Birth Mother's Day

There are an estimated 6 million adoptees in the US alone– plus the millions elsewhere around the world– and we’ve each got two mothers: the one who parented and the one who gave birth. In our extended and blended families, Mother’s Day can also include foster mothers, stepmothers, and other caregivers with whom we have a mother-child relationship.

Mother’s Day, celebrated since the days of Ancient Greece, is observed on the second Sunday of May. And ever since 1990 when it was first celebrated in Seattle, Birth Mother’s Day (or First Mother’s Day) has been observed on the Saturday before Mother’s Day as a day for women whose children have been placed for adoption to acknowledge the experience and support each other.

How it Began

Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh first conceived the idea as a result of her own adoption experience. She knew she was a mother but didn’t feel recognized as such by those around her or by her daughter’s parents. Remembering the feelings she’d experienced at her daughter’s birth– feelings of triumph and euphoria- helped her in her own healing.

May Birth Mother’s Day bring acknowledgement and recognition to every birth mother who ever loved a child lost to adoption. May it honor and celebrate every mother who became childless after birthing a child, and was forgotten on Mother’s Day. – Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh

For birth mothers, the observance can be a time to affirm joys and acknowledge the sorrow, grief, and pain that are a part of many experiences. It can also be a time to break the silence and release years of anguish, worry, shame, or guilt. The purpose of Marsh’s Birth Mother’s Day ceremony is insight, affirmation, growth, and wisdom.

Recognizing Birth Mothers

Whether you choose to recognize your own, others’, or all birth mothers on Mother’s Day and/or Birth Mother’s Day, there are many different ways to do so:

While I use the phrase “birth mother” here since it seems to be generally understood as referring to a woman who gave birth to a child placed for adoption, many women prefer other words or phrases. A simple way to honor these women is to use the word or term they choose for themselves.

Many adoptees in open adoptions and adoptees who have reconnected with their birth mothers celebrate in personal ways: together as birth and adoptive families, separately with the exchange of cards or gifts, or as part of both Birth Mother’s Day Ceremonies and traditional Mother’s Day events.

Many celebrate just the one day, Mother’s Day, without making a distinction. Adoptees, their adoptive mothers, and birth mothers who have not reconnected can also share in ceremonies to honor and remember the birth mother experience and the gift of life.


Attend One. Birth Mother’s Day ceremonies may be organized by support groups, adoption agencies, and other local groups.

Create One. You also have the option of planning a ceremony of your own. Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh has written a comprehensive Birth Mother’s Day Planner to help organize an event, large or small.

Cards, Gifts, Activities

If attending or organizing a ceremony is not your choice, there are other ways to honor birth mothers:

Write a poem or letter. A personal expression of your feelings will always be appreciated. If you have not reconnected, save what you write for a future time.

Send a card. There are many cards specially made for the occasion.

Give a piece of birth mother jewelry. Select something unique, using a birthstone or anniversary marker as a place to start. Send flowers. On our first Mother’s Day after reunion, my birth mom actually sent me flowers– Forget-Me-Nots. Plan to get together.

AUTHOR / Nancy Ashe