After a long journey of deciding to grow your family through adoption, completing paperwork, going through the home study process, waiting, and getting to know the birth mother, the big day is finally here – it’s time to meet your baby! Adopting a newborn from the hospital is often the most anticipated event in an adoptive family’s journey.
Once you arrive at the hospital, you will probably find it to be one of the most intense and emotional experiences yet. You may be overwhelmed with joy and enthusiasm but also may face some lurking anxieties as you await your baby. To help you prepare, I’ll share what to expect and how to prepare for adopting a newborn from the hospital. I’ve also answered some of the most common questions that adoptive parents have and shared additional resources about what to expect when your baby arrives!
Recognize the Birth Mother’s Hospital Experience
Before you embark on adopting a newborn from the hospital, it’s helpful to find out what the expectant mother’s hospital plan looks like from your adoption professional before the delivery day. Having this knowledge before the baby’s birth can help ease any anxieties you may be experiencing and prepare you (mentally, emotionally, and physically) for the big day.
For most birth mothers, preparing for their baby’s birth is one of the hardest things to do. Birth parents know that leaving the hospital without their baby in their arms will be one of the most challenging things they’ll ever face.
That’s why Lifetime Adoption encourages each birth mother to develop her own hospital plan. This plan expresses her desires and needs for her hospital stay and labor. Her adoption hospital plan will inform the hospital staff, Lifetime, and you exactly how she wants her hospital stay to be handled. Having this plan in place before she goes into labor allows everyone to concentrate on the birth of the baby.
Before her baby’s birth, the birth mother will make a hospital plan with her Adoption Coordinator. Some of the choices she has include:
- Whether she is comfortable with you being present in the delivery room or if she’d rather have you remain in the waiting room.
- If she’d like you to participate in the birth process, and how (for example, some birth mothers invite the adoptive parents to cut the umbilical cord).
- For birth mothers who already have a child, if they’d like their child to be at the hospital too.
Whether she’d like to be admitted to the hospital confidentially.
- If she’d prefer to recover in an area away from the maternity ward.
- Her desire to have family members, close friends, or other people in her support system with her at the hospital.
- How much time she’d like to spend with her baby before saying goodbye.
Follow Her Lead
One of the most important items in the hospital plan for adoptive parents is how involved you are during the labor and afterward. As she creates her hospital plan, a birth mother is asked whether she wants the adoptive parents to be present for the birth. There are various options, from having you be in the waiting room to inviting you into her room.
Most birth mothers will decide to have some time alone at the hospital, and Lifetime encourages this. Spending time with her baby allows the birth mother to feel settled in her decision and make peace with it before placement. After all, you can’t say “goodbye” before you’ve said “hello”!
Ask the birth mother how things are going, but leave her space and time alone with her baby. Some birth mothers regret not spending time alone with their baby before the adoption and hold that grief with them. You will have plenty of time with the baby once you get home.
Remember, even if the birth is an emotional time for you, you should stick with the birth mother’s plan and respect her wishes. To continue building your relationship with your baby’s birth mother, attempt to make the hospital stay as comfortable as possible for her.
The birthing experience and the moments afterward are for the birth parents, and you need to allow the birth family to have their moment before you are granted parental responsibility. Also, childbirth is physically and emotionally intense, so we recommend respecting their time and space. Support them as they do what feels right to them at the hospital.
It’s good to remember that until the birth parents sign the paperwork which terminates their parental rights, you don’t (yet) have any legal rights to their child. So, you’ll need to avoid making medical 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 make those decisions for now.
Frequently Asked Questions About Adopting a Newborn from the Hospital
When do we need to travel?
Once your birth mother goes into labor, Lifetime will contact you and notify you to travel. Pregnancy is often unpredictable – only 4% of women give birth on their expected due dates.
For this reason, Lifetime’s adoption professionals don’t recommend making travel plans based on a birth mother’s due date. Instead, wait for your adoption professional’s directions and prepare to travel as quickly as possible.
What you can do to prepare for this momentous trip is consider what airport to fly into or what route to drive. Orient yourself now with travel sites that make it easy to find and compare flights so you will know how to navigate them when the time comes to fly.
Get plans in place to leave on a moment’s notice. Let your job and anyone else it may affect know that you will have to go if you get the call. If you are already parents, you’ll need to arrange childcare and pack your child’s bags for an extended stay at their babysitter’s or grandma and grandpa’s house.
