Friday, June 5, 2009

BirthMom Buds mentioned in The Union County Weekly

BirthMom Buds was recently mentioned in the news again. The Union County Weekly (out of North Carolina) did a story about Helen, one of our members. The article is below. 

Buds Have Common Bond
by Kara Lopp

When Helen Smeha unexpectedly got pregnant 21 years ago, her mother was so ashamed she wanted her daughter to have an abortion. Smeha refused. Instead, she chose adoption. 

Smeha, who’s Lebanese, said her family was embarrassed she was dating a black man, which was taboo in her family, and doesn’t like to talk about the adoption even now. The 44-year-old Indian Trail resident had a closed adoption, which means Smeha doesn’t know where her son lives or what he looks like. But through the adoption agency there have been letters from his adopted parents over the years, and Smeha knows her son is in college. She doesn’t know where or what he’s studying. “You know that we did this because we love our children,” she said. “I’ve heard it all through the years. Some people say, ‘You have no heart,’ and it’s like no, we do have a heart. It takes a lot of love to do this. I love (my son) more than me.”

A member of the online support group BirthMom Buds, Smeha joined about 20 other birth mothers at the organization’s fifth annual Birthmother’s Celebration May 1-3 in Charlotte.

It was their first three-day event. Women who’ve chosen adoption swapped stories, celebrated being birth mothers and shared information on how to help other women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. The six-year old organization, started by two birth mothers from Spartanburg, S.C., and Atlanta, has about 900 members and hosts local support group meetings.

The goal? Co-founder Nicole Strickland said it’s to let birth mothers know “they’re not alone” and provide support long after the adoption is finalized. Strickland placed her son for adoption seven years ago. “There are people who have done this before,” the 32-year-old said. “It is something that you deal with forever. It’s not like you place the baby and the pain’s gone in a year.”

Strickland met co-founder LeiLani Downing, 28, in 2001 after Downing posted a desperate plea for support on after she placed her daughter for adoption. The two became fast friends and now are the backbone of BirthMom Buds.Breaking birth-mother stereotypes,such as they’re drug or alcohol addicts or simply don’t care about their babies,is a constant battle the women also fight, they say.

Stopping stereotypes
Through BirthMom Buds, Smeha said she’s learned to embrace the fact that she is a mother, though she chose not to raise her child. Now a medical transcriptionist, she doesn’t regret the decision – though that doesn’t mean the decision hasn’t taken an emotional toll. Smeha doesn’t have any other children. “I have suffered,” she said. “I see parents, I see children … and sometimes I get a little sad and tormented. I look around sometimes and I say, could he be my son? Could I be talking to my son? But deep down I (know I) did the right thing.”

Like several other BirthMom Buds,Smeha has found reward – and healing– in mentoring unwed mothers. For more than a year, she’s volunteered at Charlotte’s Florence Crittenton Services,a nonprofit that helps single mothers and their babies, and has been present as two women she mentored gave birth. Smeha said she doesn’t push the women toward adoption but simply shares her story and offers a listening ear.

“I’m very real with them,” she said. “To me, a mentor means a friend. It doesn’t mean to tell them what to do.” 

Smeha hopes to someday be reunited with her son. He contacted the adoption agency about a year ago saying he was ready to write letters to his birth mother. Smeha has been waiting for that first letter ever since. She’s written to him since he was 10.“God has always heard my prayers and my unanswered prayers,” she said. “I know he’s in good hands.” 

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