This post was originally published on AdoptionBlogs.com on November 30, 2010. Republished here with permission.
Last week, I shared what NOT to include in a “Dear Birthmother Letter.” Today, I’m going to share what you should include. Some of these ideas come from the book Reaching Out: The Guide to Writing a Terrific Dear Birthmother Letter, by Nelson Handel. However, I’m going to write more about that book specifically in my next post.
First thing’s first – the greeting. I do not recommend using “Dear Birthmother” as the greeting. A woman isn’t a birthmother until she places, after all. Books and articles recommend “Dear Friend”, but when I read letters addressed to “Dear Friend” I immediately think “I’m not this person’s friend. They don’t even know me.” I’ve always wanted to use “Salutations! That’s my fancy way of saying hello.” It’s a quote from Charlotte’s Web. But it’s too long. You must keep the greeting short and to the point. So, try “Greetings!” or “Hello”.
If you are specifying gender, then include that fact. In our letter, we wrote that “Jack has been asking for a baby sister” and anytime we refer to the child, we use feminine pronouns. If you aren’t specifying gender, use “he or she” and “his or her” instead of “them”, “they”, or “it”. If you are open to race, include that as well.
When referring to your family and the new child, I believe it’s best to use “our”. For example, “We will provide a fun, loving, nurturing family for our child.” The word “our” includes you, the adoptive parents, as well as the birth parents.
Although you should not include anything about money, do include what you have to offer a child. Use words to paint a picture of your home, neighborhood, family, and friends. Include information about what you like to do, and what you hope to share with your children. In our first “Dear Birthmother Letter,” I wrote that I was looking forward to teaching our child to swim, so we could spend hot summer days at the nearby reservoir and water park. In 20 words, I’ve now told you that a) I love to swim, b) we live near bodies of water, c) it’s hot where we live, and d) there are many recreational activities in our area.
When it comes to family, include how your family feels about the adoption. This assumes that your family is happy about it, of course. If they’re not… focus on your friends. In our first letter, I wrote that my mom had already bought Christmas presents for her new grandchild. In just a few words, this shows that my mom was supportive of the adoption and that she was anxious to be a grandmother. Expectant parents want their children to be loved. Anything you can do to demonstrate that love in writing will help them in making their decisions.
Include your pets. At the very least, mention that you have them. Pets can be a great touchstone for some people. They also show that you have at least some experience nurturing another living being. If you have unusual pets – that is, pets that could be considered scary – I do recommend including them, but with some lightheartedness. For example, “Our 6 foot long ball python Spike spends most of his time in his large terrarium sleeping. However, our nieces are fascinated and will watch him for hours.” You want to stress the fact that your pet will not harm or possibly devour a child. If you have a pit bull, frankly, I wouldn’t mention the breed. It’s unfortunate that so many people think pits are dangerous. If you feel wrong not mentioning it, explicitly mention how well trained the dog is. My neighbor has several pit bulls, which freaked us out at first, but those dogs are among the best I’ve ever met. You want expectant parents to feel the same way.
If you are hoping for an open adoption, do mention it. You don’t want to get specific or make any promises. You do want to let the expectant parents know that you hope they will be able to be a part of your child’s life. The first time around, we simply wrote that we wanted to share a relationship with our child. In our new letter, we mention that we have an open relationship with Jack’s birth family.
In some way, address why you want children and why you chose to adopt. If adoption was a choice after infertility, it’s OK to mention that. Do not dwell on your infertility; simply mention it and move on. If your choice to adopt was not based on infertility, definitely mention that too. Honestly, most of the letters I’ve read do a very good job in this regard. The expectant parents should know why you want children, or at least, they should know that you didn’t just wake up one day and think “Hmm… I should be a parent now.”
When it comes to humor, I think a little bit can be in order. Remember to keep it appropriate. Also, remember that humor doesn’t always translate well. If expectant parents do not speak English as a first language, they may find some references confusing or even insulting.
I’m not a big fan of including job titles in letters, but I do think you should mention how your work affects your home life. In our first letter, I wrote that I was going to be a stay at home mom. In our new letter, I wrote that Max and I both work from home, so we’re able to be here with our kids. (I do hope to quit work entirely, but explaining that in a “Dear Birthmother Letter” is probably not an effective use of space.)
Your agency or other adoption professional may have given you a guideline. Perhaps this letter must be one page, perhaps two. Perhaps it can be spread out over an entire profile book. Choose what is most important to you and include it. Think about it – If you were an expectant parent choosing parents for your child, what would you want to know?