stick hard and fast to these plans throughout the visit if other plans pop up naturally. This preplanning step is just a way to minimize any stress that may crop up with a poorly planned visit.
Make her comfortable
It is important to make the birth mother as comfortable as possible throughout the visit. When you are making the initial plans on the phone, encourage her to guide the direction of the plans so you meet wherever she is most comfortable. Some birth mothers want to see your house and the baby’s room while this visual might be too painful for others. You could also meet in a completely neutral location if that makes her more comfortable or just makes more sense logistically. Let her feelings guide the plans as the initial visit can be very difficult for birth mothers.
Everyone is nervous
Here is the most important thing to remember about your visit with the birth mother: Everyone involved is nervous! Especially at the start of the visit, there will be a great deal of nervous energy in the room. Remember that it is absolutely normal and perfectly OK. This is why I recommended nailing out the plans over the phone. When the visit starts, launch into the plan for the beginning of the trip to keep the ball rolling. A good way to start the visit is to have lunch or dinner reservations right away or a scheduled mani/pedi with just the adoptive mom and the birth mom. Having a hard start will give you something to do. It will also leave more open and flexible time later in the visit after everyone has become more comfortable.
Respect her emotions
Your child’s birth mother may be going through a roller coaster of emotions leading up to, during and after this visit. Remember to respect those emotions, and be completely flexible. Let her know it is OK if she doesn’t want to hold the baby or if she wants less interaction going forward. Alternately, try to be flexible if she would like to extend the visit or if it would be helpful to her to have the next visit scheduled before this one ends. There are many mixed emotions of grief, loss, happiness and excitement about her child’s future that she will have to grapple with during the initial visits. Allow her to figure out what kind of role and place she wants to have in the child’s life that best works for everyone involved, especially the child.
Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months.