Within the birthmother community there is this controversial subject that rears its head every May.
To celebrate Birthmother's Day or not?
The first time I had heard of the day, admittedly, I was excited. This was before I had my now parented kids, and every time Mother's Day rolled around, I was snubbed. At my husband's family gatherings, there would be no mention of love, no cards or flowers. It was as if I had never been a mother. So when this day was presented to me, years after my adoption, I was ecstatic at the idea that there was a day where I could relish being a mother, and focus on what that meant for me, as well as my son.
One year, I went to a gathering held by the agency my son had been relinquished through. A speaker, maybe not knowing, went on to tell the group of woman who had their children adopted, that they should essentially just let those children be, and move on, because they, (the children) were better off without them. We were not, in this speaker's opinion, mothers.
As I drove home that night, I pulled over to the side of the road because I was flooded by the insult I had felt when I heard someone tell me that I was not a mother. At this point, I had parented two children, and I was completely unsure how someone could say that I was no longer a mother to my son who was being raised by another family. I had nurtured him in my womb, like a mother does. I had rocked him to sleep, dreamed about him, worried about him, and loved him with the deepest love only a parent can fully comprehend. I had done all of these things for my now parented children, and I was their mother. Cars whizzed past me as I wondered, “If I had lost my children to death at a young age, or shortly after birth, does that also mean I wouldn't have been a mother?”
In a form of protest, I refused to celebrate Birthmother's Day last year. I refused to be isolated to a day when I was a mother, by all intents and purposes. Just like adoptive mothers are mothers, I too am a mother- just another version of it. Adoption brings together this shared version of motherhood, parenthood, and it preposterous to me that we should be filing ourselves into separate days, ignoring the reality of both our motherhood status. Of course, due to this imposed strike, no one mentioned any well wishes and by the end of the day I was succinctly happy with how the day had worked out. I would celebrate Mother's Day.
Yet, Mother's Day came and no one mentioned my son. There was no word from his adoptive parents, no cards that recognized me as his mother. I spent the day refreshing my phone to see if they had sent me a message, or an indication that they recognized me; they hadn't said anything to me on Birthmother's Day so surely, they would on Mother's Day. Late that evening, I sat on my deck, wine in hand, and cried silently. It felt like no matter what side I took, or where I celebrated, there would be no real place for me as a birthmother, a mother who had relinquished her abilities to raise her child. I was left feeling defeated, and disappointed. There was no greater lesson learned, in fact, all I learned was that there is no one right way to do this “celebration bit” when adoption is thrown into the mix.
But I will say this. Adoptive mothers, birthmothers, we're all just another version of mother. We are mother's together, and neither one of us can cancel out the role, the importance of our impact in our children's life. When we seek to diminish or separate one another, it seems to be that the greatest impact would be felt on the child who would struggle knowing that ultimately he or she does have two mothers, but that there is an expectation that only one of them be recognized on Mother's Day. In the spirit of open adoption, why not embrace each day, and celebrate them for what they mean in your own adoption constellation, but don't let one day cancel the other role. Choose as you wish because we really should be focusing on the greater purpose of these days: celebrating the love of those who have cared for us in unique ways throughout our lives. There is no need to separate or divide that love. Embrace it all, on whichever day, but remember, no matter what day you choose to celebrate, you are a mother.
Credits: Danielle Barnsley-Cervo
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