Mother’s Day is a day of honor and celebration, recognizing the endless love that mothers have and the countless sacrifices that they make for their children. For families in the adoption community, Mother’s Day could not be celebrated without also acknowledging one of the greatest maternal sacrifices of all.
Adoption is a selfless, courageous choice made by birth mothers – women who not only gave their children life, but also gave their children a life to look forward to through adoption. Through their choice, many adoptive families have had the opportunity to grow.
That is why every Saturday before Mother’s Day, the second Saturday in May, is celebrated as Birth Mother’s Day. This is the day that many adoptive families will honor the women who helped make their families possible. While some in open adoptions may honor this special day, many birth mothers do not know about Birth Mother’s Day. Others will recognize the holiday silently. Some may even cope with feelings of sadness or loss around this time of year, and choose not to recognize the day at all.
As a non-profit adoption agency, Adoptions With Love facilitates a regular support group for birth mothers who have made the loving choice of adoption. In light of Mother’s Day and Birth Mother’s Day this month, we asked the group about their own adoption stories and feelings around this time of year. Here is what some of birth mothers had to say:
Have you experienced Mother’s Day previously? If so, how did you feel around the holiday?
Chloe: Yes, my daughter is three now. It’s a strange feeling. I remember thinking about her a lot every time I saw Mother’s Day ads for things. Knowing that you’re a mother, and that no one knows, is a weird thing. It’s like you’re waiting for someone to say, “Happy Mother’s Day” but you know it’s impossible for them to do so. I have conflicting emotions about someone saying it to me anyway. My daughter, and my experience with placing her, feels very private and personal. It’s almost strange to me when other people bring her up.
Brittney: Last year was technically my first Mother’s Day, but it was only about a month after my son was born, so my emotions were still all over the place. I think I was so in shock over what had happened that I didn’t really relate the holiday to myself. On that day, I did receive a nice text message from the adoptive parents thanking me again for what I had done for them, wishing me a happy Mother’s Day, and reminding me how I will always have a special place in my son’s life. That text made me feel good, knowing that they were thinking of me on that particular day.
I almost feel like this year is my first Mother’s Day, seeing that last year fell so close after the birth/adoption. I am in a completely different place than I was this time last year, and feel more comfortable with the day approaching. It’s still hard for me to relate to Mother’s Day since I don’t do all the normal motherly duties. With that being said, I feel like I almost take it as any other day but, celebrating my mom of course and thinking of my son a little extra. The day itself does not make me sad; it reminds of the place I hold in my son’s life and how we will always be a part of each other.
Kaelyn: This is will be my second Mother’s Day. Last year I was expecting it to be extremely difficult, and basically prepared myself for the worst. When the day came, it was just like any ordinary day and I was okay. Social media posts definitely made it the hardest and I did get down. Then I started getting texts and phone calls (including one from the adoptive family wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day). It definitely made me sad, but also very happy. No matter what holiday it is, there is always mixed emotions but at the end of the day I was happy and filled with joy especially because so many people went out of their way to acknowledge me.
What is your relationship with your child’s adoptive family?
Chloe: They send pictures and letters. Great letters – full of details I didn’t know they’d think to include. I love hearing about all the daily minutia of her life — what she’s eating, what her favorite toy or show or book is. Anything about things she says or does or little anecdotes that show her personality. I love everything they tell me about her. I asked for a shared Shutterfly account, and they’ve posted pictures there as well. They make my whole week!! I smile for days every time they post one. I also met them when my daughter was about six months old. I recently reached out again to ask for another get-together, and they graciously agreed.
Julia: The relationship is great and has really evolved. There are, of course, some formalities when we talk with each other, but they are very relaxed now. We communicate so often I feel strongly that when my daughter is able to understand who I am as a birth mother, it won’t be as difficult for her to process.
We went to the zoo recently and since we Skype frequently, she knew who I was and was able to run up and hug me when she saw me. I communicate mostly with her mother and she’s able to ask me specific questions that she may not know about raising an African American child. Her mother and I both have the same tattoo in the same place. We both have the same picture framed in our houses.
When it’s time for the pictures and updates that are mailed directly to Adoptions With Love, the adoptive parents go above and beyond what is it expected. They’ve also started to FaceTime me when my daughter is doing funny things. I truly feel that I will be able to see her grow up and have a real relationship with her.
Brittney: I have an amazing relationship with the adoptive parents. Throughout this past year, we have become closer than I ever imagined. We have created a special friendship and bond that I don’t think happens very often in this type of situation. I never thought my relationship was going to turn out like this, but now that is has, I don’t think any of us would want it any other way.
We talk more frequently than birth/adoptive families usually do, but at this point it’s so natural and we can make a great conversation out of anything and understand each other on multiple levels. They really want me to be a big part in my son’s life and enjoy sharing every milestone with me. I am honored to have such an open relationship with them, and to be able to know not only the big things about my son, but also the small things. Having this strong relationship with them has helped me deal with the situation in a better way than I expected. I am grateful for them, just as I know they are grateful for me and I hope more birth/adoptive families can create a relationship like ours in the future.
Adoption is an emotional journey, and can be especially at this time of year. When needed, who or where do you turn to for support?
