There are many important conversations to be had when discussing open adoption, including that of the wellbeing of the individuals creating an adoption plan for their child—birthparents. With Birthmother’s Day (the day before Mother’s Day) quickly approaching it was time to delve deeper into this topic. By hearing from actual birthparents about their experiences with their adoption plan and support groups, as well as a scientific exploration of why a strong support system is crucial in an open adoption we are doing just that.
Birthmother’s Share Their First Hand Experiences with Open Adoption
Heather, an AFTH birthmother, on her open adoption
I was pregnant and because of the situation I was in I couldn’t handle another baby and I turned to the AFTH Chesapeake office. Because of the laws in Virginia, I ended up disappointing an adoptive family when the birthfather wouldn’t sign away his rights at first. After some time and some hard situations, I was able to choose another family, a same-sex couple this time, and place my son with them. I am so grateful for open adoption. At first I experienced some guilt about placing, but overall I am grateful that my son has such a full life and that I can still be a part of it. It was the best and hardest decision I have ever made.
Tabitha, an AFTH birthmother, on Birthmother’s Day and her support group experience
Being a mother prior to placing, I had never known about Birth Mother’s Day. And so the first year after placement, I really wanted to be validated in my choice and to be recognized that day.
The support groups are amazing for me! They let me know that I am NOT alone in this process and everyone has different ways of dealing and healing from the grief. More often, I am the one who has the longest placement and the other ladies are pretty new to the process or are still in a raw state of emotion. I get it, I’ve been there (sometimes I’m still there) and I cherish that I am able to be there for someone to lean on during those moments, making them aware that they are NOT alone. I truly enjoy these times with these special, beautiful and courageous women.
Stephanie, an AFTH birthmother, on attending her first support group
When I was first told that an ongoing support group would be offered to me after placing my daughter for adoption, I pushed the idea away. I felt like it was something I could never do. The adoption was hard enough to come to terms with myself, or to even discuss with people who knew me. How could I sit in a room full of strangers and try to explain myself and my decision? I knew I wanted some kind of therapy after the adoption took place, but I wasn’t sure that a group setting was right for me. I was dealing with a lot of guilt and embarrassment and couldn’t fathom putting that out there for other people, other women to hear and see and judge. I was very skeptical about whether or not it was the right thing for me and how soon I would be ready.
Then I had my daughter and placed with her new family. I received an invitation in the mail a month after I placed her, inviting me to a meeting that was only a month away. I didn’t want to go at all, but I knew deep down that I needed to go. I reluctantly RSVP’d. I dreaded it and looked forward to it at the same time, knowing it was out of my comfort zone. My feet and heart were heavy when I walked into my first meeting, which was only 2 months after I placed my daughter. I was a ball of nerves with a pocket full of tissues. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to talk, but I thought hearing other stories could be helpful. I teared up as soon as I walked in the room and saw the other women who had done the same thing I did. It made adoption even more real for me, if that’s possible. It helped me realize that it affects many women from all walks of life and that I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.
The meeting ended up going very smoothly, but I did use all my tissues and then some. I told my whole story at my first meeting, teary eyes, trembles and all. And now, I actually find myself looking forward to them very much, to the point of wishing they were more often. I know that if I didn’t force myself to that first meeting, I wouldn’t be attending them today. I have come to realize that nothing helps more than telling my story from start to finish, over and over again. There are always new girls at the meetings, and it makes me feel good to know that they might pull some strength or hope from my story. The support groups force me to address my emotions, recognize my progress, and come to terms with making the best decision for my daughter. I hold my support group friends very dear to me. I trust them with a big part of my heart, and they trust me with theirs. I love that my support group isn’t just for receiving support, but also giving it. Showing up to my group is just as much for the other women, as it is for me.
Adoption Agencies Find Ways to Celebrate and Support Their Birthmothers
Support Groups that Provide an Outlet for Birth Parents Yearlong
Adoptions From The Heart is an agency that is dedicated to everyone involved in the adoption process and their Virginia office has been holding a birth mother support group quarterly. Gathered around pizza, the women open up and share their stories with one another in a space where they feel safe. Sometimes the stories are repeated, but the focus shifts to highlight something significant that had not touched them before. Being able to decompress after events or visits and being able to share after the Annual Picnic or the Holiday Party has really brought the group of women together.
One birth mom explained, “I was really nervous about coming to the first meeting, it took everything I had to not back out. As soon as I was able to tell my story with women who understand me, I felt great. Everyone is so supportive and it’s nice to be able to be there for others too. This is something that I look forward to now, being with people who know how I feel.”
The group continues to expand with new attendees joining every meeting, encouraging and supporting from the moment they sit down. With Birth Mother’s Day on the horizon, the group is hoping to plan a fun event to celebrate, they may even go roller skating! This combination of discussion and fun group activities has provided a perfect balance for the women of this particular support group.
Birthmother’s Day: A Celebration of Strength and Love
Birthmother’s Day, the day before Mother’s Day every year, is a very special day at Adoptions From The Heart. They have the pleasure of working with amazing birthmom’s who are beautiful on the inside and out and at their Cherry Hill office, they have been taking time to celebrate their adoption journeys by hosting an annual Birthmother’s Day Brunch.
Women came and enjoyed light refreshments while fostering conversations about placement and what open adoption has meant to them. At the brunch, the birthmom’s took time to release balloons and tied to each balloon was a hope, dream or wish they had written for their child. Are there ways that you celebrate on Birthmother’s Day or adoption all year long?
Why is Support and Counseling Important for Those in an Open Adoption?
Pre placement counseling and support is commonplace for both adoptive parents and birth parents, most times it is required by law.
Here are some statements pulled from the National Council for Adoption and The Counseling Psychologist in support of birthparent counseling to consider:
• Quality adoption counseling is an essential service that enables birthparents to make pregnancy decisions in an informed manner, after personal reflection, with all the facts on the table.
• The best birthparent/adoptive parent relationships are respectful, flexible, and built on trust. With trust, they can weather the normal ups and downs that occur in most relationships – counseling can help to build that trust.
• When a birthmother faces the reality and pain of her decision, she often feels a need to talk through all of her emotions. Eventually, if the grieving process is healthy, she will begin to withdraw energy from grieving and focus on moving beyond it.
• Through working with a therapist and/or a birth mother support group, more women are able to express their feelings. They are also given the opportunity to accept and own their decisions, get past blaming others for their circumstances, and become able to share their story and defend their decision.
Together We Can Support Each Other
Birthmother’s deserve to be celebrated and supported and that is what Birthmother’s Day, and every day is all about. As an adoption community we can dispel the stereotypes and judgment of open adoptions and birthmother’s. Share with us your stories and your photos and together we can support each other!
For other blogs on similar topics visit the links below: