Should Adoptive Parents Be Allowed in Delivery Room
Is it appropriate for adoptive parents to be present in the delivery room even if the birth mother has given her permission?

I interviewed Dr. Marcy Axness, an adoption therapist and adult adoptee, several years ago and blogged about it at What Adoptive Parents Needed to Know about the Primal Wound. She had a knack for explaining this complex topic in a way that I, as a non-adopted person, could understand.

Several years ago she interviewed Nancy Verrier, author of The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child. She was looking for an online home for these interviews and asked if Creating a Family was interested. Duh!?!

We’ve broken the interview into three parts and will post them separately over the next several months. This first part was their discussion about whether it was appropriate for adoptive parents to be in the delivery room.


Is it Appropriate for Adoptive Parents To Be in Delivery Room

Nancy Verrier:  I certainly don’t believe that the prospective adoptive parents should be [in the delivery room] at the birth. The mother needs to welcome that baby into the world herself, and, if she needs to say good-bye, say good-bye to that baby herself, without anybody else being there.  Of course the doctor or midwife has to be there, but the mother needs time alone with the baby after that, and nobody there to snatch the baby away as soon as it’s born.

Marcy Axness:  Let me play devil’s advocate here.  What about the woman for whom there is seemingly no ambivalence from the very beginning?  For example, I’ll take a dear friend of mine, who got pregnant when she was twenty-one.  Her mother was dead, she had no close family for support, there was absolutely no possibility that she was going to be able to raise that child, nor did she want to.  She ended up deciding on an abortion.

But I’m thinking – if she were to have considered adoption – given her circumstances, that it might have been comforting for her at 6 months, 7 months into her pregnancy, to find the people who were going to be the parents for her child, and have that arrangement securely in place.  What about the woman who wants that, whose mind is eased by that, who wants to have the adoptive parents in the delivery room, who wants the baby to go right to those parents?

NV:  I know that’s what they think they want before the baby’s born.  I’ve talked to a lot of pregnant young women, and they have all kinds of thoughts about this before the baby’s born.  They’re absolutely sure they’re going to relinquish the baby.  They haven’t yet really seen it as a baby, as a real, live baby.  And so many of them do want to have the parents there, but some of them, later, look back on it and are angry about it.  At the time it seems supportive, but afterwards, looking back on it, it seems very coercive.

What’s the Best Beginning for the Baby

MA:  Given the fact that adoptions are going to continue to occur, what would you say would be the optimal way to go about it?

NV: My scenario would be that the baby would spend at least a week with the mother, because there are certain things that have to happen in the brain, in the neurological system, that will not happen if the baby is separated from her at that time.  So I would give her at least a week with that baby, and have her nurse the baby and do everything for that baby, and then make a decision about it.

She can have known the prospective adoptive parents, but they have to know right from the start that she may or may not give this baby to them, and they have to live with that.  But they’re not at the birth and they don’t even have anything to do with the baby at the beginning of its life.  That’s too confusing for the baby.  I mean, it’s terrifying.  It’s going to be terrifying anyway.  Birth can be a traumatic event in the first place.  To have the very first thing that happens to you after you are born be taken from your mother is just unconscionable and inhuman.

MA:What if the prospective adoptive parents were there to simply witness the birth, not participate in any way, having already been counseled that they may or may not end up being this baby’s parents?  Any thoughts on that?

NV: Witnessing is participating.  Remember what physicists have learned – that the observer affects that which is being observed.  No matter if the prospective adoptive parents have been warned that the mother might change her mind, they are still very anticipatory, hopeful that the baby will be theirs.  They may even be hoping that their presence will make a difference.

Adoption should not take place in the delivery room.  The baby should be allowed to rest upon the mother’s left breast to allow a subsiding of the birth stress hormones to take place.  He should not be rushed away from the mother for any reason, including hospital expediency.  The baby will never need its mother so much as he needs her at the moment after birth when he has traveled that long distance down the birth canal with all its attending sensations, when he is shot out into the wider world of sights and sounds and other stimuli not experienced in the womb, when the sights and sounds of the womb are missing, when the stress hormones which helped him during the birthing process have to be turned off and serotonin maintained, when brain and neurological connections have to be made, and when the heart, eye, and skin contact of the left-breast position automatically stimulates the five senses and helps the infant feel safe in his new environment.  When all this does not happen, the baby goes into shock, which is nature’s way of dealing with trauma.  All adoptive parents are dealing with traumatized babies.

MA: I think of the sense of responsibility a baby might feel, with these extra people around, anticipating his arrival. Mine was an open adoption like so many today, so my mothers were together in the last couple of months, shopping together and such.  In my own therapy I got in touch with my feelings before my birth, which were that I didn’t want to come out, not just because she was going to give me away, but also because everybody wanted something from me.

NV:  Yes, exactly.

MA:  I think that’s the flip side of the coin of what some people think would be a positive thing, of hearing the voices of the adoptive parents and all that.  I mean, it was this overwhelming sense of responsibility, all these voids I was supposed to come in and fill.

NV:  All that is the expectation on that little baby.


[Nancy Verrier can be reached at Marcy Axness, Ph.D., is the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, has taught prenatal development at the graduate level and has a private practice coaching parents and “pre-parents” around the world. You can find her at]

So, what do you think? Should adoptive parents be in the delivery room?

P.S. If you’ve found this blog thought provoking, please share with others using the Share Buttons below (or the old fashioned way–cut and paste).

Image credit: Todd Anderson