New-Mom Support Groups
Adoptive mothers have unique questions and concerns. Here’s how to get the help—and guidance—you need.
By Fran Eisenman
Shortly after adopting, Marcy accompanied a friend to a newly established play group for babies. At first she was thrilled to meet other new mothers, but when the talk turned to pregnancy, labor, and delivery, Marcy felt like an outsider. Even though the other women asked Marcy about her experiences, they mentioned all the negative things they’d heard about adoption and wondered aloud whether adopted kids grow up normally. They didn’t seem to understand Marcy’s joy or to appreciate the bond she had with her son.
A Familiar Voice
Marcy’s story is not unusual. Raising a baby or toddler in an adoptive family is in many ways identical to raising a baby by birth. But there are differences that make an adoptive mother more comfortable in the company of other adoptive moms.
Women who’ve adopted often have a need to tell and retell their adoption story, as they themselves adjust to the powerful reality of their new role. They may be reassured to hear other mothers talk about meeting their baby for the first time and acknowledge how a little stranger found an indelible place in their heart. In a regular play group, they might be embarrassed to admit that they don’t know certain things about their baby. But in an adoption support group, they know that other mothers will understand that many of their babies had life experiences, however brief, before they were placed in their arms.
New adoptive moms also have questions and concerns that they would be uncomfortable expressing to mothers by birth. They may fear that they are not bonding as quickly as they should, or that their child is not as attached to them as they had expected. They may be embarrassed to admit that they are novices at child care, since they haven’t been exposed to the baby-care classes that mothers by birth often have. Sometimes they don’t know what to expect from their child developmentally, as their baby’s earlier experiences took place in a different setting, with other caregivers.
New mothers need a peer group that is in touch with their concerns. There may be racial and cultural issues to blend into day-to-day life, as well as extended-family issues to contend with. All of these topics are better addressed in an adoptive parents’ forum than in an ordinary mothers’ support group, and it can be helpful for a new adoptive mom to join one.
Fran Eisenman is a New England-based clinical social worker and the adoptive mother of two teenage daughters.
Join the Club
There are many ways to locate or create an adoptive mothers’ support group. Here are a few suggestions for getting started.
1 Ask your agency or adoption attorney for the names of other adoptive families in your area who have new babies.
2 Join an adoptive parents’ group, such as Open Door Society, Stars of David, Families with Children from China, Latin America Parents Association, or Adoptive Families Together. Many national or regional groups have information about support groups in your area.
3 Attend local adoption events or seminars sponsored by agencies or cultural-interest groups. Ask other moms who live nearby or who have children of the same age whether they’d like to get together regularly, or inquire as to existing groups.
4 Post an ad in a local parenting magazine or newsletter. Invite other adoptive moms to contact you about joining or creating a group.
5 Search Adoptive Families’ online parent support group directory: www.adoptivefamilies.com/support_group.
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