Whether you are an expectant mother considering adoption for your unborn child or a woman who placed her child for adoption decades ago, one simple fact remains: birth mothers face challenges and emotions that are unique. It is common to feel that friends and family (no matter how well-meaning) don’t quite understand what’s going on with your mind and in your heart. However, there are birth mother support groups and systems.
When I placed my son for adoption 21 years ago, I experienced emotions that I didn’t know were possible. I grieved someone who was still alive and well. I felt pride for helping a family to become complete. As much as my loved ones wanted to help and to listen, I knew that they couldn’t fully comprehend my feelings because they had never been in my situation. It wasn’t until I found an online birth mother support group that I finally felt connected with other women who had walked similar journeys.
There is, no doubt, a bond between people who have experienced similar experiences, especially if they had an element of trauma to them. I have heard it said that soldiers who have been to war together feel a kinship, as they have walked a road many will never comprehend. Birth mothers are soldiers too, albeit of a different kind. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your specific adoption, it can be helpful to know that some have also felt the joy of bringing a life into the world, the pain of saying goodbye, and faced many of the similar questions and challenges that you have gone through. There is strength in numbers, and there are power and solace in knowing that you are not alone. Birth mother support groups can offer a safe place to vent, to share your joys and milestones, or to speak about your grief without the fear of judgment.
What Can I Share in a Birth Mother Support Group?
The short answer to this question is anything you want! You will likely start with an introduction. This can be short and sweet or it can be your entire adoption story. Only share what you are comfortable with. Even if it’s difficult to open up at first, you may find yourself more comfortable and eager to share after you have gotten to know the group a bit better.
Most groups are positive, open-minded, and incredibly supportive. If you feel that you have found a group that suits your needs, you can open up about anything and everything that has to do with being a birth mother. Some topics that are spoken about often in these groups include, but are definitely not limited to:
– Asking questions that may be weighing on your mind
– Exploring the pros and cons of adoption placement
– Wondering if what you are feeling is “normal” (trust me, it probably is)
– Sharing your joy over receiving photos or enjoying visits with your birth child
– Sharing frustration when things don’t go as you had planned
– Speaking freely when you are having a difficult day
– Asking for encouragement when your situation looks bleak
– Asking for tips or sharing your experiences with reunion
– Talking about how the adoption has affected your family
– Dealing with the general public’s view of birth mothers and adoption (and discussing how exactly to answer the dreaded question, “How many kids do you have?”)
– Sharing poems and songs that make you smile or help you grieve
– Having someone to support you on milestone days (like birthdays and holidays)
– Finding others with similar adoption stories and learning about journeys much different than your own
Even reading or hearing what others have to say can be helpful and therapeutic. You may be able to sympathize with what they are going through and offer words of kindness. Some days you will be the candle that lights another, and some days you may need your flame rekindled by the light of someone else.
What Type of Group Is Right For Me?
Before joining a group, it can be helpful to consider what type of support you are hoping to receive.
– Do you prefer a local group with face-to-face meetings? If so, how frequently do you want to meet with them—weekly, monthly, yearly?
– Would you prefer an online or social media group where you can check-in when you’d like?
– Are you looking for a group of women who have placed through similar situations like yours— through the Department of Children’s Services/foster care, through your specific agency, in your age range, etc.?
– Do you prefer a group that has experienced mostly closed or mostly open adoptions?
– Are you looking for a group of women who are very happy with the way their adoption journey is going or are you looking for a group of women who are struggling with difficult placements?
What you may find is that many groups contain a wide variety of ladies in a wide variety of situations—and they all get along and support each other beautifully! However, if you are looking for a more specific type of group, they do exist, and with a little searching, you will likely find one that’s perfect for you.
Types of Groups and Where to Find Them
– Online Support Groups:
This type of group is the easiest to find and the quickest to join. Just log into your social media account and search for the term “birth mother” in the group’s section. You will find a wide variety of groups to join. In joining an online group, you will likely be required to give a brief introduction just to validate that you are, in fact, a birth mother. This weeds out spam and unwanted group members. From here, what and when you post is entirely up to you! Keep in mind that these groups often have rules that require respectful dialogue and kindness even in the case where members may disagree or find themselves in differing adoption journeys.
