It was a simple nice idea. The birth mother support group was meeting regularly and we thought it would be neat to have a holiday party instead of a support group meeting in December. Honestly we had a personal goal of recruiting at least three birth mothers to attend this party. We wanted to target birth mothers who are currently raising other children. In that way, the women could attend the party with their children and the agency staff could act as Secret Santa’s for the children.
A flyer was prepared and all the agency’s birth moms were invited. The flyer promised that we would provide transportation, food and gifts for the children. It was nice to receive the first three calls from women who said they would like to attend. The staff was happy to reach the goal so quickly and we went into action planning for the holiday get together.
But the telephone kept ringing. Birth moms were calling to say they would love to attend. The staff started getting excited and began inviting some of the pregnant clients as well. The day before the party, calls continued to come in. 11 women (9 birth moms) and 2 pregnant women responded. Those who are parenting children, which were the majority of the 11, were attending with their kids. The get-together soon became a party – 6 staff members, 11 clients, 17 children, 1 boyfriend and 1 husband – the office was rocking!
The agency was decorated in a snap. One staff member brought in a large Christmas tree another staff member brought in ornaments. The staff spent an entire morning wrapping gifts that were purchased for the clients and their children. They adorned the bottom of the tree with presents. A local supermarket donated vegetables for a veggie tray and miscellaneous party groceries, a restaurant donated pizza. One client baked cookies and someone else brought apple slices to be dipped in warm caramel.
Then on the eve of the big event the staff went their separate ways, some drove to Niagara Falls, one drove to the City of Buffalo, another to Lackawanna and another to Amherst. Each filled their car, truck or van with guests who needed rides to the party. Some guests had their own transportation. One pregnant woman drove an hour away to join the festivities.
When everyone came together, walking in by themselves or in small groups, the reactions were amazing. Everyone oohed and aahed over the decorated tree and found themselves touring the office and viewing the many photographs of babies hanging on the walls. Some women excitedly pointed out their babies, the babies they with courage placed for adoption. Others allowed their tears to flow at first catching a glance of their baby’s photograph. As coats were piled in my office (where the children got a kick out of my doll collection), introductions were made as most everyone was just meeting for the first time.
The food was primarily enjoyed by the adults in attendance, as the children couldn’t wait to begin the pre-planned arts and craft project. A Polaroid picture of each child was taken in front of the Christmas tree and then placed on the card they created. The card was slipped into an envelope and sealed and addressed to their mom. The plan was for each child to surprise their moms with the Christmas card on the morning of Christmas. The children ranged from ages of 15 months to 9 years old and each excitedly participated in this card project. The children so much want to be a part of giving, not just receiving.
As the card craft wrapped up, we invited all the children to sit on the floor near the Christmas tree to hear a story. At the same time, the women were invited into the birth parent support room where some shared the sofa, others sat in chairs, some sat on the floor and others stood. This crowded room soon was coined the “closed door session” as Paula, the birth mother support group facilitator at the time, introduced herself to the group and briefly told her story of being a birth mother. Jody, one of our caseworkers, who many of the clients already knew, tried to keep things light as she humorously prodded some of the clients she knew best to introduce themselves.
Kim was the very first to break the silence as she spoke of her birthing experience and the adoptive family who is raising her child. When she said, “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the phone calls and letters I often receive from the adoptive parents,” her tears came strong. These tears caused a chain reaction of crying, and women who now so much wished to share their story too. One by one each woman, from ages 14 to 39 shared something about themselves. Yolanda spoke of her twins. Candi spoke about her pride for her birth child. Cheryl just introduced herself and her baby’s date of birth but said it was too hard for her to say any more than that. Michelle spoke of her open adoption and Liz proudly reported she was seeing her little girl and the adoptive family next week. Evelyn said she just saw the baby she placed just a few hours before this very party. And then there was Angela who waited patiently for her turn. When she later shared what happened in the “closed door session” with those of us who were not present, she reported, “It was the best part of the night. It was such a release. I was finally able to talk, to share my feelings and to feel good sharing with other women who were in my situation. I really needed that.”
As the party came to an end, we began packing left over party food for some of the clients to take home. The children were bundled in their winter coats and everyone broke up into the same cars or vans they arrived in. Group by group there were hugs and kisses shared. Not only by staff and clients, but by the women who made new friends in just one evening. Telephone numbers and addresses were spontaneously swapped. One birth mother even went home with another that same night as they realized how close they lived to each other. Another two women actually knew each other but never realized they were both birth mothers and clients of the same agency.
It is so hard to sum up this night. The best way to do so is to describe the staff’s reaction to the event. We heard: “I just love my job. “I can’t wait for next year.” “Next year it will be double the size.” “Let’s rent a hall so there will be more room for more children to play.” “It was a success. I am honored to have been a part of it all.” “I am so proud to be a part of this agency.”
Times like these remind us what hard work we all put into the agency, but also how much love and sheer passion we have for our work. How blessed we are to have been touched by our clients and to be permitted to help enrich their lives as they have sacrificed to select the best for their babies’ futures by choosing adoption.