Yesterday I had some really deep and hard conversations around the idea that Birth Mother’s Day exists. Birth Mother’s Day is the Saturday before Mother’s Day, so May 8th this year, and it was created so that birth mothers would have a day to be honored. I have a community organization called The Table DFW, and I was messaging with a birth mother about an upcoming project I am working on for Birth Mother’s Day. I want to share videos from people connected to us that share words of love and encouragement to birth mothers all over our social media that day. The birth mother I was chatting with let me know she would do that if it was videos for Mother’s Day, but she did not like the concept of Birth Mother’s Day, so she wouldn’t partake this time. She explained that she felt Birth Mother’s Day segregated us as birth moms from Mother’s Day and that we deserved to be celebrated just like any other mother on Mother’s Day. She said that if we have Birth Mother’s Day, why isn’t there Adoptive Mother’s Day? She did not see both days as a positive, but rather pushing birth mothers even further from the coveted acknowledgment so many of us want on Mother’s Day. It was an interesting perspective I had not thought of before. I struggled with the idea of losing Birth Mother’s Day, however, because I truly believe there are a lot of women who find solace in that day being just ours. But it brought me to talk with several other people about the bigger conversation. I was met with some hard to hear opinions as well as some similar thoughts to mine.
Birth Mothers Don’t Feel Acknowledged on Mother’s Day.
The biggest thought is that birth mothers have the most complex relationship with motherhood. We are mothers who felt the pains of labor, who sacrificed everything for our child, who put ourselves last, and who never knew love like we did until we saw our child’s face. However, many people do not acknowledge us as mothers because we are not parenting. I shared this concept with someone yesterday and was met with a “But birth mothers are not their mothers.” Wrong. We will always be that child’s mother, which shouldn’t be a threat to parents raising adoptees. We both can have value and worth to that child, and it be healthy.
Then I was met with, “Well, I don’t think that day should be shared with birth mothers.” I’ve got to tell you, that was extremely tough for me to chew. I just finished sharing how we constantly have to remind people that we are indeed mothers, but you want to validate my point by saying birth mothers shouldn’t be acknowledged or honored on Mother’s Day? I was at a loss. This person is an adoptive mom, so I understood the loss she, too, has faced in trying to have kids over the years, but I couldn’t understand why we weren’t on the same team. Why weren’t we both cheering for the birth mothers? After all, if it weren’t for the birth mothers, adoptive mothers would not be parents of their child. It worked my heart, and I had to step away to process. Birth mothers simply should not have to beg and plead for acknowledgment of something other mothers who are parenting are granted. We may not look like the conventional picture of motherhood, but we’ve experienced all of the emotions and challenges that come with it. See us. Acknowledge us.
Birth Mothers Have their Own Day
Birth Mother’s Day is something I celebrate every year. Not only do I take time to grieve the loss of motherhood and check in on my mental well-being, but I also use the day to love on my birth mom community. Birth moms sign up for a lifetime of challenges. Watching your child grow up from afar or through pictures and visits helps, but certainly is not the same. It doesn’t fulfill our hearts like parenting does. And yes, we made that choice, but it doesn’t make our struggle and hurt any less valid. Something that my daughter started doing for me a few years ago on Birth Mother’s Day is one of my favorite treasures I hold on to. She started sending me short little videos wishing me a “Happy Birth Mother’s Day.” Last year she shared with me that she was so grateful I gave her the life I did and that I deserve her sweet video and love. She shared with me that she misses me and loves me so much. It’s simple, but to a birth mother, it’s everything. My sweet baby just validated my decision without knowing it. She let me know that it’s all been worth it. It wasn’t her job to do that, and she certainly didn’t know how much her words meant to me, but she said them. I was in a puddle of tears watching that sweet girl’s video, and it was exactly what I needed on that day. Every year, I attend Birth Mother’s Day celebrations and events to gather with other birth mothers to honor and love them. We are resilient and tough, but we need to be noticed and honored just like anyone else would. So yes, we have our own day, and it can be a really beneficial and healing 24 hours for some. Yet, as I started considering the other view, it can also be frustrating for other birth mothers. When that birth mother shared her thoughts, I challenged her to think about Birth Mother’s Day in the following ways to help her see the other side, not that her perception is wrong, but rather because we should support the different needs of different birth mothers. 1) Birth Mother’s Day is a bonus day to Mother’s Day and not one that isolates us from other mothers. 2) Birth Mother’s Day is optional, and if you don’t wish to celebrate it, that’s ok too. 3) While we get our own day and adoptive moms do not, it’s different. Adoptive moms are parents, and not all birth mothers are parenting a child currently, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy of celebration. Some birth mothers feel more comfortable asking for space on the day before Mother’s Day because of that. Adoptive moms are just as worthy of our celebration and love. Still, in my opinion, they don’t need a day of their own because they are seen as mothers in all conventional senses. And no, that does not mean that I am attacking or thinking any less of adoptive moms. This brings me to my next point.
