Guest Author - Karen Ledbetter
by Nicole Lambert Strickland
I was pregnant and after endless hours of thinking and worrying, I had decided to make an adoption plan. I had chosen adoptive parents, Scott and Angee, and become very close to them. Angee and I had a very close relationship and she had become like a big sister to me. Angee cared about me, as well as the unborn child that would shortly become her own, so she began accompanying me to doctor’s appointments. She told me her plans and thoughts on how she would raise this baby. We had all planned on an open adoption, knowing this would be the best thing for our baby. All throughout my pregnancy, I tried not to think of this as “my baby.” I thought of him as Angee’s baby. I thought it would make things easier on me if I did not let myself get attached. Little did I know then, that calling the little life inside of me Angee’s baby was just a defense mechanism. I was attached by the beating of our hearts the minute I found out I was pregnant. I was not prepared for the pain, the hurt, and the heart ache I felt the minute I signed those papers.
Days after my baby boy, Charlie’s, birth and relinquishment, I found myself feeling desperate and alone. I felt like no one else in the world understood what I was going through. I felt happy for Angee because she had a beautiful baby that she had prayed for, but at the same time I was dealing with an internal mix of postpartum depression along with grieving the loss of my baby. I could talk to my friends and family often about my situation, but I felt they did not truly understand the emptiness and ache of my heart. I was a birth mother, hopeless and alone with an empty pit deep in my stomach.
I had started counseling, but it really was not helping much. About a week after relinquishment I awoke from a dream of Charlie feeling helpless and sleepless in the middle of the night. I stared at my computer screen thinking that the internet was massive, there has to be someone out there who understood what I was going through, someone I could talk to the heartache about. I began typing in adoption related words into my search engine. Somehow I stumbled across an “Is anyone out there?” post by a woman named Lani. Tears filled my eyes as I read what she had to say. Her daughter, Kinsey, had been placed in an open adoption agreement just 4 days before Charlie’s birth. I immediately emailed her introducing myself and explaining my situation. I anxiously checked my email waiting for her response.
Days later, I received an email from Lani. “Finally, someone out there really does understand!” I thought as I read her words. “I understand how you feel,” she wrote as she explained that she was close with the family she had placed her daughter, Kinsey, with. She explained that she had a very open adoption with Kinsey’s family as well. Yet she felt the same emptiness gnawing at her heart, knowing life would never be the same.
Lani and I began chatting via emails daily. I would read her words of understanding and instantly feel better. She was not saying “you can have other kids,” or “at least you can still see him,” like friends and co-workers did. She was saying, “I feel empty too.” She was the only person who could really relate to what I was saying and feeling. There was an immediate bond between us. As we got to know each other, we began to notice some amazing coincidences and we felt like God had intended for us to meet and help each other through this. We lived pretty close to each other, only about 3 hours away. She lived in Georgia, in the same city as my grandmother and aunt. We were both parenting sons who were the same age and each of our sons had major complications at birth. Lani’s daughter was born just 4 days before Charlie’s birth, which just so happened to be my birthday as well!
Soon emails turned into phone calls. Thanks to Lani’s great cell phone plan with free long distance and unlimited minutes after 9, we were able to talk often! We would chat late into the night, about the hurt of going on with life while someone else raised our babies. We discussed the ignorance of society in general towards birth moms and swapped rude encounters with people who knew we were birth moms. Lani immediately called me when someone chewed her out telling her that she had abandoned her own flesh and blood and that she did not love her daughter. Lani listened to me cry, as I told her how Charlie’s parents had brought him into the restaurant where I worked and how I had held him so tightly and did not want to let him to go. Lani’s daughter’s family lived out of state and I was the first one she would call when she received a package with pictures. I understood how much those pictures meant, but also understood how it was bittersweet to miss the first smile. We cried on each others shoulders as we mourned the loss of our babies and made it through them turning one month, two months old, and so on. We did all this together.
Lani and I had been trying to plan a time to meet each other face to face. Our busy lifestyles and hectic schedules kept preventing this. When Lani’s daughter was going to be baptized a few days before Christmas, Lani and her family traveled to Virginia for the ceremony. They were going through my town in South Carolina anyway and we made plans to meet. But the only time we could meet would be at about midnight. Our first meeting in person was at a Waffle House over coffee and hashbrowns! We had been talking almost daily and were so excited to finally have a face to put with the voice we had grown accustomed to hearing. Lani had not seen Kinsey and her adoptive family since birth and she was nervous. I gave her many hugs and words of encouragement that night at the Waffle House.
At first all we talked about was adoption, but as time wore on, our friendship became more than adoption. We discussed everything from our childhoods, to our jobs, our relationships, and our hopes and dreams. Basically, our past, present, and future! Life had actually started to have a future again! We were helping one another cope with the pain and healing. Lani invited me down to Georgia for a fun weekend of scrapbooking. I was planning a wedding and had asked Lani to stand with me as bridesmaid. When my Grandmother passed away, Lani was there with me in Georgia helping me get through it all. At this point, we had realized that the hole in our hearts would never completely go away but that the pain would fade and subside.
Our status as birth mothers is what started a wonderful and unbreakable sisterly bond. Having each other to lean on is what got us through the first few months. I cannot imagine being a birth mother and not having a friend there who understood what I was feeling before I even got the words out of my mouth. We both wanted other birth mothers to have contacts and friends who were birth mothers as well to lean on. That’s how birth mom Buds was born.
birth mom Buds is a website and non-profit organization Lani and I created in hopes of providing friendship and support for other birth mothers. We knew how much we had helped each other in the beginning when he had first become birth mothers and found each other. We wanted to make it easier for birth moms to connect, relate, and form friendships with someone who truly understands. The web site features a forum, chat room, an inspiration page with poems, both of our stories, a birth mother showcase page, and our main attraction, “the buddy system.” A birth mother can fill out a short form and be matched with a “buddy,” who is a birth mother with similar interests to her own. At this point birth mom Buds is still small and growing. We are still trying to spread the word of birth mom Buds and recruit buddies. Lani and I have big dreams and goals for birth mom Buds. Eventually we want to have a toll free birth mom Buds “hot line” where birth moms can call when they are feeling down and need someone to talk to.
Our lives were forever changed when we became birth moms. Now, we want to help other birth moms just as we helped each other. Lani made my transition to birth mom easier and for that I am forever thankful! Every birth mom needs someone that understands them and knows how they feel. With birth mom Buds I hope we can do just that!
To visit Coley and Lani’s site, birth mom Buds, go to http://www.birthmombuds.i8.com.
© Nicole Lambert Strickland. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.