Birthdays are very special celebrations. They signify the beginning of life. While every birthday is important, there are some landmark birthdays that should be celebrated. As a birth parent, it is especially hard for you to celebrate these birthdays knowing your child has been adopted, but you still can honor your child at these times. The landmark birthday celebrations that you should take time to celebrate include the child’s first birthday, the child’s sixteenth birthday, the child’s eighteenth birthday, and their twenty-first birthday though there are several others as they grow older, but these four are the ones you definitely do not want to miss. 

The Child’s First Birthday

The child’s first birthday is one of the most celebrated birthdays of all birthdays. It signifies the child’s first year of life in the world. Most people host a birthday party for the child with a smash cake, but as a birth mom, you may not have that option. Instead of hosting a birthday party, I recommend giving the child a book with an inscription in it from you. This can be a favorite children’s book of yours. You might even include a photo of yourself so that your child has something to look at when they are older and want to know if they look like you. Attend the party if you are invited. I know things can get busy and it can be super awkward when it is just a family party, but you are family to the child. Be there to celebrate their first year of life. Spend time with the family celebrating the child’s first milestones in life. If you feel awkward, offer to bring the cake or other treats to the party so that you feel like you have contributed. 

The Sweet Sixteen 

Another important milestone in a child’s life is when they turn sixteen. For many teenagers, turning sixteen is a big deal. It is often when they get their first car, get their driver’s license, and get their first job. Your child may not enjoy family parties like they did when they were younger, but this is normal. They may prefer to have parties with their friends. As a birth mom, you may wish to celebrate your child’s sixteenth birthday with them, but that may not be possible. If you can not attend the celebration, try writing your child a letter that you can have the adoptive parents give to the child on their birthday. In your letter, speak from your heart. Discuss your dreams for them as they grow older. Be open and honest with them. If you can, include a photo of yourself. At this stage in life, they may be wondering who you are so including a photo of yourself with your letter may help them identify you as their birth mother. 

The Eighteenth Birthday

When a person turns eighteen, they officially reach the end of their childhood. At the eighteenth year mark, a person can vote and they are seen as an adult who can make their own decisions. A lot of people at this age don’t really celebrate their eighteenth birthday with a party. They may opt to spend it with family or go out to dinner with a few friends. As a birth parent, it may be hard, but you should offer to take them out for dinner to their favorite restaurant or take them to see a movie that they have been wanting to see. Whatever you choose to do, it should be about spending quality time with your child. This is essential if you want to develop a positive relationship with them. Remember that you want them to know that you love them. Also, if they start asking questions about their adoption, be open and honest with them. They truly may want to know about their identity and why you placed them for adoption. 

The Twenty-First Birthday

The twenty-first birthday is a huge milestone for young adults. At this age, they are either in college or graduating college, they can legally consume alcohol, and they can partake in adult activities. Some adults choose to celebrate by going out to bars and clubs to party with friends. They often don’t think about spending time with their family. As a birth parent, you could opt to send him or her some money that they can spend on themselves or you can offer to take them on a trip somewhere. Whatever you choose to do, make it meaningful for them. 

I have given you some ideas of how to celebrate your biological child’s birthday once they have been adopted, but what if you have chosen a closed adoption plan and don’t have any contact with the child? Well, some of these ideas will work like writing them a letter or giving them a book with an inscription. These are things you can do safely through the adoption agency you have worked with to place your child for adoption. As the child gets older, they may wish to contact you and if you feel that it is safe for them to contact you, you can find ways to spend quality time with them to make up for the lost birthdays and build a relationship with them. It is up to you how you choose to spend that quality time with them, but make it meaningful. Maybe they will want to spend future birthdays with you. 

If you have a closed adoption plan and do not wish to stay in contact with the child, you can still celebrate their birthdays. Every year that the day arrives and you think of it, do something for yourself. Your child would want you to make some time for yourself. Spend the day alone or with a few friends. Find something to do that makes you happy. Go to the spa, get a makeover, or just spend time reading a book. Make the day about you. You could even spend the day at an adoption agency volunteering as a mentor to other birth moms. If it makes you happy to serve others, do it. 

