Ashley Mitchell is a birthmother and the president of Lifetime Healing, LLC.
Throughout this past decade I have seen a common thread throughout the birth mother communities: a lack of support after relinquishment.
The mission of Lifetime Healing is to make sure that any woman that chooses to place her child for adoption will have free lifetime support, no matter where she lives.
We do not believe that post-placement care should be a luxury, it should be the standard.
I talk all the time about the 3 R’s of adoption: Rights, Roles and Responsibility. I want to share with you some thoughts on the first R – Rights of the mother.
We have rights until we don’t.
I found myself pregnant when I was 25 years old. I was terrified. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. Immediately my thoughts started to race about my options. Abortion? Parenting? Adoption?
In an unplanned pregnancy it is easy to let fear dictate your decisions. It is hard to be calm and focused and ask the right kind of questions. There was only one reality that I could wrap my mind around…I was pregnant and I needed not to be.
That is all I could see, hear, feel, understand. I told myself there was only one way to eliminate that obstacle.
When faced with an unplanned pregnancy all options feel like a lose-lose
During my appointment at the clinic the nurse said four words to me that changed my life forever. “We can’t help you”.
I was too far along to follow through with a fear-based decision and just like that, adoption became my option.
I truly believe that if we can strip away the fear, if we can offer better options by counseling and empowering women to make educational decisions we can eliminate those fear-based decisions.
But the mothers don’t know that they have the right to do that. They don’t understand that they have the right to ask hard questions, to demand better options, and to challenge resources that are being presented.
The end goal? That women are making more informed and empowered decisions to do what is best for them, no one else, and be supported through that decision for life.
That, regardless of circumstance, women can choose better, have confidence in that choice, and we can stand with them through a more effective healing process.
When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, all options feel like a lose-lose but these mothers have rights and we need to honor them.
You are the mother until you sign your name on the relinquishment paperwork
When it comes to Infant adoption, society has put adoptive parents on a pedestal and championed them for swooping in and “saving the day”.
That they are so selflessly giving of their home and finance and everything else to parent a child.
Let’s for just a minute acknowledge that they pursued adoption, partly, to fill the desire of having a baby.
With that honesty comes a reality that maybe, just maybe, the pressure falls to the pregnant mothers to fill that gap, that later gets passed down to the adopted children.
Now before you start throwing rotten fruit at me I want you to know that I love my child’s adoptive parents and I believe in open adoption.
I believe that we can be better and love well and offer the best space possible for the entire triad to thrive.
Imagine with me a pregnant woman that takes her time, that asks every question, that listens and does her research and has conversation.
Imagine a woman that has explored every option, every resource and has crunched every number.
Wouldn’t we feel better about a woman that places her child for adoption if she is in that mindset rather than one of confusion and fear and emotion and is making a decision based on obligation and feeling like there is no other option?
I am the mother until I sign my name on that relinquishment paperwork. I have the right to change my mind.
A pregnant woman has the right to change her mind
I have the right to explore other options and I have the right to parent my own child if I feel like that is best.
I know this stings. I know this is the greatest fear for couples hoping to adopt. I know there is great pain and loss.
But are we so desperate for a child that we are willing to overlook the loss that takes place?
Adoption is born in great brokenness.
My dear friends, a pregnant woman has the right to change her mind.
You don’t get to deem her worthy of being a mother or not, that is not your right.
If we truly love the mothers, if we truly care about them and want them to have peace and if we really want them to do what is best for them, then we should love them just as much in their decision to parent.
We have rights until we don’t. If you are pregnant and you are making an adoption plan but you feel in any way that it is not right for you, you have the right to speak up.
You have the right to be your own advocate and to stand up for what you know to be true.
When I placed I was never 100% sure that it was right. I didn’t have that kind of clarity.
I made the best decision I could with the information that I was given and I live with the consequences of that decision every day…and will for the rest of my life.
Adoption can be an amazing and beautiful thing. But it isn’t always the right thing.
We have the right to decide if it really is the right thing for us.
Ashley Mitchell, owner of Lifetime Healing, set out to seek increased care, understanding, and resources for birth mothers. For almost a decade, Ashley has been one of the most consistent and sought after birth mother voices in the nation. Well known for her vulnerability and transparency in adoption, her story has touched the hearts of countless members of the adoption community.