Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Few (ha-ha) Words of Advice for Couples

I first started this blog as a record for Roo. I wanted her to know where she came from, how she came to be with her family, and what sort of person her birth mom was.

It's grown since then. I would have figured I'd hear from birth moms about my blog. I've heard from more adoptive couples than anything, which has been great. I've gained a new perspective and a better appreciation of couples who adopt.

I would never presume to speak for every birth mom or potential birth mom out there. I only speak for myself. But, that said, I am a birth mom (and I have birth moms friends). I went through the process of looking at couple profiles and trying to choose parents for my baby. I saw a lot of profiles that were very well done ... and some that were a turn-off. No couple's profile or blog should be a turn-off! No couple sets out to make themselves unappealing. But it happens sometimes because they simply don't know what to say - or what not to say. As such, I offer the following suggestions (for blogs, profiles, meetings with potential birth moms, and relationships with your child’s birth mom).

Meetings and Relationships
-Don’t make promises you won’t/can’t keep – forever. When in doubt, don’t promise. In that vein, don’t start something you can’t keep up. As in business, it’s best to underpromise and overdeliver.

-Remember, when planning for openness, that things will be very different once placement is done. Your feelings about contact and/or the relationship will likely change. This is why it’s best to avoid overpromising.

-When in doubt, err on the side of too much contact with the birth mom. There almost can’t be too many pictures or updates or input or visits. The birth mom will let you know if you need to back off. Just because something may hurt a birth mom (baby shower, court date, sealing, etc) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer her the chance to be there. Not being invited can hurt worse.

-Be open and honest to a fault – COMMUNICATE. Don’t ever let communication between you and your birth mom get awkward or stressful. Love her and trust her enough to be honest, open and communicative. (P and M excel at this, which I love.)

-Remember, when you’re going to meet with a potential birth mom, that she is as nervous as you are. Gifts are nice, but she’s not going to expect it, and if you do want to bring her something, keep it inexpensive and neutral. Flowers are good. You don’t want her to feel like you’re plying her with gifts to get her to choose you.

-Relax. Don’t try to sell yourself or be pressuring. Just get to know her for her, not for her baby. If you happen to have the exact same tastes and views as she does, great. But don’t pretend you do to try to get her to like you. Be yourselves.

-For the love of all that is good and decent, don’t refer to her pregnancy as “unwanted.” Unplanned does not mean unwanted. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that birth moms choose adoption out of love, not because they don’t want their babies.

-Pray every night for your birth mother, whether you’ve met her yet or not. Pray before you meet with a potential birth mom. Follow the Spirit. Don’t let your desire to be parents override your feelings. If a situation isn’t right, you’ll know. Remember, you’re not just looking for A baby, you’re looking for YOUR baby.

-Don’t take it personally if you meet with a potential birth mother – even if you meet more than once, and e-mail and talk – and she doesn’t choose you. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you or that you’ve done anything wrong. The couples I met with but didn’t choose couldn’t have made a better impression on me. They just weren’t my baby’s family.

For Blogs and/or Profiles
-Proofread, please. You don’t have to be the world’s best writers or even have a knack for spelling. But when you’ve typed “ans” instead of “and” and not fixed it, it just looks lazy. Not every birth mom is going to be as picky as I was, but the first thing I noticed about P and M’s profile (after their picture) is that it didn’t contain any glaring errors. I appreciated that.

-If you’ve adopted before, mention what things are like with that birth mom – how open is the adoption? If you’ve got pictures of her with your child, that’s awesome. Post them! Birth moms want to know that they won’t be dumped after placement.

-Speaking of pictures, please please please have some nice ones taken for your profile. They don’t have to be glamour shots, and you don’t need to be Photoshopped, but do try to look your best. Be yourself and have fun in your pictures, but birth moms don’t want to see your his-and-hers “white trash” Halloween costumes.

-Do you enjoy hunting and fishing? Good for you, and go ahead and mention it. Maybe your birth mom does, too. But maybe she doesn’t. And she might find your blog a bit off-putting if it contains multiple pictures of bloody, entrail-strewn deer carcasses or slimy large-mouth bass. I’m going to put high-risk activities in this category, too. If you enjoy 4-wheeling, that’s fine. But please don’t post pictures of the gory flesh wound on your back from the last time you crashed. A birth mom wants to feel that her baby will be safe and protected, and that the baby’s parents will live long lives, unmarred by any sort of horrible accident or disfigurement.

-If you waited several years after marriage before trying to conceive, keep it to yourself. I’m REALLY not proud of this, but there are a few profiles that mentioned that and my knee-jerk reaction was, “Well, you should have considered your fertility ten years ago when you were young and ‘enjoying it just being the two of us’ and travelling the world and building up your careers!” Whether you did or not is your business, and it’s not my place to judge (although obviously that didn’t stop me). But you might want to keep it to yourself.

-Blog! Update at least monthly, too. If you haven’t updated in 10 months, a birth mom might wonder if you’re no longer hoping to adopt, or if you’ve dropped off the face of the earth. You might feel like you have nothing to say. Make something up. Are you wondering how “Lost” is going to end? What did you think of the latest Twilight movie? Blog about it. A blog is a great chance to really be yourselves and show potential birth moms what your lives are like and what great parents you would be.