Motherhood is not a Competition.
I’ve mentioned several times now that birth moms often don’t feel acknowledged as mothers. I have also heard adoptive mothers share hurt by birth mothers wanting acknowledgment. I understand we all have some junk we are working through, and motherhood can be a sensitive and triggering topic, but this isn’t a competition. This isn’t “Will the real mother, please, stand up?” We can all take up space in the world as mothers, and our child has enough love to go around for both their mothers. Heck, they may even have three or four mothers! We do not, I repeat, do not, have to knock one another down or out of a day to feel more “motherly.” It’s nonsense. If you are struggling to share Mother’s Day with birth moms, I challenge you to listen to more birth mother stories. Hear what they go through on a daily basis, listen to the abundant love they have for their child, listen to the stigmas they walk through, and how they need to feel supported. We are not asking you to fall on a sword for us and to not let Mother’s Day be your day, too. We are simply asking to be invited to the party with you. It’s not taking anything away from the value we see in you as a mother. So, try to be more open. After all, there’s enough room for us all at the table.
Reach Out to a Birth Mother
Obviously, there are many super heavy and uncomfortable things surrounding birth mothers on the weekend of Mother’s Day. So, should you reach out to a birth mother that you know? Absolutely. “But what if she is still grieving and hurting? Won’t reaching out upset her?” Honestly, it might. But it’s not your fault that it hurts. It’s hard to cope with placing a child for adoption, and sometimes the reminder of it stings, but being remembered and seen is profound. Last year, my mother told me “Happy Mother’s Day” for the first time in 13 years. It moved me deeply. She still doesn’t realize its effect on me, but it meant the world to be seen even for a moment as a mother. All birth mothers deserve that moment of honor. So, even if she is still in a space of struggle, tell her you honor her. Remind her how strong she is. Send her something she can use for some self-care, like a massage gift card, an at-home spa kit, dinner, or her favorite dessert. It doesn’t have to be huge, but if you know a birth mom, do something. Say something.
How to best Honor Birth Mothers
I touched a tad on this above, but here are a few ideas to best honor a birth mother on Mother’s Day weekend, depending on who you are to her.
Adoptive Parents: Birth mothers treasure anything to do with their child, so my first thought is to send her a video, handwritten/drawn card, or pictures to fill her mama cup. Another thought is to take pictures to the next level and have a photo tumbler made, a picture put in a locket, or my favorite- have a photo blanket made. Anything with your child on it is sure to move her, so that’s a great place to start. I would also suggest sharing with her how much she means to your family and that you honor her loss today.
Friends and Family: Simply saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to a birth mom will be enough, but if you are like me and live to give gifts, here are some thoughts. I mentioned earlier that self-care-themed gifts are great. They really are the best theme to go with because birth mothers feel this weekend in many different ways and might even feel the whole spectrum of emotions in the 48 hours. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s nice for someone to give us the reminder to take care of ourselves, especially in those hard times. Get her a coffee; better yet, meet her for a coffee. Ask if she wants to share with you, and if she doesn’t, then sit with her through the uncomfortableness. Your support means more to her than you could ever know. Just love on her.
Adoptees: If you have contact with your birth mother, or even just a birth mother you know in general, feel free to reach out to her. Anything you say or do is bound to be the most impactful to her during this time. Even if you don’t know what to say, a simple “Happy Mother’s Day” will touch her heart greatly. It’s ok to have mixed feelings about the day. It’s so complex for the entire triad, but if you feel comfortable, let her know you’re thinking of her.
Over the Years, Mother’s Day has meant different things to me. It’s always been a day I’ve shared because my birthday is sometimes on Mother’s Day (any other May 12th babies feel me?). Then, when I became a birth mother, I began to celebrate myself while also honoring my own mother and my birth mother’s loss. There are so many strong, worthy, and incredible women I honor and acknowledge every Mother’s Day because it belongs to us all. It’s nice that I have a day to acknowledge everything I went through, how brilliantly strong I am, and think back on the complexities with other birth mothers. I am also thankful I can share Mother’s Day and have a piece of that recognition, too. I hope this inspires you to share your appreciation and love for the birth mothers in your life this year by reaching out to one!Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.
Katie Reisor is an adoptee and birth mom who is passionate about adoption advocacy and breaking stigmas around birth parents. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and hanging out with her dog, Chloe.