I remember exactly how I felt on the three Mother’s Days I spent with empty arms while we were either trying to get pregnant or awaiting the placement of our first child. One year I felt angry and bitter, the next year hollow and forgotten, and the following somewhat hopeful but still tender. On the day when I should be celebrated as a mother–something I so desperately wanted to be–women around me all shared cute drawings from their children, bouquets of flowers, and breakfasts in bed. Each time Mother’s Day rolled around, I felt like a little piece of me died.

Then, after our son was placed with us, my first Mother’s Day rolled around. I reveled in the day. My husband secretly worked with our 8-month-old to create an amazing art project. I woke up to a text from my son’s birth mother wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day and thanking me for the card I’d sent her. I sent her a note back, letting her know I was forever grateful to have the chance to celebrate this day, and that I would be thinking of her all day. I remember the guilt that settled on me throughout the day, and the futile attempts I made at brushing it away, and how that day was overcast by the grief I knew my son’s birth mom was feeling. I enjoyed that day and felt grateful for the little boy who had just started calling me “Mama,” but I knew there had to be a better way to celebrate the woman who had given him life.

Around six months later, someone mentioned Birth Mother’s Day in an adoption Facebook group I was a part of. I’d never heard of it before, and honestly I couldn’t figure out how I felt about it. Part of me wondered if it was a holiday made up by adoptive moms who didn’t want to share Mother’s Day, and part of me thought it was special for birth mothers to have a specific day to be celebrated for the sacrifices they’d made. After mulling it over, and discussing it with my son’s birth mom, we decided it was pretty awesome. It doesn’t mean I don’t send a note on Mother’s Day thanking my kids’ birth moms for choosing me so I could be celebrated by my children, but it means I have a special day set aside for their birth moms where we get to recognize them alone. They don’t have to share that day with me, and it’s a day when my kids can do something special for them so they are remembered and appreciated.

Birth Mother’s Day is celebrated in  many different ways, but I always like to make it something personal. Here are a few ideas:

1. Have a photo session—whether by you or a professional—where photos are taken especially for the birth parents. Have the kids hold up signs expressing their love. Print and/or frame and send in the mail with a note on the back that says “Don’t Open Until May 9—Birth Mother’s Day!”

2. Let your kids get creative, making a special Birth Mother’s Day card.

3. Get crafty! This is a good time for personalized mugs, handprint art, or other personal keepsakes.

4. Have the kids pitch in to make their birth mom’s favorite cookies. Create a care package to arrive on Birth Mother’s Day.

5. Use one of the many online services that can have canvases made, or even photo quilts!

6. Organize a long-overdue Skype call.

7. Send her favorite flowers along with a personal note expressing love from her child.

8.  Have a pizza unexpectedly delivered so she can get off her feet and take a break from the daily grind.

9. Send the first text she receives that day with a photo from her child making a heart with his/her hands and a special note.

10. Write a quick poem and send her a video of her child reciting it.

11. Create a Vine video of her child expressing her love in various different ways (hands held in a heart, holding up a sign, shouting “I love you,” etc.)

12. Share more ideas in the comments below!

Whatever it is, get your kids involved. Teach them they have two women in their lives who deserve to hear how loved they are, and help them follow through with it each year. There is no contest for Best Adoptive Mom, so don’t get overwhelmed with the idea. Simply reaching out and letting them know they’re remembered is a big step in some relationships, so wherever you are in your open adoptions, take a step. Do something special and then, on Mother’s Day, say “thank you” for the opportunity to be cherished on that day.

My favorite part is that Birth Mother’s Day is the day before Mother’s Day, coming “first,” as first mothers do. It helps me remember that before I could become a mother, another woman had that important title. She is never stripped of her title of “mom;” she shared a piece of her motherhood with me. Together, we’re whole.

Some adoptive mothers can feel especially threatened when Mother’s Day rolls around, but try to get yourself out of that headspace if you do. Tap into the deepest well of empathy you have. Think back to those days of empty arms and feeling like you’d been forgotten by the universe. Birth Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day may still be tender days for her, but there is space in the hollowness that you can fill with gestures that make her feel special and remembered. She’s the one who gave them life, and you’re the one who fills their life with experiences. You both fill their life with love. Together, you are motherhood.