We drove to the hospital in the dead of night, the freeway wide open and our hearts spilling over with nerves and hope. The moment we’d been waiting and praying for had finally arrived; the baby was coming.! My heart beat wildly as I tried to remind myself: “The hospital time is not about us. Whatever happens, God is always trustworthy and love is always worth it.”
8 WAYS TO LOVE WELL AT THE HOSPITAL WHEN YOU’RE ADOPTING
The hospital time is intense for everyone involved. As an adoptive parent I have learned hard lessons through our two adoption hospital experiences. And as an Adoption Consultant at Christian Adoption Consultants who has walked many adoptive parents through their own adoption hospital days, I am convinced of this: we as adoptive parents have a responsibility to reflect God’s heart of love at the hospital. Here are 8 practical ways to love well during the hospital time.
1) Put the focus on her
You have been waiting and dreaming and hoping for this day for so long. You will likely be filled with a myriad of thoughts centered on one thing: the baby. That’s to be expected! But the hospital time is not about you. In all that you say and do during the hospital time, you want to keep in mind the mama who is making this adoption plan. This is her time and it’s essential that you honor that. She is the one enduring extreme physical and emotional pain. She is the reason that you are here in the first place! Show her compassion, kindness, and patience. What does she want? What does she need? Make sure that she is the focus of your words, your actions, and your prayers.
2) Respect her decisions even if they differ from your preferences
Before consents are signed, she is this child’s mother (not birth mother). And as this child’s mother, all decisions about the baby’s care are hers to make if she wants to make them. She isn’t going to do things exactly like you will because she is her own person with her own set of life experiences. It’s likely that she will make a decision at some point during the hospital time that you wouldn’t have chosen but that’s ok. She gets to make whatever choices she wants to make about caring for the baby during this time. Vaccines? Circumcision? Breastfeeding? Whatever the topic-it’s her choice. This can get tricky because sometimes doctors or nurses direct their questions to the adoptive parent. Always defer back to her:”That’s her decision to make.”
3) Be flexible; reality rarely looks like she/you have planned
As you’ve likely already seen in your adoption story, things rarely go exactly according to plan. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the adoption, the expectant mama you match with will likely discuss her hospital plan with the agency. She may have detailed thoughts about what she wants the time to look like and what she wants your involvement to be, or she might not know what she wants. As emotions rise and circumstances evolve, plans change. Expect it and try to go with the flow. That can be extremely hard, especially if it means you won’t be getting time with the baby. Does a shift from the hospital plan mean she’s changing her mind about the adoption? Don’t assume. Most likely it just means that she’s making a decision about what seems best for her hospital experience now that she’s actually in the experience. Flexibility is imperative. Again, respect her preferences and focus on her.
4) Be her advocate
In an ideal world, each labor and delivery experience would be a positive one with the highest level of care possible. But sadly, that’s not always the case. Some nurses and staff are not compassionate or respectful of a woman’s decision to place a child for adoption. As wrong as it is, sometimes a patient is treated differently depending on their ethnicity or economic status or health history. If you are there with her, be her advocate; speak up for her if you see that she’s not getting what she needs. Let your agency know if there’s something going on that needs addressed so that they can advocate further as well.
5) Look for ways to encourage and bless her
It’s impossible to understand just how gut-wrenching this entire experience is for a birth mom. Look for any ways that you can to encourage her with your attentiveness and your words. It’s likely that her pregnancy hasn’t been filled with positive words and support. Your encouraging words matter; let her know how much you care about her and appreciate her. Depending on the guidelines from your agency, look for ways to make her hospital time better. Could you bring her something to pass the time at the hospital (card game, snacks, magazine) or offer to pick up some food for her?
6) Seek help from the adoption professionals you’re working with
When feelings are big, it’s especially beneficial to hear input from someone a little further removed from the emotional picture. Stay in touch with your placing agency and your adoption consultant to keep them in the loop. If you have a concern or aren’t sure how to handle something that comes up, make sure that you talk with your adoption professionals. Often your agency will have a feel for how you can best approach a situation if something complex arises.
7) Remember you aren’t invincible
You still need to eat, drink water, go to the bathroom, and rest. If you can, take a walk and get a little fresh air. Call home and talk to a friend. Time some time to pray with your spouse if you are married. In order to think clearly and love with your whole heart, you’ve got to take care of your own basic needs. That sounds like a no-brainer but in actuality, it’s really easy to forget when you’re in the moment.
8) Love with open hands
Will she sign consents? Will this precious little baby come home to you? This is the very real and weighty issue on every adoptive parent’s heart at the hospital. Fear of the unknown and “what ifs” can paralyze you if you let them. Don’t let fear steal from you the chance to show love. You have been given the opportunity to support, encourage, and advocate for someone going through an unthinkably difficult time. Whatever happens, this woman is made in the image of God and she is worthy of your love. Love her well even as you recognize that you don’t yet know the end of the story. Love is never wasted.