It’s a “tricky conundrum,” says Ryan Jon in his social media video addressed to his biological mother in recognition of Mother’s Day. The annual reminder to honor, celebrate, and appreciate the women who raised us is often times countered with an emotionally complex tsunami of loss, pain and sense of isolation. A bittersweet holiday, Mother’s Day is one in which I celebrate not only my own mother, but also recognize and honor other women and children who experience this day in extraordinary ways. So this year, I decided to ask women who have been touched by adoption to share what Mother’s Day means to them.
“When I started this journey it was weird but so normal at the same time,” R.F. explains. “We were in the room when she was born… Most of the time I actually forget that I did not give birth to her, it almost feels like I did. I have never ever had any thoughts that she does not think of me as her mother because I am her mother.”
Some women may feel complete clarity in their role and what Mother’s Day means to them, yet others may experience a more ambiguous significance. “I make the conscious effort to put aside any pain that might come,” writes a biological mother. She explains how she celebrates Mother’s Day alongside her daughter and her daughter’s adoptive mother and in doing so, “celebrates the shared motherhood that has two very different meanings.”
Whereas some are able to embrace the holiday in it’s complicated forms, others may prefer to avoid it altogether. Another biological mother, K.M. expresses, “I have never particularly cared for Mother’s Day.” She goes on to say, “Even though I have a relationship with my birth daughter and I love her very much, I have always recognized that she has a Mom (capital M) who raised her, nurtured her, taught her and loved her into adulthood.”
Families who have chosen adoption also recognize the contrast of joy and loss Mother’s Day can bring. “To be honest, Mothers Day is a weird day for me,” C.G. states. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget I never gave birth to my children. Adoption has an interesting way of blurring the lines…. The reality is, they had an entire life before I walked into their lives, scooped them up and never let go. They have China mamas somewhere out there who I thank each and every day for bringing these precious beings into my life. Parenting through adoption is riddled with loss, but it is also filled with the ultimate joy: the gift of creating a family by choice and love.”
The meaning of Mother’s Day can also change over time as E.B. explains. “As an adopted child, I never really even thought twice about who this day was for—it was for my mom that raised me. It was clear and simple. However, as I grew older and I reconnected with my birth mother, it also became a celebration of her. The day became even more complex when my mom died very close to Mother’s Day. So this day is also a time of remembrance and grieving. Although I have no conflicting feelings about who my mother is, it has been a powerful and important journey for me to reconnect with my birth mother and her family and I celebrate both women on this day.”
Of the dozen women who shared their thoughts and perspectives on Mother’s Day, biological mothers, adoptive mothers or children who had been adopted all shared one consistent theme… Gratitude! M.J. writes, “For me Mother’s Day is all about gratitude. I am grateful that my son wanted to know who his biological parents were and took the risk… I am grateful that he forgave me which helped ease the guilt I felt for so many years. I am grateful that (his mother) was able to do what I could not. I am grateful that the hole in my heart that felt so empty for so long is now filled.”
Whether Mother’s Day is a time for celebration, remembering, grieving, healing, or some combination thereof, it offers an opportunity. Take a moment to pause and reflect, and whether it means letting go or drawing near, saying thank you, I’m sorry or I forgive you, embrace the “tricky conundrum” of this day in your own unique and beautiful way.