Ashley serves as BraveLove's Birth Mom Program Manager. A big portion of her job is planning the Birth Mom Dinners. That looks like coordinating with the hosts, communicating with guests, and helping plan so it is a lovely night for all the birth moms who attend.
We wanted to give her an opportunity to describe the dinners a bit more so that birth moms can have a better idea of what to expect before showing up. So we interviewed Ashley, and here's what she has to say...
BraveLove: First, Ashley, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ashley: Hello! I am the Birth Mom Program Manager with BraveLove. That is a fancy way of saying I have the privilege of connecting with birth moms and finding ways for birth moms to connect with other birth moms. I placed my amazing son for adoption in 2001 and have enjoyed an open adoption. After placement, I went onto meet my husband and we parent three boys, one whom we welcomed into our family through international adoption in 2018.
BL: Considering you are a birth mom and you have hosted and attended dinners before, what have they been like?
A: These dinners are a great time to meet some amazing women who you have something very unique in common with. The highlight of the dinners for me is being able to freely talk about the son I placed; brag about him, miss him, and celebrate him in a safe, loving environment.
BL: Were you nervous when you first went?
A: Absolutely! I attended my first dinner in 2017 and at that time, didn't really know another birth mom. Walking into a dinner with so many women around the table was nerve-racking and amazing. I didn't talk very much during my first dinner, but that was ok. Being able to listen to other women in various stages of their adoption journey was uplifting.
BL: How many people usually attend?
A: We have had dinners with two people all the way up to 20! Over the past few years, we have capped dinners at 10 because we feel this is a sweet spot to cultivate deep conversation.
BL: Do people dress up?
A: People typically wear what they would to go out to dinner — jeans, comfortable top, nothing fancy ;)
BL: Does everybody know one another already?
A: Nope! That's the fun part about going! Getting to meet new faces.
BL: Do you have to share your story?
A: You share what you are comfortable with sharing. Typically the host will ask everyone to introduce themselves and perhaps share when they placed. The rest of the evening is casual conversation where you can share or just sit back and listen.
BL: Will someone from BraveLove be there?
A: We will not. We do wish we could be all across the country to meet every one of you! But, we have amazing hosts that we have gotten to know that will represent us well.
BL: What is your hope for the birth moms who attend? What does BraveLove want them to get out of it?
A: My hope is for each women to walk away knowing they are not alone. As a birth mom, there are days that are hard for me that my immediate family and friends might not understand. Meeting a group of women who I can text on a random Tuesday to let them know I am a little down OR that something amazing happened is a sweet gift that BraveLove has given to me.
Our hope is that this evening is a spring board to further community and connection. It may not be regular dinners, but the comfort of knowing you have a support group out there is the cherry on top.
BL: Do people stay in touch afterwards?
A: We hope you do! Maybe a coffee date, a group on Facebook, or a meet up at the park. That's our hope and desire!