Mother’s Day for adoptive mothers is a unique situation. During the years leading up to becoming a mom, Mother’s Day was a tough day for me. I loved celebrating my mom, mother-in-law, aunts, grandma, and great-grandma. These women formed who I am today and everything I now know about being a mom. But it never mattered how much I tried to feel as I would sort through the array of emotions infertility caused Mother’s Day brought them to the forefront every single year. The longing in my heart always felt like a giant crater open for all to see. During the Mother’s Day celebration, an array of feelings always sat in the front of my mind: the pain, the feelings of being sidelined by my inability to reproduce, the feelings of unworthiness. It had me wondering if that crater-sized hole would ever be filled, and if one of my life’s greatest desires would come to fruition.
Five days before Mother’s Day in 2018, my husband and I received the call that all hopeful adoptive parents long for. The phone rang as the garage door opened. I thought our caseworker was calling me to remind me of the training we needed to turn in by the end of the night. Once she started talking, I quickly realized that that wasn’t the case and I needed to put her on speaker so my husband could also hear. This was something we needed to hear together, our dreams of having a family were coming true.
As she filled us in on all of the amazing details of our daughter, my mind was going a thousand miles an hour. Things like, “I can’t believe this is happening. This is the call. What does she look like? Thank goodness she’s healthy. How fast can we put together a nursery? When do we get to see her?” raced through so fast. But the first words out of my mouth, as tears streamed down my face, were, “I’m going to be a mom on Mother’s Day!” My husband laughed and still teases me to this day that those were the first words out of my mouth.
We didn’t get to bring our daughter home until five days after that Mother’s Day, but that day I felt so many emotions. I was a little scared that our birth mother would change her mind since that had happened to us a few times before. I was nervous to go to church because I wanted to shout from the rooftops that we were having a baby, but we didn’t want to tell anyone yet because of previously failed placements. I was so excited that the time had come. The nursery was still empty, but the doubt and longing to be a mom had passed. Instead, I was filled with love for a child I had only seen pictures of.
The next year, I awoke to a little girl calling out, “Momma.” It hit me like a freight train, right in my heart. Oh, how I had waited so long to hear those words come out of her mouth, especially on this day dedicated to moms. My husband made the day all about me. They made me breakfast, and we had beautiful pictures taken at church. I was able to take a nap and read a book. They loved me so well. As she napped that day and I did things around the house, I thought of her birth mother.
We have a semi-closed adoption, which means we send letters and pictures to our adoption agency. I couldn’t reach out to her and check in, which was hard. I wondered how she felt that day. I hoped that she knew I was thinking of her and wishing her well. I hoped that she had a wonderful day and her children made her feel so loved. I hoped that she knew how appreciative of her and the choice she made we were because it led to celebrating my first Mother’s Day. I wanted so badly to give her a hug and tell her to thank you. Part of me also felt sad for her. I hoped she didn’t feel sad on this day, I hoped that she wasn’t hurting. Her choice of adoption was such a selfless choice, but it had to hold stings of sadness. On Mother’s Day, I hoped that she felt the love we have for her and that decision, and that it helped her with the grief.
Still having conflicting feelings on this day was a surprise for me. It wasn’t something I had prepared for. I was naive to imagine that once I became a mom, I would only feel happiness on this day. Mother’s Day is so special, yet I still feel tinges of sadness for our Birth Mom. That wasn’t something I expected.
While processing these feelings, I wondered if I was alone in the tear between overwhelming gratefulness and hints of sadness. Yet, maybe others felt the same way. So, I reached out to other adoptive mommas I know and asked them, “what does Mother’s Day mean to you?”
“On Mother’s Days before my son was born, I felt the sting of infertility and waiting more acutely. Opening social media, seeing posts of my friends’ beautiful families celebrating plucked a nerve deep in me that on a typical day I could power through. But Mother’s Day, when you’re longing to be a mother, is a raw day filled with feelings you wish you didn’t have. I love my mom- she’s amazing and deserves to be celebrated—as do all the fabulous moms in my life. [However], during the point in my life when I was struggling with infertility and subsequently failed adoptions, there was an ugly, selfish, cloud over the day. It’s a mindset I regret, but hindsight is 20/20, right? The blessing of adopting my son changed Mother’s Day for me only last year after seven years of holding on to hope. I feel overwhelming gratitude for my new role as a mom and for the mom who chose to give me this gift. On Mother’s Day, I can’t celebrate properly without giving honor to her sacrifice and as a result I hold myself to high standards because she chose me, of all people, to be his mom. There is no greater Mother’s Day gift I can think of than to be a good mom to my son for her. It’s a strange relationship, for sure, but one I deeply respect. I am still keenly aware of those years of longing and on Mother’s Day I honor that feeling for those mothers in the wait and send my love and strength to them. As I said, now that those years have passed me and I can reflect back on the pain, I wish I had celebrated the hope in the waiting. It would have been a good opportunity for me to not be envious but to be optimistic in knowing that God does fulfill his promises and that He has the perfect plan and perfect timing!” -Tara Cartafalsa: Ridley, Pennsylvania.
