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Birthmother's Day

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What is Birthmother's Day?

Birth Mother's Day is a day to honor and remember the motherhood experience of birth mothers, the women who lost/placed their children in adoption. It is held on the second Saturday in May and observed with a public ceremony.

Birth Mother's Day was created in 1990 by a group of Seattle Washington birth mothers who met each other at a birth parent support group. It grew out of the shared recognition that Mother's Day is one of the most painful days of the year- second only to the birthday of our missing children. Yet birth mothers have been shut out of the traditional celebration and remembrances of the holiday. Most birth mothers are neither named nor recognized among the mothers in our midst. For most birth mothers there are no cards or flowers. Society treats the motherhood of the birth mother as a momentary event that fades quickly from the collective memory. It often seems we are even forgotten by those who received the gift and the privilege of parenthood through the birth mother's loss. This invisibility and silence gives adopted children and adults the message they are forgotten by their birth mothers and that, they too, have no place for expressing their feelings, thoughts or questions about the woman who gave the gift of life.

Most people are simply unaware that for the rest of their lives, many birth mothers feel sorrow, and love, for the children they have lost through adoption. This is partly because there has never been place or a way for birth mothers to tell their stories. Our pain has been made invisible by a society that tells us we can forget. Without permission to grieve by those around us, we have lived in isolation and silence with a great wound upon our hearts and souls. We have lived with the unspeakable sorrow of a mother's loss, a mother who lives separated from her child.

Despite this invisibility, and denial, birth mothers are mothers. We are not egg donors, or baby making machines. We have names and faces, hearts and stories. The process of pregnancy and the act of birth are profound life-changing experiences. The birth experience impacts a woman for the rest of her life. Connections of heart, spirit, and biology are forged. Eternal connections are made that cannot be dissolved by ink and paper. When birth is followed by the abrupt loss/separation from one's child, a mother is plunged into the most difficult of human experiences- grief, loss, despair, shame, and failure. This is the traumatic aftermath of an adoption decision for a birth mother. It is with her the rest of her life. Some birth mothers ultimately find peace with the adoption decision, but even more live with it as an open wound. It is a wound for which little understanding or help has come from those who advocate, facilitate and profit from adoption

Mother's Day brings a birth mother's feelings and memories rushing forward like the tide. Most of us have endured this annual event in isolation, invisibility, silence and secret grief, acknowledging our motherhood and our absent child only to ourselves. Birth Mother's Day was created to help birth mothers move through this torrent of memory and feeling. It is a way to take back our rightful name of Mother and to celebrate ourselves as birth givers- the ones who give life. It is a way to expand the celebration of Mother's Day to make it inclusive of all the mothers in our communities. It is a day to remember and to celebrate the birth of our children- an experience many of us were denied. In doing this we affirm our connection and feeling for our children. We create a space to tell our stories and become fully human again- with names, faces, voices and compassion for ourselves and our experiences.

Birth Mother's Day is held on the day before Mother's Day. There are several reasons for this. The first of these recognizes our motherhood is one of loss and abrupt separation, as well as love and connection. Many of us were denied as mothers, treated like criminals, abandoned by our families, our communities and our children's fathers. These are not the traditional experiences or sentiments associated with the Mother's Day observances, yet these remembrances are summoned forth each year at this time. A separate day allows all of the feelings to be acknowledged, especially those that are painful and rooted in grief. Birth mothers who have had other children expressed feeling torn between the Mother's Day celebrations of the children they are raising and the memory of the child who is absent. A separate day allows for observance and expression of both circumstances.

Secondly our motherhood comes first and makes possible the motherhood of another woman- the adoptive mother. If we had not given birth, there would be no child for the adoptive mother (and father) to parent. Observing Birth Mother's Day on the Saturday prior to Mother's day symbolically represents this reality. Adopted children have two mothers. Our shared child links us one to one another. The intention is not to detract from those who are parenting our children, but to make this annual observance inclusive of all the mothers in the lives of our children and our communities. Observing Birth Mother's Day could also create a time for families of adopted children to talk openly about birth families and the ways we are all connected to one another through our children.

Mother's Day was originally founded by Julia Ward Howe, as a day for peace, in which the mothers of the world would commit themselves to peace by not allowing their children to kill another mother's child in war. This commitment was based on the shared understanding of a mother's love and the terrible grief of losing a child. In recognizing the love and the sorrow of birthmothers, Birth Mother's Day can be seen as an act of peace- making and healing. It stands in contrast to an adoption system that has been built upon the destruction of the birth family relationship, a destruction with consequences for the adoptive family as well. Truth cannot be whole without all its parts. People cannot be whole without all the people who love them. In our events in Seattle, birth mothers have attended with the adoptive mothers of their shared children, and adoptive mothers and fathers have attended on behalf of their adopted children as well. By honoring the humanity of the birth mother and acknowledging the relationships between all of us, Birth Mother's day is a radical affirmation of the meaning of family and the way of peace making for our communities.

This excerpt is from A Birth Mother's Day Planner by Mary Jean Wolch Marsh. It can be purchased for $15.00 plus $3 shipping through R - Squared Press 721 Hawthorne Ave., Royal Oak, MI 48067-3621 USA Phone/Fax: 248-543-0997