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!