“This will be my first Mother’s Day to five kids and it’s a little overwhelming when I really think about it. I guess being an adoptive mom and a foster mom is different when it comes to Mother’s Day. I’ve had Monty for over two years now and his birth mother had him only six weeks. Yet, when Mother’s Day comes around I think to myself, “How is she feeling? Is she missing him? Is she hurting on this day that I’m celebrating?” It’s just a complicated swirl of emotions.” -Kathy Jackson: Moyock, North Carolina.
“Mother’s Day is a day of grieving what is gone while also celebrating what has been gained. It’s a day where conflicting emotions intertwine and coexist. It’s filled with mourning and rejoicing. Mother’s Day isn’t a day that I expect praise, but rather a day I spend praising.” -Haley Ingleston: Dallas, Georgia.
“Mother’s Day is multi-faceted for me. It’s a day full of reflection. [A day of] knowing and acknowledging the sacrifices of so many that created my opportunity to be a mother and fulfill my lifelong dream. [It’s] a birth mother who was selfless in placing her child in the care of others, family, and friends who stood by me during the heartache of miscarriage and infertility, parents who gave monetarily so we could adopt, [and] years lost to grief and anger. It’s a day to acknowledge all the struggle that led to the greatest joy in our lives. It’s a day that I honor the amazing plans my Lord had for us and our son and the unsung heroes—the birth mother. It’s not about me, it’s about everything and everyone that brought me to the place of motherhood.” -Beth Pesnell: Rogers, Arkansas
“Mother’s Day is no longer just mine. I share it with two birth mothers, who had the courage to allow me to become a mother to their children. Sometimes, it is easy to share; other times it isn’t easy at all. I try to send thoughtful gifts or an acknowledgment each year on all special occasions, especially Mother’s Day.” -Jennifer Kaldwell: New Holstein, Wisconsin.
“Mother’s Day means that we honor both of my son’s moms. We did not meet her [because we had an] international adoption from China, but we honor her sacrifice. She must have loved him very much to have placed him.” -Stephanie Marazon: Bidwell, Ohio.
“I find Mother’s Day a little bit tricky. As a mom of five, three of which are adopted, we are pulled so many ways on this sometimes difficult day. We have embraced radical openness, but this means we have so many moms that all want to see us on Mother’s Day or have expectations. I want to honor my own mom and my mother-in-law. Sometimes, due to addictions, one child cannot get in touch with her mom, and that’s painful. Sometimes, Mother’s Day is super good for one child, and vacant for another due to a no show, or something. I find it hard for me, as a mom, to relax on this day at all. It is an important day to reflect, and give thanks for the children I parent, and their brave Birth Parents. But, it is a hard day in many ways, especially as my adopted children get older.” -Jamie Giesbrecht: Northern Canada
“For years, Mother’s Day was a day I dreaded. A day filled with so much pain that reminded me of the constant emptiness in my heart. I was and still am lucky enough to have my mom to celebrate on Mother’s Day but I longed to carry that title myself. I can remember my first Mother’s Day as Ellie Paige’s mama; she was less than a month old and I was so happy and proud. Being a mom is everything I’ve always wanted. I’m so thankful that I now have two daughters who call me Mama and another reason to celebrate Mother’s Day this year. Because of two courageous mommas I get to be a forever mama to my two beautiful daughters. That’s the best gift anyone could ever ask for.” -Amanda Plummer: Greenup, Kentucky.
I was floored by the wide array of responses I received by just asking the question, “What does Mother’s Day mean to you?” It’s beautiful that there are so many different emotions felt on this day. But there is one thing in common: we are appreciative of the birth mothers who made this day so special for us.
We know that this day isn’t just about adoptive parents. It’s a day to rejoice and be thankful for all of the pieces that came together to make this beautiful artwork that is our family. It’s a day to reflect on where we started and where we are. It’s a day where it’s okay to feel mixed emotions. We’re allowed to feel happy and loved yet feel sadness and gratitude for the ones who sacrificed so much to make it possible.
Mother’s Day is a day we celebrate all moms. It doesn’t matter the adjective in front of the word “mother”. Whether you’re a birth mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, bonus mother, godmother, you deserve to be celebrated on this day. You’ve made some sort of sacrifice if you’re a mom and it shouldn’t go unnoticed. You deserve to be thanked, to be spoiled, to be loved on in your own special way, however that looks to you and your family.
Happy Mother’s Day to you from our team at Adoption.ORG. Leave a comment below and tell us—What does Mother’s Day mean to you?
Khrystian Hembree is a proud military wife, a momma to an adventure-seeking and spunky little girl, and a freelance copywriter. She enjoys hosting playgroup, reading books, leading worship at her church, and anything that includes donuts and coffee.