How do you handle the most unusual phone call you’ll ever have — that first conversation with an expectant mother? Here’s what I did.
By Barbara Herel
Our advertising was placed, our adoption profile was ready to go, and it was only a matter of time before our 800-line started ringing with calls from expectant mothers. Yikes! Mercifully, I was prepared, thanks to the expertise of my adoption attorney, adoption consultant, and other adoptive parents. Here’s what I learned:Get organized. I had a dedicated place where I took the calls, my desk. I kept a notebook and pen right by the phone, so I could jot down notes during the conversations, as well as any questions for my adoption attorney. I had her phone number displayed in case the expectant mother wanted it. I also set up a FedEx account so I could overnight our adoption profile book (I made 10 copies). Write a script. Personally, I found it very comforting to have talking points. It kept me organized and gave me structure. Yet, it also allowed me to be me and kept the conversation moving along (which you’ll both appreciate).
My script started like this: “Hi, I’m Barbara. My husband, Tony, and I placed the ad. Thank you for calling.” (Then, I acknowledged that this was probably the most unusual phone call I’d ever had. Every expectant mother I spoke with agreed. It definitely helped break the ice.) “We don’t have any children and we aren’t able to have children. The phone has been so quiet and we’re happy you called.”Questions to ask: “What’s your name? How are you feeling? How far along are you? Have you called about any other ads? Do you have any other children? What makes you think about choosing adoption? Are you exploring other options at this point? Is your baby’s father helping you?” What not to ask: Whether she’s working, going to school, or going to the doctor. (If the expectant mother chooses you, these questions will come up over the course of your relationship.) Tell the expectant mother about you. I shared that Tony and I had known each other for a long time. I said that we loved children and always wanted to be parents. I mentioned the stability of our relationship and that we owned our home. I talked about our family and friends, especially the ones who live close by.
The question that probably caused the most anxiety for me was age. I was 45 and worried that expectant mothers would think, What a geezer. Not the case at all! Our consultant said we should emphasize all the positives that came with our being older parents — we had established careers and were financially stable. Also, we were at a point in our lives when we were ready, and excited, to be parents.Concluding the conversation: “Can I send you our profile book? What’s your address? I’m so happy to talk to you, and I’d love to talk some more. What’s your number? Can we talk again tomorrow?” After each call, I immediately called my attorney to discuss the conversation. In general, defer to your experts. For any question or subject that left me feeling perplexed, the best advice I received from my team was to be a sympathetic listener and let my attorney handle it. For example, whenever a question about money arose, I said, “We’d love to help you with anything that’s legal. This is why we hired an attorney who knows adoption, and we trust her. Tell her what you need.” As our attorney said, “Barbara, it’s not your job to screen and qualify a potential birthmother. That’s my job.” My job was to create a connection, send out our adoption profile book, follow up with each expectant mother, and eventually ask her to call my attorney. That was it. We didn’t get many phone calls, but the ones we did led us to our daughter’s biological mother. Barbara Herel writes the Improv Mom blog on adoptivefamiliescircle.com. She also dances around the house to “My Sharona” with her four-year-old, adopted domestically.