In the early days of adoption, women were often sent away to stay at a maternity home to hide their pregnancies, have their babies and place them for adoption. This was usually under the guise of caring for an ailing aunt, attending a special school, or some other story. After giving birth, they were sent home never to speak of their children again. But they most certainly thought about them. Society was not kind to their pain. When I think of these women, I think of the song, “The Healing Has Begun,” by Matthew West, which begins, “You have carried the weight of your secret for way too long.” Thank goodness things have changed.
In the 1970s society began changing its view on adoption and birth mothers. By the 1990s, adoptions began to be “open” – where birth parents can choose, meet, and develop a relationship with the adoptive family – and today nearly all adoptions are open, and are only closed at the request of the birth parents. During the 1990s, the concept of Birth Mother’s Day began. The idea behind it was to shed the stigma and shame of the past and instead celebrate and honor the woman who gave the gift of life, and who gave that life to another to create a family. Most birth mothers have mixed feelings about the concept, but everyone is different. It can be awkward to be acknowledged as “birth mother,” yet still touching to know the adoptive family and adoptee are grateful for the gift given.
To me, mother is a verb – an action word – that involves daily actions such as feeding, clothing, nurturing, reading, talking, listening, bandaging boo-boos, and of course cleaning up! To me it means being there and doing all the things that as kids we usually take for granted. So as a birth mother myself, I don’t expect the same kind of attention given to “mothering” mothers. I don’t need flowers, or a card, or a homemade gift. Of course those things would be treasured, but all I ever wanted over the years as my child was growing up was to know that he was being mothered – fed, clothed, nurtured and loved. I wanted to know he was being read a bedtime story, tucked in at night, felt safe, and above all else, that he knew he was loved. I wanted to know that he was happy and healthy, and that when he came home after a bad day at school that his mom was there to listen to him when he needed to vent. I wanted to see pictures of him smiling, doing things he loved with people who loved him. My son was born during the days of closed adoptions, and there are no words to describe how intensely my heart ached to know these things and how I worried about how he might be doing. “Let go and let God,” had to become my mantra in order to find daily peace. There were some years his birthday fell on Mother’s Day. I wondered if he and his parents ever thought of me on that day. I most certainly thought of them – everyday. I still do. Not one day goes by that I don’t think about them.
I know that some people believe that birth mothers didn’t want their children and that was why they were adopted. Though that may be the case in very few situations, it is extremely rare. No one wants to bring a child into a difficult situation and struggle just to get by. Birth mothers who chose adoption want their children to have a good stable family life. They want their child to bond with their parents so they can become well adjusted adults and live happy and healthy lives. But it comes at the cost of not being able to do the daily loving and caring themselves and that can be so painful. But any birth mother who is in an open adoption can tell you, there is so much joy in knowing that their child has a happy, healthy, loving family. Some birth mothers in open adoption will say, “I’m so proud of them!” Truly, the greatest gift for birth mothers is the gift of open adoption.
So this mother’s day, honor your mothers. If you’re an adoptive parent, let the birth mother of your child know how they’re doing. Send a photo. And thank them for giving you the priceless gift of family. Happy Mother’s Day!
-submitted by Joyce Twite, Administrative Support Specialist, Adoption and Pregnancy Counseling