The hospital stay during an adoption is always emotional — but throw in the extra stress and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and it gets much harder.
Remember: American Adoptions will always be there to support you during this part of your journey. We’ve had many adoptive parents experience the hospital stay during the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic. By educating yourself and following a few tips, you can have a successful stay, 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.
For our second part in this three-part series, we’ve guided through what you might expect upon arriving in the prospective birth mother’s state and receiving an adoption placement. Let’s get started.
Choosing a Place to Stay
Ideally, you’ll want to select a place to stay prior to arriving in the prospective birth mother’s state. Some adoptive parents will be able to stay in the hospital with the prospective birth mother but, with visitor policies changing rapidly, it’s good to have a backup plan.
Many adoptive parents have chosen to use short-term rental services (like Airbnb and Sonder) to feel more comfortable during their stay and reduce contact with other people. If you must stay at a hotel, call ahead and ask about their sanitization policies and rates.
Most adoptive parents will go straight to the hospital after landing. If you have the chance to visit your rental space, consider changing clothes, taking a shower and wiping down the surfaces of your rental to prevent carrying any trace of the virus in from the plane.
Preparing to Visit the Hospital
Many adoptive parents don’t have the chance to stop when arriving in the prospective birth mother’s state. They will usually drive straight to the hospital or, if arriving by plane, stop and get a rental car before heading to the hospital.
Always check in with your adoption specialist for the most updated information on the prospective birth mother’s birth plan and the hospital policies. These will inform the steps you take upon arriving.
Checking in With the Hospital
With the rapidly changing CDC and healthcare recommendations, the best way to determine the hospital policies is by calling them directly. Your adoption specialist will be working with the prospective birth mom’s hospital to implement her delivery plan, but you will also be responsible for preparing yourself for the requirements the hospital sets.
It may be easy or difficult to get into the hospital. There may be visitor restrictions, and the prospective birth mother has the right to choose which visitors she wants in her room. Stay in touch with your adoption specialist during this time to find out what a prospective birth mother wants.
You may be required to wear masks, gloves or other personal protective gear when visiting the baby or the prospective birth mother. If so, check out recommendations for homemade masks and face coverings to avoid taking supplies from those who need it most.
When adoptive parents Vince and Jason first visited the prospective birth mother’s room during their stay in March, they arrived late at night and experienced no issues. But, even with visitor bracelets, they faced difficulties with hospital security the next day when trying to visit the prospective birth mom and baby again. They had to wait for a social worker to confirm their role in the adoption and right to visit the prospective birth mother.
“I would minimize the coming and going as much as possible, because every time we left, there was a different security guard and a different process,” Vince recommends.
If you’re able to, staying in the hospital overnight (and not leaving for supplies) can reduce these challenges. But, if you plan on doing this, make sure you have all the supplies you need for yourself, including clothes, toiletries, food and more.
The Hospital Stay with the Prospective Birth Mother
In many ways, the policies already existing in hospitals will help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, it’s important that you are diligent during your hospital stay to protect yourself and others. It can be a delicate balance during a time where you are focused on the prospective birth mother and baby’s health, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your adoption specialist for guidance during this time.
Please note: Your situation may vary greatly based on the policies of the hospital the prospective birth mother is staying at. When in doubt, please contact your adoption specialist or the hospital for more information.
Protecting Yourself, the Prospective Birth Parent(s) and the Baby
The hospital will likely have policies in place to protect all patients, visitors and staff. Adhere to these rules and always pay attention to a doctor’s recommendations and orders.
Most of the rules that apply in a “normal” delivery situation will apply here, too. That means washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds), refraining from physical contact with the baby if you are feeling sick, and using gloves and personal protective gear during labor.
It’s not a bad idea to take those steps a bit further now, because of how highly contagious COVID-19 is. Adoptive parents Sloan and Will recommend refraining from touching, kissing or holding the baby too long, minimizing physical contact with the prospective birth mother and sanitizing as frequently as possible. Having flown to the prospective birth mother’s state and without a 14-day window to quarantine, they didn’t know if they had become infected on the trip to the hospital.
However, they knew how important it was to be there and present during this emotional time for the prospective birth mother. They advise others to weigh the risks involved and keep the baby’s safety at the forefront of their minds.