Chloe: Honestly, it’s really, really hard for me to ask for help on anything. It’s especially hard on this subject because I lived through the hardest parts on my own, so anyone else having opinions on what I did, or what I should do now, sometimes feels like an invasion. There’s also the very real issue that people just don’t get it. It’s not their fault. I have people on my side who genuinely care and want to help and would bend over backwards to listen if I wanted to talk. But when I talk about it, while they are understanding, they don’t actually understand.
That’s why this birth moms group has been so amazing. It’s this whole group of women who literally know what you went through, and how weird the adoption process sometimes is, and how complicated your emotions get, and are on that same rollercoaster ride of emotions you are. And they truly understand, and don’t try to insert their opinions into your story. They don’t tell you what you should do or judge what you’ve done. They just let you share your life, and they share theirs, and there’s a mutual understanding. So they’re who I talk to mostly. About relationships, about our kids, about our kids’ families, and most of all our emotions on all those subjects.
Julia: I call the people that were with me when my daughter was born. Counseling helped a lot as well, just to have someone to talk to solely and specifically about adoption. I still e-mail my counselor occasionally just to say hi and tell her thanks for listening. My dogs were also there for support!
Brittney: When support is needed, I go to my mom. Also, attending the meetings at Adoptions With Love has been the best support— being able to be around girls that have dealt with the same situation puts your head in the right perspective, and the staff is also very supportive and understanding.
Do you have any advice for other birth mothers on coping with feelings this time of year?
Chloe: I think the most helpful thing I ever heard or said on the subject was that no matter what choice you make — whether you raise your child yourself or choose adoption — you still gave birth to them, and that makes you a mother. Being a birth mother doesn’t make you less of a mother than a woman who raises her own child, or less of a mother than a woman who adopts. You are all mothers, and being different kinds of mothers is okay.
Julia: Recognize the adoptive mother, text her, send her a card, do something. Also find something that will help keep your mind off Mother’s Day if you think it’s going to be a sad day. Plan a day with friends, or do an activity that will help ease your anxiety. If you can talk with the adoptive family, do that.
Also, recognize that adoption is not just about having a relationship with your child, it’s also about the parents as well. In the early years where the child is not able to understand exactly who you are as a birth parent, they are still able to recognize your relationship with the adoptive parent. The more positive that relationship is, the stronger your relationship will be when it’s time.
Brittney: The best advice I think I could give to other birth mothers is try to think of the positives on this day. I know for some it can be very emotional, but just think to yourself how you and the child will always share a special bond and be a part of each other. The day shouldn’t be about grieving your decision, but knowing you did what was right for the child and that even though you aren’t their mother figure, you are a special person to them in more ways than one.
Kaelyn: My advice is just to remember that, most importantly, it’s okay to have these feelings. For me, this year is my second Mother’s Day and I don’t have all the sad “what if” feelings anymore. It takes time and every person deals with things in their own way. When I was feeling down around this time last year, I asked for pictures of my daughter or just had a conversation with my adoptive mom asking if anything new has happened, how their weekend was… little things to put a smile on my face!
Birth Mother’s Day is the Saturday before Mother’s Day, created to recognize those who made the brave decision of adoption. Some birth parents, however, feel that they do not want to celebrate a separate holiday from other mothers. What are your thoughts/feelings on Birth Mother’s Day?
Chloe: I’m in both camps. I do think that birth mothers are mothers, and that we need to educate people and help them understand that we’re mothers even though we aren’t raising our children. But at the same time, having a Birth Mother’s Day is a great way to start the conversation and bring the subject to light.
I think that as mothers, we all think about our babies all the time. My daughter crosses my mind every single day. Sometimes as a quick passing reference, sometimes in deep thought. But she’s there somewhere every day. So I really wish that adoption and being a birth mother weren’t such taboo subjects, because it’s so much healthier and easier when we can talk about all the conflicting emotions that come with being birth moms.
Julia: I’ve heard about the holiday, though I’ve never celebrated it as it’s not recognized enough. I think that although my child isn’t living with me and I’m not actually raising her, it doesn’t make me less of a mother to be recognized on a separate day than others.
Brittney: I never knew there was a Birth Mother’s Day, and now knowing that there is, I prefer that day over Mother’s Day. I think it is a great way to recognize us and the decision we made. I like that it is separate from Mother’s Day because the way I look at it is, we are separate from the role our mother’s play and from the role the adoptive mother of our child plays.
Kaelyn: I had no idea Birth Mother’s Day was a day until this year. I believe it’s very important for all moms to celebrate regardless of being a birth mom, adoptive mom, etc. We are all mothers. Many people don’t recognize the sacrifice we make as birth mothers, so I definitely believe we deserve a day for us.
Adoption is not an easy decision, but rather, a sacrifice that requires a mother’s strength, bravery, and most of all, love. If this is your first Mother’s Day since placing your baby for adoption, you may be experiencing an array of different emotions. If you need someone to talk to, you can always call an Adoptions With Love counselor toll-free at 1-800-722-7731 or text us confidentially at 617-777-0072.
*For the purpose of anonymity, all names have been changed