Birth Mother’s Day

Birth Mother’s Day was created by Mary Jane Wolch-Marsh and shared with other birth mothers in Seattle in 1990, to help with healing from the loss of children placed for adoption. It is observed on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. This year, Birth Mother’s Day would be May 11, and Mother’s Day, May 12.

Is it on your calendar? A complicated, welcomed, loathed, non-Hallmark kind of day. However, there indeed are cards for it, some astonishing in their insensitivity. There are cards against it.

Controversy abounds around it. Start with the designation of “birth mother,” and find those who prefer “first mother” or “biological mother” or “natural mother” or “mother.”

Move on to the idea of a separate day: A rose by any other name is still a mother, and why should there be a distinct day? Alternatively, there are those who see it as a day to honor the realities of loss, grief, selflessness, coercion, courage, love that birth/first mothers may or may not feel.

If one does observe it, how so? Rituals? Cards? Flowers? Photos? Jewelry? So much depends on the relationship, the communication, the connections between the first family and the adoptive family, including of course the adopted child (teen, adult).

And Happy Birth Mother’s Day? Some birth mothers note that Mother’s Day is almost as painful as is their child’s birthday.

Here’s one take on it from a birth mother’s perspective: “Birthmother’s Day Created Out of Love or Just More Adoption Propaganda?”

Here’s one from an adoptee: “Birthmother’s Day and Mother’s Day” One quote: “In my reconnection with my birth family, I’ve been fortunate to find myself in the midst of communicators…We have taken a moment to communicate with each other, to say with love some of the difficult truths.”

To me, the bottom line is the value of acknowledging that adopted children indeed had/have a mother before their adoption. The acknowledgement can take many forms. From loss comes healing, with luck, and love: We are all in this together. I believe in adoption, if it is done transparently, equitably, and with integrity. I believe that doing so is possible, and I know it’s complex.  I have no magic words.

Here’s a post I put on the Facebook Adoptive Families page Sunday May 5, in response to a post that negatively portrayed birth mothers:

Children become available for adoption for a huge range of reasons. Some reasons include coercion, fraud, and trafficking. Some mothers are heartbroken and grieve deeply for the loss of their children. Some children are placed because of addictions, abuse, neglect. Some are placed because the mother did not have enough money to keep her children from dying. Some mothers have temporary short-term crises, and had they received even a small amount of help, might have kept their children.
We as adoptive parents have a responsibility to acknowledge the realities of our adopted children’s histories, including the fact that children can have difficult histories and still feel a connection to and love for their first mother.
We also have a responsibility to know that those histories can be complicated, and we may not know or have been told the full story–the options, the emotions, the choices.
And in any case, the first mothers of our children should be spoken of respectfully by us adoptive mothers to our children, regardless of how we view them.
Our children grow up. They can form their own views about their first families, and given technology and access to information plus the passage of time, they may learn much more about their first family, and they deserve to have all the truth, as difficult, simple, complicated, bittersweet as it may be.
I’ve known a lot of first mothers in the US and elsewhere,  have heard their stories, held their hands, and shared their grief. It’s powerful beyond words. Few things are as simple as we might like to think, once we hear their truths.
My 4 children’s first mothers have always been a welcome part of our family. I’ve met only one. The others are with us in our hearts, and maybe those children–now young adults–will choose to search and connect. It’s their choice, their truth, their reality. I am grateful for my children, and to be their mother.  I wish peace and healing and joy to all mothers.

3 thoughts on “Birth Mother’s Day

  1. Thank you for this.. and much thanks for taking the time and heart to understand the complexities of being a birthmother.
    But the greatest thanks for sharing what you have learned to other adoptive parents.

  2. Maureen, at our house the kids’ mothers are called just that. Mothers.

    Thanks for your thoughts on a day that I have very mixed feelings about. At this point I am more comfortable “sharing” Mother’s Day. We’ll see how the kids feel over time.

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