The hospital experience is a time of excitement for prospective adoptive parents but it can also bring about worries and fears as well. It can be one of the most emotional parts of the adoption process. Emotions run high and it’s a roller coaster of thoughts and feelings. As adoption counselors, we often tell our families to ride the wave throughout the whole process and the hospital experience is no exception. It is a time when prospective adoptive parents must have patience, flexibility and respect.
We do our best to create a hospital plan in advance, but like in all things, the best laid plans typically never actually happen the way we want them too. Being flexible can help keep your stress level down. We take things literally minute-by-minute at the hospital. The hospital plan is not written in stone and things can change very quickly which can be frustrating for prospective adoptive parents who aren’t prepared. Take a deep breath. You may receive a phone call from your social worker changing the time you should be at the hospital or asking you to delay your return to the hospital for a few hours. These changes are not meant to hurt or upset you. Remind yourself that on the other side of the door, there is a completely different journey that is occurring and so when changes are made they are necessary.
Prospective adoptive parents may not be able to spend as much time with the baby as they originally thought. As social workers, we take our cues from birth parents and the hospital staff. Birth parents can spend as much as they want with their baby and should not feel rushed in any way. Each situation varies. Many birth parents use this time to bond with their baby and tell their child anything and everything they want them to know. While each hospital has specific policies for these situations, they are sometime interpreted differently by hospital staff. One shift of nurses may allow you to be alone with the baby in a separate room while the next shift nurse will not. The best thing to do is to be flexible and go with the flow.
As hard as it may be for an adoptive parent to not be involved in every aspect of the hospital experience, this is the birth parent’s time. It requires patience. This experience is a life moment for everyone involved, not only the prospective adoptive parents. One way families have found to distract themselves during time they were not to be at the hospital is to look into tourist activities in the area surrounding the hospital. It can keep your mind busy and body active, much better than just waiting around in a hotel room when you are not at the hospital.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is being respectful of birthparents at the hospital.
Our social workers often hear from birth parents that the night before the discharge of baby is the hardest. They just wish time would stand still and that if the sun doesn’t come up then they can stay in that moment forever. That same night, prospective adoptive parents are often up all-night staring at the clock wishing for time to speed up so they can get to the hospital and start the discharge. The very best day for a prospective adoptive parent is the very hardest for a birthparent.
Stephanie Capriotti, a counselor in our Central PA Office has often heard adoptive parents express sadness and great empathy as they watch birth parents exit the hospital for the last time. They share how much respect they have for birth parents for the amount of strength that moment must have taken. She tells families to burn that image into their mind and bottle those feelings and remember it when things get busy causing families to run behind getting that update out. Just as the hospital had two drastically stories unfolding on either side of the door, so does the adoption journey after placement. While adoptive parents are finding themselves in the throes of life as a new parent, their child’s birth parents are learning how to live life without their child in their arms. The control shifts and while adoptive parents may find it difficult to pull together updates while juggling the responsibilities of parenting an infant, on the other side of the experience your child’s birth parents may be counting down the day their newest update will arrive.
So when it’s time, and you get “the call” to make your way to the hospital, remember to be patient, flexible and most importantly respect the fact that it’s not just about you. While your heart is bursting with joy, another person’s heart is breaking in pain. Being understanding and empathetic will take you far in this journey of open adoption.