Once you get the call from your adoption agency that the birth mother is in labor, you need to travel ASAP, within 24 hours of the phone call. Quickly arriving shows the birth mother that you’re there for the baby and that this is your #1 priority.
What should we bring?
Some essential items you’ll want to pack include:
- About three to four onesies
- A couple of pairs of baby pajamas
- Other baby clothing items in varying sizes
- Two receiving blankets
- A cute outfit for the day you’ll be discharged from the hospital
- Two to four bottles
- Two to four pacifiers
- Gifts for the birth parents, if they’re allowable per state law
And these are items you can purchase once you arrive in the birth mother’s state:
- Car seat
- Pack-n-play or travel crib where the baby can sleep
When will we get to see the baby?
The answer to this question is up to the birth mother, who will decide how things go in her hospital plan. During her pregnancy, she will have made a hospital plan designating who she wants to see at the hospital, what role you should play, how much time she wants with her baby, and more.
The hospital may also have additional policies, such as if you may have access to the baby’s medical information, whether you will have your own hospital room, and if you can move freely throughout the maternity ward and nursery.
When you adopt through Lifetime, your Adoption Coordinator will have already contacted the hospital to determine the answers to these questions and more. Be sure to understand the hospital’s policies and fill out any paperwork as needed upon arrival.
Can we bring a gift for the birth mother?
A gift of some kind is a lovely idea! Whether or not you’re legally allowed to give the birth mother a gift depends on the adoption laws in her state. As this can vary, you’ll need to check in with your adoption attorney before giving her any gifts.
When does placement happen?
Each state has different laws regarding adoption placement, meaning when a birth mother can consent to adoption. Typically, the birth mother can give written consent between 12 and 72 hours after giving birth. At this point, the state will transfer custody to you. Once a birth mother chooses you, an adoption attorney can provide a more precise timeframe.
What do we do after placement?
If your baby’s birth mother lives in another state, you will need to stay in her state for seven to ten business days as you wait for ICPC clearance. ICPC stands for the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children and ensures that children placed into an adoptive family outside their birth state get the right support services.
As you wait for ICPC clearance, plan activities and enjoy quiet time with your spouse and baby. Life is sure to pick up speed when you get home! You can also shop for items you still need for your baby. Do your best to remain flexible and go with the flow.
You might feel that ICPC could be more efficient, but there is nothing that you or your adoption professional can do to make the process move quicker. However, after ICPC clears, you can return home and begin your new life as parents with your adopted baby!
When do we receive our baby’s birth certificate?
You likely won’t receive a birth certificate while in the birth mother’s state. That’s because the birth mother will complete birth certificate forms while still in the hospital, which will be sent to the state. Once your adoption process is finalized, it may take a bit of time for you to get your child’s new amended birth certificate showing you as parents.
Resources on Adopting a Newborn from the Hospital
Newborn Care Course for Adopting Parents
“Expecting 101… you’re adopting!” is a unique newborn preparation course created especially for future adoptive parents. It provides a place to learn about newborn care and feeding without the pregnancy and postpartum tips offered in similar newborn prep courses. You are granted access to this course for two years, so you can watch now to prepare and rewatch after placement.
Course creator Valerie Trumbower talks through strategies to bond with the baby, what baby gear you need when you meet the baby, and what to buy if you just want to get what’s needed for the first month or so until you’re sure everything is official. To find out more about the course, visit NewParentsAcademy.com/adoption. Plus, you can get 20% off your course fee using the coupon code LIFETIME.
Webinar: What to Expect When Baby Arrives
This webinar is an invaluable resource if you’d like to learn more about the hospital experience as an adoptive parent! You’ll hear from Lifetime’s Director as she provides expert answers to the most-asked questions about bringing your baby home through infant adoption.
Get a glimpse at those sweet moments you’ve been dreaming of. Discover how to balance flexibility with preparation as we discuss the roles of your attorney and home study once the baby is here, the moments you’ll meet your baby at the hospital, and what to expect with travel clearances and finalizing your adoption. We also offer tips and insights about the birth mother’s side of the process once her baby is born. Watch Lifetime’s “What to Expect When Baby Arrives” webinar here.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 14, 2019, 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.”