Adoptees and Mother’s Day

I remember as a young child that during the first day of school, I would proudly declare that I had two families because I was adopted. What was hard to comprehend for the other kids in my classroom was my normal life as a child who was adopted. I always knew that there was a woman somewhere out there who chose to let another woman be called my mom. I thought about her often as I grew up; I wondered where and who she was. My story is relatable for many adoptees who grew up in a closed adoption. Many adoptees like me wondered have so many questions about their birth mothers.

The older that I have gotten, the more I have realized that Mother’s Day is heavy. As a young child, I already felt the stress of Mother’s Day because it was clearly important to celebrate mothers. However, my birthday sometimes fell upon the same day and I was reluctant to share the spotlight. My mom had always shared with my sister and I that we were adopted, and we knew that she and my father tried really hard to have children biologically. However, it was not the path to parenthood for them. 

Throughout the past decade, my mother has shared in more detail the difficulties of infertility and how all she ever really wanted to be was a mom. Hearing her share how hard it was to cope with her body not allowing her to carry a child showed me how difficult the topic motherhood is for her. It is not lost on me that Mother’s Day is a bittersweet holiday. Not only do adoptive mothers wrestle with mixed emotions on this day, but so do children who were adopted. 

While adoptees are not always celebrated on Mother’s Day, until maybe an adoptee becomes a mother herself, some likely find that the day doesn’t quite feel whole. They may feel that many details (or people) are missing. We celebrate our mothers who raised us, but was our birth mother acknowledged? In closed adoptions, it can be more difficult to directly express love to a birth mother on Mother’s Day, but I hope that maybe there are families who honor their birth mothers in some way. 

As adoption is modernizing, we are learning that open adoptions are beneficial not only to birth families but to the adoptees as well. Holding space for adoptees’ birth moms on Mother’s Day allows them to see her as a mother, take a moment to intentionally celebrate or grieve her sacrifice, and in return acknowledge biological heritage as an adoptee. 

Some adoptive mothers may struggle to share this day with birth mothers. Showing your adoptee how to honor her and think of her on one of the biggest days mothers are so focused on, may help them to express their feelings about adoption and get their questions answered.. Adoptees can sometimes hold back their desires to know their birth mothers because they do not want to hurt their adoptive mom’s feelings. Some adoptees may feel desperate to discover their biology and story. Plus, it allows them to find closure and validation through the information that they could have been searching for. 

I am not currently parenting any children, so I do not get acknowledged on Mother’s Day. However, I am also a birth mother, so there are a lot of heavy emotions on the day since I personally feel that I am still a mother worthy of being acknowledged. 

How do I, as an adoptee, celebrate Mother’s Day?

As an adoptee, I often think about my birth mom. We have an estranged relationship, so it’s limited to keep healthy, but I still think of her often. Her sacrifice and grief aren’t unnoticed. I know she has had a hard time coping with her decision, so on Mother’s Day, I do take time to tell her I am grateful for her love and that she is special to me. I also focus on my mom. While it’s painful for me as a birth mom on Mother’s Day, I do my best to celebrate my mom who has had a hard journey becoming a mom. I make sure to give her gifts and to tell her that I am thankful for her. 

How can you support your adoptee this Mother’s Day?

It’s hard to think of others on days that are supposed to be about us—even if it’s our kids. However, adopted children really need attention and intentionality on Mother’s Day and other family-focused holidays. The easiest way to start finding out how your adoptee feels about Mother’s Day is to simply ask them. You might ask questions like: “What does motherhood mean to you?” “How do you want to celebrate your birth mom this year?” and “Would you like to go with mom somewhere for Mother’s Day?” These questions can empower your child/teen with some decisions regarding how they want to spend the day. 

Overall, it’s important to remember that adoption is complex, so it makes sense that motherhood would be as well. There is space for an adoptee to love two moms, maybe even more, and no one has to feel threatened by the others’ presence. Adoptees have a lot to process, so remember to invite them into the conversation about motherhood and having several mamas that can proudly be celebrated and loved. 

Gift Ideas for Birth Mothers:

  • Photo gifts like blankets and photo books
  • A photo session of all of your family and some shots of just the birth mom with your child
  • Jewelry with your child’s birthstone or three hearts for all of the members of the adoption triad
  • Send her flowers or an edible arrangement on Mother’s Day
  • Mail her a card with artwork from your child
  • Spa-day-at-home basket with face masks, bath salts, a robe, pedicure items, skincare items, or makeup
  • Invite her out for a meal that weekend with your family and child