Mother’s Day evokes a different memory for everyone. It could be a memory of your father telling you to let your mom sleep in, quite possibly while he makes a last-minute run to the store for flowers and a card. It could be eating dinner with your grandmother as she is supposed to be taking the day off from cooking and allowing everyone else to pamper her, but really, she is still the executive chef, and you are all just her many sous chefs. It could be celebrating your first Mother’s Day without your mom after she passes away, looking at old photos, and remembering how she always knew exactly what advice you needed at that very moment. Or, like many birth mothers around the world, it could be spending the day alone, thinking about the child you gave birth to that calls someone else Mom. Birth Mother’s Day was created especially for those women, the ones wondering if Mother’s Day even applies to them.
Adoption has come an exceptionally long way in regard to understanding how important birth mothers are. In the beginning, the majority of adoptions were closed, and it was rare to ever be reconnected. If an adoptee was able to locate their biological parents, it may be many years down the road, or they may never get the reunion they were hoping for. As time went on, we were able to learn more about how it benefits each member of the adoption triad to have some sort of contact remain between adoptee and birth parent throughout the child’s life. Semi-open and open adoptions are now much more commonplace. There is still a long way to go, but birth mothers are beginning to get the recognition they deserve as strong, brave, courageous women who sacrifice everything they have to ensure their children live the best life possible. That kind of person deserves something special if you ask me.
Celebrating Mother’s Day for a birth mom can easily be a completed thing. It opens up the question, what makes someone a mother? Is it biology, is it presence, is it something that can never be taken away? Does the age-old question of nature versus nurture play a role? A post-placement birth mother questioning if motherhood still applies to her is something we, unfortunately, know too well. As a birth mother myself, I spent many years wondering about the right way to address that thought. Especially on Mother’s Day. My family has always celebrated me on Mother’s Day post-placement, but I always felt like some sort of fraud for hearing “Happy Mother’s Day” when there was no one there calling me Mom.
Struggling with those feelings is the exact reason why in 1990, a group of birth mothers from Seattle, Washington got together and created Birth Mother’s Day. This day was specifically created for birth moms, by birth moms, to be celebrated on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. It was created as a way to highlight these women and reinforce the place they hold as mothers when it can sometimes feel t they are not. It is in no way meant to take away from celebrating them on Mother’s Day if that is what a birth mother chooses to do. Mother’s Day can present a lot of struggle or pain for a birth mom, and having a separate day can provide a way to honor the unique situation of giving life to a child but not parenting.
The first time I learned about Birth Mother’s Day, I was extremely excited. I was six years post-placement and learned about it at a birth mom support group. I felt like I would finally have a day where I could be proud to be a birth mom instead of internally struggling with the appropriateness of even celebrating Mother’s Day. By this time in my life, I was parenting other children, but the tug at my heart thinking about the first child I gave birth to was always in the back of my mind. Since the year I found out about Birth Mother’s Day I have been celebrating both days. It is an entire weekend devoted to me and what is not to love about that! I feel having the two separate days is beneficial to me because it allows me to grieve, celebrate, or do whatever it is I need that year regarding my birth daughter. I still think about her on Mother’s Day as well, but I am able to really focus on the joy of parenting my other children.
Each birth mother is going to have a different experience and a different opinion. What works for me may not work for another. I have recently found that a lot of birth moms do not agree with having a separate day to celebrate Birth Mother’s Day. I will admit I was caught off guard by this information, but I wanted to try to understand that viewpoint. Many birth mothers find the division in the two days to be excluding. They feel they should be celebrated on Mother’s Day because that day should apply to all different types of mothers. They feel that having a separate day portrays a birth mother as less of a mom, and they should be honored just like any other woman that day.
