Once a birth mother decides she’d like to chat with you for the first time, you might be both ecstatic and terrified. What do you say? What should you ask? How much is too much?
You want to make a good first impression, but will your nerves get the better of you? It’s okay to be nervous…you’re building a new (and hopefully) lifelong relationship. Talking to an expectant mother for the first time can sometimes be awkward or uncomfortable, but your Adoption Coordinator will help you prepare for this first conversation.
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 important relationship off on the right foot.
As an adoptive mother, I know that having your first conversation with a birth mother can be intimidating. Here are 10 practical tips to make your first phone call with a birth mother a success!
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. 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.
Although it may be difficult to do, I recommend trying not to overanalyze what’s being said. Don’t sweat the awkward moments, because they might happen. After all, this is your first time talking with each other. It might be hard to believe, but birth mothers are likely just as nervous as you are.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Ask the birth mother about herself
This first conversation is all about getting to know each other. Ask the birth mother general questions about herself, and then show interest by actively listening. Here are some questions you might ask her:
- How are you feeling?
- How has your pregnancy been so far?
- What are your interests and hobbies?
- What are your plans for the future?
- Is there anything you want to know about us?
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 her 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 small talk to more specific adoption topics.
6. 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.
Be authentic, honest and open, because she can tell if you’re just telling her things she wants to hear. If she really wants an open adoption with visits each year, but you aren’t comfortable with that, be honest with her. Don’t lead her on or hope that she’ll change her mind.
7. 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.
Let her talk about what she wants to talk about. As hopeful adoptive parents, you automatically want to talk about the baby, but if she wants to talk about the weather, talk about the weather. Ask questions about HER, not only her baby. Show an interest in her as a person, as a mother.
If you sense that you have broached an uncomfortable subject for her, change the direction of the conversation.
8. Be sensitive and don’t make assumptions
Remember to be kind and respectful when conversing with a birth mother. Imagine what it would be like in her shoes right now, and keep that in mind when talking with her.
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 both she and the birth father sign the legal consent paperwork.
Always refer to the baby as her baby because she has not made any commitments yet. Getting caught up in the excitement of connecting with a birth mother is easy, but her baby is still her baby. Referring to her baby as your baby is disrespectful. Use terms like “considering adoption” instead of “choosing adoption.”
9. 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 her, 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.
10. End with an open door
Avoid getting upset if she doesn’t always respond immediately or if there are breaks or lulls in conversation. She is processing many emotions right now, and silence doesn’t always mean she has changed her mind. 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.”