“Dear Birth Mother” the letter of an parent profile used to begin. But did you ever stop to wonder what — or rather who — a birth mother really is?

Like waiting adoptive parents, birth mothers in Canada come in all shapes, sizes and colours. And so do potential birth fathers. Since they don’t play a hands-on role in the placement of a child, the information on Canada Adopts! is mainly about and directed toward prospective birth mothers. But don’t fool yourself. A birth father’s consent to an adoption is just as important.

What’s more: when writing your letter, avoid opening it with “Dear Birth Mother” or “Dear Birth Parents.” Instead, address it to expectant parents. You see a woman doesn’t become a birthmother until he signs the adoption papers, terminating her rights as a mother. As a result, it’s inaccurate—and many would argue, insensitive—to refer to her as a birthmother until after the adoption has been finalized. 

One more important point: When it comes to birth mothers, one size doesn’t fit all. One of the most persistent myths is that they’re unwed teenagers. Not so. In fact, studies show that the younger the woman, the more likely she is to keep her child. Truth is, a potential birth mother (or “first mother”, as they’re also known) could be anyone: the girl next door, the woman in the next cubicle at work, your child’s teacher, or a favorite aunt or cousin. In other words, women from all walks of life.

At the risk of stereotyping, about the only thing you can say for certain about a prospective birth mother is that she’s not in a position to parent. There are as many reasons for this as there are potential birth mothers. For instance, she may:

  • Lack the financial and emotional resources resources to give her child the future s/he deserves
  • Feel she’s too young or otherwise unable to take on the responsibilities of looking after a child
  • Have no support from the child’s father or her family
  • Have plans to continue or go back to school, or to start a career

Contrary to another popular myth, a prospective birth mothers doesn’t place her child for adoption because she doesn’t care for him/her. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. A birth mother loves her child dearly and only wants what’s best for him/her. If she didn’t, she would have terminated her pregnancy long ago and you would have never heard from her.

As for other common characteristics, most prospective birth mothers you’ll find:

  • Are single
  • In their late teens to late 20’s
  • May have another child
  • Are students

Because her pregnancy may be unplanned and she’s unprepared to parent, a potential birth mother may:

  • Feel confused, isolated, scared and depressed
  • Not have anyone to turn to for help
  • Feel desperate that she won’t find a family for her baby

What She’s Looking For

Like you, a prospective birth mother will be looking for people she can trust and feel comfortable with — parents (or a parent) who will help her recreate the more positive aspects of her own family and provide her child with all the things she can’t.

Although the details will vary from one person to the next, it usually means finding prospective parents that have or can provide:

  • A solid two-parent family
  • Financial stability
  • A good education
  • Opportunities for the future

Your career and financial situation will both be important considerations, but so will your emotional well-being. Bottom line, don’t worry if the couple next to you on our Adoption Profiles has a swimming pool or a cottage and you don’t. There are other factors that will encourage a potential birth mother to consider you. For instance, you stand a better chance of attracting her attention if:

  • You’re under 40
  • You live far enough away so as not to be a constant reminder, but close enough that she can contact you, when necessary
  • You have no other children
  • Have strong personal traits or interests
  • A good educational background or an attitude that values education

These are some of the more tangible attributes. As for the intangibles, they’re a little more difficult to pin down. Above all, a prospective birth mother will need to have a “good feeling” about you. After all, once you’ve won her trust, anything is possible. It also helps if you’re:

  • Honest and straightforward, the kind of person with whom she could feel an instant rapport
  • Sensitive to her needs and don’t make her feel like she’s a “bad” person
  • The kind of person with whom she could share personal, perhaps painful details of her life without fear of being judged, hurt, rejected or disappointed
  • Open to her requests regarding her child’s future

 What She’s Not Looking For

Most potential birth mothers haven’t had the easiest of lives and their pregnancy hasn’t made things any easier on them. The last thing a woman in that situation needs is for someone to make her life even more complicated than it is. As a result, most prospective birth mothers will walk away from waiting parents who:

  • Try to pressure or patronize her
  • Try to impress her with their achievements
  • Says things just so that they can have her child

Keep in mind that all of the above is only a guideline — suggestions designed to help you visualize the type of person who may be contacting you. In fact, there’s nothing that says a prospective birth mother will be any of these things. Then again, there’s nothing that says she won’t. The only way to know for sure is to speak to one yourself. And with any luck, that day should come soon enough.

In the meantime, here’s some more food from thought. It’s an open letter from a Canadian birth mother about some of the things she wishes adoptive parents knew.

Questions To Ask Her

Chances are you’ll have lots of questions to ask a prospective birth mother.. Here are some of ours you may want to add to your list.

  • I’m so glad you called. How are you?
  • How are you feeling? Have you had a good pregnancy so far?
  • When are you due?
  • Is this your first child?
  • Tell me a little bit about yourself. Are you a student or do you work?
  • How old are you?
  • Do you come from a large family?
  • How does your family feel about your decision?
  • What about the father of your child — is he supportive?
  • What’s he like?
  • Are you still in contact with him?
  • When did you first think about adoption?
  • Did you ever consider raising the child yourself?
  • Have you had a chance to talk to any professionals or others about your decision?
  • How much do you know about adoption?
  • What kind of contact would you like to have after the baby is born?
  • Do you have any special requests on how you would want your child to be raised?
  • What was it about our letter that caught your attention?
  • Have you contacted any other parents?
  • What are your plans for the future?
  • Is it possible to meet you before the baby is born?
  • Do you think we’ll be able to meet the child’s father as well?
  • It sounds like you know what you want to do and that you’re committed to adoption. Do you think there’s any chance you might change your mind?*
  • How have you been taking care of yourself during your pregnancy?
  • I’m sure our licensee will want to talk to you. Do you mind if s/he calls you?