Here at Lifetime, we recognize the importance of having authentic conversations. Therefore, we encourage every hopeful adoptive parent to take the time to listen and learn from a birth mother as she searches for her baby’s forever family.
Having your first conversation with a birth mother can be intimidating. So, we’re giving you 10 helpful tips to make your first phone call with a birth mother a success. Every conversation matters!
Once a birth mother decides she’d like to chat with you for the first time, you might be both ecstatic and terrified. You want to make a good first impression, but will your nerves get the better of you? Remember that the birth mother is likely just as nervous as you are.
When you connect with a birth mother for the first time, you get the opportunity to reassure her that everything she already likes about you is true, and even better than she imagined. Plus, your first call with a birth mother has the potential to set the tone for further contact, during and after your match, as well as help start this most-important relationship off on the right foot.
Here are 10 tips for having an authentic, meaningful first conversation with a birth mother:
Ask your adoption professional what birth mothers typically want to learn about potential adoptive families. If you know adoptive parents who have already adopted, you might also ask them what to expect.
You don’t need to read from a script, but you can prepare your answers for some common questions. You could practice or role-play this conversation with your partner or a close friend if it helps you feel more confident.
If you’re one of Lifetime’s hopeful adoptive parents, make sure to check out our recent webinar, “Coaching Call: Talking with Birth Mothers.” In this webinar, you’ll learn the important basics for connecting one-on-one with a potential birth mother. You’ll hear examples, tips, and what to expect from that initial contact with the birth mother who has chosen you. Lifetime also shares what’s happening behind the scenes to help set you up for a positive interaction with a birth mother, even before you know about her.
2. Practice proper phone etiquette
Set up a comfortable environment and make sure you have a good connection for your first phone call with the birth mother. Have this conversation in a private space so you can be yourself and limit distractions. Avoid using speaker phone, so the birth mother does not feel like she is being interviewed.
3. Show your enthusiasm
Birth mothers want to know that adoptive families are committed to their decision to adopt, so don’t hold back your enthusiasm. Let the birth mother know how happy you are to meet her, and how excited you are to become a parent.
4. Ask the birth mother about herself
This first conversation is all about getting to know each other. Ask the birth mother some general questions about herself, and then show your interest by listening. Many birth mothers say they chose their adoptive family because they felt a connection during their first few meetings. You may discover some common ground that helps you form your bond as you discuss your backgrounds, interests, and hobbies.
Remember to ask the expectant mother how she’s feeling. Ask how her pregnancy has been going and whether she’s had any pregnancy cravings. Questions like these show that you care about her and not just the baby she’s carrying. Also, asking these questions during your first conversation with a birth mother may provide a shift from general small talk to more specific adoption questions.
5. Ask about her hopes for future contact
Reassure the birth mother that you look forward to a relationship after placement. Ask what kind of relationship she envisions. This question will help you see if your visions are compatible, and it also puts her in the driver’s seat. By asking about her wishes, you empower her to take control of her future.
6. Follow the birth mother’s lead
Ask the birth mother what questions she has, and discuss the topics that interest her. Choosing parents for her baby is a huge decision, so she wants to make sure the parents she chooses are the perfect fit.
During your first conversation with a birth mother, offer her information about your home and community, your interests and lifestyle, your extended family, and more. The more information you’re willing to share with a birth mother, the better idea she will have of whether or not you’re the right family for her baby.
If you sense that you have broached an uncomfortable subject for her, change the direction of the conversation.
7. Be sensitive and don’t make assumptions
Avoid asking intrusive questions that cross personal boundaries. Questions about the baby’s father, finances, or drug use are inappropriate at this time. Plus, your adoption professional has likely already asked her these uncomfortable questions. At Lifetime, we will share the info we’ve gathered about the birth mother and her situation before your first conversation.
Also, remember that you are speaking with a prospective birth mother. Don’t presume that she has finalized any decisions. She is an expectant mother who is considering adoption. Remember that the adoption isn’t final until after the baby is born and she signs the legal consent paperwork.
Always refer to the baby as her baby because she has not made any commitments yet. Use words like “considering adoption” instead of “choosing adoption.”
8. Ask what stood out in your profile
The birth mother wanted to meet you because something from your profile spoke to her. Asking her what can be a springboard for your conversation, and may even be the spark that begins your special connection. If she liked your profile because she has something in common with you — for example, a shared hobby or interest — it will help establish some common ground and give you something to talk about.
Your profile obviously stood out to this expectant mother, and it can be great to get feedback as to why. If you do not match with this birth mother, her feedback on your profile may help you make a future match.
9. Be yourself
Be open and honest about who you are, what you value, and why you want to become parents. No birth mother is expecting perfection. She will appreciate you for being genuine and real.
If you’re unsure how to answer a question or if you ever feel put on the spot, it’s okay to say that you’re not sure, that you have to think about it or that you’ll get back to them. Remember that you don’t have to talk about any subjects you’re uncomfortable discussing.
Try not to overanalyze what’s being said, and don’t sweat awkward moments — they might happen. After all, this is your first time talking with each other. If it seems appropriate, it’s even okay to mention how nervous you are; it’s something you both will have in common.
10. End with an open door
If the birth mother expresses interest in speaking with you again or meeting with you in person, make it as convenient for her as possible.
But let’s say she doesn’t mention a future meeting. You might end your conversation by letting her know how happy you are to have met her. Tell her that you’d love the opportunity to get to know each other better, but you wish her the best on whatever path she chooses. You can give her different options for contacting you, such as email or social media. Some hopeful adoptive families create “adoption-only” email addresses or Facebook profiles.
Whatever you do, avoid putting pressure on her to commit to anything right now. Let her be the one to decide if she’d like to explore this connection further.
Don’t despair if your first conversation with a birth mother doesn’t end in a match. The baby you are hoping for is still out there. You are now more practiced and prepared to speak with the birth mother who was meant for you.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 29, 2020, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”