As you face an unexpected pregnancy, you may be aware of the endless, monumental decisions that lay in front of you. It may be overwhelming, but take your time as you come to the decisions that work best for you and the future of your child. In most cases of domestic adoption, birth parents can choose the adoptive parents for their child. Should you choose an adoption plan for your baby, the choices before you range from the amount of communication between you and your family and the adoptive family to the religious beliefs you want your child to grow up in (and anywhere and everywhere in between). One of the decisions to make early on in the placement process, however, is the decision to meet (or not meet) the adoptive parents. Do all expectant parents meet adoptive parents? The short answer is no, they do not.
I don’t have to look very far to see different experiences and mindsets that led to different decisions. My sister and I were adopted nearly four years apart and our birth parents both chose to meet or not meet our adoptive parents for their respective reasons.
My birth parents were in high school when I was conceived. They chose to hide the pregnancy. With the help of late 90s baggy fashion, they maintained that secret until the day my birth mom went into labor. Once the situation was brought forward to my biological family, everyone rallied around my birth parents as they decided to create an adoption plan for me.
Because the plan was made after I was already born, it was a whirlwind couple of days of choosing an adoptive family, making the calls to tell my parents they had been chosen, and then for them to travel from their home in Washington state to where I was born in Idaho.
Because of the nature surrounding my birth, it was important to both of my young birth parents that their own parents were present when the day came for me to be placed with my parents.
They felt strongly about meeting my parents in person because they wanted to have a sense of confirmation that they had chosen the right family for me. They were able to meet not only my parents but also my older sister (who was almost four at the time).
It’s interesting to hear their perspective now, nearly 22 years later. My birth parents felt drawn to my parents because they had a lot of qualities they hoped to find in themselves as parents someday. They saw my parents interact with my sister and felt peace about their decision to place me in that family.
I’ve also enjoyed hearing the perspective of my birth father’s mom. She had her own worries that she wanted to express to my parents. Namely, allergies. She experiences nearly life-threatening allergies to dogs and cats and was worried when she read in my parents’ profile that they had two cats who spent most of their time indoors. She was really worried that I would have the same problem, so she told my parents that it was important to expose me to the kitties early on so my allergies might be minimal or non-existent. (Now cats are my favorite animal, so thanks to my birth grandma for her worries implementing good exposure.)
My birth parents wanted their parents there so they could hopefully have more validation on their decision. Both sets of my birth grandparents felt good about my parents and their ability to raise me.
As I said earlier, however, I have been able to hear both sides of the spectrum in regards to expectant parents wanting to meet adoptive parents.
My sister’s birth mother decided not to meet the parents she had chosen. They exchanged a few letters towards the end of the pregnancy and a few letters and pictures were exchanged for the first year after placement. Besides this minimal contact, however, she had no desire to meet my parents in person.
She has spoken about this a couple of times since my sister and her reunited back in 2014. She felt confident and sure about her decision about the adoptive parents and worried that by meeting them, there would be room to doubt the choice she made. My sister’s birth mom decided that she wanted to trust her choice and move forward assuming that her intuition was good.
She did hope to meet her first-born and adoptive family someday but also felt secure enough that she would be okay if my sister never reached out.
Over the years, she did have the wonder in the back of her mind if she had made the best decision. She wondered how different my family was in real life from the presented profile.
Flash forward to 2014 when my sister decided to reach out to find out information on her birth mother. It was important to my sister that her family was present for the reunion. So just before her 19th birthday, we drove to her birth mom’s house as our little family of four.
My sister rang the doorbell and, as her birth mother and her family opened the door, there was such a strong wave of emotion. My sister’s birth mom collapsed on her knees and then had to walk to a back room to compose herself before coming back out to us.
Once we were all sat down in her living room, she explained that she hadn’t realized in the last 19 years, she had been craving confirmation. As she saw her first-born surrounded by the loving adoptive family, she felt an overwhelming sense of confirmation that the family she had chosen was the family that her daughter belonged to.
