Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Dating" a Birth Mom

I was asked a few months ago for a bit of advice. I get asked for advice not irregularly, which is both flattering an intimidating. I don't feel like I know enough about anything on earth to give advice. But people will ask me anyway, and I try to come up with something useful to say.

Anyway. A few months ago, a hopeful adoptive mama e-mailed me. She and her husband were going to meet with a potential birth mother, and she was a nervous wreck. I can't blame her. I'd be nervous, too. And in fact, I was. I'm pretty sure that's what I ended up saying in the e-mail. As nervous as a couple might be, the potential birth mom is just as nervous. It's a pretty intimidating meeting for everyone involved. You want it to go well. You want to make a good impression. You want the other party to like you. Granted, the potential birth mother's got the upper hand here, because the decision is hers to make. But that doesn't mean she's not in a cold sweat at the thought of meeting a couple.

I remember being terrified at the prospect of meeting hopeful adoptive couples. I wanted them to like me, but not because I might give them a baby. I wanted them to like me because they thought I was a good person. I'm sure the couples I met got their hopes up a bit, and I'll confess that I did as well. I'd heard stories from other birth moms about how they felt when they met the couples they eventually chose, and I was looking forward to a heavenly choir of my own, or at least a bit of déjà vu. Neither of which I got with P and M, by the way.

I digress.

I've often found parallels between dating and waiting for placement, and there's another one here - it's overly simplistic and highly imperfect. But even so. Think of meeting with a birth mom as a sort of first date with someone you've met on-line. The comparison isn't a perfect one, obviously, because a birth mom doesn't meet every couple she has contact with. But as far as meeting with a potential birth mom goes, remember, you are attempting to start a real-life relationship, same as you would with dating.

When you were dating, would you assume that every person who asked you out wanted to marry you? Probably not. You're asked out because he or she wants to get to know you better and see if there's the potential for a more meaningful relationship. Likewise, a meeting with a potential birth mom doesn't necessarily mean she's ready to pick you. It means she's thinking about you and wants to meet in person to get better acquainted.

So, let's say you've been on a first date with someone and you had a great time. Maybe they had a great time, too, and they'll call you again and you'll enjoy another date. That would be wonderful, wouldn't it? But say that, although they had a good enough time, they're not particularly interested in a repeat performance. Would you take it personally? Would you see it as a sign that you'll never date again, never marry? Would you feel like this person was your only chance at dating, and give up?

I hope not. You might feel sad at first, and wonder what you did or said that made them lose interest. But I hope you'd feel better in a day or two and realize that just because this person doesn't want to go steady with you, doesn't mean no one else ever will, and it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you. You needn't take it personally.

Again, it's not a perfect parallel, but try to keep my clumsy analogy in mind when meeting with birth moms. If you meet with a birth mom once and never hear from her again, try not to take it personally. Odds are, it's nothing you did or said. She simply didn't feel you were right. It's no one's fault. And it doesn't mean you'll never be chosen.

One of the couples I met when I was pregnant had actually met with seven birth moms before being chosen. If they'd given up after I moved on, they wouldn't be parents today. But they had a little faith, and they persevered, and today they have a darling one-year-old girl who is their whole world.

It's okay to be nervous. It's okay to imagine what-ifs. It's perfectly okay to want to make a good impression, and I'd be worried if you didn't think, this could be the one. But it's also okay if this isn't the one. It's okay (or will be, anyway) if it doesn't work out. You might not think so right away. But don't lose hope. Just because this woman isn't your child's birth mom, doesn't mean you'll never be chosen.

I feel like this is probably some of the least-useful advice I've ever given, but I hope it was a little helpful just the same.

If you're in the mood for mostly-useless advice, drop me a line at thehappiestsad AT gmail DOT com.


Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Wow, that's a really good analogy. I like it. :)

Karin Katherine said...

YES---it is so hard for everyone. Your dating analogy is perfect.

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

Yes, we laughed about that! We said to each other one day "Are we dating Brie?" Hahahaha

Anonymous said...

Actually, as analogies go, that's a pretty good one. Don't knock yourself down! :0)

Candace said...

I love this analogy! What a good post ;)

luna said...

we thought of this analogy when we started our outreach as prospective adoptive parents. my husband and I were SO nervous the first time we met the expectant mom who became our daughter's birthmother. as we sat in the cafe waiting for her, I asked him, "Do you think she's nervous too?" "Probably," he said. when she walked in we all hugged first, then before we even sat down, she said, "I'm so nervous!" and we all laughed as we told her about the conversation we had minutes earlier. it was actually a great icebreaker just to acknowledge it.

Kelly said...

I love this post. It is incredibly hopeful, as I have had many, many thoughts about the "meeting of the birthmother."

Joy for the Seasons said...

I don't think it is useless at all. As we have not yet met with a birth mother, I think it helps set some realistic expectations. I really love the way you compared it to dating. :)