February 25, 2013

This article was adapted from the Lutheran Family Service of Iowa fall 2012 newsletter. It offers a unique perspective that we thought was well worth sharing. 

For a while now, we at Lutheran Family Service of Iowa have been thinking and talking about ways to be more intentional and active in our support to birth mothers following their adoption placement. But after the placement, when things seem to be going well, it has been easy for us to go on with busy work schedules and attend to other people who need our attention. But we won’t neglect them any more. Not after one incredible weekend last fall. 

In October, we hosted “Rocks, Ripples & Reflections,” a retreat for birth mothers who have placed their newborn children with adopting families. Held at Camp Okoboji, near Spirit Lake, Iowa, the retreat started on a Friday and finished on Sunday. Even though it has been several months since the retreat, I am amazed to find that conversations and memories from the weekend have been on my mind every day since. Not knowing exactly what to expect, as this was our first attempt at sponsoring such an event, I am pleased to report that it was all that we hoped it would be: a weekend focused totally on birth mothers, full of relaxation, contemplation, fun, sharing, learning, praying, tears, laughter, and healing. 

Each birth mother’s personal story of unplanned pregnancy, delivery, and letting her infant go to adopting parents was moving for all of us—other birth mothers and staff alike. Some were recent (in the past year) and some were from previous generations (as far back as 1968). Each story had its own unique set of circumstances. Some of them were obviously painful to tell and, I will admit, painful to hear. Society, families, nurses, and social workers weren’t always very kind to birth mothers in earlier days. These women still bear the wounds from the actions and words of others which have not been spoken of or shared over the years. It was an honor to hear each birth mother’s story and to be a small part of their healing.

Pastor David Loeschen of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Denison, Iowa, led lessons throughout the weekend which focused our attention on the many ways that God cares for us. We talked about ways in which God has been with us and how we know that to be true. We explored how He has used events and unexpected directions in our lives to our good and to bring goodness into the lives of others. We identified ways in which God has been our Rock, and thought about other “rocks” whom He has placed in our lives just when we needed them most. Not all in attendance were church-going people. What an opportunity to share the message of God’s abiding presence and love! One young woman commented on the “rocks” conversations in her evaluation at the end of the retreat saying:  

“The rock presentation got me thinking because it shows that you are not alone; you always have someone in your life that is always there.” 

For someone who has felt all alone so often in her life, this is a powerful message. She learned that God has and will continue to be with her—no matter what.

We hope to offer the retreat again, reaching more birth mothers in 2013. (If you know of a birth mother who would like to participate, please let me know.) We told the birth mothers that the retreat was funded by many Lutherans in Iowa who care about them. On the evaluation at the end of the retreat, one woman wanted to express her appreciation, so I will share with you what she wrote:

Thank all of them for thinking about us—the birth mothers who are easy to forget. People either think “how could they give up their child” or “that was a nice thing to do.” People don’t realize what a traumatic experience the birth mother goes through for the rest of their lives, they have given up a part of their heart. It is nice that these kind souls contributed to this retreat and support to the birth mothers. Thank you so much, you made a big difference and will not be forgotten.

Wanda Pritzel is the acting executive director of Lutheran Family Service of Iowa. www.lfsiowa.org; info@lfsiowa.org; 515.573.3138