I have provided you with some wonderful ways you can honor an adoptee on their birthday, but I want you to hear from others in the adoption triad on how they have celebrated their birthdays. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview two adoptees and an adoptive mother who have shared their experiences of receiving gifts and celebrating birthdays with birth families. I hope these stories inspire you to find ways to celebrate and honor the adoptee in your life. 

An Adoptive Mom’s Perspective

An adoptive mom recently shared with me the story of her adopted son. Growing up, her son received gifts from his birth mother through their attorney since it was a semi-open adoption. She shared with me that they still have the gift he received on his fifth birthday which was a cowboy town. This gift is still played with today by the grandchildren. When he initially received the gift,  the family told him about his adoption and shared with him information about his birth story. When he turned eighteen, he connected with his birth family on social media. The adoptive mom shares that having received gifts when he was growing up opened the door for the family to share with him where the gifts came from and eventually helped him ease into meeting his birth family when he turned eighteen. 

An Adoptee’s Perspective

After hearing from an adoptive mom, I wanted to hear more stories so I reached out to adoptees on social media. A young lady by the name of Hannah told me that she always received gifts on her birthday. Hannah told me that she looked forward to her birthday growing up because she knew that her birth mom would be sending her some sort of gift. For Hannah, this meant a lot to her. It meant that her birth mother was thinking about her as she saw things that reminded her of Hannah. Hannah stated that one of her favorite gifts was a jewelry box with some jewelry inside that she still wears to this day. Hannah loved knowing that her birth parents were thinking of her and the things she might like. 

Birthdays From An 8-Year-Old’s Perspective:

I recently talked with an adoptive mom who asked her son some questions. I sent her some questions to ask him and she sent me his replies. I asked him what he thought of celebrating birthdays with his birth family. He replied that he likes celebrating his birthdays with his birth family because it reminds him that even though he has a forever family that loves him,  he also has another family that loves him, a different family. I also asked him what his favorite gift from his birth mom was. His answer is not one that you would expect. I expected something like a set of legos or a book, but his answer was actually the gift of birth. This eight-year-old also shared that he also likes that they gave him the gifts of care and love. He goes on to explain that his grandpa plays games with him and his grandma cooks him nice meals. He shared with me that he enjoys doing things with his birth family. He enjoys spending time with them cooking, going to Disney World, and doing treasure hunts. 

My Personal Story

As an adoptee, I wish I would have received gifts or letters from my birth family. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to grow up receiving things from my birth family. I wish I would have because then I would have felt that they were thinking about me and cared enough about me to send me something, but my adoption was a closed adoption and my parents cut off all contact after I turned eighteen months old. My mom recently shared with me that my birth mother did send me a book when I was little, but that was it. Perhaps they didn’t want to send me gifts because they knew that I was no longer their baby to love and care for. I don’t share this to get sympathy. I share this because it would have meant a lot to me just as it did to Hannah. I was blessed to grow up in a family that loved me and cared about me so much that they spoiled me sometimes. 

I know I am loved and cared about, but for some adoptees they don’t feel the same way. They feel that their birth parents don’t care about them. If you are a birth parent, consider this in your decision whether to have an open adoption or closed adoption and whether or not you choose to honor the adoptee on their birthdays. 

As you can see, birthdays are very important for adoptees. They desire to spend quality time with you doing things that they enjoy doing. For adoptees, knowing they are cared about and thought of on their birthday means a lot. If you are able to, I recommend that you try to find time to spend with your child and get to know them. It is evident by these stories, that spending time with your child is important. If you can’t spend time with them, find meaningful gifts to send them. Do what you can to honor them on their birthday. 

Emili Schurke is 22 years old. She is currently attending the College of the Ozarks to get her degree in elementary education. She loves God, her family, and teaching!