Some social media groups bring all members of the adoption triad together. If you feel that you would benefit from communication between birth parents, adoptive parents, and adult adoptees, these groups can be quite beneficial as well. As with the birth mother-only groups, remember that everyone will have their own opinions and respectful dialogue is always expected.
Did you know that Adoption.com has its own forums for members of the adoption triad? There are several categories to choose from, so there is bound to be one that has what you are looking for! There are Search and Reunion Forums that can be narrowed down by state, year, agency, etc. There are forums for birth parents in all types of situations. Whether you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, dealing with birth parent issues, or just want general support and a sense of community, these forums are a wonderful resource.
– Agency Run Support Groups:
If you placed your child for adoption through an agency, they may or may not offer support groups through their organization. It can never hurt to ask! If your agency doesn’t currently offer a group for birth mothers, feel free to make the suggestion. There are often opportunities for birth parents to share their stories. Often they may be able to share with prospective adoptive parents who meet a birth mother as part of their adoption education or with potential birth parents considering an adoption placement for their children.
If your child was placed through the Department of Children’s Services or a similar state-run organization, ask them about groups and resources that may be beneficial to your growth and healing.
– Special Events for Birth Mothers:
Check with your agency or search online to see if there are any special events for birth mothers being held near you. Organizations such as BraveLove have listings of birth mother events happening in areas worldwide.
Many agencies and organizations offer retreats, quarterly birth mother gatherings, or special events for Christmas and Birth Mother’s Day (which is celebrated the Saturday before Mother’s Day every year). These events are typically free and can include a meal, a guest speaker or other form of entertainment, and even small gifts or trinkets to take home.
These events (especially Birth Mother’ Day events) are wonderful opportunities to connect with other birth parents in your area. It’s also nice to be celebrated and recognized for your strength, your bravery, and your tremendous heart. Events like these are often filled with laughter, comradery, hugs, and even a few tears (which are completely normal and very well understood by the others in attendance).
– Group Therapy:
If there is a therapist office or a community mental health organization near you, it may be worth reaching out to see if they offer any group therapy for parents who have children placed in state custody or placed for adoption. Even a grief counseling group may be helpful—however, most of the participants will likely be grieving over a loss related to death rather than adoption. There are also general groups available where people speak about whatever is on their minds. Individual therapy can be incredibly beneficial as well. Talking about your feelings and emotions with a group of open-minded individuals or with a mental health professional can help give a voice to your inner thoughts.
– Pen Pal Groups:
These groups may be a bit trickier to find, but they do exist. Searching social media groups for the terms “birth mother” and “pen pals” together may lead you in the right direction. Almost everyone enjoys receiving nice surprises in the mail! Many birth mother groups (even those not specifically for pen pals) offer Christmas Card exchanges or send cards with words of support on special occasions such as Mother’s Day and birthdays of birth children.
– Birth Mother Retreats:
While not available in every area, there are many retreats located in states across the country. Several organizations offer these retreats and a simple internet or social media search for birth mother retreats in your state/region will turn up a variety of results. These retreats typically last a few days and include fun activities, meals, and times to bond through sharing stories. Some even give out goodie bags with little treats to brighten your day. Most of these retreats do require a fee to cover meals and lodging, but scholarships are often available to a select number of individuals.
– Create Your Own!
If you are having a difficult time finding resources in your area, others probably are, too. Creating a birth parent support group can be a rewarding way to give back to your community while using your journey to help others. Whether you choose to start an online group, a group through your agency, or a group that meets locally at a set location—you have the opportunity to make a difference and foster a sense of belonging among the birth parent community. As always, be careful to meet in a safe place and make sure that those in attendance do actually have an adoption connection.
A Sense of Community
Regardless of the support group style, you seek, the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Many others have experienced similar situations and similar emotions. Never feel that you have to bottle everything up inside. When the general public doesn’t seem to understand what’s going through your mind and weighing on your heart, other birth mothers do. Don’t be afraid to reach out. When you feel that you don’t have anyone who really “gets it,” life can feel isolated and lonely. When you have a sense of community, however, it becomes easier to feel empowered and to continue the healing process. Kindred spirits lift each other without judgment or pretense, just love, and support.
If you know of a birth mother support group or other resources available for birth parents, feel free to share them in the comments below! If you have had a positive, negative, or life-changing experience with a support group or at a retreat/event, we’d love to hear about that as well! As individual birth mothers, we are very strong. But when we unite? We are Birth Mom Strong!
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.