“We’re adopting, and the expectant mother chose me to be her sole support person during labor and delivery.
What should I do (or avoid) so I can be the very best for her?”
Whether your birth mother wants you to hold her hand through labor and delivery or wait in the hospital lobby, you have an important role in the delivery day: respect and support your birth mother’s wishes.
Delivery day will be a milestone in your relationship with the birth mother, so you want to make it the best experience it can be for all of you. How can adoptive parents best support their birth mother during labor and delivery?
I adopted my son at five weeks but attended a number of births. I recommend learning all you can about childbirth and the emotional aspects of giving birth. Your birth mother will need your empathy and encouragement on this day, but what that looks like will depend on the individual birth mother’s wishes. Here are the essential “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for adoptive families at the hospital so you can make this a beautiful start to your child’s adoption story:
Do follow your birth mother’s hospital plan.
Lifetime encourages all birth mothers to create a hospital plan before they deliver. This plan is a way to make sure that the birth parents, the adoptive family, the hospital staff, and your Lifetime adoption coordinator are all on the same page.
In her hospital plan, a birth mother can clearly lay out what she wants your role to be during labor and delivery. Be sure to ask your birth mother if you’re unsure about any of her directives. It’s always better to ask ahead of time than to unintentionally create any stress or drama on such a special day. Whether your birth mother wants to share every experience with you or prefers to save some moments just for herself, your role is to support the way she wishes to greet her child for the first time.
Do allow the birth parents to have their moment.
Remember to be sensitive and allow the birth family the chance to have some time with their baby. Allow the birth family to have their moment before you gain parental rights.
Do dress comfortably.
Babies come on their own timetable, so there’s no telling how long your hospital stay will be. Dress comfortably and pack items you may need for an extended stay, especially if you are traveling out of state. Depending on the type of delivery, your birth mother could be in the hospital for several days.
Do bring some basic items for your baby.
Baby basics include onesies, burp cloths, bottles, pacifiers, and the all-important outfit for when you leave the hospital together. If you are traveling out of state, you may wish to purchase bulkier items such as diapers, formula, a pack and play, and a car seat when you arrive.
Do know the laws in your birth mother’s state.
Each state has different laws regarding how soon the birth mother can consent to grant you custody, as well as the length of the revocation period. Make sure to consult with your adoption attorney to find out the laws in your birth mother’s state.
Every state follows The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), an agreement between all 50 states that sets requirements before children can be placed out of state. It may take seven to ten business days before you are granted clearance to return home and begin your new life as a family.
Don’t make travel plans until you hear from your adoption coordinator.
Due dates are just an estimation, so it’s risky to make your travel arrangements based on that. Have your travel bag ready ahead of time, but hold off on plane tickets or hotel reservations until your adoption coordinator says it’s go-time!
Don’t make decisions regarding the baby until after the paperwork is signed.
While you are in the hospital, the birth parents are the legal guardians. If someone on the hospital staff asks you a question about the baby, always defer to the birth mother. She may wish to include you in the conversation, but that is her choice to make. Let her take the lead and respect her decisions.
Don’t invite anyone to the hospital without the birth mother’s permission.
Even though you may wish to share this joyous day with family and friends, the birth mother’s needs must come first. This will likely be a bittersweet experience for her, and she should decide for herself who her support system will be. Follow her hospital plan, and don’t pressure her to make any changes.
Don’t give any gifts until you speak with your attorney.
A gift is a beautiful gesture, but the hospital may not be the best time for this. In some states, attorneys advise against giving any gifts during the adoption process since it could be perceived as coercion.
Remember, the birth mother has the right to change her mind about parenting her child until a judge legally terminates her parental rights. Your well-intentioned gift could make her feel guilty or put pressure on her. To avoid this, Lifetime recommends holding off on any gifts until after the revocation period has ended.
Don’t post pictures from the hospital on social media.
Have respect for your birth mother’s privacy and her complicated feelings during this time. While you are understandably excited to start your new future as a family, the birth mother is grieving a loss. Wait until the revocation period has ended, and you have full legal guardianship of your baby before you start posting on social media.
Don’t pressure or guilt the birth mother.
The birth mother always has the right to change her mind and parent her child. While this doesn’t happen often, it is a legal possibility up until the revocation period ends and the birth mother’s parental rights are terminated.
You’ll likely be holding your breath until you are the legal guardian, but remind yourself that this decision is completely out of your control. This is a personal decision for the birth mother, so there is nothing you can do to prevent it anyway. The birth mother knows your heart and intentions at this time, so there’s nothing you need to convince her of. Avoid talk of plans you have for her baby or elaborate gifts that will put more pressure on her. Any form of guilt or coercion will only damage your relationship with the birth mother. Make this day about the birth mother and her needs.
No matter your role on this day, be present and take in every moment. This is a day your child will want to hear about for years to come, so strive to make it a warm, loving memory for both you and your birth mother.
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.”