Few holidays stir our community’s mixed emotions like Mother’s Day does. Our friends who are struggling with infertility are longing for motherhood. The increased media coverage, like sappy television ads and memes galore, can trigger all the feelings. If that is you, then please be kind to yourself these next few weeks. We are holding you in our hearts right now.

For those in the adoption and foster community, Mother’s Day often serves as a sharper-than-normal reminder of the reality that our kids have two mothers. Talking through those thoughts and feelings can be challenging to parse through for our kids and us. If that is you, please be kind to yourself these next few weeks, as well.

Holding Space For Birth Mothers

Not even a whole generation ago, most adoptive parents were told that once an adoption was finalized, the only mom that mattered was the one raising this child. Thankfully, we’ve grown as a culture, and we know this to be untrue. Our kids’ birth or first mothers matter a whole lot – to our kids and to us.

Several years ago, we received some thoughts from a birth mother on her feelings around Mother’s Day and what matters to her. We’re sharing her words here, with her permission, to hold space for the birth mothers in our lives in these days leading up to the Mother’s Day holiday.

Who Are Birth Mothers?

Mother’s Day. It’s a wonderful day to celebrate moms and the sacrifices they make for their children. But it’s also a “loaded day” because there is a group of mothers who are often overlooked by society and adoptive families. We are birth mothers.

We are a strong group of women who have also sacrificed our hopes and dreams for our child. No one told us how difficult celebrations would be throughout the year, including this day that celebrates the definition and acts of motherhood – sacrifice and unconditional love.

Often, birth mothers are left to celebrate the holiday without gifts, homemade cards, photos, art-class creations crafted with messy hands, or …you get the idea. We often have to celebrate silently or alone because many view us as “not mothers.” Our status is not considered to be worthy of recognition. But we are worthy. We are not called birth women. We are called birth mothers, and we deserve to be celebrated during this wonderful holiday to honor motherhood.

Birth Mothers Honoring Their Motherhood

Let us stand together on this Mother’s Day and show our support to each other. We are still mothers – we just mother in a different way now. I will be wearing baby blue nail polish in recognition of my worthiness as a mother. I hope other birth mothers will wear baby blue or baby pink on Sunday to honor their worthiness as mothers, too.

This is not about being pro- or anti-adoption. Nor is this about what you choose to call yourself (birth mother, first mother, or natural mother). This isn’t even about whether you were coerced to place your child or you willingly did so. Honoring yourself and other birth mothers is about celebrating together the role we play as mothers.

Thank you, JY, for sharing your thoughts about honoring birth mothers.


What Do Birth Mothers Want on Mother’s Day?

Occasionally, when we talk with first moms in our online support group we hear about issues like how they wish Mother’s Day would be acknowledged for them. It’s hard to make generalizations about any group of people. However, if we had to summarize what we hear from the first mothers in our community, it’s that most simply wish to be recognized.

Recognize Her Motherhood

One birth mom in our community suggested the idea to name a star in recognition of the child’s birth mom.

Kind of like every time you look at the sky, you remember the birth mother, and the birth mother remembers the journey.

Several adoptive moms mentioned that they make a point to call their child’s first mom on Mother’s Day to wish them a happy Mother’s Day, and the first moms wished them one back. That’s a lovely kind of symmetry to forge with your child’s birth mother – a recognition that you are both mothers who deserve a happy day.

Another lovely idea is to plant a tree or a flowering perennial in your garden with your child in honor of her birth mom. For adoptive families who don’t have an opportunity to build a relationship with the birth mother, this can still be a wonderful tribute to the role your child’s first mom plays in your life together.

Tell Her She Matters

There are as many different ways that birth mothers would like to be recognized as there are birth moms. But you can’t go wrong with a video call, a homemade card with messy handprints and misspelled words, or a short recording of your kid sending sticky kisses through the phone. You still have a few days to make your plan and tell your child’s birth mother that you value her role in your family’s life.

Originally published in 2015; Updated and edited for re-publish in 2021

Image Credits: Tyler Neinhouse; Leonardo Angelini; Gracie and Viv; Erik Drost