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Thirteen years ago, in the spring of 2005, I was having a late-night phone conversation with my best friend and fellow birthmother, Leilani. She and I had met about a year and half prior as the result of an “is anyone out there” post she had placed on an adoption forum looking for another birthmother who understood what she was going through. I stumbled across that post and emailed her as I was desperately seeking another birthmother to talk to. We had a lot in common – our placed children were born 4 days apart and both placed in open adoptions. We were both parenting little boys. We lived in neighboring states. We initially bonded over being birthmothers, but soon became the best of friends talking daily and sharing all facets of our lives. We went on to create BirthMom Buds together not long after the 1st birthdays of our (placed) children.
In that late-night conversation, we discussed the fact that Mother’s Day was quickly approaching. I shared with Leilani that I really wanted to have some kind of get together on the day before Mother’s Day, which is recognized by some in the adoption community as Birthmother’s Day. I thought being with other birthmothers might help ease the sadness and loneliness I had felt on Mother’s Day weekend since relinquishing my son for adoption. Leilani loved the idea, although we both wondered aloud if anyone else would come. We adopted the same line of thought as we did when we started BirthMom Buds – that if we helped just one person, it would be worth the effort.
That first event was just a daytime event held in a conference room at a local hotel, and about ten birthmothers were there. We were amazed. The bond and camaraderie was strong.
We continued hosting daytime events on the day before Mother’s Day, though after a couple of events in my hometown, another birthmother suggested we move to a bigger city: Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte has been our retreat home ever since. As BirthMom Buds began to grow, birthmothers from out of town wanted to attend, and it quickly morphed into a weekend retreat. We moved it to the weekend before Mother’s Day so our attendees didn’t feel the pressure to rush home on Mother’s Day to spend time with their own mothers or children they may be parenting.
We plan a weekend full of activities and kick things off on Friday evening with a mixer at which we eat and play icebreaker games. At the end of the mixer, there’s usually a trip to a yummy bakery within walking distance of the hotel. Saturday is what I call the “main event”. It’s a day filled with meaningful activities and bonding with other birthmothers. We have breakout sessions, led by birthmothers, at which attendees can choose to learn different things like how to cope with birthmother grief, journaling as a birthmother, and dealing with the emotions of reuniting. There is also a candlelight ceremony, craft time, lunch, speakers from the adoption triad, a slideshow featuring our members and their children, and more. Saturday night we go to dinner at a local restaurant and sometimes a group activity afterward. Sunday morning we end the weekend and say “see you next year” with a farewell breakfast. The conference room is always beautifully decorated in a chosen theme. Each attendee has a small gift on the table and receives a swag bag full of goodies. This retreat is so meaningful and important to the women who attend each year.
We host birthmothers from all over the country. Some birthmothers hail from as far away as California and Washington. Our attendees are of all ages, have all different adoption types, and their placed children range in age from infant to beyond forty years old. It’s a very eclectic mix, but we are all bonded together by our love for our children. While I think that web-based support is convenient and necessary, there is something about being in a room full of birthmothers and tangibly feeling their love and support that is hard to put into words.
I asked a couple of attendees what the retreat means to them, as I’m certain I’m biased about how great the retreat is, and here’s what they had to say:
Betty shares, “My first BirthMom Buds retreat was in 2012. Until that day I had no idea that there were so many women like me. I’ve never been in one place of so much support in my life. I didn’t say very much that first year, but I did an awful lot of listening. After a couple of years, the importance of the retreat changed for me. I don’t go for myself as much as I go for the others, especially the ones who are new on this journey. I want to be there for them, to give them what I didn’t have, and to help them understand they aren’t alone.”
Monika said, “I don’t know what I’d do without the retreats. While the forums and other online support formats provided are wonderful, there is nothing like the connection and camaraderie experienced in person. Emotions are better conveyed in person, and even the support I’ve been able to offer other birthmoms, whether they have similar experiences or different, offers its own therapy.”
Any and all birthmoms are welcome to attend our retreat. For more information, please visit this page.