Mother’s Day is probably one of the most emotionally charged days of the year, especially for birth mothers. For a birth mother on Mother’s day, it can be full of memories. The purpose of this day is to uplift and celebrate mothers—our first connection to the world outside of the womb. In our modern era, we recognize that, for some people, Mother’s Day is incredibly difficult. We acknowledge those who have experienced abuse at the hands of their mothers, those who have lost their mothers, and those who have experienced pregnancy loss. While there is more recognition happening than historically for birth mothers who have placed their children for adoption or are separated from their children who have been placed in foster care, there is little tangible support for these women on this difficult day. Children make crafts in schools every year to take home to their smiling mothers—and for some kids, this is just plain confusing. For a child in care, they may give the craft to their foster mother, while their heart breaks inside them. They may retaliate or act out. For a child of adoption, their heart may be divided, or even torn on Mother’s Day. But what about coping as a birth mom who has so bravely placed their child for adoption? Or, what about coping as a birth mom whose children are in foster care, and spending this day with another family? There seems to be little tangible support for women on these journeys.

Mother’s Day complexities have been on my mind for about eight years—ever since we were trying to adopt our first child, who was living with us as a foster placement. All of a sudden, as May rolled around, I felt a little flip in my stomach. I was about to be celebrated by my family for being a mother to these children in our home. But what about her? Where was she? Where was this child’s birth mother? It crushed me that I didn’t even know. I felt a little bit sick inside. How was she coping with the day? Was it hard? It must be. And, I felt a little bit of guilt.

Over the years, I have interviewed many birth parents on many topics, including Mother’s Day. To any birth mothers out there, I want you to know that you are not alone. Others who have walked before you have felt the vast array of emotions you feel, and have felt the weight—or lightness—of this day. I want to share some of the stories that stick out for me the most, from my interviews. As human beings, sometimes we feel that we are the only ones struggling, the only ones dealing with problems, or the only ones feeling a certain way. Healing can be found in sharing our stories, and by making connections with those who have had similar experiences. Here are some of the most poignant birth mother, Mother’s Day memories I have collected—precious insight into the hearts of birth moms, just like you:

“…..I don’t know. I want to hide. I want to drink. I do drink. I pull the covers up, and I just forget. And then I feel bad. And I wonder, does she {my child} think of me? Probably not. I’m a goof. My life is a mess. But I miss her. Mother’s Day is so hard.”

“I tried. I got the adoptive mom of my kid a couple of flowers and walked to her church. I felt good, giving her something. Like I don’t really have anything to give, but at least I tried. She had something for me too, but that made me feel bad. I mean, it was nice of her and all, but it made my gift look so little. Oh well….I tried.”

“Mother’s Day is the worst. One year, I called a few times. I just wanted to talk to my kids. I guess their new family was doing a BBQ, and I was interrupting. I just wanted to say hello to my kids on Mother’s Day! She {the adoptive mom} was really upset with me for ruining their day. We didn’t talk for a long time. She blocked my calls. I just really wanted to talk to my kids on Mother’s Day.”

“It’s tough not having my kidlets around for Mother’s Day, and it’s tough being alone for the times I have to be but I love that they call me and or I get the most adorable cards from them.”

While birth mothers are very relevant part of the Mother’s Day story, birth fathers also have a role. For reasons we don’t fully understand, birth fathers are far less interactive on subjects such as this—and it could be that society is just not engaging them. Whatever the case, this quote shares the heartache that is felt by families separated: After a long pause, he said, “I just never thought my family would be like this. I didn’t want this for my family. I wanted to be with her {the birth mom}, and I wanted to take care of my daughter. I thought we would be together, you know?” Birth fathers can feel the weight of not being able to celebrate Mother’s Day with the family they envisioned. 

If you are a birth mom, wondering how to cope with Mother’s Day, I hear you. My heart is with you, and I hold space for you. You’ve already made probably the bravest decision on earth, to place your child for adoption {or to hold space while someone parents your child in foster care}. But it doesn’t end there. Holidays come and go, and you deal with the emotions, time, and again. This time of year might already have you feeling sad, or dreading the month of May. Mother’s Day cards are everywhere, as are ads for flowers or brunch for families celebrating mothers. How can you cope? 

Remember that emotions are not wrong or bad. Feeling sad or depressed, or feeling fine when everyone else thinks you should be sad, does not mean something is wrong with you. Emotions tell you something about the journey you are on. Let the emotions come; acknowledge them for what they are, and name them. 

Find something beautiful to look at, and just breathe. Find a tree, some birds, a sunset—anything that captures you, and get lost in it, if only for a moment. You may have to do this over and over until Mother’s Day is passed for another year.

Write to your child, or children. If you can’t see your children during or close to Mother’s Day, write it all down. Even if you never send it—or if you don’t have contact with your children, or don’t know where they reside—get it all out. Don’t be shy—you can tear the letter up later if you want. For now, get your thoughts and emotions out. If you write lots of letters, you can save them to potentially pass on to your child or children in the future.