And Finally …
Try to anticipate what kinds of questions a birth mom might ask. What would you want to know about a couple if you were in her place? Here’s a messy, random list of some things you might want to mention.

-Will she be a stay-at-home-mom?
-Do you have any family traditions you hope to carry on?
-Do you have a nursery set up (are you ready, right now, for a baby)?
-Do you have any pets?
-Any plans to move in the next 10 years?
-Do you attend the temple regularly? What are your church callings? Do you have Family Home Evening every Monday night?
-Do you have immediate and/or extended family living in the area? (Roo has tons of family nearby, and I love it.)
-Besides infertility, have you overcome any other hardships/adversity? What did it/they teach you?
-Do you have any experience with adoption? Do you know anyone who has adopted, or anyone who was adopted?
-What would adopting a child mean to you? You can’t oversell how precious a child would be, although you'll want to avoid sounding desperate, as though your lives are empty and worthless because you aren't parents yet.

Overall, be yourselves. You don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to take any of the advice I've given. Odds are, your child's birth mother will love you anyway, warts and all.


The Smith's said...

Thank you! I love how you tell it like it is!

Danya said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And THANK YOU!!!! You have NO IDEA how helpful this is!!! It's helpful reminders like this that help us to be the best version of ourselves that we possibly can be!!! :D

~ Danya

PS: Thank you!!!!!!!!

Swinging On Small Hinges said...

Wow! What incredible advice!
I remember looking through profiles...I guess just to see what other potential adoptive parents were putting on there, and seeing pics of them doing really crazy, daring stunts and thinking... Gosh! I don't do anything crazy or daring! Maybe I'm too boring? Lol! Maybe I am, but I am me, and I think I have followed your advice to the letter... Oh, well, except for the part where I always keep finding typos in my blog. I fix them as I find them. :) (or as my mom/dad/husband/etc. points them out to me). I have seen several white trash costumes too which always crack me up. Oh, and probably one of my favorites advertised in their header that they were serious motorcyclists...but when you open up their profile you find out that they 'used to motorcycle all the time, but they haven't done it in the last 10 years..." uh..ok.

I am glad I am who I am...and my daughters birthmom's like me for who I am, and I for who they are...and we all get along really well. Thank Goodness! :)

Unknown said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. Like Danya, we are pre-adoptive parents. I am really, really grateful for your sharing your heart on this for many reasons I can't even explain yet. I will keep watching your progress and pray God's blessings for your life.


Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

Thank you! I have often wondered what birth moms thought about adoption "blogs" that aren't updated. Can I repost this on the LDS Adoption Connection blog that I contribute to? I think it would be very helpful.

Megan said...

Great advice, Jill. You are so honest and helpful.

V said...

This is such a good, helpful post! (I'm an adoptive mom and hope to adopt again sometime in the future and with definitely reference this post. Thank you for your honesty!)

Sharon said...

I love this Jill! Perfect advice! Now I will be sure to be extra careful before posting a blog post (I'll make sure to check for typos lol). My cousin placed her son 5 years ago and one thing she mentioned to me, regarding the updating your blog. She said that we should update our blog often. That was one thing she appreciated about her son's parents. They update often. If you don't update often before you adopt, what's to say you will after placement. A potential birthmom wants to see that you are going to update even when your life is boring, it shows her you'll update often after placement so they can see thier little one growing up. Not sure if every birthmom feels that way, but my cousin sure does. She has mentioned it to me several times. ;o)

Cluff Family said...

That was an excellent post!

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

I just wanted to say that even though there was only 1 comment (so far) on the LDS Adoption Connection blog regarding your blog post, StatCounter says LOTS of people have been reading it! Thanks again, I know it's making a difference and helping us adoptive couples out. :)

Lacey said...

Thanks for the advice! This post, and your entire blog is an awesome, wonderful read. I was just thinking to myself I wanted to add an updated section to our blog and reading this confirmed that I need to!

LaNelle said...

I loved this post!!! It was seriously JUST what I needed to read (my husband and I are in the process of applying for adoption and are working on our website/blog right now! I love your honesty. You said some thing that I wouldn't have even thought of and some things that I totally wanted to shout "amen" out loud at!

I'm so glad I found your blog...gotta love therhouse!

Rachel said...

This is awesome! Thanks!

Also, I wanted to leave a comment on your "how to irritate a birth mother" portion. I can't believe that people have said to you, "You could've sold her for a million dollars." WHAT IN THE HECK ARE THEY THINKING??!!! That is quite possibly the most insensitive thing I have ever heard.

One of my favorites is when I tell people that I am struggling with infertility and desperate to have a baby, and they say, "Do you want one of ours?" I know they don't mean it--but COME ON, people. Please just love and treasure your children for me, okay? Don't offer to give them away.

Thanks for your honesty and bravery in sharing all that you do.

Spirtle said...

First, I would like to say: you are a FANTASTIC writer. I'm sure you've been told this many times, but I'm just totally refreshed by your writing after paging through many adoption blogs tonight. Second, thank you for this list. Your honesty and forthrightness are, again, refreshing. Prayers & good thoughts to you.

Lex and Chris said...

WOW! You are amazing! Your strength is incredible and I love the sassiness of your writing! Thank you for writing this post, it has been very helpful to my husband and me. We are hoping to adopt and have been working on our own adoption profile website. Your thoughts have helped me with some writers block and has encouraged me to change some other writing!