My sister’s adoption was set up such that names were not disclosed and letters were sent through the agency. Identity was under lock and key. But upon my sister turning 18, she had the option to reach out to the state that facilitated her adoption to inquire about the identity of her birth parents. After the initial request, both parties had 30 days to decline the exchange of information. If my sister’s birth mother wanted to remain anonymous, she could have chosen to do so.
As expectant parents form an adoption plan, they may feel a range of emotions: anxious, hopeful, nervous, peaceful. But from what I’ve learned and observed, those feelings are subject to change at a moment’s notice. The endless interactions in your world may change your feelings.
You may feel strongly today that you want to have a close-knit, open relationship with the adoptive family, but then as time goes on, it may feel healthier to take a step back and take care of your emotional needs.
As you get closer to placement, you will need to consider if you want to meet the adoptive parents in person. You may feel a desire to meet them to learn more about their personalities and find further confirmation about your decision. But you also need to listen to your gut if your gut tells you to leave space. If you aren’t comfortable with meeting the adoptive parents for any reason, there is no rule saying you have to meet them.
My sister’s birth mom liked her setup because she knew she wasn’t in a place to meet the adoptive parents that she had chosen. She knew there was a possibility for change if her birth daughter wanted to make contact and she felt she was ready then. When the day came that the state informed her there was interest to receive information, she had 30 days to decline the request if she wasn’t ready. She decided that she wanted her information shared with her birth daughter.
This may be a setup you find works best for you or not. You may not feel ready to meet adoptive parents upon placement and that is okay! You may need time and space to adjust to your new reality and it may be overwhelming to meet them. But maybe leave a door open so that if in the future, your child feels a desire to meet you, you have the opportunity to seize that opportunity.
I find in most situations, that ultimately, the most important and key detail is open communication. You must be open in your expectations, worries, hopes, etc. If you aren’t sure that you are ready to meet the adoptive parents just yet, be aware that you may soon change your feelings about that. If you are open and honest with the adoptive parents, I would imagine they will be understanding and eager to work with you to help you to be comfortable.
As you are open, it is also important that you listen to their thoughts and perspectives. When you choose an adoptive family, seek a family that will advocate for you even after placement. You must find an adoptive family that will listen to your desires and work with you to adhere to your wishes as best as possible. Compromise is important, too. Birth parents and adoptive parents ideally work as a team with the upbringing of the child as the common goal.
You may, however, be eager and excited to meet the potential parents of your child. There are some things that you may want to consider discussing with the adoptive parents. You may want to know if they have any experience with adoption, and what led them to the decision to adopt a child. What are their expectations for communication post-placement? What are they like? How did they meet? What do they do for hobbies?
And they will almost certainly want to know more about you! Share with them your hobbies, your family, your aspirations, and whatever else is important to you that they know about you.
You may want to consider talking to specialists or other birth parents before you meet adoptive parents. Ask for advice on what else you can discuss; what manner of communication would be healthiest for you. (Phone call, email, face to face.) I have personally found a lot of help from people who have been through situations similar to mine in the past. You, likewise, may find that talking with birth parents may present ideas that you may not have thought of before. They may have things that they recommend you discuss, whether because it proved helpful for them or they wished they had known to talk about in hindsight.
If you want to meet the adoptive parents, there are a handful of recommendations that birth parents have suggested. Instead of meeting at the agency or office, choose to meet somewhere more neutral. A restaurant, park, etc. If you dress casually, you will naturally feel more relaxed. One birth mother expressed that meeting at a restaurant proved helpful to her. The process of getting seated, ordering, and eating helped to break up the initial tension. A casual setting may also make the ice-breaking conversation more natural.
Regardless of what you decide, it’s important to remember that you may feel differently once the baby is born. You may not want to meet the adoptive parents initially, but change your mind and want to meet them once you see your baby’s face or vice versa.
Hopefully, the adoptive parents can be sensitive to you, even though they may be excited about the prospect of bringing home a new baby. I hope that if you choose adoption, the adoptive parents you choose can rally around you and be a helpful branch of your support system.