Although I agree that birth mothers are mothers, the difference for me is that for other types of moms (e.g., stepmom, adoptive mom, foster mom) there is a child in their life that they are parenting in some way. Even someone who is not biologically your parent but plays a mother-like role in your life is there to fill whatever shoes need to be filled in your life. Parenting is cooking the same meal over and over again because it is the only thing the child will eat, cleaning the toothpaste out of the sink, and being there for the highs and lows as your child figures out their place in life. While I gave birth to a child, I will never do any of these things for her. I dream of having a close relationship with her one day, but when I decided to place her into the arms of another woman, I gave that woman my title of “mom” for that child. Before I found out about Birth Mother’s Day, I spent Mother’s Day thinking about everything I lost as a mother to her. Now I spend Birth Mother’s Day reflecting on the sacrifice I made and celebrating the fact that although I am not her mom, I will always be her birth mother. It still makes me worthy of being commemorated and I feel valued for the role I play in her life.
There are plenty of birth mothers who have a more active role in their child’s life than I do with mine. Some have gotten to be there for important events like birthdays or holidays. They might be the ones there for hugs and advice. They might feel my thoughts on parenting and its correlation to Mother’s Day are way off base. At the end of the day, my opinion might not be the same as another birth mom’s, but I believe each of us has valid feelings. However you choose to spend both Birth Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day is the right decision for you.
When we talk about being celebrated, or celebrating Birth Mother’s Day, there are many different things you can do to either honor a birth mother in your life or honor yourself if you are one. If you are a birth mom, you can spend that day pampering or treating yourself. You could spend it looking over photos of your birth child, re-reading updates, or maybe even reaching out to your birth child that day if your relationship is in that place. You could also spend the entire day feeling whatever you need to feel that year. Each year could present a different emotion as you move through your grief post-placement. One year you might spend Birth Mother’s day progressing through anger that this day even applies to you. The very next year you could be feeling grateful to have been able to give your child the best opportunity you could. Grief is not linear, and it ebbs and flows as you grow and change as a person. If you are a birth mom, finding comfort in community can be greatly beneficial to healing, so never be afraid to reach out to other birth moms, either ones you know personally or even ones you only know through the power of social media. Only another birth mom can utterly understand the complexities of the emotions that come along on this journey and they can be a great resource to help you progress your feelings.
Honoring birth mothers on Birth Mother’s Day is something anyone can do. If you personally know a birth mom, just taking the time out of your day to send a quick text. A message that says “Happy Birth Mother’s Day” or even just “Thinking of you today” can make her feel supported and seen. If you know a birth mom, an adoptee, or even if you are an adoptive parent and do not have contact with the birth mom in your life, taking a moment to think about her, reflecting on her journey, praying or sending positive energy her way can be a nice way to honor her.
Birth Mother’s Day is a great opportunity for education as well. You do not have to know a birth mom or be touched personally by adoption in order to learn. Even with all the progress we have made surrounding adoption, there are still many negative stigmas associated with it—specifically with birth mothers. Advocating for birth mothers is something anyone can do just by getting the proper information out there. Sharing insights from actual birth moms can help others see that a birth mom is just a regular person who tried to make the best decision for her child she could at that time. Birth mothers are often portrayed as negligent villains, drug addicts, or any other negative stereotype. These are not only grossly untrue, but they hurt the reputation of the entire community of birth mothers.
Proper adoption terminology is also so easy to share, but it is one of the biggest mistakes the general population makes when talking about adoption. Making sure to use the correct words means a lot to all members of the adoption triad. Using Birth Mother’s Day as a day to educate yourself and those around you is a great start to changing the negative narrative to a positive one.
Birth Mother’s Day is a day that was created to give a space to women who may otherwise feel lost during the hustle and bustle of Mother’s Day. The most important thing to remember, and it is something I have reiterated time and time again, is that every adoption journey is different. Each birth mom will have a different opinion and a different walk through the seasons of her story. Whether she wants you to celebrate her only on Mother’s Day, only on Birth Mother’s Day, or like I prefer, both days, making sure you take the time to recognize the birth mom in your life during that weekend is just one tiny thing you can do to show her how much you value her as a birth mother. If you know a birth mom, talk to her. Ask her what her preference is and make sure you respect her choice. Show her that although she may not be parenting this child, her journey, feelings, and actions make her worthy of being celebrated.