In open adoptions, many adoptive families are fortunate enough to be a part of the birth of their baby. It’s a blessing to have the birth family invite you to the hospital. Each adoption hospital experience is going to play out differently, and today we want to share some general adoption etiquette guidelines with you.
During the hospital experience, there’s a difference between meaning well and acting entitled. So today, Lifetime is here to help your adoption etiquette with four things that adoptive couples should never do at the hospital.
1. Don’t Take the Lead
During the adoption hospital experience, we encourage you to show her that you respect her and can understand boundaries. Right now, you don’t (yet) have any legal rights to her child. So, you’ll need to avoid making any decisions for the baby until the paperwork is signed. Even if a nurse asks you a question about the baby, the birth mother needs to be the one making those decisions right now.
Many birth mothers cherish the time spent with her baby after she delivers, so allow her to enjoy this time. Take some time to watch this beautiful video a birth mother made for her baby. In it, birth mother Hannah tells her newly-born son why she chose adoption, and of her profound love for him.
Remember, always ask for the birth mother’s permission, let her take the lead, and allow her the time she needs to have with her child.
2) Don’t Invite Your Friends or Family
This is going to be a joyful time for you, and you’ll naturally want to share your joy with people who care about you. But, avoid the temptation to invite your family or friends to the hospital unless the birth mother requests their company.
If she’s hoping to see the instant love your family has, make sure to ask your family members if they’re comfortable visiting. What you want to avoid is treating her hospital experience as your own and celebrating with friends and family.
3) Don’t Overstay Your Welcome
It’s easy for adoptive couples to be so excited that they miss the birth mother’s cues indicating she needs some space. Make sure to offer her breaks frequently. She probably needs rest, and she also may want some time alone with her baby. So whatever the case may be, it’s important to give her the space she needs.
Follow the birth mother’s lead, and accommodate her needs and wants however possible. Never try to take over the situation or ask her for favors during this time, like sleepovers in her room or having the baby room with you. She has so much on her plate already, and she deserves to be in control.
The birth mother may need time alone with her baby to get closure. An adoptive couple who’s pushy won’t guarantee that she places; what it will guarantee is that the relationship begins with lack of respect.
4) Don’t Guilt Her Into Placing
Avoid doing or saying anything that could be seen as coercive, because many birth mothers already feel pressure to follow through with their adoption plans. She knows you’ve traveled far to get to the hospital and has seen the joy in your eyes. She knows the extreme financial and emotional ties you’ve made to her baby. There’s already so much pressure on her because of this knowledge, and because of the bond she’s made with you. So, don’t bring her gifts just yet, and avoid bringing elaborate gifts for the baby.
Keep the lines of communication open. If you’re not sure how to act or speak, let her know. Share with her that you don’t want her to feel pressured. Reassure her you’ll still love and respect her if she decides to parent.
Remember, you’ll be telling your son or daughter their birth story for many years to come. So, you’ll want to act in a way that will make your child proud of your role.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.