Pick something special. If you have a photo or other memento of your children, choose to hold it close to you. Keep it with you—the memories of your children can never be taken from you. Rejoice in the ways that you can, and try to think of letting go of the things that cannot ever be. Letting go is a process that cannot be rushed. If you have no mementos, choose something that symbolizes your children.

Engage. If you are offered the opportunity for a phone call or visit with the adoptive or foster family, and you feel that you can handle that emotionally, go for it. Something that many birth mothers do not know is that many adoptive moms may feel threatened by biological families. This emotional reaction can go back to their own roots of infertility, or feeling they aren’t “enough.” After all, you will always be the biological mother. Sometimes, adopted children can fantasize about birth parents and have strong thoughts of spending time with them or even living with them {even if they have no memories of ever being with that birth parent, or even with traumatic pasts}, and this is scary for adoptive parents at times. While it isn’t your job to put them at ease or make them feel better—adoptive parents are responsible for coming to terms with their own fears—it can help to remember that the adoption has probably been hard on them in some ways, too. It can help to remember that they are human beings who make mistakes. Remember that in-person visits can get awkward—people say the wrong things, feelings can get hurt, children act out, and things go wrong. But it is ok. One bad day does not mean it is a bad life. As nervous as you might be about a visit, the adoptive parents are probably very nervous too. As an adoptive mom who has met birth family members for the first time, many times over now, every single time I was a ball of jitters. Adoptive parents are not superstars. They are kind, compassionate people with a heart for children, but that doesn’t make them impenetrable or made of steel. Be yourself, put your best foot forward, expect mishaps, and give grace whenever you can.

If you are given a gift, accept it freely, and show gratitude. If you have no gift to give to the adoptive or foster mom, don’t sweat it. No one should expect a gift.

Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you’re asked for input on what is important to you on Mother’s Day, be honest. You might not get exactly what you asked for, but be true to yourself. Most adoptive parents want things to go well and will try their hardest for things to go smoothly. 

It is just a day. Mother’s Day is just another day, just another one of the 365 days we are given every year. If it stinks–if it goes so sour you can’t even believe it – if you cried all day and missed the call from your kids because you couldn’t get out of bed – it is ok. It is just a day. Human beings have named this day “Mother’s Day”, and deemed it important. Other than that, the whole created universe has no particular designs on the second Sunday each May.

There is no one right way to celebrate Mother’s Day. As a young mom, I used to get caught up in what other husbands or kids did for their wives and mothers, and, to be honest, I could get jealous. Let it go. There is no manual on how to live as a birth mother. Whether you spend it alone, reflecting, or spend it with others, if it works for you, it just works.

Reach out. Get support, especially if you are overwhelmed by emotion. You deserve to be able to move past hard things to be the best you.

Final Thought

You, birth moms, have so captivated my heart. Your sacrifice, your beauty–you have been through so much. For some of you, you have wonderful adoptive families that have opened their arms to you, and welcomed you. And that is so beautiful, and I wish it were that way, always. But for some of you, you have been turned away. You have been found wanting, and told so. You may have been left out of the loop, disconnected despite promises of openness—you may have been left in the dark, and it hurts. Updates from children may not come. Promised photos not sent. Or, short, curt annual updates leave you wanting so much more, and leave pain in your heart. For some of you, this wasn’t what was promised, and this wasn’t how you wanted your adoption story to go. That is painful, and I’m sorry. Although I can’t explain it away, I can say that my husband and I have talked to probably hundreds of adoptive families by now, and I can say that almost every time this happens, it is either fear on the part of the birth family or struggles within the family. Adoptive moms often struggle with knowing another woman out there holds the same biology as the child she is raising and it hurts her. Is it an excuse? No, it isn’t. But, people who have experienced hurt can, in turn, hurt people unintentionally. If an adoptive family is struggling with special needs children, finances, behavioral issues, or cognitive or medical diagnoses, they may be emotionally tapped. Although you might feel you are taking the brunt of that as the birth mother, it might be that the adoptive family is so drained they don’t have the emotional capacity required to put time into your relationship. Although this is sad, and it might not feel fair, pray for better times, and for things to turn around. Keep holding on, and keep waiting. You, as a birth mom, are of utmost value. You, as a birth mom, have done something that not many others can do, or ever will do. You, as a birth mom, deserve to be celebrated. Nothing can take that title, “birth mother,” away from you. It is yours for life. You are worthy, you are loved, and you are important. Happy Mother’s Day, birth mom—whether it is a good day for you or a harder day; whether this is the only place you hear it, or whether many others acknowledge you; Happy Mother’s Day. You’re loved.      


Jamie Giesbrecht is a stay at home mama to three adopted and two biological children. When she isn’t homeschooling the kids, she can be found seeking adventure with her family in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, hunting, fishing, camping, or trail-riding the horses to town for some snacks. Her hobbies include cross stitching, sewing jingle dresses for powwow, reading, and horseback riding as often as she can. Jamie married her high school sweetheart and best friend, Tyler, and together they enjoy watching the kids hatch ducklings and chicks, shear sheep, race around the yard on their horses, and raise pigs on their small farm in rural Northeastern British Columbia, Canada. Jamie is passionate about adoption and has been a foster parent on and off and in between adoptions since 2011.