The Most Helpful and Hurtful Things You Could Say to a Birth Mother – Part Two
After considering how to be more sensitive when interacting with a prospective or current birth mother, the next step is to learning how to interact with her in a helpful way. Every birth mother has her own unique story, and with every story comes ups and downs. Choosing adoption is no easy journey, so be sure that when you are listening to a birth mother, you do so with compassion. Treat her the way you would want to be treated if you could imagine what it’s like in her shoes.
The good news is that there are so many positive things you can say to a birth mother to be helpful! These include encouragement, solutions to problems and offers of additional support.
The Most Helpful Ways to Interact with a Birth Mother
Now that we have covered how not to interact with a birth mother and prospective birth mother, let’s go over some of the ways we can interact with them in a positive manner. Prospective birth mothers and birth mothers are people, too, and there is so much more to us as women than our adoption decision. For example, I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a birth mother, a step-mom, an employee, a neighbor, a friend and more. All of those roles are only parts of who I am, which all come together to create the woman who is writing this article today. Don’t treat me as if a birth mother is all I am.
If you truly want to be helpful in your interactions with a birth mother, remember to be encouraging, offer solutions to problems, and extend additional support.
Encouragement: Expressing encouragement to a birth mother for her adoption decision is incredibly powerful, especially when you offer it to a prospective birth mother. Choosing adoption, or even considering it, requires a deep level of self-reflection and self-honesty. The sooner onlookers can recognize that, the sooner they will get to a place where they can encourage the birth mother they are interacting with. There are so many ways to encourage a birth mother, including using simple statements.
Some great phrases that you can use when talking with a prospective birth mother about her adoption decision include:
- “What a brave decision you are making. I applaud your strength and honesty!”
- “I don’t know what your circumstances are, but the fact that you are taking responsibility for your child’s future shows a great level of maturity!”
- “I love that you are making such a significant sacrifice for your child. I hope you know what a blessing you are giving to your baby!”
- “I can’t imagine what you are going through right now and the emotions you must be facing. Please know that I support you in whatever decisions you make because I know that even considering adoption means you are willing to sacrifice your own wants for the needs of your child.”
Solutions: Prospective birth mothers and birth mothers are likely facing many obstacles in their lives, especially prospective birth mothers or new birth mothers. It is typical for a woman considering adoption to be facing great challenges in her personal situation. If you have the opportunity to listen to any problem a prospective birth mother is facing, consider offering a solution.
For example, when I was in my adoption process, I had to figure out logistically how to get all of my child’s things to his adoptive parents. (My son was 6 months old at the time I chose adoption.) It was really important to me that he would have all of his toys, bottles and everything else that was his go with him when I transferred physical custody of him to his parents. The problem: I had no one to help me pack all this stuff up or even a vehicle to fit it all in. I ended up calling my dad, crying about how I just didn’t know how to solve this problem I was facing. He offered to help me pack, and we drove my son’s things to his parents in my dad’s SUV. Even though my dad was not supportive of my adoption decision at first, that phone call was a turning point for him. I had a problem, and he offered a solution.
If you can help a prospective birth mother or a birth mother, then do it. Helping others is part of everyone’s path to healing, no matter what you are facing. Yes, words are nice, but actions speak much louder.
Additional Support: If you honestly don’t know how to help a birth mother, or you don’t have the ability to help in the way that she may be asking, then consider offering additional support and resources.
Adoption agencies offer many free resources for support for birth mothers, especially a prospective birth mother. If you know a woman facing an adoption decision, perhaps you could read some articles on what she may be going through and offer your emotional support. Perhaps you know a woman who has already chosen adoption and is a birth mother struggling with her emotions; you could help her find an affordable therapist.
Birth mothers and prospective birth mothers don’t need empty promises or hollow words; they need real support. If you can’t offer what they need, then take some time with them and help them find out what you can help with. The lack of resources for birth mothers post-placement can be discouraging, but the online community has grown significantly to support birth mothers in their healing process. Don’t be afraid to offer resources like websites and retreats, as well. Offer what you can, but please don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Prospective birth mothers and birth mothers are incredible women who have chosen or are choosing a better life for their child through different parents. When interacting with a birth mother, the bottom line is to use common sense. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment and ask yourself, “How would this comment or action make me feel if I was her?” Stay away from judgement, pity and invasive questions. Focus on encouragement and solutions to problems, and always offer additional support.
Remember, birth mothers are amazing women who have sacrificed for the good of their children. Let’s try to treat them with the respect they deserve.
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption 7 years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.