To be asked to be a guest at the birth is both an honor and a responsibility.
To be asked to be present when an adoption plan is pending is even more monumental.
It can be controversial, to be sure. Whether you are a birthfamily member, a prospective adoptive parents or an adoption professional, being at a hospital with and being there for any mother about to bring a new life into the world and then facing that big a decision days later is huge.
Who Should Be in L&D? Who Should Not?
Adoption professionals are sometimes asked by prospective birthmoms to be a guest at the birth, especially if they’re lacking support from other sources. Abrazo’s staff is happy to oblige, if needed. But we go the extra mile to make it clear to all that our role there is to serve as the mother’s advocate, not as the baby’s guardian, at that point. She is still “The Mom” and should be afforded all courtesies, rights and regards, as such.
For infertile couples who are adopting, being invited to be a guest at the birth can be very exciting. To bear witness to the beginning of a child’s life is incredible. Yet this should never be misconstrued as a promise that any adoption plan will definitely result in placement. Don’t be there, if you can’t handle this truth.
Prospective adoptive parents must know their place: they are not there as “the new mom and dad,” only as the birthing mother’s chosen support team. It is not their given right to be “the first to hold the baby” (nor should their names be listed on any birth records.) Every newborn baby deserves as much skin-to-skin contact with the biological mother as she is willing to provide. However eager the hopeful adopters are to take on those tasks, the bio-mom is truly the mothership; it is only she with whom the newborn is familiar from the time of birth. She is the one person that infant most needs in that moment– adoption plan or no.
There are sound ethical arguments against adopting parents and/or adoption professionals being present in the delivery experience of a female considering placement. There are good reasons medical professionals may have mixed feelings about L&D guests. The bottom line is this: all maternity patients must be shielded from any sort of pressure or coercion to place, whether it’s intentional or incidental. The delivery room is a place for a medical process to occur, never the site for any adoption to be launched.
Pointers for Those Asked to be Present
For starters, you need to be clear (with her and with yourself) what your role is.
You have to be there solely as her support. You cannot have any agenda whatsoever. You’re not there as her baby’s new parents. You aren’t there to “keep her on course” (not even if she asks you to.) Your purpose is not to serve as a reminder of her intentions. It’s to meet her need to not be alone, in what is bound to be one of the most vulnerable, painful and memorable events of any woman’s lifetime.
Here are the basic do’s and don’ts for any childbirth facility: do not get in the way of the medical team. Be ready to step aside (or out) if necessary. Avoid asking staff medical questions, as they likely are restricted from discussing the patient’s personal information with you (and yes, that goes for both mom’s and baby’s deets). Refrain from bringing in food, drinks or snacks that the patient is not allowed to have. Wear comfortable shoes and don’t make any extra demands of (or work for) the nurses. Remember that masks are required at all times during the pandemic.
If the birthing mother has asked you to take photos for her, find out what the hospital’s policies are about cameras in the delivery room. Be sure to discuss in advance what she will (and will not) want pictures of, and do not post any photographs online. Do not post any announcement of her child’s birth. That’s not your place to do, no matter how excited you may be.
Finally, if the medical team (in an effort to accommodate the adopting parents) starts deferring to (or congratulating) you instead of the patient, please gently redirect them. Information regarding the baby should be directed to its mother, and any decisions about his/her care are hers to make at this point– regardless of whatever her plan may be in a few days.
Final Words of Advice
Abrazo’s policies prohibit adopting parents from “rooming in” with a baby at any hospital prior to relinquishment and placement. We don’t want our hopeful adopters accepting hospital bands for nursery access, either, until after placement. Before the paperwork is done, you are solely there for that mama, and your access to her newborn is limited to that of any guest she invites to her room while hospitalized.
We know this may seem harsh, especially if the medical staff offers you such enticing privileges, but trust us: this advice protects everybody involved.
For those invited to be a guest at the birth, welcome to that sacred party, and please remember who the guest of honor truly is, because it’s only for her benefit that you get to be present to witness this miracle.