Being Involved in the Expectant Family(‘s) Birth Plan as an Adoptive Parent

This Blog Post is written by Michael Hill, who is the Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program Lead at Adoption STAR, and is also an adoptive father.

As an adoptive father who was granted an unexpectedly high level of access at the hospital before, during and after my son’s birth, I am eternally grateful for our son’s birthmother and her willingness to involve us in the experience in such an intimate way.  Please keep in mind that when I use the word intimate, I truly mean it. I was, for example, granted permission to cut my son’s umbilical cord.  The memories from my time in the hospital, and being able to see and spend time with my son during his first seconds, minutes, hours and days in this world, are very special to me.

I had the opportunity to spend several months getting to know our son’s birthmother in advance of her due date, and she expressed an interest in having us involved in her hospital stay from quite early on in our meeting one another.  However, both my husband and I made it very clear right from the start that as honored as we were by her invitation, she was 100 percent in charge of the hospital experience.  What did we mean by that?  Our philosophy was this: she could, at any point in time during the hospital stay, ask us to stay or leave, be involved or not be involved, visit with her and the baby or not visit with her and the baby, and it would be her prerogative to do so….and we’d harbor no ill will or bad feelings towards her, regardless of her decisions.

In a training video developed by Spaulding for Children for use in the federally-funded Infant Adoption Awareness Training Project (and its “Understanding Infant Adoption” training), a birthmother talks about how after delivery she wanted to spend as much time with her baby as possible, while simultaneously having as much privacy as possible because, “those were my three days with him….those were the only three days he was going to be mine.”  How could anyone disagree? How could anyone work to deprive her of that time (and that privacy?)

As difficult as it may be for the prospective adoptive parents, I think they need to do all they can to respect the wishes of the birthparent(s) when it comes to the hospital interval of the adoption plan, even if that means not being present very much (or at all). Taking any action that would disappoint or upset the birthparent(s) or that runs counter to the agreed upon plan, would appear to be a lack of respect for the birthparent(s) and run the risk of straining any relationships/respect that’s been developed between the parties or jeopardize the adoption plan in its entirety.

Prospective adoptive parents and expectant parents need to do all they can to communicate clearly and openly regarding the hospital plan in advance.  They also need to make sure that everyone has a crystal clear understanding of the plan, too.  Prospective adoptive parents have every right to bring the topic of the hospital interval up for conversation with the expectant parent(s), but I’d recommend doing so in an attempt to gather information ONLY. If prospective adoptive parents feel uncomfortable bringing the topic up for conversation with the expectant parent(s), they should ask their adoption professional to assist with this process.

By working proactively to ensure everyone’s “on the same page” when it comes to the hospital experience, expectant parents and adoptive parents can save themselves a lot of uncertainty, stress and potential misunderstanding.  While I can certainly both relate to and respect the fact that prospective adoptive parents may have hopes and dreams for a high level of access at the hospital, they need to remember that the birthparents have the right to decide what the specifics of the hospital stay are going to entail.  Adoptive parents will have many, many years to enjoy spending time with their child; birthparents will not.  Therefore, I believe that birth parents deserve the right to create the kind of hospital experience that they want to have and can seek solace in the plan (and that the plan itself will unfold the way they had envisioned it unfolding).