There’s a lot of unknowns facing everyone these days — but, if you’re in the middle of the adoption process, you’re probably worried about how COVID-19 will affect your placement experience. The moments you dreamed of — meeting the prospective birth mother in the hospital, holding your baby for the first time, returning home with your new addition — are going to look a lot different now.

But, that doesn’t mean they won’t happen. Just like in any adoption before this pandemic, an adoption during this time is full of unpredictable things. Flexibility is as important as ever. Take it from a few adoptive parents who have been there and have adopted within the past month.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll share some of their tips and tricks for safely navigating this situation. As stressful as it may have been, they all were able to safely bring a new baby into their family. With a little bit of preparation, you can, too.

American Adoptions recommends all adoptive parents stay up-to-date with recent recommendations from the CDC. Because the situation regarding the pandemic is changing so rapidly, the information here may not always be valid. Check out the CDC’s website and reach out to your adoption specialist for the most updated recommendations for traveling and hospital visits.

In this first part of our series, we’ll tackle the first part of your placement journey: traveling to the prospective birth mother’s hospital.

First, Decide Whether You’ll Drive or Fly

Prior to this pandemic, American Adoptions required all adoptive parents to be with a prospective birth mother within 24 hours of receiving their adoption opportunity. And, while this is still the ideal situation, current circumstances may make that more difficult.

It’s still important that you get to a prospective birth mother as quickly as possible — but we also recognize the complexities and health risks of traveling by air. If possible, we encourage intended parents to drive to the prospective birth mother’s state. This will reduce your interaction with other people and protect your health.

However, we know this is not always the most ideal option — especially if you are selected by a prospective birth mother thousands of miles away. Sometimes, flying is the only choice and the best way to get to a prospective birth mother in the shortest amount of time.

Take adoptive parents Sloan and Will, who chose to work remotely and self-quarantine for two weeks prior to the prospective birth mother’s due date. They had planned to drive to the prospective birth mother’s state to minimize contact and reduce the likelihood of carrying or contracting the coronavirus. But, when the prospective birth mother went into labor early, all those plans went out the window.

“We got a call at 1 a.m., and our adoption specialist was like, ‘Y’all just need to come right now,’” Sloan says. “We got on a plane at 5:45 a.m. that same morning.”

Your adoption specialist will talk with you about the logistics of flying or driving in your situation and determine which option will be best for you.

Tips for Flying

For many adoptive parents who can, flying will be the best option. It will get them to their destination quicker than driving, during a period when time is of the essence.

If you decide to fly to the prospective birth mother’s state, follow these tips to protect yourself.

Choosing a Flight:

Many adoptive parents who have traveled during the last month have been lucky to take advantage of cheap fares and near-empty planes. However, as the COVID situation develops, there is always the risk that flights will be cancelled.

Before you even get notice that a prospective birth mother is in labor, familiarize yourself with flights from your city to hers. Most airlines will have set schedules, with a few dependable early and late flights you can jump on with little notice. Keep those in mind, and you’ll know exactly which flight to grab when it comes time to travel.

If you are able to, you may consider purchasing a first-class ticket. These sections of the plane will be less likely to be occupied, and it may enable you an expedited process through the airport and security.

Check with an airline’s policies on flight cancellations and plane sanitization. Is there an airline that you feel more comfortable flying, given the steps they’ve taken to protect their customers?

You might also think about bringing an extra empty bag — to carry the baby supplies you might need on your way home.

Getting Through the Airport and On the Plane:

Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. It’s the name of the game. Sloan and Will packed sanitizing wipes in easily accessible Ziploc bags, which they could use to clean every surface (in the airport and on the plane) where they would spend a decent amount of time. You may wish to wear gloves and a mask to reduce the need to sanitize everything you touch. Keep in mind that your IDs and luggage will often be handled by other people, so be prepared to clean those as often as you feel comfortable.

While waiting in the airport, choose seats away from other passengers to ensure social distancing. Do the same on your plane, if possible. Bring your own water bottles and snacks; not only will food stands be more likely to carry the virus, but some may not even be open during your wait.

Remember: There’s no way to be perfect with sanitization in a place so heavily trafficked as an airport. Just do your best to protect yourself and don’t stress yourself out if you can’t do everything you’d like.

During the Flight

Most airlines have suspended in-flight beverage and snack service, but if yours hasn’t, politely refuse. Keep your masks and gloves on, if you are using them, and minimize your contact with other people. As on any flight, try to stay hydrated and, if you can, get some rest. You’ll need it soon!

Tips for Driving

If driving is an option for your adoption journey, it’s highly recommended. Driving in your own car provides a more controlled environment and reduces your contact with other people.

However, if you take this path, make sure you are adequately prepared. You’ll want to minimize your stops and time outside of your car; only stop for gas and bathroom breaks, and keep driving as long as you feel safe doing so. But you can only do so when you have everything you need from the beginning.

Your adoption specialist can help you create a checklist, but here’s a place to start:

  • Gloves to use only when pumping gas (to be thrown away immediately)
  • Gloves to use while stopping at rest stop and gas station bathrooms
  • Snacks and bottled water to eliminate the need to stop for food
  • Hand sanitizer and sanitizating wipes, readily accessible in your car
  • A small bag filled with overnight essentials, for any overnight stops you need to make

If you will be staying at a hotel overnight during your road trip, don’t forget to call ahead to book yourself a room. Take as little supplies out of the car as needed, and make sure to wipe down all surfaces upon arriving into your room. Again, reduce the time you spend here — take the time to shower and sleep, and then get back on the road as soon as possible.

Renting a Car Upon Arrival

Many adoptive parents will rent a car after taking a plane to the prospective birth mother’s state. It provides a freedom of movement and a more controlled environment — but only if you take certain steps.

When Will and Sloan picked up their rental car, they maintained six-foot social distancing recommendations, and their rental company was diligent about wiping down credit cards and IDs during the initial process. Sloan recommends setting up a flexible return place and date for the car; they would end up driving theirs back to their home state after receiving ICPC clearance.

The couple wiped down every surface of the rental car before getting inside and driving to the hospital to see the prospective birth mother.

“I think about when we were kids, and we pretended everything was lava — ‘Don’t touch the lava,’” Sloan remembers. “We just pretended as if everything was contaminated. It was stressful, but it was what we felt like we had to do.”

Always keep your adoption specialist updated as you travel, whether you drive or fly. They will keep you updated on the prospective birth mother’s situation and birth plan, so you know exactly what to do when you arrive.

Stay tuned for our next blog post on that topic — the hospital stay. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to your adoption specialist if you have any questions or concerns about adoption during this pandemic.

Have advice or tips for other adoptive parents? Share them in the comments.