There’s a reason they call it “labor.”

There’s a reason they call it “labor.”

When it comes to the process of becoming a parent, there’s a reason they call it “labor.”

And yes, this applies whether you become a parent through birth or through adoption.

Let’s be honest: “labor” is never any fun in any sense of the word. To labor is to work at something, and nothing good comes easy.

Just because you’re placing a baby for adoption or just because you’re adopting a child doesn’t mean you get a pass on the labor part, unfortunately.

So this Labor Day, let’s take a look at labor in adoption and consider some pointers for those going through it.

Labor for Birthparents

When you’re pregnant and placing a baby for adoption, labor basically means two things: you’re about to complete a pregnancy that has probably been filled with mixed emotions, and you’re about to face one of the most overwhelming experiences of your life.

You may be feeling more than ready to have the pregnancy over with, or you may be dreading all the feels that lay ahead. These are both very normal responses, so don’t feel bad about either.

You may be in labor for hours– or for days or even weeks, before you’re ready to give birth. You’ll want to have a plan in mind for how you want things to happen, so talk with your doctor or midwife about your preferences, and have a bag packed in advance, and know how you’ll get to the hospital or birthing center (and what your backup plan will be if your original plan isn’t possible.)

theres-a-reason-they-call-it-laborHopefully, your adoption agency or adoption attorney has already alerted the hospital staff of your plans, so the nurses will be sensitive to your situation. If you encounter anyone who gives you attitude, be sure to get their name and let the adoption professionals or charge nurse know. You deserve respect and the very best of care, whatever your decision, so expect nothing less.

You also deserve support; you are the patient, not the adoptive parents, so you get to call all the shots about who you do and don’t want in Labor & Delivery with you, how you want things handled when your baby is born, and how much alone time you do (or do not) want with your newborn. If you feel awkward about voicing those decisions, then just let your caseworker or counselor or nurse know your preferences in private.

You will want to help the adoptive parents know how they can help you best, if they’re going to be at the hospital at your request. If you need them to go get you magazines or you want them to help cover your feet with the blanket or go get the nurse, just ask– they’ll be happy to be needed. (And if you don’t want them there at all, that’s your choice, too.) If they get on your nerves for any reason, just ask your caseworker or counselor or a nurse to help them understand that you need a little space, and don’t feel guilty about asking for this, either. (By the same token, don’t feel abandoned if they need to get out of the room or get some fresh air at some point, as well.)

Labor for Prospective Adoptive Parents

The first thing you need to remember is that you are the birthing parent’s guest, if you are included in the hospital experience, and you must make no assumptions about your role (nor allow the hospital staff to do so, either.) This is really hard, when you’re so close to what you’ve longed for, for so long, but you have got to stay focused on the goal, which at this point is not about becoming parents but about being the best support you can be for the mother who is delivering her child.

This is likely to be a stressful and emotionally-exhausting time for you, as prospective adoptive parents, so be sure to discuss in advance with your adoption caseworker about what is and is not appropriate, talk with the mother about her desires, and be as well-rested and as healthy as possible, so you can manage effectively the many emotions that come with labor and delivery.

If the mother has invited you to be present in the birthing room, be sure you’ve taken Lamaze or some sort of childbirth prep course in advance so you know what to expect and how best to help. Wear flat shoes and comfy clothes. Bring gum or breath mints, along with reading materials for those long hours when it seems nothing is happening, and cash for the hospital cafeteria or vending machines. Do not make extra work for the nursing staff, and remember that they cannot give you confidential patient information about the mother nor baby, so don’t put them in an awkward position by asking questions they can’t or shouldn’t answer, under the law.

Take time-out as you need it, to leave the birthing room or to give the laboring mother some space. Be sensitive to her needs and to her modesty, and if it seems the hospital is getting ahead of themselves by treating you as the baby’s new parents before the baby is born and the paperwork is done, pull the nursing staff aside and explain that in any adoption, the mother is the only lawful parent for the first two or more days, and should be treated as such. Because (in Texas at least) your labor will continue for at least 48 hours past the actual time of the birth, and during that time, your role continues to be that of a guest at the hospital and nothing more (yet.)

Do NOT (we repeat, do not) post photos from labor & delivery online; whether or not they picture the mother, this is not “your” birthing experience to share publicly. (And we’re sorry if that sounds harsh, but please get this right.) Even “checking in” to a hospital online is bound to either alarm your friends and family or elicit inappropriate comments and premature congratulations, so refrain from doing so, and do not “announce the birth” online until placement paperwork is done and it’s officially “your” child to show off.

If you’re reading this and feeling overwhelmed by all that is to come, know that everything you’re feeling is normal. It’s not all going to be simple and it may not all unfold in a picture-perfect fashion. (Labor rarely does, after all.)

Because whether you’re placing or you’re adopting… there’s a reason they call it labor, you do have to go through it, and once it’s done (just like any other parent,) you’ll surely be glad it’s over.

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