Pineapples and flamingos, laughter and tears, strangers and camaraderie — this is just a sample of what was found in the 2018 BirthMom Buds Annual Birth Mothers’ Retreat. Birth mothers from all walks of life and across the nation gathered to celebrate the one thing they all share: the fact that every woman had placed a child for adoption.
Whether a woman attends the retreat every year and knows all the familiar faces or she is a newcomer who is anxious about making friends, the welcome provided by this retreat is exhilarating. I should know; I was there.
As a birthmother who attended the retreat in 2018 for the first time, I found friendships that will last a lifetime and discovered truths about myself that I will cherish forever. As I waited for the retreat to begin, I reflected on my own loneliness in being a birth mother. As I left the weekend festivities, I was overwhelmed with the love I received from so many other birth mothers.
Of course, this weekend event would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the founders of BirthMom Buds. I would like to introduce you all to one of them: Coley Strickland, birth mother of 16 years. I recently spoke with this amazingly strong birth mother and newfound dear friend of mine to learn more about her organization and its mission:
Lindsay: What is BirthMom Buds?
Coley: BMB is a web-based, not-for-profit organization that provides support to pregnant women considering adoption as well as birth mothers who have placed children for adoption.
L: What does BMB do for birth mothers?
C: We provide support through many different programs. Our biggest event and program is our Annual Birth Mothers’ Retreat. Each year the weekend before Mother’s Day, birth mothers gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a weekend full of support and healing.
You can find a list of the organization’s other programs here.
L: Why do you feel your work is important in terms of where society stands with adoption today?
C: Although adoption is coming a bit more to the forefront in terms of choices, it is still often presented as the last choice for pregnant women considering adoption, and many birth mothers still feel shunned. BMB provides birth mothers with support so that they can heal and helps empower them with the self-confidence to educate others about adoption and birth mothers.
L: What are the roots of BMB?
C: In September of 2001, I placed a sweet baby boy in an open adoption directly following his birth. Although I knew adoption was the right choice for myself at that time, I still struggled with the emotions of giving birth and going home empty-handed and broken-hearted while someone else was raising my baby.
Sleepless one night, I turned on my computer and began typing different adoption-related words into a search engine. I was desperately looking for someone to talk with who might understand my pain. I came across many websites for adoptive parents but few for birth parents. Finally, I stumbled across an “Is anyone out there post?” on an adoption forum written by another birth mother named Leilani. I replied, and we began chatting via email. Leilani’s daughter was born and placed in an open adoption just four days before my son, which just happened to be my birthday.
At first all we talked about was adoption — she understood what I was thinking before I could even get the words out of my mouth. Since our babies were the same age, we were experiencing many of the same emotions and feelings at the same time. As time went on, our friendship strengthened and became about so much more than adoption; she is now truly my best friend. As we watched our birth children grow from a distance, our emotional pain began to lessen. We still had bad days, and we had not forgotten our children. But we were trying to move forward. We both knew we were making it through that grief because we had each other to lean on. We did not want others to have to go through all the searching that we did in order to find a friend who understood.
Based on that principle, together in February of 2003, Leilani and I started BirthMom Buds. We wanted birth mothers to have a safe haven so they could find other birth mothers and discuss their feelings. BMB provides birth mothers with an outlet, a way to meet other birth mothers, a means to begin healing, and much more. Our members range from teens to women in their sixties who placed during the “baby scoop” era.
L: Why do you feel like BMB is an important organization?
C: Being a birth mom is not easy. It can often be a lonely, hard road, and support is so needed. BMB provides that support.
L: Have you ever regretted your adoption decision?
C: I know I made the best decision I could at that time in my life with the knowledge I had at that moment and time. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had “what if’s” over the years though.
L: I know other birth mothers ask “what-if?” questions, too. If you are comfortable sharing, what are some of yours?
C: They change from the different seasons of life, but I think the biggest, most constant ones have always been the following: What if I had parented him? How would his life be different? How would my life be different?
L: What has your healing journey after adoption looked like?
C: I initially tried therapy not long after placing my son for adoption as I was struggling with emotions, postpartum grief, and moving forward. I didn’t benefit much from therapy and thought maybe therapy just wasn’t for me, but after talking with other birth mothers, I’ve realized I just didn’t have the right therapist for me and my situation. But I have healed through helping other birth moms through BirthMom Buds, talking with other birth moms, and writing about adoption and birth mothers.
L: What type of post-placement relationship do you have with your child, and why did you choose that path?
C: We have always had an open adoption. I had no clue what open adoption was until I met my son’s adoptive mom and she told me about open adoption. She explained that she thought it was best for all involved and, once I learned why, I agreed as well.
L: What is the best adoption memory you have?
C: When my son was about 7 or 8, his sister was playing in a softball tournament near me. I picked him up that morning and along with my husband and parented son, we spent the entire day together. We just hung out at our house, went to the pumpkin patch, played at the park, ate ice cream, and so much more. It was such a special day and one that always lives on in my heart.
No matter what your adoption journey looks like, you are not walking it alone. Women like Strickland and other birth mothers can be found in places that you may not expect. There are many people who walk in and out of our lives every day who have somehow been touched by adoption. If you are feeling alone on your adoption healing journey as a birth mother, consider coming to the Annual Birth Mothers’ Retreat in 2019, organized by BirthMom Buds.
Thank you, Coley, for giving us a greater insight into your life as a birth mother and for everything you do for birth mothers across the country!
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption seven years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.