Ongoing contact in an open adoption is healthy for all members of the adoption triad, as shown by all the significant research. Even so, just as in any long-term relationship, maintaining this contact can have both wonderful moments and challenging ones.
Some families feel awkward and nervous as they make plans for their first post-placement visit with their child’s birthparents. More often than not, the birthparents are feeling the same way, and it can help to be aware of this fact.To help give a sense of this, we interviewed a birthmother after she and her adoptive family met for their first visit after the hospital. Here is what she said:
IAC: What do you think adoptive parents should know about that first visit after leaving the hospital?
Birthmom: That we are equally nervous as they are. Be honest, feel it out. Meeting someplace private and maybe do dinner so that there isn’t too much empty time where awkwardness can creep in.
IAC: How do you think it should be handled?
BM: Hmm. Gently? Feelings and emotions are still raw on both parts. You can’t be too cautious, ask questions, i.e.; would you like to hold the baby, it’s ok if you don’t. I personally felt kind of awkward holding baby and preferred to watch him with his parents. They didn’t force him on me and took cues from me to offer me the chance to hold him and when to take him back. We had built enough of a rapport that we could read each other very well.
IAC: What was your first visit like?
BM: It was neat to see how well the baby was being taken care of, it was reassuring. It was emotionally draining as well. We kept it short for the baby’s sake but it was good for me too. I was a little nervous but that faded as time went on.
IAC: Is there anything adoptive parents should NOT do or say?
BM: I can’t think of anything. I think that having already met and matched the rapport will be there already. Just keep it casual, try not to dwell too much on the adoption process. Be sure to talk about all kinds of things, special interests, etc.
IAC: Is there anything adoptive parents could do or say to make the visit more comfortable?
BM: I know toting a newborn baby around isn’t ideal but a birthmother may feel more comfortable in a setting of her choosing.
IAC: What were your fears/anxieties going into that first visit after placement?
BM: I was afraid they wouldn’t really like me anymore. They had the baby that they wanted and was afraid they wouldn’t have a need for me any longer. I quickly learned that wasn’t true. I was also afraid of the baby, I wasn’t sure what to think of him or how he would react to me.
That’s about all I can think of. I’m sure that having met prior and built a relationship that things will go smoothly. There will probably be some uneasiness or tension on both parts. As long as both parties are open in communication and share their feelings about the situation honestly and kindly, I can’t imagine how it could go wrong.