Dear Birth Mother on Mother’s Day Weekend:
This weekend will be hard. Mother’s Day is always hard. There’s just no “amazingly awesome way!” to really celebrate the life you gave to the world: the child who is here because of you but isn’t here with you. It’s not really our day, but….it is. This otherness is such a weird place. I know….I live it.
If this is your first weekend of Mother’s Day as a birth mother, this will be ridiculously difficult.
If you’ve done this whole Mother’s Day weekend for a decade, or what feels like a lifetime, this will be ridiculously difficult. If you have other children at home that call you mom, this will be ridiculously difficult.
It’s worse when people don’t acknowledge it, isn’t it? They think if they don’t mention the child you don’t have, it will somehow make it easier on you. They think they’re helping because they don’t want to add pain to your pain.
They don’t get it…
….that the not acknowledging,
…the not asking,
…the not even a “thinking of you today” text,
…the utter silence.
The silence is the worst of it.
Silence is what we often get.
Sometimes, it’s silence from those we love most.
Silence from the adoptive families cuts the deepest.
Silence screams to us “You are not worthy. You never were. And especially not today.”
It’s their silence, not yours.
What’s important to (try to) remember is their silence is a reflection on their own insecurities.
Their silence is their own inability to be vulnerable.
Their silence is on them. Not on you.
Would it kill the world to just freaking acknowledge that, no matter what, you brought life into this world, and THAT DECISION MATTERS.
Because it matters.
It matters to the child you brought into the world.
It matters to anyone (including you!) who loves him or her or cares about your child.
Your choices, your decisions, they matter in this world.
They matter because YOU matter.
And some—the really good ones, the ‘others’—will not be silent.
The really good ones send the text that says, “Thinking of you today.”
The really good ones show up in whatever way they can.
The really good ones do that tiny small thing that makes all the difference.
Say thank you.
Send back an emoji.
You can say, “Thank you for thinking of me. Today is hard; I will respond more in a day or two, but know this mattered.”
But acknowledge their effort because you need these good people in your corner.
But, it doesn’t help.
They don’t get it.
They can’t get it.
They may be able to relate…and they’ll try.
They may have experienced a loss while pregnant.
They may have lost a living child—one they got to parent.
They can empathize.
And…this…this attempt, this attempt is better than “I won’t try to get it” because they ARE trying.
But…they don’t get it.
It’s not their fault.
They can’t get it because they haven’t had this experience.
But they reach out, even though they haven’t had the experience.
And we need to give the really good ones that aren’t silent a LOT of grace.
Because they’re being vulnerable, reaching out to you.
They worry before sending that text “Will it hurt her if I ask how she is doing?”
They wonder “Does she even celebrate today?”
They wonder “What if I make it worse?”
But they reach out anyway.
Despite their fears.
Those are the good ones.
Acknowledge the good ones.
Acknowledge the good ones.
Because even though they can’t relate, they are in your corner.
Because not everyone is.
I know the hurtful things people say.
I won’t even repeat them here because I don’t want to add more pain onto today…
…but I know how much the pain of their words hurts.
How deeply it cuts.
How many times those hateful words loop in your head.
Telling you how to grieve.
Telling you, you should stop grieving.
Always in the back of our minds.
They’re not the good ones.
I’d tell you to not listen to them.
Sticks and stones, you know…
…but words hurt,
and words replay.
THOSE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE.
Not for this.
But there ARE people for you.
There are so many of us.
Those of us that have had the experience?
We are with you.
There are thousands of us.
OF BIRTH MOMS
ALL OVER THE WORLD.
I am one of them.
I’m just one, but I am not the only one.
I see you this weekend.
I see your heartache.
I feel your heartache.
I feel it now as I write.
The collective grief of the over 100+ birth moms I know personally.
The collective grief of the over 1,000+ birth moms in the online support groups I’m in.
The collective grief of the thousands of birth moms all over the world.
You are a mother and not a mother at the same time.
It’s this weird place where you’re a mother, but you’re not a mommy.
Not to that child.
Maybe you are a mommy to others.
Maybe you aren’t.
But I can tell you,
You are a mother.
Because mothers give life.
They give their children families.
They make good choices for their children.
They make the best choice possible for their children during the time they are their legal parent.
Whether that is 3 days or 18 years.
A mother does the best she can every moment she is her child’s parent.
That makes you a mother.
There is no more or less “mother.”
