I recently heard a quote from a fellow birth mother: “Placing a child for adoption is a life sentence of grief.” It is hauntingly true. Although I have learned to live with the grief, it’s never fully left. And although there are so many methods to handle the grief, the one that has worked best for me is participating in a birth mother support group. A main reason I like to do this is because it’s nice to feel like I’m not alone. I have built lifelong friendships with girls I have met in those groups. Also, I can feel justified in my pain by helping another young woman who is going through what I have gone through.

Nobody on this earth will know what it’s like to be me. Nobody will understand what it feels like for me to carry a child to full term and allow another person to walk away with said child. However, there is hope. There are others out there who know what it’s like for them to experience it for themselves. They know the pain of childbirth and the absence that is caused by placement. They know that they have healed, they knew that I could heal, and they had (and still have) the greatest empathy for what I have gone through.

In the months immediately following placement, those support groups I attended were the only place I felt like I could properly express myself. Consequently, they were where I started healing. I was able to express feelings of anger, resentment, and hatred and know that I wouldn’t be judged or mocked for those emotions. On the contrary, I was helped by these girls to understand and channel those emotions into something productive, which resulted in a healthier relationships with my family and friends, as well as my son and his family.

I have become quite close with some of the girls I met in group. We would start talking about an issue in our lives during the support group, we would run over the allotted time, and extend our conversation over ice cream after the group was over. Before I knew it, we were meeting outside of the group just to hang out with one another. They were who I called in the middle of the night when I was missing my son. They were the ones who were there when I was having trouble bonding with the son I’m parenting now because they have gone through it. They were at my wedding, and I was at theirs. We are friends both in and outside of the adoption community because once I placed my child, there was a bond that tied me to other birth mothers. I love them even without knowing them. And the friendships formed because of my support group are lifelong and indestructible because we have carried each other through the crucible. How can you not form friendships after helping somebody through that?

The first year was the hardest. My son hit all the major milestones, and the pain was so fresh that it seemed like I wouldn’t survive. I’m well past the first year, and while the pain can still seep to the surface, I have many more “good days” than I do “bad days.” However, I still attend a support group. I don’t know where I would be without some of the “veteran” birth mothers, those who had placed many years before, while I was pregnant. They told me what to expect, they advised me on how to handle awkward situations with my adoptive couple, and they have overall been a source of comfort for me. Just watching them and hearing about their lives showed me that I could be in their shoes in just a short amount of time. Now I hope to be able to do the same thing for another girl. Everything I have gone through can be justified by the life my son is able to live, but I can bring even more peace to myself knowing I have been able to help someone in need.

I fully believe that expectant mothers who are thinking about placing should find a support group. Whether it be through her agency, through her church, or through an online support group. There are many resources out there that can help expectant mothers not feel like they’re alone. They can find and forge lifelong friendships with people who will not judge them, no matter their circumstances or opinions. And hopefully, find enough peace in their lives to show others that they can survive as well. Placing a child really is a lifelong sentence of grief, but it’s a burden that we don’t have to bear alone. Support groups are a great resource for me to find hope, love, and compassion.