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I have carried three babies in my womb. I’ve experienced pregnancy and everything that comes with it. The sweet smiles from strangers, happy chatter, excitedly asked questions. I’ve had my belly rubbed, the sex of my children guessed, and been given enough advice to fill a book.
I’ve also adopted a child. I’ve been matched with an expectant mama. I’ve walked around waiting and waiting for our baby to be born. I’ve carried the fears and concerns and anxiety around everywhere I went. Fears and concerns that are similar, in many ways, to being pregnant but without the belly to show for it.
Having both been pregnant and gone through the adoption process I bring a less-than-common perspective. Most women who have experienced pregnancy won’t experience adoption and it’s fair to probably guess that most women who experience adoption very likely haven’t experienced pregnancy.
As I walked around during the “in waiting” months for our baby to be born, I noticed the HUGE difference in the way others treated me in regards to our being matched vs my being pregnant. It was sad. Not just for myself, but it made me especially sad for all the adoptive mothers out there who never get to experience pregnancy.
Adoption is not a common thing that most people have experience with. And when we don’t have knowledge about something, we tend to shy away from it. I truly believe that the lack of excitement I received while in waiting for our baby wasn’t due to rudeness or ugliness or a disagreement with our adoption plan but was more about a lack of knowledge and understanding. A fear of offending and therefore going the “safe route” of saying nothing.
I want to give three pieces of advice for anyone who knows, or meets, an adoptive mother who is in waiting for her baby to be born:
1. Treat Her Like You Would If She Was Pregnant: Many of the same questions apply for an adoptive mother as they do a pregnant one. Is the baby a boy or girl? When is the due date? Do you have a name? Have you gotten the nursery ready? How are you feeling? Maybe avoid rubbing her belly but give her that same attention and show her your excitement!
I had one person at church come up to me and treat me this way and y’all it meant THE WORLD. It felt so nice just to talk about the baby and be able to be joyful and to see someone else smiling so big and having a genuine excitement for our family.
2. Ask Questions: Adoption is straight up confusing. Most likely the adoptive mama has had to learn TONS of new info too. Don’t overly stress about saying the “right thing” or avoiding saying “the wrong thing.” The best bet is to avoid giving a lot of opinions because, most likely, you aren’t as knowledgeable about adoption as she is.
Instead it’s wonderful to ask things you may be curious about. How is the expectant birth mother doing? How did you connect with her? Will you be present for delivery? What is the plan with your relationship long term? How does the adoption process work? Show you are interested. I promise she is thinking about all of these things all of the time and would be excited and eager to share details of her future child’s life with you.
Some of the most meaningful moments to me in my wait were when people asked questions. My husband’s 90 year old grandfather sat at my kitchen table for a good 45 minutes asking every question under the sun. He didn’t have to do that, most people didn’t ask a lot of questions, but he truly wanted to learn and understand that that was such a huge sign of support for us that it’s a memory I’ll always cherish.
3. Show Support: Saying something is better than saying nothing. I had many people say “the wrong thing” but those comments hurt WAY less than the people who said nothing at all. This time of waiting is probably one of, if not THE, toughest wait of this mama’s LIFE. Hug her, love on her, be there for her. Speak from the heart, speak with love, and just offer support in any way she may need it in that moment.
I had a friend randomly drop off a goody bag to my house with treats and things in it and a sweet note reminding me she was praying. I had friends text randomly that they were thinking of me and praying. Those prayers meant a lot during that time and their constant support made me feel less alone and reminded how loved I am.
I truly believe that saying something is better than saying nothing. However, if you’re reading this then chances are you are the type of person who does want to avoid saying potentially hurtful things. I don’t knit pick. I’m not one of those people who gets offended over every little thing (like a big thing in the adoption community is saying “placed the child for adoption” rather than “gave up for adoption.”) Y’all it’s just terminology. I even mess up still in using the right lingo. DO NOT stress over little things like that! But I do want to touch on some things to avoid saying to an adoptive mother during her time of waiting:
- Anything Negative About The Birth Mother: Whew. It shocked me the amount of times people say really ugly things about my sons’ mother. Understand that this expectant mother is choosing an extremely brave, unselfish, difficult choice for her child and that the adoptive mother feels very grateful for that choice and most likely feels an intense attachment and protectiveness over the mother of her future child.
- Reminders That This May Not End Up Being Her Baby: Trust me. The adoptive mama has thought of them all. She’s scared. She’s nervous. She knows it’s possible, no matter how connected to the expectant mother she is, that the mother could decide to parent. Asking things like “what happens if she wants to keep the baby?” isn’t helpful. Focus on the POSITIVE. There is a very likely chance that the adoptive mother is struggling to focus on the positive herself. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the fears and let them control you. Bring her back to a happy place. Be a source of joy for her, not one that only furthers her worries.
- Any Adoption “Horror Stories”: While we were “in waiting” someone told my husband about their adoptive child who as a teen decided to go live with their birth family. This stuck with my husband in a big way and became a concern of his in our adoption process. I heard stories about adoptive kids ending up in jail, choosing destructive life choices, and having long term mental health issues. None of this is helpful. Just like you wouldn’t tell a pregnant mother a bunch of stories about miscarriage or stillbirth…don’t tell an adoptive mother horror stories either.
Adoption can feel very lonely. The time in waiting is so, so difficult. Each phase of the adoption process brings new experiences, new concerns, and new excitements as well. Show support, ask questions and just be joyful for the new life entering the world and for the adoptive mother who can’t wait until the moment she holds her baby!