I was going through some old photos recently and came across a snapshot of my very first post-placement visit with my son. I sat for a few minutes staring at that photo, automatically transported back in time nearly fifteen years ago. I was just 25 years old holding my two-week old son, sitting on his adoptive parents’ couch.
I remember the anxiety ridden days leading up to that first visit like it was yesterday. I had all kinds of crazy thoughts running through my head. “Will he cry when I hold him? Will I cry when I hold him? Will the whole visit be overly emotional? If I cry will that upset his adoptive parents? Will there be any kind of bond between him and me? Do I need to ask to hold him? How long is it ok to hold him for? What if he screams and cries the whole time I’m holding him? How long do I stay? Will I do or say something to offend his adoptive parents?”
I remember even being worried about what to wear. How silly is that? I wanted to dress “right”, whatever that means. Ironically, years later Charlie’s Mom confessed she too was worried about what Charlie wore for that first visit. She wanted him to look “cute enough” for me. It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one having silly, anxious thoughts before that first visit.
That first visit nearly fifteen years ago was hard and overwhelming. But it also felt so good to see my baby again and hold him in my arms. It went pretty well and none of the things I fretted about in the days leading up to that visit happened.
Yes, I was anxious prior to the first visit. But the good news is I survived, and it is a distant memory now. If you are preparing for a first visit, you will survive too. I have a few suggestions on how to survive:
• First of all, keep in mind the feelings of anxiety and nervousness you are experiencing are pretty normal. Many other birth mothers have felt similar feelings before their first visit. Also, keep in mind that your child’s adoptive parents may likely be feeling a bit nervous as well.
• You know going in you will may be emotional, so you may wish to bring a supportive person along, such as a family member or trusted friend. I’d suggest checking with the adoptive parents prior to bringing someone just to make sure they are okay with it and it’s not a surprise. (If you have a post-adoption contact agreement, some of this may already be outlined for you.)
• Ask to meet where you feel most comfortable. If you’d feel more comfortable in a neutral location such as a shopping mall, a park, or a restaurant, then suggest that as opposed to meeting in your or the adoptive parent’s home.
• If you shed a few tears before, after, or during, know that it’s okay. It’s healthy. Be prepared by sticking some tissues in your purse or pocket.
• And last but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to hold your baby, love on him or her, and enjoy the precious moments you have together. Continuing getting to know each other and spending time together is what visits and open adoption are all about.