Mother's Day is unique in the adoption community.
There are an estimated 6 million adoptees in the US alone - plus the millions elsewhere around the world - and we've each got two mothers: the one who parented, and the one who gave birth. (In our extended and blended families
, Mother's Day can also include foster mothers, stepmothers, and other caregivers with whom we have a mother-child relationship.)
Mother's Day, celebrated since the days of Ancient Greece, is observed on the second Sunday of May. And ever since 1990 when it was first celebrated in Seattle, Birth Mother's Day (or First Mother's Day) has been observed on the Saturday before Mother's Day - as a day for women whose children have been placed for adoption to acknowledge the experience and support each other.
How it Began
Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh first conceived the idea as a result of her own adoption experience. She knew she was a mother, but didn't feel recognized as such, either by those around her or by her daughter's parents
. Remembering the feelings she'd experienced at her daughter's birth - feelings of triumph and euphoria - she used them to help in her own healing. May Birth Mother's Day bring acknowledgement and recognition to every birth mother who ever loved a child lost to adoption. May it honor and celebrate every mother who became childless after birthing a child, and was forgotten on Mother's Day.
- Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh
For birthmothers, the observance can be a time to affirm joys and acknowledge the sorrow, grief, and pain that are a part of many experiences. It can also be a time to break the silence and release years of anguish, worry, shame, or guilt. The purpose of Marsh's Birthmother's Day ceremony is insight, affirmation, growth, and wisdom. Recognizing Birthmothers
Whether you choose to recognize your own, others', or all birthmothers on Mother's Day and/or Birthmother's Day, there are many different ways to do so:
Ceremonies Attend One.
- While I use the word "birthmother" here since it seems to be generally understood as referring to a woman who gave birth to a child placed for adoption, many women prefer other words or phrases. A simple way to honor these women is to use the word or term they choose for themselves.
- Many adoptees in open adoptions and adoptees who have re-connected with their birthmothers, celebrate in personal ways, together as birth and adoptive families, separately with the exchange of cards or gifts, or as part of both Birthmother's Day Ceremonies and traditional Mother's Day events.
- Many celebrate just the one day, Mother's Day, without making a distinction.
- Adoptees, their adoptive mothers, and birthmothers who have not re-connected can also share in ceremonies to honor and remember the birthmother experience and the gift of life.
Birthmother's Day ceremonies may be organized by support groups, adoption agencies, and other local groups. Create One.
You also have the option of planning a ceremony of your own. Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh has written a comprehensive Birth Mother's Day Planner
to help organize an event, large or small. Cards, Gifts, Activities
If attending, or organizing, a ceremony is not your choice, there are other ways to honor birthmothers:
In My Families
- Write a poem or letter. A personal expression of your feelings will always be appreciated. If you are not reconnected, save what you write for a future time.
- Send a card. There are many cards especially for the occasion.
- Give a piece of birthmother jewelry. Using a birthstone or anniversary marker as a place to start, select something unique. Our online store offers adoption-related jewelry.
- Send flowers. On our first Mother's Day after reunion, my birthmom actually sent me flowers... Forget-Me-Nots.
- Plan to get together.
Birthmother's Day has long been a topic of discussion on our forums
, and opinions differ greatly as to whether Birthmother's Day should
be observed, why, why not,
why we hate it
, why we like it
, etc. Whatever you do, make sure it fits with your
In my reconnection with my birthfamily, I've been fortunate to find myself in the midst of communicators. We/They talk to
and listen to
each other. This has stood us in excellent stead on many fronts, one of which is this peculiar non-holiday called Birthmother's Day. I'd like to share two steps that have helped us to put this in perspective. We have taken a moment...
- to communicate with each other, to say with love some of the difficult truths: that "Mom" isn't comfortable to say or hear; that celebrating creates too much of a conflict; that 55 years of shame is too hard to acknowledge in front of others.
- to remember the monumental tragedies of
and other families with unique parenting structures, such as
- children around the world who have lost their mothers to war, illness, disease, starvation;
- those who aged out of the foster system years ago and are on their own with no sense of family;
- male parent households;
- non-custodial mothers.
For me, my adoptive family, and birth family, thinking of other mothers and those without any
mother to share either day with does nothing to invalidate those emotions we may collectively or individually feel a need to "claim,", and it helps us expand our focus from the minutiae of our daily lives to the world beyond. Honoring "Real" Mothers
While the uninformed of the world may not have gotten the message, adoptive mothers are just as "real" as birthmothers and vice versa. To quote from Rita Laws' Definitions of Four Adoption Terms
Real parent: any parent who is not imaginary.
If we're lucky enough to have both mothers in our lives, we get to celebrate Mother's Day X 2.. for real!
© Nancy S. Ashe