Birth Mother’s Day: a holiday to celebrate our moms and the day before Mother’s Day. Much like our birth moms come before our adoptive mothers, birth Mother’s Day comes before Mother’s Day. So, what is the history behind this holiday? Well, it’s pretty simple. In 1990, a birth mom named Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh decided she wanted a separate holiday to honor fellow birth moms. It is now recognized as a national holiday in the US. As a 25-year-old adoptee, I only found out that Birth Mother’s Day was recognized about 4 years ago. And the way I found out was through a podcast where a birth mom was debating whether or not she liked the holiday. I think this holiday comes with a lot of complexities for birth moms. I am not a birth mom, so I won’t pretend to understand all of the complexities that come with that title. But I am an adoptee, and I would like to share my view on Birth Mother’s Day.
I was adopted as an infant in 1997 via private domestic adoption. My adoptive parents only lived one state away from my biological parents and their extended families. I was raised in a closed adoption. It was so closed, in fact, that I was not even made aware of my own adoption until the age of 8—and not because anyone spilled the beans, but because I figured it out through a series of quite obvious and overlooked clues. After some prodding and pleading, and showing all of my evidence, my parents confessed to my adoption, and also informed me that my entire extended family and community knew about this secret. Now, that is a story for another time, but with all this being said, you can imagine why I wasn’t made aware of the holiday Birth Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day has always been highly celebrated in my family. Every year I gather together with my mom and grandmothers. We exchange gifts, take photos, and share a meal. Now that I am a mom, I am included in the gift-giving and being celebrated. My husband does a photoshoot for me every year of myself and our children in the same location with the same poses. These pictures are so special to me over the years as we add children to our family and see the children grow and change. My husband buys me gifts, and we usually take our family out for a special sit-down dinner at my favorite restaurant. But in recent years, I have thought a lot about my birth mom on Mother’s Day and Birth Mother’s Day. How is she celebrated when it comes to her parentage of me?
In March of 2021, I saw my birth mom for the first time since I was a 6-month-old baby. I don’t like to say met, because I met her the day I was born and had several other visits after my birth. However, I saw her for the first time in 23 years in 2021. I always knew I would meet her, I just didn’t know how or when it would all come to pass. Long story short, my birth mom had stayed in contact with a family member in my adoptive family, getting updates about me as I grew up without her, and this all eventually came to a head which resulted in our meeting. Mother’s Day came quickly after I met my birth mom, and I of course sent her a gift. And I didn’t write on the card “Happy Birth Mother’s Day” I wrote, “Happy Mother’s Day,” Because that is what she is, my mother. She has earned that title simply from the fact that she birthed me. And now, after two years of reunion, even more so with her love and care for not only myself, but my husband, children, and adoptive family. She is an excellent person and she is loved and respected by all the people that love me because she made me! Not only did she grow me, but she also made the incredibly difficult choice of adoption. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to provide a safe and stable environment for me, she found a family that would and placed me in their care.
By the time I was in reunion with my birth mother, Birth Mother’s Day seemed obsolete in our situation. I was a grown-up, and I had the maturity to understand the situation of my adoption in its entirety. So, when I celebrate my adoptive mom, I celebrate my birth mom too. They don’t need a separate day of celebrating because they are equally as important to me. Even though I as an adoptee don’t see a need for Birth Mother’s Day, I don’t want to totally condemn it. I actually can totally understand its purpose, and respect it as a national holiday.
In the 90s, open adoption was on the upswing and was becoming the ideal adoption in the eyes of adoption agencies, birth parents, and adoptive families. With the internet becoming more accessible, multiple generations of adoptees speaking out, and the publishing of The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton-Verrier, open adoption was clearly becoming the healthiest choice for adoptees. With all that being said, I fully understand that not all adoption plans allow for an open adoption plan. Some examples of this would be international adoptions, long distances between adoptive families and birth families domestically, or foster-to-adopt situations where the child is removed from a dangerous situation.
However, as an adoptee, I strongly believe that all adoptions allow for open conversation about adoption. Children should feel comfortable approaching the topic of adoption with their adoptive families. It is not a shameful thing to be adopted, but a beautiful, complex, and wonderful way to create a family. So in a world where open adoption is the norm, Birth Mother’s Day has a place. Birth Mother’s Day allows adoptive families to honor their child’s birth mom individually. Whether your child is in an open adoption or not, you as the adoptive family can come together and celebrate your birth mom. To celebrate a birth mom is to celebrate the child placed in your care.
I do wish I would have been able to grow up celebrating Birth Mother’s Day because my birth mom deserves celebrating—and so does my adoptive mom! Once I knew I was adopted at the age of 8, my adoptive family never spoke poorly of my birth mom. She was always highly respected and spoken about in a loving way. My adoptive mother would regularly tell me that my birth mom was one of the most special and wonderful people she had ever known. I am extremely thankful that I grew up in a home where my mother understood the need to honor my birth mom. To honor her was to honor and respect me as an adoptee.
I am thankful to be in a healthy reunion with my birth mom as an adult. And although my adoptive parents made some mistakes, they never made the mistake of dishonoring my biological family. Now that I am in reunion with my birth mom, my adoptive mom is fantastic friends with her. I think they talk more regularly than she and I do! We have regular family get-togethers, my adoptive family, and my biological family, despite living several hours apart. It is a beautiful, and now open, adoption story.
Adoptive parents, this Birth Mother’s Day I encourage you to celebrate your child’s birth mom. Whether you can do it in person with her, or whether she is in a different country and you don’t even know her name. Give her the honor she deserves, and teach your child to do so also.
Adoptees, whether you know your birth mom or not, celebrate her this Birth Mother’s Day however is best for you. And birth moms, know that your children love you, whether or not you can be with them this year on Mother’s Day. You are loved, respected, and valued. Adoption is complex, and it comes with many emotions for the entire triad. Making the choice to place a child for adoption is no small task. I respect my birth mother for doing what she knew was best for me. She followed her motherly intuition and chose a wonderful family for me. I am blessed and grateful to have both my birth mom and my adoptive mom to celebrate this Mother’s Day.