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Birth-Moms Go to Dinner in Alexandria

Dinner table set for the 11 strangers (Carolanne Wilson)

The table was set for 11 strangers who share a common bond…

By Carolanne Wilson

ALEXANDRIA, VA-In a second-floor co-working space overlooking Mount Vernon Ave., the final touches for a small dinner party were being put together. The entryway welcomed guests with goodie bags and colorful desserts and the ambiance was feminine, intimate, inviting. Circled around dainty fresh bouquets, the table was set for 11 complete strangers who share a common bond – they chose to give their child up for adoption. These women are known as birth moms.

The Alexandria-based dinner on May 9 was the first of its kind in the city. Hosted by two-Alexandria residents, Julie Kelleher and Sara Butler, the event served women from across the greater Washington area.

“My passion has really gravitated towards Birth Mothers and I believe that they are this unknown, underserved population, so BraveLove has been an awesome entity to join forces with,” said Kelleher, an adoptive mom and adoption advocate who also works with the National Council for Adoption located in Old Town.

Butler is a mother to three girls and has been active with BraveLove this past year. Her story as a birth mom begins the day after her college graduation when she found out she was pregnant.

She recalled going through her options: “Do I get an abortion? I was always very pro-life, but when you are in that situation…it was very eye-opening,” she said. “I thought about keeping him. But, how does that look? Am I living at home? Are my parents helping? And then I thought about marrying (my child’s father).”

A Second Chance

Events like this are happening across the country thanks to Atlanta-based BraveLove, a pro-adoption nonprofit dedicated to changing the perception of adoption by acknowledging birth moms for their decision. During the month of May (usually the weekend before Mother’s Day) and November (National Adoption Month), BraveLove initiates nationwide “pop-up dinners” for women who chose adoption.

After working with a private agency and then a lawyer, Butler interviewed three possible couples for her now 10-year-old child, with whom she has stayed connected.

“I chose (my son’s parents) because, in a way, they connected with me versus ‘We want your goods,’ which is what some of (the couples interviewing) felt like… The first thing they said to me was, ‘We are so proud of you for choosing life.’”

It wasn’t until she had her three daughters with her husband that she sought counseling. Last year, she decided to talk about her experience on social media and found it to be liberating.

“Before I would start telling the story, I would start crying and have a panic attack,” Butler said. “We aren’t supposed to walk around in shame. God’s point is that I am free of that. I am not a bad person.”


Finding A Home

Struggling with infertility, Kelleher and her husband decided to adopt their first child in 2013. After exploring the many options, they decided on a private adoption due to being able to interface with the birth parents more.

“We got to see the face of birth parents…we got to see the heartbreak, the selflessness and the courage mixed into this amazing gift, but it is really bittersweet,” she said. “I want to help them see (adoption) as a viable path…I don’t want people to not pursue it because of some early potential barriers.”

Kelleher and her husband now help people considering adoption by being transparent about their own story.

“It’s all deeply personal, there is no room for judgement or assumptions,” Kelleher said. “Sara and I had no idea what to expect and the immediate connection that seemed to happen across all birth moms was truly remarkable to see. We got the sense that they left feeling more connected with each other and knowing more about additional resources that may be of interest to them.”

To see BraveLove’s videos and first-account stories, visit

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