Many hopeful adoptive parents find the first conversation with a birth mother to be both exciting and terrifying. After all, you want to make an excellent first impression, but will you be too nervous to communicate effectively? What can help is remembering that she is probably just as anxious as you are.
When you speak with a birth mother for the first time, you can reassure her that everything she likes about you is accurate and maybe even better than she thought. This first phone call may set the tone for more contact, during, and after your match. It begins this important relationship on the right foot.
Here are 10 tips for having a genuine, meaningful chat with a birth mother:
Ask your adoption coordinator what birth mothers usually want to know about hopeful adoptive families. You might also ask adoptive parents who have already adopted what you should expect.
There’s no need to read from a script. However, you can get ready by preparing answers to the most commonly-asked questions. You might ask your partner or a close friend to help you practice or role-play this conversation so that you can feel more confident.
If you’re one of our contracted adoptive parents, tune into our recent webinar, “Coaching Call: Talking with Birth Mothers.” This webinar goes over the important basics for connecting one-on-one with a birth mother. In the webinar, you’ll hear examples and tips, as well as what to expect from that initial contact with a birth mother. Hear the work that goes on behind the scenes at Lifetime to set you up for a positive conversation with a birth mother, even before you know about her.
2. Practice good phone etiquette
Before your phone conversation, set up a comfortable environment and ensure you have a good phone connection. Make sure that conversation will happen in a private space so you can be yourself and avoid distractions. Please don’t use your phone’s speakerphone feature, because you don’t want the birth mother to feel like she is being interviewed!
3. Show your excitement
The birth mother will need to know that you’re committed to your decision to adopt, so don’t hold back your enthusiasm. Let her know how happy you are to meet her, and how eager you are to become a parent.
4. Ask her about herself
This first phone call is all about getting to know each other. So ask the birth mother some general questions about herself, and then show your interest by actively listening. Many birth mothers tell us they chose their baby’s adoptive family because they felt a connection during their first few connections. As you share about your backgrounds, interests, and hobbies, you might discover some common ground for forming your bond.
5. Ask about her about future contact
Assure the birth mother that you’re looking forward to a relationship after the placement happens. Then, ask her what kind of relationship she pictures. This will help you see if your visions are compatible. It also puts her in the driver’s seat of her baby’s adoption. In asking about her hopes, you empower her to take control of her future.
6. Follow her lead
Ask the birth mother if she has any questions and talk about the topics that interest her.
If you’re getting the sense that you have tapped into a subject that’s uncomfortable for her, simply change the direction of the conversation.
7. Be careful with your questions
Avoid asking nosy questions that cross personal boundaries. Examples of questions that are inappropriate at this time include ones about drug use, her finances, and the baby’s father. Your adoption professional will already have asked her these intrusive questions. At Lifetime, we will share the info we have about the birth mother and her circumstances before you talk.
Remember that you’re talking with a prospective birth mother. Don’t assume that she has decided to place her baby for adoption. Right now, she is an expectant mother who is thinking about adoption. Since she hasn’t made any commitments just yet, always refer to the baby as her baby.
8. Ask what she liked about your profile
She wanted to chat with you because something in your profile spoke to her. This can be the beginning point of your conversation, and may even be the spark that begins your connection. Even if she doesn’t end up choosing to match with you, her feedback on your profile can help you with a future match.
9. Be yourself
No birth mother is expecting perfection. Be open and honest about what you value, who you are, and why you want to become parents. The birth mother will appreciate you for being genuine.
10. Finish with an open door
If the birth mother shows interest in talking with you again or meeting with you in person, make it as convenient as possible.
If she doesn’t mention a future meeting, end by letting her know how happy you are to have met her. Tell her that you’d love to get to know each other better, and wish her the best on whatever path she chooses. You might provide her with various ways to contact you, including on social email or via email (some adoptive couples make “adoption only” Facebook profiles or email addresses), but don’t pressure her to commit to anything right now. Let her be the one to decide if she’d like to further explore this relationship.
Don’t give up hope if your first conversation with a birth mother doesn’t produce a match. The baby you are praying for is still out there. After this experience, you’ll be more prepared to speak with the birth mother who was meant for you.
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is a nationally-recognized adoption expert and the Founder of Lifetime Adoption Agency. She has been working in adoption since 1986 and is also an award-winning author and speaker.
Mardie knows the sorrow of coping with infertility, and is an adoptive parent who experienced many of the challenges adoptive families might face. In various media appearances worldwide, publications, and her podcast, Mardie important steps that must be taken to complete a safe and secure adoption. Having adopted her son, Mardie knows firsthand the joys of raising an adopted child.
Mardie’s life mission is to help adoptive parents and birth parents find each other. With Lifetime Adoption Agency, she seeks to build happy families and provide precious infants and children with a loving and secure future.