Experiences of Adoptive Mothers

adoption experience map
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Using cultural probes and ethnographic interviews we sought to understand the relationship between birth-mothers and adoptive-mothers during an open adoption process. This project became very personal very fast and is one of my most enjoyed experiences during my graduate studies because of the people and the lessons learned.

Experience Map

I created this map of the user experience as part of a separate class. It was created to help explain the emotional ups and downs experienced by adoptive-mothers as they decide on adoption as their path to getting a baby.

adoption experience mapx

Positive and Negative

The above experience map was used to identify the negatives and positives of the adoption decision experience and helped to answer the following questions:

Positive – build and make stronger

What is positive about this experience?

The adoption process is one filled with excitement, anticipation and hope. New parents to be are both excited and anxious to embraced a new baby in their lives. Becoming pregnant isn’t the only way to have a baby, and adoptive parents need help preparing for their new little bundle of joy.

Where are opportunities to amplify the positive?

Giving up on pregnancy doesn’t mean giving up on baby. New parents to be are in need of a resource to establish clear expectations on the process of becoming a parent, with specific emphasis on the mutliple avenues one can take to becoming a new parent.

What do users need to have an overall positive experience?

I want to know that we are not alone in our journey to adopt, others have been there before us and will be there after us.

I want to remember how it feels at the beginning of the process so if our attempts at having a child fail, I can have the courage to try again sooner.

I need to understand what I can realistically expect from my experience.

My feelings as a new parent adopting are no different than those of new parents who are pregnant.

How can we amplify the positive?

Inspiration and Concepts

Negative – improve and make better

What are the problems with this experience?

Deciding to adopt is a whirlwind of ups and downs. Each up gets higher and
each down gets downer eventually leading to serious depression. This leads
women to choosing adoption as their last resort to motherhood. Adoption
being a last option causes more emotional hurt than needed, too much
money spent, and leaves women beat and worn up by the time they
finally reach motherhood.

Where are opportunities to fix the problems?

Perception – Don’t see infertility as a failure, but as a direction change (it is nothing you did). Value having a baby over getting a baby. Cost is high, but compared to birth hospital bills it may be more equal. Crazy birthmoms will come snatch their baby.
Options – at each milestone their are options, paths to choose… it is not a clear process.
Lonely -Taking tests over and over, alone in a sterile room. A representation of how they feel along the journey.
Unreachable – Make medical terms and options accessible and understandable to woman and others.
Expectations – Tell them 5% chance and they hear 95% chance. Honest with self…they want hope and a chance so they have to put on a front to the world and eventually they start to believe it.

What do the users need to have a better experience?

Find hope in motherhood
– Fears calmed that she is not the only one seeking motherhood but struggling
to get there.
– Motherhood (ends) glorfied as pregnancy (typical means).
– Seeing reality of options at each failure point to know there is real hope.
– Knowledge of options, costs, stats that provide real hope that she will one day become a mother, grounded in reality that it may not happen as expected.
– Courage to just try something. To take the first step, especially after being beaten down.

Acceptance of new reality (from self and others)
– To feel okay about being sad, disappointed, and frustrated.
– Understanding of what failure to get pregnant means, the source of the failures (false pregnancy tests, miscarriage) or at least an understand of what it does not mean (you are a failure, your fault).

Approach that can provide safety/security of emotions
– Neutral territory and a mediator/guide during first meetings with potential birthmoms.
– A financial plan so that does not add to the stress.
– Examples of successes and failures to choose to follow or blaze the trail.
– Safety net so she does not fall too far down in each cycle.
– Knowledege of

Support from those that care
– Filter for all the voices telling her what to do.
– A shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.
– Somone to go with her to the scary times (tests, verdict, first contact)

How can we fix these problems?

1. What if we, as society, glorify and hype motherhood no matter how you get
their by educating girls while younge about the possibilities of infertility and the
options if diagnosed. (if looking at the positive I could see it being beneficial to
focus on how you get their and honoring all means to the motherhood end)

2. What if it were more common to be infertile, not by frequency of occurance, but
by frequency of know who was infertile. (itgetsbetter.org)

3. What if there was someone to guide you through your journey to motherhood,
from the desire stage through to finalization (possibly even through the first
year). (dula, bariatric surgical care vs health pathway)

4. What if support from family and friends was organized into a team.
(marathon training)

Learnings from Positive/Negative approach

Core of Experience
Looking at the positive feels more wholistic and realistic. Making changes or designing based off of the positive parts of the user experience seems to be much trickier because the positive parts are what entice someone to be in the experience to begin with and it is what motivates them to conitue on. If you mess with that part of the experience formula, it could go all wrong. Higher risk, greater reward?

Empathy and Understanding
Looking at the positive parts of the user experience brought me to a more empathetic understanding of these people and why they wanted this experience in their lives. It gave a stronger foundation and deeper meaning to the experience. It even motivated me to want to try out the experience. As the experience develops over time it brought more powerful and meaningful positive emotions: starting with excitement and intrigue, then ending with passion and empathy. That helped me to see the transformation of the individuals throughout this experience. Mosly, the process of looking at the positive in this user experience made the people involved more real to me. It turned what often feels like an equation based process into a rich discussion with myself and others.