Ashley Mitchell, here. I am the President of Lifetime Healing, LLC and I am so glad that you have found yourself here. One of the questions that I get asked from Birth Mothers, and adoption community members in general is
"How did you get started in sharing your story?".
There are so many amazing voices out there but they don't know how or where to start! SO...I thought I would jump on and share my journey through advocacy...the good the bad and the truth. It is NOT easy and has brought me to my knees many times but we finally feel like we are on the right track with the right people and we couldn't be MORE excited!
My mother always told me that I had a really large learning curve. It takes me FOREVER to figure things out...so even though it took me a really long time to step into my truest and most authentic calling, which is speaking, training and education, I had to make a lot of mistakes first. Maybe not mistakes....just turns that took me somewhere that I didn't expect to go, which of course brought me back to exactly where I was supposed to be!!
MY FIRST ATTEMPT:
My first attempt started in 2010 as a 501 (c ) 3 National Non-Profit (go big or go home, right?) called Blessings in a Basket. We sent baskets to mothers in the hospital or right after so they had a gift to let them know that they were not alone after relinquishment. On top of that we were running a FB community for Birth Mothers. And we built an AMAZING community, and most of the original members of that group are some of my closest friends and still work with me to this day!!
Let me back up a year. This idea started as a simple blog in East Nashville, Tennessee. I had moved there after placement, was divorced within a year of moving, met my now husband and was headed for a disaster that could NOT be stopped. (this becomes part of my infamous Jerry Springer years) I had a complete breakdown including a ride in an ambulance, two days in the ER and a trip to a mental health facility where I was "locked up" for 5 days. I got answers, I got clarity and I got a name to my grief. SO NOW I WAS ON A HEALING TRACK.
After I got home from the hospital I wanted to write and express everything that I had been feeling for years....so I started a blog and paid for a very simple blogspot design.
And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I shared very dark days, and happy days and healing days.
And then randomly people would read, comment, share.
So when we moved to Utah in 2010 I was on a mission! That is when BIB was created. I failed miserably at running a non-profit. There was so much red tape and because I am who I am I PUT THE PASSION BEFORE THE HORSE and missed a lot of steps. I was met with A LOT of negative resistance and it broke me. I let individuals push me out of my business. An organization that we had spent thousands to create, web design, legal representation and more. It was a mess.
ONE THING it did do well was love on Birth Mothers. And I quickly learned that I was awesome at loving the women, inspiring the women and bringing things OUT of the women that needed attention and work! So I walked away from BIB and took some time.
I took time to grieve and heal some more. I sat in anger for a bit about the business and the way things played out and then I took ownership and changed perspective and I got back to work!
MY NEXT ATTEMPT:
Big Tough Girl, LLC was born in this season in January 2015. BTG is still my heart beat project and serves women from ALL walks of life still today. I love this company so so much. During the time I wanted to have everything under one giant umbrella so as we (some of the amazing women, that again have stayed by my side) started to develop BTG and were looking at ways that we could support ANY and ALL women and not just be defined by adoption we decided that we could set up a "branch" of BTG that would be specifically for adoption babes. We worked very hard at developing this service offering and created BTG ADOPTION that took what we did well, ran online support groups and continued to build a powerful community. We spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week managing these groups, navigating conversation and managed heavy grief. (God bless the women that are still doing this.) By June of 2015 we were ready to start something new and push the envelope with Birth Mother support. I decided to take our booming support group and move it OFF OF FACEBOOK over to an online community group called Tribalry. It was a bold move and we lost some women who didn't want to get off of FB but we believed deeply in the damage that social media can cause and so we set it up as the first BIRTH MOTHER MEMBERSHIP group and it was $5.00 a month. We had started to gain a lot of traction nationally. I was speaking at conferences, sharing on podcasts and doing interviews all over the country. I was sharing my story over and over and over. I was relieving some of the hardest and saddest moments of my life over and over and over....opening myself up to judgement, hate and resentment...over and over and over.
In February of 2016 I had a small group of women that wanted to join in and take what BTG ADOPTION was doing and make it more for the Birth Mothers of Utah. We wanted to get back to hosting the in person groups, taking the monthly topics that I had created and really implement them into online group through our membership program, and help professionals get involved in what we were doing through a referral program. And within just a few short month we had taken my blood, sweat and tears of BIB and BTG ADOPTION and created LIFE AFTER PLACEMENT.