Whether or not you have contact with your child(ren) does not make you more or less of a mother. Whether you continue to parent or not does not make you more or less of a mother.
You are a mother.
Motherhood does NOT define a woman’s worth.
I am going to say that again: Motherhood does not define a woman’s worth in this world.
I want you to say that to yourself in a mirror: Motherhood DOES NOT define a woman’s worth.
You are a woman first.
Yes, you are a mother, one that does not have her child to parent.
But it doesn’t have to define you.
What does define you is womanhood.
Women are strong.
Women are resilient.
Women are relentless in the pursuit of what they know is best.
Your choice to parent does not define your worthiness of being a HUMAN.
We are all human.
We make choices.
Sometimes, they’re good.
Sometimes, they’re bad.
Some of them people get.
Some of them people don’t.
We are human.
We all grieve.
We all love.
Because humans grieve and humans love, you can’t have one without the other.
You can’t have the love for your child that spills out into your soul without grieving the loss of that child. It’s not humanly possible.
You can’t have the light without the darkness.
And the darkness,
And it can and probably will suck you down into the depths of despair.
This pit of grief.
This hole of grief that feels never-ending.
You look up, and you can barely even see the sky you’re down so far.
It’s okay to live there for a little bit, especially this first one.
It’s your timeline.
It feels safe.
It’s your space, afterall.
you will want to climb out.
(Don’t forget it’s okay to ask for help.)
And there’s no timeline for what that looks like.
That pit is there, and everyone has one.
That pit is a destination for everyone, regardless of the type of pain.
You want this pit to be a place you visit when you need it.
The pit should be a destination, not your home.
You don’t want to live here forever.
That pit feels safe.
I get it.
It’s full of things that make us appear to feel better.
The rest of the world doesn’t exist.
Sometimes, that pit has things in it that make us FEEL happy.
Pints of ice cream.
Anger to keep others away.
So many walls.
When that pit looks like that, that pit is not safe.
It is armor.
When I’m in my pit, I’m numb.
I don’t have to feel the good or bad.
I feel nothing.
No feelings are safe.
You don’t have to feel.
But it’s not.
It’s made-up of darkness.
There is no light.
Your love for your child deserves the light of the universe.
It’s not one or the other.
You can’t choose the light and avoid the darkness.
And you can’t choose the darkness and avoid the light.
There will be grief.
There will be pain.
It never will go away.
It ebbs and flows.
But there is love.
And there is joy.
And that will never go away either.
And it ebbs and flows.
Light AND darkness.
“And” is such a powerful word.
You can be two things at once.
Did you know that?
Love your child you placed for adoption AND grieve the loss of that child.
Love your child’s adoptive mother AND desperately wish you had been able to be your child’s mother, AND know that your child’s adoptive mother is the best thing to happen to your child AND know you were the best person to bring your child into this world.
Love the openness of your adoption AND think sometimes it’s too much for you.
Love who you have grown to become AND think the fact that you don’t get the openness you were promised or deserved is wrong.
Love the decision you made AND be frustrated by the lack of acceptance and the amount of stigma there is in this world.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve this weekend, or any other day.
There is no timeline for your grief.
Find the people that love you for the new life you lead.
It does get better.
You get stronger.
This too, will pass.
You are worthy.
You are enough.
You are a mother.
You are a woman.
You are loved!
Birth mothers all over the world
and especially this birth mother, who cares about you very, very, very much.
Advice from other birth moms for birth moms on Birth Mother’s and Mother’s Day:
The Saturday before Mother’s Day is considered Birth Mother’s Day. There are Birth Mother’s Day activities and ceremonies all over the country.
From other birth mothers:
Lauren: “Birth Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate my choice and my growth since making it. Mother’s Day is the day I celebrate being a mother.”
Christy: “Birth Mother’s Day I celebrate the life I gave in having some type of pampering for myself. Mother’s Day for me is much harder. I grieve the loss of being a parent.”
Gina: “Birth Mother’s Day sometimes brings bittersweet emotions, so I like to reach out to my birth mother tribe. Share memories or stories with them. I celebrate our bond and our courage. I am so grateful to have women in my life that I’ve formed incredible bonds with through our process. We are #birthmomstrong.”
Lyn: “I don’t celebrate/honor Birth Mother’s Day at all. To me, relinquishing my firstborn is nothing to celebrate. I do not have a relationship with my mother, so for the last decade or so, Mother’s Day is a day to honor and celebrate the amazing children who call me MOM.”
