This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In their last day together Gina Crotts tried to send all her love, hopes and wishes, as if by touch, into the newborn girl she called "Little Butterfly."
Crotts was just 19, an unmarried college student, when she got pregnant. The man she'd dated on and off for two years had one suggestion when he heard the news: Get an abortion.
But that wasn't an option. Months before giving birth, Crotts chose the adoptive family she knew would give her baby the stability which, at that stage of life, she couldn't.
Fly away to a new life. Where opportunities are at every door. And my love around every corner, Crotts wrote in a poem she penned hours after giving birth the same poem she read moments before placing her daughter in the arms of her adoptive father. That night she lay in her mom's bed and cried and cried for hours, the pain so deep she thought it would never ease.
A little over a year later, Crotts was still processing her loss. She was happily married by then to a guy who wooed her even after learning of her predicament, and they were trying to come up with a Christmas service project to benefit other birth moms. Crotts remembered how alone she felt, the ache she struggled with for months and thought might never go away despite knowing she'd made the right decision.
"I remember thinking how cool it would be if someone brought in a gift that was just for me that said, 'We know you've done this, and it's a courageous decision,' " she said.
And then Crotts thought, "Why not me?" Just like that she came up with Birth Mother Baskets gift baskets filled with donated items to pamper and comfort a birth mother and let her know she is not alone.
That first year, Crotts set a goal of filling and delivering 20 baskets. She made 60.
"The response was crazy," said Crotts, which led to her decision to keep going.
Since 2002, Crotts has sent nearly 400 baskets to birth mothers across the country, shipping an average of four to eight baskets a week as requested by family, friends, agencies and adoptive couples. Some are delivered to hospitals, ensuring a birth mom who places her baby there doesn't leave with empty arms. Others are sent to birth mothers' homes.
Crotts now has a business partner Jenny Treanor, who also is a birth mother and helped Birth Mother Baskets become a nonprofit organization in 2011.
Treanor volunteered her help after stumbling across the Birth Mother Baskets' website one day. She was impressed by the way Crotts presented a positive image of a birth mom, challenging the perception that birth moms are drug addicts, wayward teenagers or some other kind of misfit. Many people have a similar reaction to her, Treanor said.
"We are normal, functioning we're not victimized," Treanor said.
"I made the best possible decision I could. I changed both of our stars and said, 'Let's make the best of this.' That's what I love about this, giving a birth mom a little token and saying, 'You know what, this is hard, and it's probably going to be hard your whole life, but that's not a bad thing,' " she said. "You can be open and out there, or you don't have to and you can just be."
Today, each basket still comes with an assortment of donated things the two women hope will give a birth mom a moment of pleasure: lotions, bath salts, candles, comfy socks, a throw blanket, earrings or a headband. Every basket also includes a journal, a note from the women and a bookmark imprinted with Crott's poem, "My Little Butterfly."
"The note is from Jenny and me, and it just says you've made a courageous decision and we're very proud of you," said Crotts, who is 31 and lives in Spanish Fork with her husband and their three children.
It is the kind of encouragement Crotts wishes she'd received, a welcome to a special circle of mothers who know what it is like to make such a heart-rending choice.
For Crotts, that decision came after she listed all reasons to keep her baby or place her for adoption. Every reason on the "keep her" side dress her in cute clothes, show her off to my friends seemed so selfish, she said.
"I looked at that list and thought, 'What would give her the best life?' and the best decision was to place her with a family," said Crotts, who speaks about her experience as a birth mom as an ambassador for the Power in You program started by former Utah first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman.
At the time she placed her baby, open adoptions were not yet the norm. In her adoption agreement, LDS Family Services arranged for Crotts to receive photos and letters from the adoptive family until her daughter turned 3 and then an annual update until she turned 5. Crotts asked for the communication to continue; the adoptive family agreed to send her an annual letter but asked Crotts, whom they refer to as "Angel Gina," to stop writing.
That has been really hard, she said, especially because adoption is so open now, something she thinks helps birth moms heal from the emotional trauma of adoption.
"It's hard to be on the opposite end of that," said Crotts, who feels certain she will connect with her daughter again someday.
In the meantime, sending baskets to birth mothers across the country is a way for her to feel close to and pay tribute, over and over, to her Little Butterfly.
"There are things in your life that guide you to what you're supposed to do," she said as, overcome with emotion, her voice catches. "I believe I was supposed to place her, to do these baskets to let her know all these years you were not forgotten, that I turned that into something positive and continued to serve birth moms."
Birth Mother Baskets
Gina Crotts fills each basket she sends to birth mothers with products donated by local businesses. She also hosts several fundraisers each year to help cover expenses. The next event will be May 12, which is Birth Mother's Day, at Blue Lemon in Highland. On that day, 20 percent of sales between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. will be donated to Birth Mother Baskets.