When adopting an infant in the US, almost all adoptive parents will be asked to prepare an adoptive parent portfolio or profile, which is also called a Dear Birth Mother Letter. In fact the preferred term at some agencies is Dear Birthmother Letter, some even require that the portfolio begins with a letter addressed to “Dear Birth Mother”. The problem is that the person reading the letter is not a birthmother and may never be one. She’s an expectant mom who is considering placing her child for adoption. She likely is also considering parenting the child.
Sick of the Word Police
I’m truly the least likely person to play word cop. All the care that must be taken to say exactly the right words wears me out. I’m more of a big picture person, and I care more about what people mean than what exact words they use. But… words matter.
The Pressure of Expectations
No matter how you dice it, the pressure begins when a pregnant woman is matched with an adoptive family. No matter what we say or how we try to give her permission to make the right choice for her child, the reality is that she knows that if she decides to parent, she will break the adoptive parents’ heart.
The other day I was having a discussion on Twitter with Frank Lightvoet, an adoption reform advocate (as if you can have a real discussion in 140 characters, although we made a good attempt). He turned me on to a really great blog by a first mom–Adoption in the City.
When talking about the pressure to not hurt or disappoint she said the following:
I believe that if at the time of relinquishment that I suddenly realized parenting was a possibility for me that I would have been able to stand my ground then. I think I would have, but I also know how difficult it would have been. My agency wasn’t telling me I shouldn’t parent, in fact they did everything they could to protect me from feeling pressured by M&P including telling them to somewhat keep their distance and to not think of J as theirs until he was actually theirs. And M&P made it clear all along that J was mine, that the decision wasn’t made until I signed papers. They asked permission to hold him in the hospital, and thanked me profusely when I asked if they wanted to feed him for giving them the opportunity, heck they didn’t buy any baby stuff until the evening before J went home with them. And even with them being super aware of overstepping, it still would have been a decision that I know would have hurt M&P, these two men I was coming to know and like…. If I felt like M&P were seeing my son as theirs as soon as he was born (or even before) the pressure to not hurt them would have been profound.
In light of this, maybe it’s time to retire the Dear Birthmother Letter. Why not just start your adoption portfolio with a simple “Hi”.
How to Prepare an Adoption Profile
To learn more about how to prepare a great Adoptive Parent Profile, listen to this week’s Creating a Family show. We give you lots of options for how to begin, what to include, and what to leave out. We had some technical difficulties cause by a combination of Mexican Internet, Skype, and the fact that the only working Internet I could find was at the baby house of the orphanage, which is not exactly the quietest place on earth.
Did your agency require that you address your adoption profile to “Dear Birth Mother”? If you are a first mother, do you feel like this term puts undue pressure on you?