Advice from other birth moms for a birth mother’s first Mother’s Day:
Alycea: “On Mother’s Day, avoid restaurants where you’ll be surrounded by mothers celebrating with their children. Plan something quiet with someone compassionate, even if that’s just yourself.”
Elizabeth: “Schedule a video chat for that day. Sign up to receive a card. There is an organization that sends them to birth moms each year. Schedule time alone to process. Definitely low key. The first two Mother’s Day weekends I felt paralyzed and didn’t want to go anywhere.”
Erin: “Schedule a chat if possible. Remember it’s okay to hurt and make sure you show yourself compassion and forgiveness. There is no ‘right’ way to heal from adoption. You are stronger than you might think.”
Allie: “It’s okay to hate both days. Don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want or to feel happy about the ‘recognition.’ Not all adoptions are the same, and you are allowed to feel how you feel.”
Megan: “For your very first Mother’s Day, if you usually go to a church that has mothers stand for recognition, I’d plan on not attending service. Every year, Mother’s Day is difficult, but that first year, I really just didn’t know what to do.”
Jessie: “I would say to avoid making any hard commitments that weekend/day. Churches and other special Mother’s Day ceremonies can be triggering. If possible, try letting family members know you are going to be taking it easy that weekend. Expect to feel all the range of emotions and don’t just push them aside. It can be a difficult weekend, but if you allow yourself to feel and process your emotions, it can be therapeutic. Do something special for yourself. Whether that be eating at your favorite restaurant or putting on a dress and doing your hair and makeup just for yourself, it’s important to take time out for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for potentially feeling low and know you are not alone in this.”
Jenna: “It will be a confusing time. Biologically, you are a mother, but you aren’t raising your child. So you may feel like you aren’t entitled to celebrate Mother’s Day for yourself. Your family can complicate this. I know for myself, everyone in my family wishes me a happy Mother’s Day. Everyone except my own mom. My son is 11 now. She always asks about him and comments on pictures his mom posts to FB (we are all friends with the adoptive parents), but she still doesn’t acknowledge that I am a mom. You choosing to [place your child] so [she or he] can have a better life does not take away or lessen your nine months of pregnancy [or] the hours you put into giving birth. No one can take any of that from you. So whether you hate the day, love it, celebrate it, or don’t, always remember this: you ARE a mother, and it is your right to choose from any of the above, or all, or none.”
Carolyn: “My son was born in January, 1984. I remember sitting in church on Mother’s Day a couple months later. The church offered every mother a daffodil. It was obvious those flowers were for mothers in the audience with children beside them. I didn’t have mine, so I didn’t go get a flower…..I felt so sad and confused. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was. My own mother sitting next to me didn’t say or do anything to encourage or comfort me…..It was a very sad day. My advice to birth mothers approaching their first Mother’s Day without their baby, don’t go anywhere where moms and motherhood is being celebrated. It will make you feel unwelcome and cause a lot of anxiety, probably shame and guilt……I didn’t consider myself a mother until my second son was born ten years later. It took a long time to accept that I was a mother because society doesn’t recognize us as moms unless we are actually raising a child.”
Kay: “I will never forget that first one just a few months after giving birth to my son. It was also my birthday. This was 1975, so closed adoption, everything secret. Only my parents and brother and sister knew. After the big celebratory lunch, my mom asked who was washing dishes and my sister said, “Kay because she is the only one who isn’t a mother!” I knew by the look of horror on her face that she didn’t think before she said it, but I will never forget it……My advice is to do something special for yourself and avoid places that celebrate motherhood unless you are prepared to discuss your circumstances.”
Rebeccah: “Celebrate quietly with a person who can be caring and empathetic to your needs. It’s a roller coaster….Remember YOU ARE A MOTHER! … YOU ARE A MOTHER who made one of the HARDEST AND BEST CHOICES IN YOU AND YOUR CHILD’S LIVES! LOVE AND HONOR YOURSELF, your decision, and your child’s life on this day. Eat whatever you want, cry as much as you need, scream as much as you need to, and thank GOD for watching over you both! Have a blessed and beautiful day.”
MariBeth: “I would let her know that EVERY Mother’s Day is forever changed. Not just the FIRST one. We don’t get over it like we’re told we do.”
Alix: “I don’t think anything could have prepared me for my first Birth Mother’s/Mother’s Day. But I would advise creating a tradition to celebrate, either in private or other. It can help create a sense of value as a mother, but also ease the pain.”