When there is an open adoption, the adoptive parents may know the birth mother pre-adoption and may be there for the entire pregnancy. However, when it is time for delivery, it is the birth mother who will determine the role adoptive parents play during labor and delivery. The focus should be on what the birth mother wants and she should be calling the shots. It is important to remember that until she signs the paperwork after the birth, the baby is still hers.
If the birth mother decides she is okay with the adoptive parents being in the delivery room, the adoptive parents should do the following:
- Be flexible. Giving birth is an emotional and unpredictable experience, so it is important that you expect the unexpected and remain sensitive to the birth mother’s needs. Respect her wishes even if they change from a previously determined birth plan. She may decide she doesn’t want you in the delivery room after all. If that is the case, don’t question her and just leave. The delivery room is a very vulnerable place for an expectant mother and she needs to be comfortable.
- Allow the birth mother to make the decisions during labor and delivery. She is the one in charge, and she gets to decide who she wants in the delivery room and whether or not she wants an epidural or other medications.
- Be an advocate for the birth mother if necessary. Birth mothers should try to advocate for themselves. However, if the hospital staff seems to be uncooperative with her, the adoptive parent should be prepared to stand up for her and advocate for her needs as well.
- Do what you can to make her feel comfortable and supported. Make sure the birth mother knows that you are okay with whatever she chooses, and that she is in charge in that moment. Be responsive to any feelings or needs she expresses.
- Do not react too emotionally when angry or upset. Sometimes during labor and delivery, birth mothers change their minds more than once about placing their child for adoption. If you show too strong of a reaction, it may cause undue stress and make her uncomfortable.
- Give the birth mother alone time with the baby after birth. Some birth mothers may not ask for this, but it is important that if she does want alone time with the baby that you give her as much time as she needs or wants. You and the baby will have plenty of time together afterwards.
- After the birth, still check on the birth mother. The birth mother is still going through a lot of emotions after birth. Don’t abandon her to give all of your attention to the baby. Check in on her after the birth and see how she is doing. She may want to be left alone or she may want someone to talk to.
- Be patient and empathetic while waiting for papers to be signed. Right after birth, the birth mother is going to be exhausted, physically and emotionally. Do not rush her to sign the papers relinquishing her rights. Let her take her time to process and sign at her own pace.
Overall, as an adoptive parent during labor and delivery, your responsibility should be focused on the birth mother and what she wants, whether that means you get to be in the delivery room or not.