After I placed my son, I received incredible support from family and friends. I am in awe over their love, and looking back I am amazed that they knew EXACTLY what I needed to make it through the first days and weeks of grieving.
Here are some ideas of ways that you can help support a new birth mom, from near or far.
1. Write a short, loving note. I still have a small card that was left on my doorstep the morning after placement. All it says is, “You are stronger than you think, and loved SO much more than you can imagine.” It was exactly what I needed to read. Long letters are wonderful, but short and sweet is less overwhelming during an already-emotional time.
2. Visit her. Many birth moms talk about an “empty arms” feeling after placement. It is real, and it is lonely. Visits from friends, neighbors, and family members here and there helps ease that loneliness. Always call ahead of time, though. Sometimes alone time to think is needed.
3. Ask how she is doing, then just listen. You can do this in person, or over the phone. Let her know that her feelings still matter. Talking it out, even if you have heard it before, will help her process the emotions.
4. Take her out. Go to lunch, shopping, people-watching, or to a movie. Get her out of the house and back into the normal, unaffected world around her. Too much time inside her house will make her stir-crazy, and can make grief and sadness seem overwhelming.
5. Let her be proud. Most birth mothers LOVE to show off their sweet little one, and appreciate others telling them how beautiful their child is. She still created a life and has every right to feel pride about her child.
6. Bring food. Chocolate or other indulgences are always welcome. One of my favorite things a friend brought after placement was a huge fruit tray with a bag of Dove chocolates. It was the perfect balance of healthy and delightful.
7. Get her to laugh. Rent a funny movie, find a comedy YouTube channel, or go out and have fun. Laughter is therapeutic.
8. Get her out and exercising. She can take short walks, preferably outside, as soon as a few days after placement. Once the doctor gives approval, get her out and exercising. Running, biking, or going to the gym. Endorphins have the same effect as laughter and will help her feel good. Starting with a buddy is easier than doing it alone.
9. Find someone to serve. Help her come up with plan to do a good deed for or serve someone else. Serving others will help her feel that she is making a difference. One of the biggest problems I had after placement was feeling useful. I had spent 9 months growing a child and preparing to create a new family, then suddenly I felt I wasn’t doing any good for anyone else. Give her opportunities to give of herself.
10. IF APPROPRIATE – Get her a pet. Many birth moms just need to nurture something. A puppy, a kitten, or even a chinchilla will give her something to snuggle and love on. It isn’t a replacement for the child she placed, but it will also give her a sense of purpose. Animals are therapeutic and will also assist in the grieving process.
If you are ever lost about what to do for her—just ask. Just knowing someone WANTS to help and be there for her will remind her she is important and loved.