Birthmother Letters–Tips to Consider

Hi folks!  No doubt if you’re not a regular reader of mine, then you got here quite by accident.  I’m willing to make an educated guess that you came to me through some google search trying to find sample letters to prospective birth mothers that you could use to then write your own.  Rarely do people find me when searching for “open adoption” or “parenting” or “grief and loss” or other adoption related topics…mostly “birthmother letters.”  Though that’s not generally what I do here, I’ll try to humor you and give you some tips.

I’m not a big fan of The Letter as it generally stands in adoption today.  I’ve written one before, and it wasn’t any fun and if I could do that part of the adoption again, I would probably write things differently and question things more.  The fact is, I’ve learned a lot since that first draft of the letter I agonized over. And honestly, the agency changed some of my very intentional wording before sending out the letter, so how much did it matter what I wrote?  (Just a note:  I wasn’t aware of that until they sent all my documents back to me after the adoption took place.  I was LIVID.  If that’s the way they want to play things, then they should just send out a form letter to every inquiring parent, and don’t put us through that, you know?)  So: 

Tip # 1:  Find out if your agency has a specific format/wording they want you to use in your profile and decide if you can live with it or not.  (Tip # 1a:  Find out if your agency is honest or not and if not, decide if you can live with it).

If you can live with moving forward, remember you get one page to write something that may impact a choice they make that will impact every part of their life for the rest of their life, the life of the child, the lives of all their families, and your own life.  (Er, um, no pressure, though). 

Tip #2:  Start with something other than “Dear Birthmother.”  Typically “birthmother ” is a term reserved for those mothers who have already relinquished their children, not those still carrying those children in their wombs.  Some of your readers may HATE the term “birthmother,” others may take that as a subtle cue that they are automatically expected to place.  And don’t forget, you may be speaking to a mother AND a father.   A simple “Hello” might serve you well here. 

Tip #3:  First decide what you want to include and what’s really important.  Is it in this first “contact” that you feel the need to include a description of your vacation home, or rather a description of your understanding that this decision isn’t already made (see Tip #2)?  Your “guarantee” of a college education and stable marriage, or your commitment to raise a child with the absolute most gentle and loving care you know how to give?  Perhaps let them see who you are first, then you can talk about what you hope to provide later.

Tip #4:  Write your letter in a way you’d want to be written to yourself.  What would you like to know if you were in their shoes.  Because, really, looking at my own life, it could have so easily been me sitting at a desk going over adoption profiles if just one. little. thing. had gone differently.  When I look at my son’s mother and myself at a similar age, we are separated by mere moments in decision making and timing and just plain dumb luck.  I’d be willing to bet other adoptive parents out there can say the same thing.

Tip #5:  Be honest.  Honest about yourself, your life, your relationships, your intentions.  Never promise anything you can’t guarantee, or anything you have no intention on following through with.  You may be able to wheedle out of answering to the first parent about those things, but you can bet you’ll have to answer to your children some day.  If your agency wants to “fluff up” the information a little bit, really question that whose best interest that would be in.

Tip #6:  Don’t make assumptions about the reader.  Statements like “I know this must be hard for you” or “this must be the hardest decision of your life,” although seemingly empathetic, imply that you can read their minds and hearts.  And though it probably is hard or the hardest decision, really if we haven’t lived it ourselves, there’s no way we can pretend to know (who knows?  Maybe the decision was EASY for them for certain reasons.  Or maybe the decision is being made for them).   A statement like “I can’t imagine the emotion and energy it takes to work towards this decision, and I hope you have good people around you to help you before you finally make it” would be a little less presumptuous and offer a more supportive tone.

Tip #7:  Please don’t tell your stories of heartbreak of infertility, miscarriage or other loss of a child in this letter.  Its your job to heal your heart, not the first parents’, and especially not the child’s.  Yes, those things are powerful and sad and unfair and have led you to this path of adoption, most likely.  I get that.  But you can bet that whatever situation she’s in that’s led her to think about adoption is also likely powerful and sad and unfair.  To expect a mother to lose her own child, even if it is her choice given whatever her circumstances may be, to fill the hole of your other lost child, is a little unfair.  And do you want her to place with you because she pities you or because she got to know the wonderful people that you are?  When the time comes for you to talk or meet, she’ll ask questions about what led you here, and you can talk about your experiences then.

Yeah, writing The Letter is hard.  And really, it probably should be.

If you were one of those hopeful adoptive parents that found me just searching for some help along your adoption journey, feel free to browse around awhile, whether it be looking at my posts or checking out my blogroll (which is still sadly not as complete as I’d like–I’m missing a bunch of my faves!), or going to my blogroll’s blogrolls.  You will read things you love, and read things that make you think, and read things that make you angry, and probably read a few silly things along the way, but I can guarantee you will learn some things that need to be learned, both for yourself, your future relationships, and for your children.

Thanks for stopping by!

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19 Comments

Filed under adoption, infertility, adoption, open adoption, reflection

19 responses to “Birthmother Letters–Tips to Consider

  1. Awesome advice! Sharing it on my google reader! :)

  2. suz

    I wont comment much cuz this practice kinda makes me feel ill. But I will ask one question:

    Do expectant mothers write Dear Adoptive Parent letters?

    The loss of my child to adoption did not involved Dear BirthMom letters (Adoption wasnt so commericialized in the early 80s. And shouldnt it be Dear Expectant Mother letters? Is the a birthmom yet?).

    I find myself curious if expectant mothers are encouraged by agencies to write Dear Adoptive Parent letters. Obviously ignorant to this stuff, if so, what do they say?

  3. thanksgivingmom

    As I’ve never read one of the letters as posed to me, this is actually new to me as well…it makes me wonder what Cupcake’s Mom’s “Dear Whoever” letter would have said…

    Good advice though :)

  4. M.

    I understand and respect your views, Suz–the letters make us adoptive parents feel icky in a lot of ways as well, probably some very similar ways. I think that’s why so many people find my blog in search of advice on how to do it the “right” way or the most “effective” way or what have you, because we’re led to believe that you’ll never be chosen to be parents if it doesn’t say the RIGHT thing. Blech. Heck, whole books are written on how to write that one little letter. I do appreciate that parents considering placement today generally have some window to see who they’re placing with, though even that is probably questionable in some agencies where parents are only given limited numbers of family profiles.

    Just so you understand, my title “Birthmother letters” is to reach those that are looking for advice for writing them, in hopes that they can read something different here than what the “mainstream” might be telling them to do. Thus, Tip #2.

    Oh, and my experience did not include a “Dear Adoptive Parent letter” but I would LOVE to know what it would have said! Thank God, I have been blessed with a relationship with N. so that we’ve been able to talk about it, but wouldn’t it have been nice to have had some of that information in the beginning as well?

    anyone have any other tips to add?? Feel free!

  5. Thanks for this post. I will admit, this letter is one of the primary reasons we are not currently considering domestic adoption – not because we don’t want contact with our child’s biological parents – we really do – but we don’t feel comfortable with the way that these letters read – as if we are marketing ourselves as “better” than other adoptive parents. I had no idea that some agencies edited the letter, though – that is truly food for thought. I should have realized that earlier…considering many agencies, it makes complete sense.

    Thanks again for this post!

  6. Ang

    I read 5 or 6 or 8 of them (can’t remember the exact number, we read some online and then the SW brought some to our apt. at one point.)

    They rubbed us kind of the wrong way. Possibly the only thing that I might add is that, while I understand that there should be a few references to God and religion if you’re adopting through a “Christian” agency, one might want to see read over things with the eyes of a skeptic or one who might be questioning their faith (like someone in a crisis situation might be.) Because I hate to say it, the ones that we didn’t consider were the ones that laid it on really thick in the religiousity department.

    Though that’s not entirely the reason we went with S & L, and not with the agency at all, I remember that.

    No offense meant to anyone religious. Just an observation.

  7. I can’t believe they changed what you wrote. That’s insane. I agree, on the other side of adoption (having successfully adopted), the whole thing feels rather icky. One attorney we spoke to gave us the number of someone we could hire to write our letter. It was creepy.

    In a way, I can see the purpose of the letter, but there’s that whole “putting your best foot forward” and “telling people what you think they want to hear” that probably makes the letter less than representative of most potential adoptive parents.

    That said, J has told me that she used to look at our profile book over and over after she placed MAM, and that it helped her feel at peace. (our letter was at the front of the book)

  8. M.

    Oh, Mich, that’s my lovely agency for ya. Ask Marci–she’ll tell you more if she hasn’t already. They also created our profile from information and pictures we submitted, but refused to change out some of the pictures that appeared to misrepresent. They took the “we know what’s best route” and I’m ashamed of that, that I let it go.

    I think the K’s in Indy refer people to a profile creator, and for a hefty fee, too.

  9. I love this!! Thank you for writing it. Things like these letters ought to just put it all out there. Like, I hope you’re doing alright during this really difficult time. I hope you are receiving all the support you need and want. Etc…

    People should include pictures of themselves when they look as they typically do, not as they hardly ever do; with perfect lighting and matching shirts.

    The selling aspect of the whole things has to go.

    This is awesome.

    Tina

  10. kim kim

    I see those types of letters as a form of coercion. Because of that I don’t feel comfortable about them. For me it reads that it’s ok to give your child away, that it’s perfectly normal and acceptable.

    It reads that you are better for someone’s child than they are. You are not. You just have more money.

    And tip #6….maybe it’s very easy for them? Can we assume having a limp amputated is easy because it’s saving a life? How do you think giving your child away could possibly be easy?

    This post annoys me with it’s cheerfulness too.

    It’s a begging letter for a woman’s baby. A woman who feels all alone in the world and who believes she must give up her child because she doesn’t have the resources to keep him or her. A letter like this reinforces that belief.

    Why people leave rah rah good for you comments here truly baffles me.

