Birth mothers who place their children for adoption are courageous souls who selflessly give their children unconditional love, a family and the gift of life. But after the adoption, the path can be lonely and emotional. I believe we have a responsibility to provide care and support to birth mothers, not just when they’re pregnant, but also after birth as they learn to adjust to their life after making an adoption plan. They have unique needs that can only be served through a birth mother support group.
Unfortunately, finding such a program is difficult. An Internet search reveals some informal online support forums. But there are very few professional organizations that actually provide necessary, reputable counseling, as well as peer support.
Adoption Professionals, an adoption agency in Cincinnati, Ohio, is striving to be a model for birth mother support groups across the nation. Mary Adams is the facilitator of GEMS (Giving Each Mother Support). In 2009, while employed as a paralegal at Adoption Professionals, Mary launched GEMS in response to a birth mother who wanted to form a support group to help her process emotions regarding her adoption placement. As a birth mother herself, Mary was familiar with the sense of loss that can come post-adoption. And she felt a calling to help other birth mothers. The focus of GEMS is to provide a caring, confidential and non-judgmental place where birth mothers can openly express themselves. Through the mutually supportive atmosphere, the women can find hope and healing, as well as learn positive and effective ways to cope with post-adoption emotions. The group is open to all birth mothers and is quite diverse. It has members who have recently placed, to some who are 20 or 30 years in their adoption journey. Both open and closed adoptions are represented. The group meets on a monthly basis and is an open and process-oriented environment. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions and share their stories. A special bond is created as the women connect with one another. Mary calls it “a sisterhood.”
Beth Coleman’s story begins when she was a senior in high school. She and her boyfriend didn’t have the best relationship when she discovered she was pregnant. However, she knew she wanted to have her baby. A few months into the pregnancy, she saw a television program about open adoption, which prompted Beth to investigate. After some time, she made the decision to choose adoptive parents for her daughter. Beth says the hardest day of her life was when she had to sign the adoption papers. She was heartbroken and struggled for several months. There were times when she wouldn’t get out of bed or she wouldn’t eat. She had the support of friends and family, but still felt very alone. Her daughter’s adoptive mother was the one who introduced her to GEMS. After months of making excuses, she was hesitant but attended her first meeting. There she found the support she’d been longing for. Beth has been a part of GEMS for over a year. She now feels confident she made the best choice for her daughter. Even years after the adoption, there are sad days on occasion. But without GEMS, Beth wonders how she would be able to cope.
When Jerusha Klayman was 19, she found out she was pregnant. She felt alone and overwhelmed, yet she knew that abortion was not an option for her. As her pregnancy progressed, she began to prepare to raise her child. She was four months along when God opened her heart to the possibility of adoption. It was not an easy decision. She wanted to raise her daughter, but even more, she wanted what was best for her child. Jerusha had the desire to give her baby a loving home with a mother and a father. She prayed God would bring her the right couple and eventually she met the man and woman who would become her daughter’s parents. She stresses that the adoption was a sacrifice for her because she loved her baby more than her own desires. Jerusha has been a part of GEMS since the first meeting. “Birth mothers often feel very alone in their decision. And this group helps them to realize that they’re not,” she shares. “It reinforces the fact that we made this choice because of how much we truly love our babies.” Connecting with people who understand the love and heartbreak is necessary. In fact, when Jerusha travels for work, she has Skyped with the group just to stay connected. “GEMS brings so much hope and shows it’s better when we stand together.”
Programs like GEMS can be a lifeline of support and understanding—a safe haven for birth mothers. To learn more about GEMS, I encourage you to watch their feature on our TV program, Facing Life Head-On. You can view the episode online at www.facinglife.tv. (The show can be found in our Episode Guide, Season 7, Episode 6.) If you’d like to find out more information about starting a birth mother support group in your area, please contact Adoption Professionals at 513.321.2229 or visit www.adoptionprofessionals.net.
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