Brittney’s birth mother support group provides space to grieve

Brittney, a birth mother, describes how she’s grown by having a safe, welcoming space to grieve, unpack emotions, and find shared experiences.

by Brittney S., birth mother

There’s a lot of understanding in the room when this group gathers each month. Some birthmothers have recently made adoption plans; others placed children decades ago. Some with open adoption plans are developing relationships with their child; others have had no contact.

Despite the differences in their adoption stories, almost no one else in their lives can truly relate to their experience. They can speak freely here. They can ask questions here. They can share stories here. And they never have to defend what they are feeling.

Learning to grieve

I started coming to this group a few months after my daughter was born last April. My adoption plan is very open—I see her once or twice a week—so I didn’t think I’d want or need to talk to anyone about it. I felt secure in my decision, and I had no regrets.

One thing I’ve learned from this group is that you can still grieve, even if adoption is what you wanted. I hadn’t expected to grieve. After placing my daughter, I didn’t go out for a while. Whenever I was out with people, I felt different. Lonely.

When I tried to talk about it, people would smile and nod, but they didn’t understand. Not many people can put themselves in your shoes. These women could, and they welcomed me with open arms. They assured me that what I was feeling was normal.

Sharing emotions

The birth mom experience can be hard to talk about. When I first came to the group, I thought the discussion would be sad, but the group was more upbeat and positive than I expected.

The more experienced birth moms talked about feeling hard emotions at different times through the years, but grief wasn’t their default emotion. Some birth moms talked about their children. Everyone acknowledged they often think about their child and want the best for them.

As the newest member with the most recent placement, I still had a lot of emotions, but I left that first night feeling hopeful.

There are two women in the group who have closed adoptions; at the time they placed, that was their only option. Both wish they knew where their children are, but they say it gives them peace to hear us talk about our children and building relationships with their adoptive families.

It’s interesting to have them in the group; they’re like the “seniors” in the room. I’m glad adoption has changed, and birth moms have more options.

I’m not ashamed to talk about my adoption plan—I’ll talk about it with anyone who has questions. I believe educating others minimizes awkward reactions. My daughter’s adoptive mom gave me a beautiful ring. People often ask me about it, leading me to tell my adoption story.

It’s surprising how many others have adoption in their story, whether they are birth moms, adoptive parents, or adoptees.

A consistent community of support

One year in, I’m no longer the newest member of the group. Four more have come after me, and one young woman visited us while she was still pregnant to see what the group was like. Mostly we get together and talk in a place where we all can feel like we blend in.

I didn’t think I needed this group, but I can see that gathering with strong birth moms has nothing to do with being weak. It’s nice to have this kind of support. It has been a friendly learning experience.

Are you looking for support after adoption?