By May of 2016 we were ready to launch to the State of Utah and let them know who we were and what we were ready to do to serve the Utah community better! It was based on Community > Competition. It was an amazing project. We hosted an amazing LAUNCH party for the entire Utah Adoption Community and had amazing feedback about what were doing as a spin off of what I had started the year before!...
BUT what I didn't realize was happening was that I was SO EMPTY. I was so depleted for the almost decade of "balls to the wall" service I had been offering. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Never stopping, no boundaries, never saying no. I was empty, I was dry and had nothing else to give...and was realizing that I shouldn't be giving the kind of help that I was. I was not qualified to serve in that capacity.
In June of 2016 I took a family vacation to San Diego. I took my computer to work. Every time I sat to open my computer I cried and wanted to vomit. I was becoming resentful and didn't want to serve, didn't want to help, didn't want to HEAR ANY MORE!!! I was burned out to the max.
PS remember how I had already failed miserably at running a non-profit years and years before?
I came home and made a decision that changed the rest of my life forever!!! I SAID NO. I said no to continuing my role in Life After Placement, I said no to hosting groups, I said no to offering 24 hour a day emotional support. I just said NO.
I just couldn't any more.
So I allowed Life After Placement to go under new ownership and I was bought out. I let go of the social media platforms that I had built, the website, the Tribalry community I had started...ALL OF IT and I walked away.
AND IT BROKE ME.
I regretted it for months. I missed the women terribly. I missed the work terribly but I was SO tired. And I was failing and I needed to stop. And I could NOT work in the capacity that was being asked of me.
*Life After Placement has now transformed into what it is today with the heart of the Birth Mother that stepped into an opportunity to take it make it what she has wanted for years. It is providing groups and an online community in Utah and nation wide.
SO WHAT NOW:
I have been beat up, verbally attacked, slandered, accused of being unethical, disowned, thrown out with the trash, hated on and completely defeated. Sometimes by trolls that don't know me at all and some by my closest people. THAT IS JUST PART OF THE GAME and we are still standing.
So once again I took some time. I had to do some SERIOUS soul searching because I knew how easy it would be to be pulled back into the same work and I knew that I couldn't run groups any more. I know that I wouldn't run an online forum for Birth Mothers again but I knew that I had something inside me that needed to be shared....that the world needed to hear...BUT WHAT??
After mending hearts, fixing what was broken where I could and apologizing where it was allowed I started to rebuild. I started to write, I started to take everything I knew, that I had experienced and that I knew was missing and with the help of our amazing contributing authors we wrote the nations FIRST training and curriculum for Adoption Professionals. I knew we would never do groups again BUT I knew I could make sure that group STILL HAPPENED and we knew that the professionals needed to be held accountable...plus I knew we needed them! I knew they could serve in the capacity that we were not qualified...SO ENTER...
So why do I share all of this??? First I share it to tell you that I have made a million and one mistakes!! I have hurt people and I have hurt myself. I have made a million business mistakes BUT we are learning and now I have people that are WAY smarter than me doing what I suck at so that I can focus on what I am really good at....speaking, training and educating!!
HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?
You just have to start! We need voices. WE need people that are willing to stand, share truths and serve well. We need people that truly believe that community > competition and don't just say that they believe it. WE NEED ACTION that is helping, not hurting this industry!
I BELIEVE IN CHANGE. I don't think it is too late and I know we can expect better and serve better and BE BETTER as women, as community leaders, as a TEAM all trying to accomplish the same thing....MORE ETHICAL ADOPTION.
I study and read and learn and ask questions and have meetings and take classes and have mentors and lawyers and CPA's all help me daily to be better. I am not perfect at it but I am learning.....and I am NOT GOING ANY WHERE!!!!
I am standing with you! STAND AND SHARE YOUR VOICE IF IT MATTERS TO YOU! You are not alone. Follow your heart, understand your talents and lean on those smarter than you!
We will be starting a NEW page here at Lifetime Healing, LLC where we will share our FAVORITE additional resources. If you have a blog or a company or a heart for sharing about adoption we would love to hear from you! Please email your links to Ashley@lifetimehealingadoption.com so that we can check it out!
We love you. Thank you for being brave!