All those who have been touched by adoption recognize that the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday is a bittersweet day. It is a day we set aside to celebrate our mothers—their sacrifice, tenderness, and love. For many, it is a day of joyful reflection. But those who have traveled the path of adoption understand that great love also means great sacrifice. Adoptive mothers remember that they only experience the joy of motherhood because another mother chose her to parent her child. Birth mothers remember the day when in one moment, their decision was final and it changed everything.

Even if everyone is “happy” and life is moving forward beautifully, Mother’s Day weekend will hopefully cause all women involved in adoption to contemplate motherhood with great love and compassion. But possibly with great sadness too.

In the adoption community, women who have carried and nurtured a child in her womb, given birth, and then placed that baby for adoption, relinquishing all legal parental rights, is referred to as a birth mother. Nowadays, open adoption is common. The idea of a birth mother being completely shut out of her child’s life is not as much of a reality as it once was. However, even with an open adoption, where adoptive and birth families embrace one another, it would be expected that Mother’s Day—or Birth Mother’s Day, which is the day before Mother’s Day—could be a difficult day for many of these birth mothers who have experienced such pain and loss.

This year, digital billboards have been placed in cities throughout the nation. These billboards act as a digital Birth Mother’s Day card that states, “Adoption is a Brave Choice! Happy Birth Mother’s Day, birth mothers.” Over the past few weeks, people have been encouraged through social media to sign their names as a small outward expression of their love and support – a virtual hug. Those names are then brought up on the screen underneath the message.

Brave Love, the organization who created the billboard and urges people to sign the card, states that the purpose is to encourage birth mothers who may need it on such a bittersweet day. Thousands have taken the time to plug in their name as a way to express their gratitude and recognize the love that these women have. Thousands have signed this digital card with the same goal: to encourage birth mothers who may need it on a potentially difficult day.

Though Brave Love set out with good intentions, birth mothers have given mixed reviews.

Many birth mothers warmly received the billboards, feeling that encouragement and support that was intended. Brina Collins shared her thoughts by posting, “I love it! I think the support that people are showing is fantastic!” Another shared her feelings by sharing, “I actually love it. I think the decision I made was brave. Use whatever positive synonym you want to describe it. But I support Brave Love and their efforts to shed a more positive light on adoption.”

If these positive reactions were on one end of the spectrum, there were definitely reactions on the far opposite side. Marilee Hicks was shocked and pained by the billboard. She shares the heartache that the billboards caused her and some of her fellow birth mother friends. “To the makers of these billboards, you missed the mark.” She explains, revealing the painful side of adoption. “Saying that birth mothers are heroes is a blanket term that erases the ability to feel pain and grief. Isn’t a hero supposed to be strong no matter what? […] Heroes keep it together and move forward. Birth mothers grieve. Birth mothers feel pain and are allowed to question their decisions. Birth mothers should be able to celebrate on Mother’s Day if they would like to […] I am focusing my energy on warning my birth mother friends in other cities who will have to see this. Three of my friends have already cried today because of these. I wish someone could have warned them sooner.”

And then, there are those who have conflicted feelings about the billboards. One birth mother shares her own mixed feelings. “I wish the billboard had been written differently. I like the sentiment behind wishing birth mothers a happy Mother’s Day. But I think the statement that adoption is brave implies that it is cowardly to choose to parent, and that’s what bothers me.”

Alysia Foote also comments with her mixed emotions by saying, “I am not sure if I am the biggest fan of the actual idea of them [the billboards] but I do love that adoption is becoming more a part of society and not hidden anymore. It’s less of a stigma and skeleton in the family closet. Although I do not think telling a birth mom, ‘Hey! Thanks!’ on a giant billboard is appropriate, I totally love that Brave Love is helping us show the world that adoption is amazing and we should all honor these ladies during their hardest times.”

So where do you stand? How do you feel about billboards being displayed to send a message to birth mothers? Is the message “Adoption is a Brave Choice! Happy Birth Mother’s Day,” with names of those who have signed, appropriate? Or is it hurtful? Help us all become more informed and leave a comment with your thoughts.