Reducing Anxiety for All Parties
Sloan admits it was a delicate balance to keep everyone safe — but not appear standoffish to the prospective birth mother or stress her out further.
“We knew that it was very important to the birth mom that we be there, that we show her and the baby affection,” Sloan says. “We weren’t breathing on the baby, we didn’t kiss her, but we did hold her… I think if we hadn’t done that, the birth mom would have been freaked out.”
At the time that Sloan and Will stayed in the hospital, the coronavirus situation was still developing. They said the prospective birth mother in their situation was not too worried about the virus, so they focused instead on making her feel comfortable and reducing her stress. That meant talking about her and the baby’s well-being, offering to run errands for food and drinks, and providing her the space she needed while making her decision.
“My entire relationship with the birth mom has really been focused on her well-being,” Sloan says. “She never knew that I was worried that she might change her mind, that I was worried about any of that. I just practiced that same compartmentalization and really focused on how she was doing.”
There’s a likelihood that hospital policies and CDC recommendations will influence how you interact with a prospective birth mother. In this case, make sure she understands why. Explain why you will not be kissing or hugging the baby extensively, why you will not be hugging her or staying a long time in her state after discharge (just as long as ICPC requires) and why your post-placement in-person contact may be delayed until social distancing recommendations are lifted.
A prospective birth mother will understand. But, if you don’t explain your actions and appear on edge, you can quickly make her worry that you are not committed to adoption or that you don’t want to know her as a person.
In Sloan and Will’s case, they had always talked with the prospective birth mother about the safety of her baby. They built on that theme to explain why they were staying someplace farther away than planned because it was cleaner, with less human contact, and to explain why they were leaving her state earlier than planned. It was all to do what was best for the baby.
Gathering Your Supplies
If you traveled on short notice to reach the prospective birth mother, you may not have brought all the supplies you need to care for a child. And, with supplies not always guaranteed at stores during this time, you should take some proactive steps to gather what you need.
Talk with the nurses at the hospital. They will typically provide formula, bottles, nipples and diapers upon discharge but, if you mention your need to them prior to discharge, they may be able to give you more supplies earlier on. This way, you can stock up.
You’ll want to reduce the amount of time you spend in public after placement. And, while you will still need to stop at stores for some supplies, doing what you can now will help keep those visits short and productive.
You and your spouse will have brought a few baby care basics when traveling. But, if you are leaving the hospital or your rental space to buy more food or supplies, designate one person to be the runner, to reduce contact with other people.
Your Goodbyes: Leaving the Hospital
There’s a good chance a prospective birth mother’s birth plan will change during delivery, based on hospital policies. Similarly, your plans to visit with the birth mother after placement may change, too — to reduce the contact you’re having with others and to keep the baby safe.
This can make your goodbyes at the hospital even harder. And, in accordance with CDC social distancing guidelines, it can be hard to know what kind of physical contact (if any) you all will share. Saying goodbye from six feet apart is no one’s idea of a great ending.
After placement, Vince and Jason had planned to meet the birth family one more time before hopping on a plane and heading home. They talked at length with their adoption specialist about exactly what that final visit was supposed to look like and decided against physical contact. The birth mom’s adoption specialist relayed that information to her before they all met up.
“It was going to be really awkward for us to tell them that at the meeting,” Vince says. “But we really wanted to do that for them.”
“I’m a very emotional person,” Jason adds. “When I saw them crying, I wanted to comfort them, but you couldn’t do that based on everything that was going on.”
Talk with your adoption specialist about social distancing requirements during your hospital preparation. Because recommendations are changing so rapidly, keeping both parties informed ahead of time will make a huge difference.
And, of course, the regular rules also apply: Confirm with the birth parents the post-placement contact you will have, even if it will be slightly different than planned. Express your gratitude and commitment to them, and explain how much they will always be a part of your life. Reassure them that everything will be fine, even when the immediate future seems uncertain.
We know how complex the hospital stay can be, which is why your adoption specialist will just be a phone call away if you have any questions or concerns moving through this process. Remember: We will always be here for you and the prospective birth mother.
Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we’ll tackle the details of traveling home with a newborn during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.