“Do Birthmothers Like Poetry?” Questions Adoptive Parents Have When Writing Their Adoption Profile

good womanI’ve heard a lot of unusual questions about birthmothers over the last 13 years I’ve worked with adoptive parents.

But there’s one I’ll never forget:

“Do birthmothers like poetry?”

It happened a few years back. It came from a single woman who was interested in posting her adoption letter on our site and had some questions about the content.

A teacher with a gift for poetry, she had already published one book to strong reviews and had taken part in various readings in Toronto and other parts of the country. There was even a video of her performing at an internationally known conference where she spoke passionately about her work and what it meant to her.

Some single women worry that when it comes to being shown to  prospective birthmothers, their marital status may be a disadvantage.

Not her. Her fear was whether to mention the “P” word.

Won’t it scare off birthmothers? she asked.

From everything she heard about birthmothers, they didn’t seem to be very interested in rhyming couplets or iambic pentameter. So what would they make of the fact that someone who wrote it wanted to raise their baby?

The way I saw it, her passion for poetry was an important part of who she was. It made her stand out from other adoptive parents. And I encouraged her to leave it in her letter.

But she didn’t want any mention of it. Prospective birthmothers, she thought, would be intimidated.

I’m not a poet, but I like poetry. I can’t say I read it all the time or that my knowledge and appreciation of it is very deep. But I’m not ashamed to admit that there are poems and poets I genuinely enjoy reading.

And I can’t imagine that a prospective birthmother would feel any differently. Of course, she may not like the same poems and poets that I like,  but I doubt she would turn down a hopeful adoptive parent just because of her interest in poetry. Like me, she might even consider it an attribute.

Prospective birthmothers come from all walks of life and choose adoptive parents for all types of reasons.

Some have an artistic bent, others don’t. Some are big readers, others aren’t. Some are into poetry, other couldn’t care less. It varies from person to person.

As hopeful adoptive parents, we’re always making assumptions about who birthmothers are and what they’re looking for. We do it because, well, we don’t have any other choice. We want to get chosen. But more times than not, those assumptions are dead wrong.

For instance, many adoptive parents still believe that birthmothers are teenagers. In fact, only a small percentage of women who place their babies fall into this category. The majority are older, with children of their own.

Another assumption about birthmothers is that they “give up” their babies because they’re irresponsible and are more interested in partying and having fun than becoming a parent. Wrong again.

Today, in open adoption at least, most birthmothers place their babies for adoption after a long and difficult soul-searching process that typically involves putting their baby’s interests ahead of their own.

To be fair, many of our misconceptions about birthmothers come from the fact that until recently, little was known about them.

And so, in the absence of hard facts, we jumped in and filled in the gaps.

But usually what we filled them in with were things that we picked up from movies-of-the-week or outdated myths that refused to die.

Today, thankfully, there are many places you can go to educate yourself about the birthmother experience.

For instance, if you’re interested in finding out more about why birthmothers place and what they’re looking for in adoptive parents, our sister site’s blog has dozen of articles and interviews exploring this topic.

What you’ll notice from reading these stories and others is that the starting — and ending — point of each story is different. Different people. Different circumstances. Different decisions. Different outcomes.

Some birthmothers chose a couple because they lived nearby and wanted to visit their baby on a regular basis. However, others chose a family because they lived on the other side of the country and had no interest in visits, only photos and letters.

Some birthmothers chose a couple because were same sex, while others wanted a more traditional family. Some birthmothers chose a family because they were religious, while for others it wasn’t a factor.

The point is you never know what’s going to grab a prospective birthmothers attention and resonate with her.

Sometimes it’s something you think will click with her. But other times it could be something right out of left field.

Case in point: Peggy (not her real name), a single woman I once worked with who was convinced she would never get chosen because she was single. Peggy believed, not without reason, that most prospective birthmothers were looking for a two-parent family.

After all, if a woman was single and pregnant and wanted her child to be raised by a single mother, wouldn’t she just raise the child herself?  Why would she pick another single woman to do it for her?

Well, luckily for Peggy, she was wrong. She did get picked. Why? Precisely because she was a single woman.

In explaining the reason behind her decision, the birthmother said that she herself had been raised by a single mother and had a wonderful upbringing. So to her, the fact that Peggy was single wasn’t a drawback.

Now, before you read too much into it, I should mention that I’ve seen plenty of cases where the opposite is true — where a single woman wasn’t chosen because the prospective birthmother didn’t believe her child would receive the same kind of upbringing that a married couple could offer.

So, go figure. It can go either way. Any way. It all depends on the individuals involved. If a prospective birthmother is looking for an interracial couple to raise her baby and you’re not an interracial couple, there’s a good chance you won’t get picked.

Then again, if you have something else going for you, something in common with her or that she can relate to — you remind her of a favourite uncle or you love paragliding or tatoos or ’40s jazz music just like she does — your desirability quotient will go up exponentially and you’ll have a very good chance of getting chosen even though you didn’t satisfy her initial criteria.

So at the end of the day, all I can say is what I say to all of my clients who wonder whether they’ve got the goods to get chosen by a prospective birthmother: Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t make assumptions.

Just be yourself. You never know who will come across your profile, what she’s looking for or what part of it she’ll connect with.

Birthmothers are people just like the rest of us.

And just like the rest of us, they’re interested in many things.

Poetry might just be one of them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think prospective birthmothers are interested in? What helped you find an adoption match? Share your comments in the section below or on our Facebook page.