Being a birthmom can be very isolating. When I tell a new person I am a birthmom, at first they often think I am an adoptive parent. So the first step is to explain the difference between an adoptive parent and a birth parent. Then, usually one of two things happens: they either say something like “Wow, that must have been hard.” (biggest understatement in the world) and then uncomfortably drop the conversation. Or they ask “How could you do that?”, then say “Wow, I could never just give my baby away.”, followed up with a “ You are so selfless.” Either way it generally ends with an awkward silence. That is not to say it does not get better the second or third time you talk to them and they really start to get it. They have just never met a birthmom before and do not know how to react. They are generally so afraid of saying the wrong thing they say nothing at all.
That is why it is so important for birthmoms to have a support group of other birthmoms. And one way to get that support is through On Your Feet Foundation retreats. OYFF hosts 2 retreats a year and has had over 300 birthmoms in attendance in the last 7 years. A common sentiment is how wonderful it is to be in a room full of women that you do not have to explain the basics to, where you can tell your story and get to the really important stuff, the details that make your adoption part of you, quickly and without feeling judged.
Being a birthmom is not a point in time. It is part of who you are as you move on past your placement. And as time moves forward and your life changes, things come up and your birthmotherness creeps in and brings up issues that are unique. Often having other children reminds you of what you missed when you placed. What if infertility problems arise? Always difficult, but combined with being a birthmom, it becomes more complex. What about meeting new people, dating? When do you tell people about this important person in your life, your child that you are not parenting? Issues arise throughout your life and having other birthmoms to talk to is so important!
The On Your Feet Foundation retreats are a way to make these connections, to find people you share a similar story with. On the first night of the weekend, we all tell our stories, talk about our kids and share pictures with one another. Saturday is broken into sessions – working on issues and trying to come up with solutions. One session may be on grief, another one on how to communicate with your child’s adoptive parents, another on building positive relationships. Sunday the retreat is over by early afternoon and the time is spent digesting all the information, looking towards the future and usually a keepsake craft. The entire weekend is all wrapped up in a warm and supportive environment that includes sleeping and cooking together in a beautiful house on Lake Michigan.
If you are a birthmom or know a birtmom that would benefit from a retreat, please contact On Your Feet Foundation at 847-433-7820 or www.oyff.org.
Remember, no one understands a birthmom like another birthmom!