The first open adoption visit is often an emotional experience for adoptive parents and birth parents as they juggle their shared feelings of anxiety and awkwardness. But this first visit sets the foundation for a lifelong relationship – all centered on the best interest of the child.
Here are five tips for adoptive parents as you strive to make your first reunion a more comfortable experience.
- Immediately set the date of your first visit. When a birth mother places her child for adoption, she no longer has full control. She now relies on you to facilitate future meetings. In the difficult first days, weeks, or months, she’ll benefit from knowing a concrete day when she will see her baby again.
- Understand that the birth mother is likely grieving. Seeing her baby for the first time since the hospital may trigger an emotional response. She isn’t second-guessing her decision. She chose adoption because she felt it was best for her child. And she chose your family for a reason. But she may cry or seem understandably anxious at the visit. Invite her to bring a support person with her to the visit, such as a close relative or friend, to comfort her.
- Prepare for unexpected emotions. Sometimes birth mothers are upset to realize how quickly their baby adopted to his new adoptive family. Other times, they expect to feel a stronger bond than they actually do. If things don’t go the way she’d hoped, assure her she will have many more opportunities to communicate and spend time with you and your family.
- Select a neutral location. Consider finding a place where you can share lunch or coffee. Maybe you even take a walk in the park with your stroller afterward. If you want the visit to be more structured, you’re welcome to meet in a Bethany office, where our adoption specialists can bring stability to your interaction.
- Take the lead during the first visit. The birth mother may be afraid to request anything during this first visit, for fear of affecting future visits with you. Ease her worry by offering for her to hold your baby or give the baby her bottle. Often, she’ll be overjoyed! If she says no the first time, continue offering. The same goes for a canceled visit. Keep rescheduling so she feels valued and included.
Open adoption is often beautiful for all parties involved. But, as with any relationship, yours will have its ups and downs. You may have a period of great, engaging visits followed by a period with no visits at all. Sometimes one of you will say the wrong thing or act insensitively. Remember to extend grace to everyone, including yourself. Ultimately, you’re building a relationship for your child, so everything you’re doing today is laying groundwork for the future.
Note: Because most open adoption visits take place between adoptive parents and birth mothers, we use “birth mother” and the pronouns “she” and “her” in this article. Birth fathers can and do make open adoption plans and have visits with their children.
If you have questions or concerns before your first open adoption visit, give your adoption specialist a call. We’d love to help prepare you to comfortably navigate this foundational experience.