I wish there was a book to prepare an expectant mom for the journey if she is considering placing her child for adoption. What are the realistic expectations for a birth mother, especially in open adoption? Is there a way to prepare oneself properly for what is to come? And what does she do if those reasonable expectations for a birth mother in open adoption are not met?


Adoption is beautiful, and messy, and complicated at times. It is never a straight, smooth path. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. There are birth moms who love their adoption story and those who loathe the very word, adoption. There is plenty of reason on both sides to feel the way they do, along with everything in between. But where most things go wrong in open adoption relationships are the things that get talked about the least: Expectations.


Expectations For A Birth Mother Have To Be Communicated


The very term Open Adoption suggests a relationship, communication, and ongoing effort to stay connected. That is what an open adoption is supposed to be. With that, if an open adoption is to be successful, there needs to be a foundation by which the relationship sits on.


Where the foundation is usually found to be faulty, squarely lies in the unspoken, un-agreed to expectations for the relationship between Expectant Mother and Prospective Adoptive Parents.


Everyone comes into this with their own ideas about how it is supposed to go. Everyone also has their own realistic expectations for what everyone else should want as well. But, while what one side may deem common sense, the other may have very different opinions.


When expectations are not communicated and agreed upon, feelings collide, sending shock waves into the foundation of what could have been an amicable open adoption relationship. The result is fractured communication and resentment, sometimes to the demise of the relationship. The one who seems to suffer the most, unfortunately, is the adoptee.


Negotiating Realistic Expectations For A Birth Mother


When things are new and good in a relationship, everyone is on their best behavior. When things settle in, that is when the real connection starts. So, when do we get to the negotiation table in an open adoption relationship before any issues start? In the beginning.


It is better as an expectant mom considering adoption to come to the greeting table with any prospective adoptive families with her list of realistic expectations in hand. An expectant mom should never feel like she should have to ask for permission to have her expectations met. If she is working with a reputable adoption agency, they have counseled her on what is realistic before she ever seeks to be matched with any prospective adoptive parents.


What is realistic to expect as an expectant mom?


  • An agreed upon communication plan to be honored
  • To have a set visit schedule and expect that the requests will be met
  • For the adoptive family to be honest and open about her child
  • To be treated with dignity and respect
  • To be notified of changes in her child’s residence
  • For there to be timely notice of changes in the child’s health
  • That the child’s culture and heritage will be honored and celebrated



What is not realistic to expect from adoptive parents?


  • To be considered in parenting decisions about the child
  • Expecting ongoing financial support beyond what the law allows
  • Needing the adoptive parents to bear the emotional burden of her loss
  • To anticipate what the ongoing emotional needs of the birth mother should be
  • That the birthmother will agree to every parenting decision


Expectations Need Ongoing Self Evaluation


There is no such thing as an exhaustive list of expectations for a birth mother or an adoptive family. Every situation and open adoption is different. It is however, important to keep evaluating for yourself which expectations you have in making an adoption plan that involve the prospective adoptive family and what you want to require of them to make the open adoption a healthy relationship for you. These needs and expectations should be discussed with your adoption agency before communication with a prospective adoptive family happens.