When faced with an unexpected pregnancy, have you ever felt alone and overwhelmed? Have you ever wished there was somewhere you could speak with other birth mothers who have been through the journey before you, or who are currently going through it? If so, Lifetime Healing would be amazing resource for you.
Lifetime Healing’s President, Ashley Mitchell founded the organization in August 2017 after seeing the great need for birth mother support. A birth mother herself, she made a plan for adoption for her son, Derek, thirteen years ago. his fuels her passion for other birth mothers, and her heart aches to help as many as she can. She sees the immense need for birth mother support, and hopes Lifetime Healing can help bridge that gap.
I had the great honor of interviewing Ashley, and gained great insight into the mission of Lifetime Healing.
RR: What is Lifetime Healing?
AM: For the past five years, we’ve tried support groups online. There was an outpouring of grief and trauma. Suicide watch. Everyday. The Internet never stops. It was impossible to manage. Even though our intentions were great, it only caused more damage. Grief reopened within us, too. There was no real support. It became all of us going through our grief journeys together. Basically, hurting people hurting people, if that makes sense.
We started looking at licensed professionals and agencies. You know, agencies will tell you that they offer post placement counseling, but when we looked into it, they only offered a minimal amount. It didn’t meet the needs of birth mothers. So, I wrote the nation’s first ever curriculum on post placement care.
Support for our birth mothers is so important. Birth mothers are often in circumstances where they can’t afford counseling or additional support. Social and caseworkers know the demand is huge, and want to help. But, they know that it isn’t realistic for them without it feeling like birth mothers are being passed around, and treated just like a case. We need agencies who offer a full service.
RR: How often are the Support Groups?
AM: Group is held once a month, and is two hours long. Adoption Choices is hosting them at two different locations — Colorado Springs and Denver. It is free and offers dinner and child care. Adoption Choices is even trying to work out transportation options. It doesn’t matter if birth mothers have placed with Adoption Choices or not, or even if they are from the area. We want birth mothers to know that if they want to come to group, we will do what we can to get them there. We are doing our best to eliminate every excuse and reason that may be keeping them from coming.
The group is not to replace individual counseling, but to go hand-in-hand with it. We are so excited to have something like this available to birth mothers, because it gives them the tools to handle their grief. To undo decades of shame, silence and guilt. They don’t have to hide. They can come and have a time of self-discovery, of processing their grief.
I do training all over the country, and truly believe that healthier birth mothers create healthier adoption triads. I’ve been to groups where only six women showed up, and that was ok. Women from all different walks of life. Those who never been to a support group before, and those who had never met any other birth mothers before. It was incredible to see them be in the same place together, and open up and learn from each other.
RR: Who can Attend Group?
AM: The meetings are open to birth mothers. Specifically, women who have relinquished rights to their child. Birth mothers who have lost their child through adoption to the state — foster care — are also welcome to attend. Because I know people like particular words, the women we hope to come to group are first mothers, birth mothers, natural mothers.
The difference between these meetings and those that we were going on social media is that they are face-to-face. There is no Skype, no screenshots, no recording. To achieve real healing and support, birth mothers need to be in person.
At each group, Adoption Choices chooses a social worker or licensed professional to mediate the conversation and manage any grief that surfaces. The selected staff is trained and well-equipped to handle whatever comes up.
It’s really a group for birth mothers by birth mothers.
RR: What makes Lifetime Healing Support Groups different from other similar meetings?
AM: Our structure is very unique. It isn’t like a support group where you just go in, sit in a circle and share. The training and materials we offer provides work for the women to do. It presents a block of time where women can share about their personal journeys and encourages them to work through their struggles. Other groups may include more of a community aspect, and that’s great. But the groups at Lifetime Healing promote real support and healing for grief.
Every month there is a different theme. We dive deep into the specific topic each month, and really work on self-discovery. They offer insight for women and reveal things to them that maybe they weren’t aware of. Struggles they didn’t know they had. A woman could be like, “Oh, I struggle with this. Maybe I could use some therapy around this.” This is why the professionals are there as well. As deep wounds surface, they help clean them out.
RR: Is there ever an issue with confidentiality? How is privacy handled in and outside group?
AM: I mean, I can’t say that stories won’t spread outside of group, but in general material is not allowed to be shared. We do our best to protect the women and their stories. Everything is kept private and confidential to each location. For instance, I don’t know who goes, unless they specifically reach out and tell me.
Cell phones and other distractions are not allowed at group. Women put their cell phones in a basket when they arrive. We want everyone to be present. No one is allowed to see others’ curriculum, and we encourage the all-in mindset when they are there. To clock out and focus on them. As women, one of the things we are good at are ignoring our own needs. But group gives a two-hour segment once a month, free of charge, for women to truly focus on themselves.
RR: What is the recommended attendance rate for the support groups?
AM: Women can come anytime. Whether that’s once a year or every month. Some won’t always need group. For example, those who are more proactive with their mental health. Others may need it more. There are birth mothers who are triggered by certain events. If they know a birthday or holiday is coming up, coming to group would be good during those times.
I know that my son’s birthday is in April, so I know I need to get off work early and get to group.
But, we do encourage consistency. There’s always going to be that consistent group of women who attend, and then those who come on a more occasional basis — and that’s ok. Group is always there whenever you need it. That’s the whole point. If we ever decided to not have group one time, it would show the birth mothers that they aren’t worth fighting for, and that’s not what we want.
RR: What would you say to women who’ve had negative experiences with support groups, or don’t feel comfortable sharing their stories?
AM: There will be women who absolutely hate adoption, because they’ve had a horrible experience. Others are in love with it. Then there will be those who think, “What’s the point? It’s been too long and my story will no longer be relevant.” So, definite disconnects, right? But that’s another great thing about group. It brings both of these types of women together, and they can learn from each other. In doing so, they heal. It’s incredible to watch.
I’ve been to a group where two women were there, and they had no business being in the same room together. Totally opposite stories. But then…they started talking, and realized that they aren’t that different from one another.
One of the biggest lies birth mothers believe is their story is too unique. That no one will get it or understand them. You know, grief isolates us. But, in group, we can work together. Your story doesn’t have to be relatable, but what you’ve learned can help someone else.
A Bright Future
AM: Adoption Choices has been looking for something like us for a long time, and we are excited to be partnered with them. This important first step has really raised the bar for the state. Our hope is that other adoption agencies see this as a wake up call. We can do better. Community is important, but having experienced adoption professionals to help our birth mothers process grief and heal is more so.
For women interested in learning where the nearest support group is in their area, we offer links to all our partnering agencies on our website. If we haven’t personally trained the agency’s staff, we won’t refer you there. We exclusively support our licensed partners. You can also connect with us via social media, on Facebook or Instagram, or you can email me directly.
Adoption Choices of Colorado
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can reached via our website or our phones: 303-670-4673(HOPE).
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
But, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.