    Honestly I don’t even think people should be adopting anymore, I didn’t realize that my feelings were *this* strong until I read this post. If the child has a mother then all efforts ought to be made to keep them together unless it’s detrimental for that child’s safety.

    Every effort ought to be made to help the mother feel like she can parent, she ought to be encouraged to parent not given letters from people presenting themselves as better than her.

    I start to feel that nice adoptive parents are like nice slave owners. Some of you I really love and the ones who adopted because the mother had disappeared I don’t have an issue with.

    I’m going to take you off my links list because it doesn’t feel comfortable for me. You’re a lovely sweet person but I’m taking a different path now, your post makes me realize this is the turn to take.

    • JC

      I am very surprised at your comments. that adoption shouldn’t be allowed any more? If women don’t have the resources to take care of a baby then it should be her choice whether to put her baby up for adoption. I’m sure down the road when she is stable, she’ll be a great mother. How many pediatric patients have I taken care of that their mothers are on welfare and selfish for continuing to have children without the means to support them (I mean birth control is given out for free!). These children suffer by living in poverty. Statistically, 75% of children growing up in poverty will stay in poverty their whole life (not to mention our tax dollars will be spend on taking care of them). Personally living in poverty is detrimental to the child’s safety. Wouldn’t it have been nice if their mother was not selfish and thought of her children and what kind of future they could have had with a family that was prepared to take care of them. Adoptive parents are not “slave owners” they are saviors to children who would have otherwise only known a life of poverty. You should be more open minded about it.

    • leigh

      you sound very angry…I work in churches and I have personally witnessed young teenager after teenager whom adoption saved their lives and their babies lives…it is very naive to cast a generalized net over such topics on either side…grace and wisdom should be practiced when discussing issues that effect people’s lives. Also, I have been in social work for years and there are sadly women that with no amount of counseling and education would be fit for motherhood and adoption has saved their unborn and newly born babies lives….I expect this post will fall on deaf ears, but being someone with firsthand experience on multiple fronts, I felt the need to chime in with some educated reasoning!

  11. Pingback: Writing Prompt for Adoptees Who’ve Been There « Letters to a Birthmother

  12. mombonnie

    In total agreement with kimkim.

    Expectant mothers should not make a decision until after the child is born. These letters are coercive. They are filled with reinforcing the doubts that plague a scared pregnant girl.

    I still don’t understand how people can adopt when it is understood how emotionally damaging it is to mothers (and to some adopted children). Even the fact that “lifelong” counseling is supposed to be offered- hello? How can someone want someone else to experience lifelong grief? I do not mean children who are abused, neglected, or true orphans, of course. I am talking about infant adoption as it is practiced in America- fulfilling supply and demand. It should not be about infertile people AT ALL. It should be about finding homes for babies that truly need them. As an “unwed” mother myself, I bought into the “adoption is normal and good and my baby deserves more than I can give” bit. I can’t wait for the day where people are horrified at the thought of mothers and children being separated. It is a sacred bond and should be honored and not broken because of financial reasons.

    My son was NOT better off without me, which is why he lives with me now and the rest of his family.

    • JC

      But how many tax dollars is wasted on single, unmarried mothers who can’t support themselves much less a child (or two or three). I can’t believe how selfish some people can be, to think that raising a child in poverty is better than with a family that can afford to raise them is absurd. perhaps being separated from birth mothers has psychological issues but so does living in poverty, in crowded homes with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents etc.
      You have no right to judge infertile couples, do you like being judged for being an unwed mother? But I would not expect someone so closed minded to understand something so devastating as infertility.

  13. tabbitha

    TO THOSE WHO CAN NOT GET PREGNANT …ADOPTING IS THE WAY TO GO! I THINK THAT ADOPTING IS FINE! YOU TRY NOT BEING ABLE TO HAVE THE FAMILY YOU HAVE ALWAYS DREAMED ABOUT AND THEN YOU GET THE NEWS THAT SLAPS YOU IN THE FACE THAT YOU CANT… SO THEN TELL ME WHAT DO YOU DO???
    I AM FOR ADOPTNG!!!!!

  14. What an amazing post; very insightful and practical to prospective adoptive parents everywhere.

    With adoptive family video profiles starting to gain steam in the adoption industry, these birth parent letters are becoming less important, as the adoptive family is able to speak directly to the birth mother via video. However, many of your tips still apply.

    Being honest and being yourself are important in the birth mother letter, but perhaps even more important in the video profiles, as not doing either will make the adoptive family look a little silly!

    Anyway, thanks for the great post. I look forward to reading more “how to” posts in the future.

    – Dustin Freund

  15. This is an amazing read, we just started the adoption process today and I have started my own little blog about the process. I am currently writing my letter. I read a lot of other people’s letters and they just seemed so cheesy to me. I already have a son and have gotten advice to make a scrapbook with a letter to the potential birth mother about our life with pictures and everything. I hate how staged a lot of the pictures looked. I am writing the letter while thinking about what I would want to read about if I were to give up my now two year old. What would appeal to me, that way hopefully we get matched up with right mother.

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