You are choosing a life path for your child when you place him or her with an adoptive family. You are choosing the people who will mold and shape your child, who will provide safety and stability, and who will dictate how much openness you are able to have with your child over the years. This is a big decision, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I posed the question “What do you wish you had considered when you were looking for a family to adopt your baby?” to a group of birth moms who have experienced both highs and lows in their adoption journeys.

The question was seen by hundreds of birth moms, and I received many answers, both publicly and privately. The five answers below were shared repeatedly. The birth moms who answered shared their regrets in the hope that the lessons they’ve learned would help you as you make one of the biggest decisions of your life.

These are the things birth mothers wish they had considered when choosing an adoptive family:

Families Who Had Already Adopted

Many birth moms admit that they only considered first-time parents for their child. They wanted to be the person who gave a couple the greatest gift of their lives: the gift of becoming parents for the first time.

Many birth moms regret this decision because parents who have already adopted can show their commitment to their promises. You can see if they’ve upheld their promises of openness in their existing adoption relationships. You may even get to talk to their child’s birth mom and discuss what it’s like to be a part of their family. You get the security of a little proof in how they handled their first adoption.

Asking More Questions about Who They Are and What They Believe

The adoptive family you choose will be in charge of molding and shaping your child. This includes everything from religious perspectives to political beliefs. If you desire your child to have very strong beliefs about certain things, or if you want your child exposed to certain things (like sports, music, the arts, et cetera), ask these important questions before you place your child in a family. Even things that have shaped your life, like having family traditions, can be discussed before placement. Look for a family who prizes things that are important to you.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions that may seem too invasive to ask most people. You have a right to know as much as possible about a family before choosing to place your child with them.

Families Who Are More Willing to Figure Adoption Out Together

No one understands the intricacies of adoption when placing a child, and you’re not expected to be able to predict how your wants or needs are going to change over time. As you speak with families, ask about their feelings regarding the amount of contact you’d be allowed to have with your child post-placement. Ask them what their “perfect” situation would be without giving them any hint about how much openness you’re hoping for.

See if their wants align with yours. I can tell you from experience (I’m an adoptive mom) that we didn’t know right off the bat how much we were going to be comfortable with. I did know that I could make basic promises. I then hoped I could over-deliver on those. It was important to me that an expectant mom be comfortable with our bare minimum, and that’s what I shared with her, trusting I would grow over time with how much I felt comfortable with.

Relationships grow over time, and when open adoption relationships are respectful and focus on the ever-changing needs of the adoptee, amazing things are possible. Find a family who wants to welcome you into it, who understands that everyone will have varying needs over time, and who is willing to grow alongside you as you all meet the needs of your child.

Families Who Don’t Live in the Same Town as You

Even birth moms who desire openness may want to consider families who live in a different town, or even a different state. If you believe you’re going to want to see your child more than a couple times a year, you may want to choose a family who lives closer to home. Don’t settle, though, on a family you don’t completely love just to find someone who lives a few minutes away from you.

There are thousands of families all over the country who would make visiting you a priority, but you will have to work diligently to find them. If you choose an adoptive family that doesn’t live close to you but has already adopted once, you can see how they handle visiting their other child’s birth family. If they make visits a priority, there’s some security in believing they will do the same for you.

Speaking to More Families, Even If It Means Finding Them Yourself

Expectant moms go about finding an adoptive family in different ways. Many will do a Google search for local adoption agencies, then call an agency and immediately get on the phone with their hopeful adoptive families. They’ll find a family they like enough and then enter into a “match” with that family.

Many birth moms wish they’d searched much harder for the perfect family instead of feeling obligated to place through the first agency they talked to (and with one of that agency’s families). Call around to numerous agencies in your area, and speak to the families they’re working with who may be perfect for your child.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, or if you don’t want an agency’s help with this part of the process, go to hopeful adoptive parent profile hosting sites like Parent Profiles, or turn to social media to find profiles. You may speak to dozens of families (or more) before you find the ones who speak to your heart.

Last Bit of Advice

The overall number-one piece of advice I heard from birth moms: Go with your gut, and be open to realizing your criteria may change as you speak to different families. With each phone call you make, you could realize new things, and your criteria for a family could change.

By using the considerations above, you won’t limit your choices of families; you’ll find a family whose wants and needs are compatible with your own. You’ll be guided to a family who will raise your child in a way that makes you proud and respects you at a level that will bring peace to your heart about the decision you made.

For more help finding an adoptive family for your child, visit Adoption.com.