Happy Birth Mother's Day

Happy Birth Mother's Day.

That's right. BIRTH mother's day. We hadn't heard of it before either. But the concept is an interesting one.

In 1990 a group of Seattle birth mothers decided to name the Saturday before Mother's Day as Birth Mother's Day. The intent was to acknowledge birth mothers in a healing and loving manner, and educate the public.

The sentiment behind Birth Mother's Day is a good one. I doubt we'll start seeing "Happy Birth Mother's Day" cards in Hallmark any time soon, but I do think a day to honor these women is warranted. Shouldn't we be celebrating the fact that they gave birth to a child and shared their gifts with us? I certainly want to celebrate them for that! I think these women deserve to know that somewhere out there adoptees and their adoptive families are honoring them for their sacrifice.

But the movement (if you can call it that) is also controversial. If we recognize Birth Mother's Day as separate from Mother's Day, aren't we challenging the definition of motherhood?

Are birth mothers less of a mother because they have not raised the children they gave birth to, and therefore not entitled to be honored on Mother's Day? This "othering" of birth mothers seems to say "you had a baby and were a mom, but since you gave away your child we don't consider you a "real" mom anymore."

If we follow the same convention that defines "birth mothers" as a separate group from "mothers", shouldn't we then also have an "Adoptive Mother's Day". Just because we didn't give birth to our children doesn't mean we are not mothers.

The fact is that adoptive children have several mommies. They have their tummy or birth mommy. And their adoptive mommy. And some even have foster mommies in between. We give names to all those mommies to help them understand the intricacies of their lives.

And because there are so many mommies involved in our children's history, many people are ambivalent  over who is the "real" mom is.

In a previous post, I shared that I was adopted at age 12. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked (both as a child and as an adult) "Is that your real dad?" What they are asking is, "is that your birth father?" (The fact that I'm a petite 4'11"and my dad is well over 6' is one of the reasons people probably wonder...)

By using the terms "birth parent" and "real" interchangeably, is seems that society considers the birth parent as the "real" parent. Of course it's a funny notion for a child to consider. I think of my father as my real father. He was there for me every day, teaching me life lessons and supporting me. It doesn't seem to get more real than that.

Perhaps people use the term "real" for lack of better terminology. I prefer calling the birth parents the first parents, but biological parent also does the trick.

To an adoptive family, implying that they are not real is certainly it's insensitive. And it's definitely uninformed.

So back to the mommy debate. Different names or not, we are absolutely ALL moms. The act of conception qualifies a woman as a mother. The act of giving birth certainly qualifies a woman as a mother. And the daily care, attention, and effort to raise that child is part of motherhood too. We've all played a very real, very necessary part in our child's existence in the world.

Every mom gives their children gifts--in our case the birth mother gave the child life, and the adoptive mother other gives them a lifetime. The two mothers are in a symbiotic relationship, uniquely and forever linked.

Bottom line is that every mother deserves to be honored for her role in a child's life. Whether she's celebrated on Mother's Day or on Birth Mother's Day doesn't really matter. I think it's kind of cool to have a day for both of them, honoring each of their unique contributions.

So, to all the "real" moms out there, Happy Birth Mother's Day, and Happy Mother's Day!

(credit: Dryicons.com)

1 comment:

  1. I think there is a difference because so often first mothers go through most of their life with their relinquishment being a secret. Unless they later have a child that they parent, society doesn't recognize them as mothers. Even their friends or close family might ignore the mother's day because they don't want to dredge up old memories, thus leaving the giant elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. I imagine Mother's Day would be a very lonely time for a first mother.

    However if you are an adoptive parent, your friends, family and society celebrate you and that part of your life on Mother's Day, just as they do any woman who is raising her children. At least that has been my experience.

    This has been one of my all time favorite posts on mother's day by a fellow blogger. Check it out at: http://ourlittletongginator.blogspot.com/2009/05/shadow-women.html


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