Every year, since I can remember, I have done a service project for Christmas. Two years after I placed my little butterfly for adoption, I decided I wanted to do a service project that was centered on birth mothers. When I thought about my experience of leaving the hospital with a diaper bag full of formula samples, baby products, and diapers I would never use, I thought about a basket full of items a birth mom could use — a basket full of pampering items just for her. This idea led me to start Birth Mother Baskets (BMB).
My goal was to fill 20 baskets by Christmas. I sat on the floor in our quaint condo and flipped through the yellow pages (yes, that’s how long ago this all started). I called every company I could that would have products like bath salts, candles, lotions, journals, blankets, jewelry and makeup.
I received hundreds of “nos” in my request for donations, but after a few days, I was picking up donations daily. Our spare room in our home was floor-to-ceiling with wicker baskets, tissue paper, and donated goods. My city’s local newspaper wrote an article featuring my service project, and my goal of filling 20 baskets turned to 40 by Christmas!
Every basket contained the poem I had written for my daughter, “My Little Butterfly.” It also contained a letter from me letting the basket recipient know they were not alone — that I too had been in their shoes. The baskets were not a gift to replace a mother’s baby but a simple gesture of compassion. I donated Birth Mother Baskets to our local hospitals and adoption agencies that would gift them to birth mothers after placement.
After the new year began, the companies that couldn’t donate in time for Christmas started sending me donations regularly. It seemed fitting to keep BMB running throughout the year. When I had collected enough donations to fill 10 or so baskets, I would donate them and start collecting again. I used my bargain shopping skills to fill baskets to the brim.
My Personal Project Grows
Once blogs and Facebook became popular, I set up BMB accounts and blogged about my experiences. This exposure brought a new friend and fellow birth mother into my life, who painted a much bigger picture of BMB and guided us to becoming a non-profit organization.
We spent years speaking at adoption conferences and birth mother retreats, spreading the word about BMB and our impact. BMB started as a service project, but over the years, I realized it was my way of keeping my little butterfly in my life. It was one way I still felt connected to her. Each basket that was delivered was filled with her in mind. Each donated item was a reassurance that we were on the right path.
Serving birth mothers helped me cope with my grief. Knowing I was making a difference, that many birth mothers now knew there is happiness after placement, brought me so much joy.
The request for baskets started coming in from word of mouth, our social media accounts, hospitals, and adoption agencies. Sometimes birth mothers as young as 13 were in need of comfort. I remember every single story, every birth mother. When their delivery dates came and went, I thought about each one of them and what they must be feeling.
Our baskets evolved over the years, our volunteers increased, and I would like to believe that every birth mother we reached felt a wave of hope and acceptance. Our baskets turned into bags, as we were shipping nationwide. The journals, candles, pens, and lotions now had our Birth Mother Basket logo on them. There were very few days where I wasn’t buying, packing, and shipping baskets. My local post office knew me by name and knew what I was shipping. We held a local silent auction every year to help with shipping costs and items that were difficult to get donated. The auction was a ton of work but brought in enough money to keep us afloat.
No matter what, we never turned down a request for a basket, often reaching into our own pockets to assure each basket was filled and shipped.
The End of My Birth Mother Baskets Journey
My decision to leave Birth Mother Baskets was not taken lightly; in fact, I stepped away a few times before fully letting go. As more birth mothers started speaking out about their adoption journeys, more non-profit organizations began opening. I enjoyed the part of playing “Oz,” in a way — the one behind the scenes delivering the baskets — but I didn’t truly know how to help these young girls. I did not have a degree in social work, but I did know the space where they were sitting. I knew the grief that would follow their decision.
My one true goal when I started this Christmas service project was to help birth mothers realize they are not alone. And I believe, after 14 years, I did just that.
I no longer have my hands in BMB and haven’t for some time now, but I do know it has become a support group for expectant mothers. They no longer ship baskets to birth mothers, but I would like to think it is still making a difference in the lives of birth mothers nationwide.
I was fortunate to run BMB for as long as I did, and I will forever hold those years close to my heart. It taught me when we uplift others, we also uplift and heal ourselves.
As a public speaker and birth mother, Gina has engaged audiences at adoption conferences and birth mother retreats nationwide. After placing her baby for adoption in the fall of 2000, she founded Birth Mother Baskets, a non-profit organization focused on providing emotional support to birth mothers post-placement.
After 14 years of running Birth Mother Baskets, Gina stepped away to pursue a career as a Creative Arts Manager. A severe concussion in 2016 led Gina back to rediscover her real passion for writing and adoption. Her writing has been featured on America Adopts, Adoption Today, American Adoptions, Adoption.com, AdoptionLife.org, and CAIRS News Room. Gina has received the UAC Community Excellence Award for outstanding contributions to adoption in Utah. She has recently published a memoir, entitled “A Seemingly Unfillable Heart.”
You can find more about her and her work at ginacrotts.com.