Selecting a Birth Mother: The Crucial Step for Gay Fathers

by Katharine Swan

If you have decided to adopt, there are a couple of different types of adoption open to you. One type, closed adoption, is the more traditional option: you get approved by your agency, and then one day they will invite you to the agency and place a baby in your arms – with almost no information on where the child came from, why it was given up for adoption, or what its medical history is.

The other option, open adoption, has become quite popular in recent years. In this scenario, the adoptive parents and the birth parents both have equal amounts of control over the situation: they meet, usually a couple of months before the birth, and both parties have the opportunity to decide whether they want to be linked with each other for the rest of their lives. Open adoption revolves around the idea that there should be no secrets obscuring the facts of an adopted child’s birth: a child who has continued contact with their birth mother is less likely to feel that there was something shameful about their birth, some reason why their “real” mother gave them up.

However, open adoption also puts prospective adoptive parents in a sticky situation: they must choose the birth mother of their child, usually before the child has even been born. A great many factors go into choosing a birth mother – lifestyle, values, religion, race, health considerations, and other issues considered important by the adoptive parents and/or birth parents. Just as the birth mother must decide what kind of life she wants her child to live, adoptive parents must decide whom they will feel comfortable keeping in touch with for the rest of their child’s life.

Although this may seem like an intimidating decision, it is not one that is made all at once. Your agency will guide you through the steps of adoption, assisting you in the decision of what you want in a birth mother.

The Preliminaries: Meeting (and Impressing) Your Agency

Although it seems like it won’t have anything to do with choosing your birth mother, don’t be fooled – the impression you make on the adoption agency may have a big impact on the options you have. Some agencies do not allow birth mothers to choose from the entire pool of adoptive parents, but choose a smaller selection for each birth mother to choose from. Your agency’s interpretation of your lifestyle, values, and other factors may determine whether they think you are compatible with a specific birth mother. Therefore, it is important to be honest and forthcoming in all interactions with your agency, including seminars and training, meetings with your social worker, and your home study.

These preliminary steps are also important for solidifying your own conclusions about what you want in a birth mother. As the agency staff discusses all aspects of the process with you, they may introduce concerns that you might not have thought of on your own. From both your perspective and that of the agency who helps pair you with a birth mother, these preliminary steps are an important part of the process of finding a birth mother.

First Impressions: Putting Together Your “Dear Birth Mother” Letter and Introduction Packet

Once your agency staff has accepted you as an adoptive parent and created their own perceptions about you, you will be invited to create a “Dear Birth Mother” letter. This letter will be your birth mother’s first introduction to you, so it must be an accurate representation of who you are, why you want to be a parent, and what you expect from your relationship with your birth mother.

Some agencies will have you create more than just an introductory letter. Pictures are often used, in order to give the birth mother a better idea of who you are and the type of lifestyle you have. The birth mother will choose prospective adoptive parents for her child from these introduction packets.

Dads and Birth MomBecause there is so much riding on your “Dear Birth Mother” letter and introduction packet, putting together these materials may be a nerve-wracking task for gay and lesbian singles and couples. Thoughts of, “Who would choose me/us?” may make composing a letter and choosing photos more stressful than it is for heterosexual couples and singles. However, it is important to remember that not every birth mother is necessarily looking for a traditional family for her child. The only way to attract those who would be interested in you as adoptive parents is to present yourself accurately and honestly.

The Intermission: Waiting to be Chosen

Once you have completed your “Dear Birth Mother” letter and/or submitted your photo resume, you will most likely be faced with a long waiting period. During this time, your file will be presented to birth mothers along with all of the other prospective adoptive parents in the pool; at this point, control over the situation is completely in the hands of the birth mother.

Because of the anticipation and stress, this can be a difficult time for singles and couples who are waiting to adopt. As time passes, every day may carry with it an implied accusation that “nobody wants us to be their child’s parents.” However, there are many prospective adoptive parents in the pool; most will wait as long as a year and a half before finding their birth mothers. Instead of thinking of this time as a condemnation, think of it as a chance to prepare yourself for one of the most momentous periods of your life: that of becoming a parent.

Second Impressions: Meeting Your Prospective Birth Mother

Getting the call that a birth mother has chosen to meet with you can introduce an entirely new set of hopes and anxieties. Many adoptive parents fear that the birth mother will not like them, and will not choose them as the parents of her child. For a gay or lesbian adoptive parent, the anxiety is only increased. However, try to remember that if the birth mother does not choose you, it is probably for a good reason, as any issues she might have with your lifestyle might interfere with her ongoing relationship with you and your adoptive child – a relationship that is, after all, in place for the good of the child.

If a birth mother meets with you, then decides you are not the right parents for her child, the worst thing that will happen is that you will return to the pool, where another birth mother will select you. To make sure you are paired with the birth mother who is right for you, it is important to be yourself in these early meetings, enabling an honest, open relationship to form between you and the birth mother.

The Moment of Truth: Making a Decision

If, after meeting you, the birth mother decides that she would like you to parent her child, then you have an equally difficult decision to make: whether you want her to be the birth mother of your child. Remember that as your child’s birth mother, your family will have contact with this woman at least until your child is 18, perhaps even longer. You will need to keep in mind your compatibility with your prospective birth mother while making your decision.

Some important factors to consider when making your decision are the compatibility of your values, lifestyles, and religion; how much (or how little) contact the birth mother wants, compared to how much you want; and health considerations, such as whether the birth mother has been taking care of herself during the pregnancy and any serious issues in her family’s medical history.

Even once you and a birth mother choose each other, the decision is still not set in stone. Either party is able to change their minds, at any point until the adoption is finalized. However, taking care to make a good decision, for both you and your birth mother, will reduce the possibility of either one of you changing your mind.

Happily Ever After: Developing a Lasting Relationship with Your Birth Mother

Choosing a birth mother is just the beginning of your experiences. During the last couple of months until your birth mother delivers, you will meet with her frequently, giving you a chance to develop a relationship that will last for the next 18 years or longer – as well as making memories that you can share with your child one day. In fact, you might want to make birth albums, one for your birth mother and one for your child, to preserve and share the memories you make during those weeks.

Although your contact with your birth mother might not be as frequent immediately after the birth, both of you have committed to a long-term relationship for the sake of the child. If you have chosen your birth mother carefully – and she has chosen you carefully – this relationship will be not only a commitment, but also a source of joy for years to come.

Information published on The Rainbow Babies website is not a substitute for proper medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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