A question I am often asked is what sort of gift or token is appropriate to give to an expectant/birth parent when meeting for the first time or when saying a physical goodbye at the time of placement. Its such an emotional moment, such an important moment, and how on earth do you contain that in an item to express how you feel about this person, an item that speaks for itself, an item that feels “special enough.” How do you say “thank you” for the gift of becoming a parent, when you know it is causing an unimaginable heartache for this person?
I do not have a “go-to” answer, but do have some tips of where to start:
What is Legally Allowed:
Things to Consider:
- Though this will largely vary depending on the adoption professional handling your case, in preparation for the placement, you likely received a Medical and Social History document. At our firm, this document not only includes birth family medical information and the health of the pregnancy, but it also includes information about the expectant family’s interests, hobbies, and favorites. This is a great starting point in getting to know who she is and what are some items that she is likely to like, without having to ask her directly, which you might feel could “spoil” the surprise aspect of giving her something special. Our reports include things like her favorite flower, her favorite type of music, her favorite holiday, etc. This report is a great way to learn some commonalities between you and the expectant/birth family depending on your level of communication pre-placement.
- Talk with your attorney or social worker about the circumstances surrounding the expectant mother’s decision to place for adoption. Do people in her everyday life know about the pregnancy and plan or is she keeping it private? If no one knows about the pregnancy, then an adoption or birth specific gift, like a birthstone necklace may not be the best way to honor her as it may create more questions in her daily life that she is unsure of how to answer.
A few examples we’ve seen:
Tangible gifts– some common choices for a gift for a child’s birth mother are adoption related jewelry items- they may contain the child’s birth stone, or a symbol that is of special meaning to the situation. A gift that has a backstory or meaning, such as an item from your home town, where the child will grow, a copy of your favorite children’s book which you plan to read to the child each night, that she could read to the children she’s parenting as a continued connection, the options are endless.
Intangible gifts– These can be great ways to honor your child’s first family, and are great options if you are selected by an expectant parent very close to or post-delivery, making ordering a gift out of the question. All birth parents have the option of listing a name for the child on their consent and original birth certificate, but they understand that the adoptive family is who ultimately decides the child’s adoptive name. Birth parents who have been included in the naming process, or are honored in the child’s name in some way often express that this eased some of their heartache by feeling like they are continuing to give the child a piece of them that they will take with them for life, regardless of the type of relationship maintained after placement.
Another amazing “gift that kept giving” I’ve seen was from a family who enjoyed gardening, which was one of the reasons they were ultimately selected by the birth family. They knew the birth mother’s favorite flowers and shared with her that they could not wait to choose a special place in the garden for her flowers so the child could grow up with them, knowing the meaning behind their placement in the garden. In keeping in contact with her, they have made sure to include photos of the child with “her flowers.”
Most Unique Gift:
The most unique token or gift I’ve ever seen was for a birth mother who decided to keep her placement private from friends or extended family. Very few people in her life knew that she was a birth parent. The adoptive family wanted to be very respectful of that choice, but also wanted to find a way to honor this amazing sacrifice that she had made. The adoptive father enjoyed photography as a hobby, so they decided to give her a framed photograph that he’d taken of their hometown skyline. That way she has an inconspicuous reminder of the skyline her child sees daily as a reminder of how much she is loved by this family, but in a way that allows her to be the gatekeeper of her story.
The primary goal, is to find something meaningful to your situation. What can seem like an intimidating unattainable item can really be something simple, something special, that shows your gratitude on a personal level.