In August of 1989, I went into labor at home alone. After two days of active labor, I asked for help, and someone took me to an emergency room. When I arrived, I told a nurse that I had a stomachache. I thought saying I had a stomachache was enough to share. I couldn’t really form the words, “I am pregnant and in labor.” Two hours later I gave birth to a healthy 9lb. baby girl. I gave her a name and didn’t think about what came next. I was 16 years old, and this is when my connection to Spence-Chapin began.
There are parts of the process in placing my daughter that I do not recall at all, and other parts I can remember like it was yesterday. I vividly remember the overall feeling of wishing I had more time: more time to process, more time to talk to someone who might understand what I was feeling. After placement, I did the only thing that I thought was appropriate: I went back to my life, back to high school, and didn’t talk about it with anyone.
Five years after placement, I gave birth to my second child. I was better prepared, and in a space where I believed I could be a good parent. Yet, I still had not dealt with the loss I felt in placing my daughter five years prior, and becoming a mom brought back those feelings of loss and regret in very deep waves. I was struggling. I made the decision to reach out to my social worker at Spence-Chapin. She was the only resource I could think of at the time who might be able to help me navigate my place in the birth mother community. Through her, I connected with Spence-Chapin’s birth parent counseling services. It took many years of therapy at Spence-Chapin for me to find my way to acceptance. To accept all that happened without guilt or shame did not come easily. When I was five years post placement, I couldn’t imagine how quickly time would move. There were so many parts to process, and in my case, I was suddenly preparing myself for the possibility of a reunion with my daughter. It all happens so fast, and without the resources offered to me by Spence-Chapin, I would never have developed the tools to navigate all that comes with being a full spectrum birth mother.
As I got closer with Spence-Chapin again, I learned how their services had evolved from many years ago when I was making an adoption plan, and how much support they offer to birth parents both during and after placement. And, perhaps just as importantly, how they want to continue to grow their services by hearing from birth parents who have placed and listening to what they need, what they would want to see for other birth parents and themselves.
I thought it was important to give back to this organization that was so helpful to me when I didn’t have the resources to seek therapy or support. Two years ago, I connected with Kate Trambitskaya, Spence’s CEO. Kate genuinely cares about this community. We had several meetings and discussed all the ways I might be able to contribute as a birth mother. I was invited to join the board. I was honored and agreed to join so I could better understand how this organization works from the inside out. I want the birth mother voice to be represented and I am grateful to be part of the conversations.
The adoption stories we hear are almost always from the adoptee and adoptive parent’s perspectives. We want to hear more birth mothers share their stories. We should let people know we exist and show them who we are. To protect the future of healthy adoptions we need to be seen and heard. The stigmas long attached to birth mothers are antiquated. We can empower a new generation of birth mothers by sharing who we are today.
Life is not linear. The twists and turns are endless. Growth is not linear. There is no straight path to finding your way. Healing is not linear. There will be ups and downs. Gaining your voice and sharing your experience is the healing you can offer to another birth mother who hasn’t quite made it there, yet.
Krista Gutierrez is a Spence-Chapin Board Director and birth parent, as well as Birth Mother Gathering Planning Committee member.
To learn more about Counseling and Support Services for Birth Parents, please contact Spence-Chapin Services at (646) 539-2167 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our services are available in-person or virtually, any time after placement.
Learn more: www.spence-chapin.org/therapy