Birthmother's Day: Separate and Not Equal but Maybe Okay
Tomorrow is Mother's Day. That means today -- the day before Mother's Day -- is Birthmother's Day. Started in 1990 by a group of birthmothers in Seattle, it is a day set aside to honor the love, sacrifice and loss that mothers who relinquish their children for adoption feel and experience.
As a birth mother, I should love this day. The truth is that I don't quite know how I feel about this day. My knee-jerk reaction is that it feels awfully similar to Mistress Day which is the day before Valentine's Day. We don't want to taint up Mother's Day with those women who aren't really mothers, now do we? Then I remind myself that was not the original intent, but the hurt still lingers.
Over the years, I've had a series of visceral and varying reactions to the separate day. The first year after I relinquished my daughter, I wanted to embrace the day. However, it came and went and, as society isn't familiar with the day, no one said a word and I vowed to hate the day forever. I did for a few years, demanding that I be respected for my motherhood on Mother's Day. Only. Damn it. Then I got kind of ambivalent, recognizing that some birth mothers really prefer the day and who was I to rain on their parade... but I still didn't claim it for myself. This year? I've fallen into a beautiful local birthparent group and will be attending a Birthmother's Day ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio today. I'm participating for the community aspect -- the recognition that I'm not alone in all of this even though I don't like the day all that much. And that's where I am with it now... this year. Don't ask me yet about next year. If I've learned anything about adoption in the past eight years, it's that there is an ever changing wave of emotion, an ebb and flow of this tide. I appreciate it for what it is to me this year: Community.
But community -- however awesome -- can't erase some of the realities of today for me. I miss my daughter more than words will ever be able to explain; to the depths of my core and beyond. Parenting post-placement has been extremely difficult at times, especially in the wake of our last visit as our oldest son is trying to fenangle a way for all of us (down to grandparents and my husband's fire department) to move to my daughter's city. As much as I love who I am, the fact remains that I hold a bit of self-hate for the choices and non-choices that lead me to place my firstborn for adoption. To smack the word "happy" onto today seems off for me. I have joy that I have such an amazing relationship with my daughter and her family, but today -- like her birthday, like tomorrow -- is not happy. Today is hard.
As my own thoughts continue to vary every year (or, you know, by paragraph) on the subject, so do the thoughts of other birth mothers (and adoptive mothers) on the blogosphere.
Monika at Monika's Musings attended one of the most well known Birthmother's Day events held by Birthmom Buds last weekend. She enjoyed the day and took the time to share her thoughts on the day itself.
That brings me to my second thought. This whole past weekend was based on the fact that Birthmother's Day is this coming Saturday, the day before Mother's Day. While I appreciate the thought, I'd rather T & C thought about me and honored me with their thoughts and actions the whole year through, and not just on Birthmother's Day. I'd like to think that Birthmother's Day is just for birthmothers to honor ourselves. If I'm going to receive a card or whatever from T&C, I'd rather get a Mother's Day card instead of a Birthmother's Day card. Because I AM Mackenzie's mother.
Wendy Blackwell at Living Waters shared a poignant post about her blessings in life and her thoughts about birthmotherhood and the day itself.
Just days after my first daughter was born (and placed with her adoptive parents) I laid in my bed. Hands on my deflated belly and cried myself to sleep. I didn't want to hear how noble my sacrifice was or how I did the right thing...I wanted to know if I'd ever stop crying. If life would ever feel normal again. If my deflated belly would ever not remind me of pregnancy, baby kicks, the sound of a newborn's cry, and just how empty my arms and heart are.
And truthfully, I am very much that same young woman....one day a year. 364 days a year I live a life full of laughter, princesses, army men, dogs, homeschooling, and love! I wouldn't trade it for anything else, but that doesn't mean I don't know what I am missing. Birthmother's Day echoes the emptiness my choices left me with.
Brandy at Our Life in the Desert wrote about the room that Mother's Day has for all and how she deserves to be included, not separated.
If Mother’s Day is good enough for Step Mothers, Grand Mothers and Foster Mothers – it’s good enough for First Mothers too.
I reject your label and your special holiday.
I am a mother. It is that simple. If you have a problem with that, you should deal with that yourself and stop trying to change my view of who I am and the role I play in this world.
If you are a birth mother, I hope that however you feel about today, you are able to find some joy and peace in this weekend. This weekend may be hard, but you are not alone.
Update: The event was emotional and overwhelming, but finally helped me make sense of the day itself. I wrote about it at Chronicles.