“Dear Birthmother” letters have been around for decades. For hopeful adoptive parents, they are the go-to marketing tool to connect with expectant parents who are considering adoption for their baby.
But even though a “Dear Birthmother” letter is a great way to share details about your life and your hopes and dreams for the future, there are many misconceptions surrounding the people who will ultimately read it and what to put inside it.
Here are 10 surprising facts about “Dear Birthmother” letters you may not know that could help you increase your chances of creating a connection.
1. The intended reader of a “Dear Birthmother” letter is not a birthmother
Many people presume that the person who eventually reads a “Dear Birthmother” letter is a birthmother. That’s why it’s called a “Dear Birthmother” letter, right?
In fact, it’s not. A birthmother is a person who has already relinquished her baby for adoption. However, the person you’re writing to isn’t at that stage yet, and she may never be.
As a result, a more accurate way to think of her is as an expectant mother who’s looking at adoption. She may decide to place, then again she may not.
Calling her a “birthmother” isn’t only presumptive. For some people, it’s coercive and could rub your reader the wrong way.
2. Fathers, grandparents and friends read them too
Although the majority of placements involve single women, in some cases the child’s father may also be actively involved in the decision-making process.
Hence, one more reason to drop the “Dear Birthmother” salutation. After all, if you were an expectant father about to make the most important decision of your life, how would you feel about reading a letter that began “Dear Birthmother”?
Sometimes a family or friend will find it first and pass it on. So be sure to make your opening as inclusive as possible. Instead of starting off with “Dear Birthmother,” which sounds awkward and formal, go with the simpler, more conversational “Hi” or “Hello.”
3. Less is more
People’s attention spans are short and they’re getting shorter all the time, especially online. Website readers tend to skim rather than read.
To make sure they get to the end, keep your letter short and avoid large chunks of text. Instead, opt for shorter paragraphs, with lots of white space, headings and bullets.
And don’t go overboard on the content. The goal of your letter is to give a small glimpse into your life, not tell your entire life story.
If an expectant mother wants to know more about you, she can always take things to the next level by contacting you by email or phone.
4. Pictures tend to be more important than words
Hopeful parents spend so much time agonizing over the text of the profile, making sure that every word is perfect, that they neglect the more important part: the photos.
Think about it: What’s the first thing you see when you look at an illustrated book or profile? The photos. Pictures draw us in and can create an instant connection.
And they can also make your text easier to digest by breaking it up into smaller sections.
5. Be honest about your struggles, but don’t go overboard
Generally speaking, expectant parents want to know what brought you to adoption. Most will assume it’s due to infertility.
If it is, feel free to mention it. But don’t overdo it by going into details about how many IVF procedures you went through or doctors you’ve seen or how many years you tried to get pregnant or how a baby would make your life “complete.”
Your infertility struggles may be important to you, but they can turn off an expectant mother. Remember, she has her own challenges to think about and the reason she’s reading your letter is to see if you can help her find a solution to them.
More specifically, she wants to know what kind of parents you’ll make and what kind of future you can provide her child. So make sure your letter steers clear of any sign of desperation and gives her the answers she’s looking for.
6. Many letters bury or leave out the most important information
Hopeful adoptive parents will include all kinds of information in their profiles—about their personalties, their interests, their home, and their thoughts about parenting and adoption.
But when it comes to talking about what kind of relationship they want to have with their child’s birthmother after placement, they tend to go silent.
Either they don’t know what to say or they worry about saying the wrong thing. “How do we know what kind of relationship we want to have with the expectant parents—we haven’t even met them yet. What if we want visits once a year and she wants them once a month?”
Unsure about what to say, they take the easy way out and don’t say anything at all. But in this era where open adoptions are now the norm, that’s a missed opportunity.
Put yourself in an expectant mother’s position. If you had to choose between two sets of hopeful parents, and one couple told you they wanted to have an ongoing relationship with you so that you could see how your child is doing and the other one said nothing, which would you choose?
7. Humour is good
Placing a baby for adoption is a serious issue, and your letter should reflect that in its content, language and tone. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t let your hair down every now and then and inject a bit of humour into it.
Humour can help you stand out and make your story more memorable for expectant parents. A funny story about how you first met or a photo that shows off your offbeat humour is a great way to break the ice and display your unique personality.
8. Expectant mothers will consider multiple letters before choosing an adoptive family
When you’re writing your letter, it’s easy to block out the rest of the world and to focus exclusively on your story. But keep in mind that there are dozens of other waiting parents out there just like you who are also trying to connect with an expectant mother through their letter.
To increase your chances of success, be sure to write about things that are unique to you and that set you apart from the rest of the crowd.
Don’t make assumptions about what an expectant mother is looking for because you never know what will appeal to her. Often it’s the small unexpected details or points of commonality that create a connection—for instance, a shared interest in dogs or a favorite hobby or past-time.
9.The details expectant parents find interesting are different than what adoptive parents think they are
Are we too old? Are we not attractive enough? Not religious enough? Will the fact that we already have a child hurt our chances of getting chosen?
While you’re waiting to adopt, you’ll come up with a million reasons why you haven’t been never be chosen. And the longer you wait, the longer your list will grow.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. All waiting parents go through it. Second-guessing yourself is part of the waiting process.
The truth is, you’ll never know what part of your profile will resonate with an expectant mother. Each situation is different. What may be important to you may not be important to her, and vice versa. So don’t drive yourself crazy and write about what you think she wants to hear or what everyone else writes about.
The goal of your letter isn’t to sound like everyone else. It’s to sound like you and to be yourself.
10. They make wonderful keepsakes
Creating a “Dear Birthmother” letter or adoption profile is important for a whole bunch of reasons. In addition to being a fun, creative way to give expression to your adopting hopes, it can also make a wonderful keepsake—for you and your children.
Many adoptive parents report that their children love flipping through their profile books and hearing the story about how they joined their family. So in addition to being a great marketing tool, a “Dear Birthmother” letter or adoption profile can also a great way to open up a discussion about adoption with your child.
“Dear Birthmother” letters have been a staple in the open adoption community for decades. But as important as they are, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding them.
Understanding who reads them and what to include in yours can help you make your profile more effective and boost your chances of finding an adoption match faster and easier.
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