After getting through your home study, creating your profile, being matched, and navigating what kind of openness you want, the next thoughts might be about what labor, delivery, and the hospital stay will look like.
Will we be in the room during delivery?
What kind of interaction will we have with the baby and birth mother?
Will we get a room at the hospital?
Typically all of these questions (and many more) are answered in an adoption hospital plan and can be a valuable tool in knowing what to anticipate and plan. Although the hospital plan is ultimately up to the expectant mother to create and based on her wishes, it's good for an adoptive family to know what to expect.
The hospital stay (labor, delivery, and several days post partum) are a critical and highly sensitive time in the adoption process. A key part in the expectant mother preparing for labor and delivery is creating a thorough adoption hospital plan with her birth parent counselor. A good adoption hospital plan communicates the expectant mother's wishes to hospital and agency staff and the adoptive family. The plan creates awareness of the expectant mother's wishes and plans and allows the freedom for everyone involved to focus on her and her baby's needs.
Just like other birth plans, the hospital plan is flexible and fluid and can often change. Even prenatally, an expectant mother who planned for the adoptive parents not to be in the delivery room may change her mind once she gets to know the adoptive family and feels more comfortable. And of course at the hospital a delivery could change to a cesarean section or the plan to have no contact after delivery could change to visiting with the adoptive family throughout the hospital stay.
To ensure your expectant mother has an adoption hospital plan, find out if the agency has created one with her and request a copy. The birth parent counselor will ensure that the hospital plan is communicated with hospital staff and in the expectant mother's chart prior to delivery (if possible). Talk to your agency to see if it would be beneficial for you to talk with the hospital social worker or admissions counselor to ensure they have your information. They can also help arrange a room for the adoptive family until the baby is discharged (often this is available if space allows).
It's key for an adoptive family to remember that the hospital stay is more about ensuring that all goes well with the birth mother and that her needs are met. For a birth mother, labor, delivery, and those first few days postpartum are a highly emotional and physically draining space. Adding adoption to the complex dynamic of childbirth also creates a level of grief and loss. Having a hospital plan in place allows the central focus to be on the needs of the birth mother and baby in an effort to facilitate the bittersweet transition that everyone involved is making.
In my work with birth families, I always tell them it's important to say "hello" in order to start saying "goodbye." The hospital stay surrounds both of these momentous events in her life and needs to be handled with ultimate sensitivity, care, and compassion by everyone around the birth family and birth mother.