Resources and support groups are not always easy to find when it comes to being a birth mother. We all need support in times of despair, and being a birth mother can be incredibly lonely. I know what it feels like to wish you had someone who understands what you are going through but don’t know where to turn. If you find yourself in a place in which you need support, but don’t know where to turn, consider starting a support group yourself.
Where Do I Even Begin?
The first step in starting a support group is to commit to following through. With any decision you make, it’s not enough to decide to do it; you must follow through with it as well. Start by calling local adoption agencies, hospitals and churches. You can also check out local community boards for any support groups in your area. If there is already a support group in the area, but it’s not easy to find, perhaps instead of starting your own group, you help that group grow. If you find there is not a support group, it might be time for you to start one.
Call Around and Find a Space
Local adoption agencies, hospitals and churches might not have a support group of their own, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be interested in offering a space for you to hold your own. Call around and find out if they have a space available that you might be able to use for your purposes. Once you find a willing facility, you can discuss with them if they will charge you to use the space or if you can utilize it for free. It may not be a bad idea to start up a donation for the meeting space if it costs money. At every meeting you hold, you can have a donation basket and collect funds that way.
Determine Commitment and Frequency
The next step is to determine how frequently you want to meet as a support group. My recommendation is to hold monthly or bi-weekly meetings. If you hold the meeting every week, not everyone who is interested will be able to always make it, and they may feel left out. Having a weekly meeting is also a big commitment, and you may not be in a place in which you are able to make that commitment. Make sure the frequency matches a realistic timeframe for you, since you will need to be at every meeting when you start until you find another facilitator.
Start Marketing the Support Group
One of the most important steps is to get the word out that you are starting a support group and looking for people to join. Perhaps you can print out fliers, post it on social media, and call those local adoption agencies, schools, and churches and let them know as well. The more exposure you can gain for your group, the more people will be reached, and the more likely you will draw people to your support group. If you don’t have the ability to print fliers, ask the facility you are holding it through if they have a printer that you can use to gain interest.
Support Group Content
The big question is this: How will you run the group when people start coming to it? Here are some questions you will want to ask yourself that will help you to create group guidelines:
- Who is the group open to? Men and women? Specific parts of the adoption triad or the whole triad?
- Will you have activities to do or an open discussion forum?
- Do you want a sequential curriculum, or would you rather have a judgment-free feeling zone?
- How many people can you accommodate in your meeting space?
- Will you offer smacks or beverages before, after or during the group?
- Will you be able to adjust the guidelines as you move forward, or are your guidelines set in stone?
As the Group Grows
I recommend that you adjust guidelines as the group grows. There will very likely be a slow start to the meeting. It may prove challenging to get people to come. Don’t give up though, because sometimes people need time to reach out and ask for help. Once the group starts gaining momentum, you can re-assess all your guidelines, including where you hold the meeting, how frequently you meet, how you run the group, and who you open it up to.
Once you start the group, and you have gained momentum, remember to remain committed to it. If you can’t be at every meeting, don’t feel guilty or slack on your commitment, just find another individual who you can trust to facilitate the meeting. I think you may be surprised at the leadership interest you will find among other strong birth mothers.
My hope is that someday, there will be local chapters of support groups for birth mothers in every area. Every journey begins with one step. Perhaps it’s your turn to take that first step? If you run into challenges along the way, reach out and ask for help from someone you trust. And as always, remember: Don’t give up!
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption 7 years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.