Q: Do you have any suggestions on ways for our family to celebrate our sons birth mother on Mother’s Day?
Birthmother’s day, traditionally the Saturday before Mother’s Day, started in 1990. Some adoptive families like to dedicate this day to the first mother, while others like to celebrate both adoptive mothers and birthmothers on Mother’s Day. Truly, whatever works best for your family is probably the right answer, but recognizing the birthmother during the weekend will be beneficial to your child emotionally and the parent-child relationship.
For many children adopted internationally, the birthmother represents not just the loss of that original parent-child relationship but also the loss of country, culture, language, and so much more. Honoring the first mother can be one way for parents to communicate total acceptance of the child and all of his or her feelings. While there is a lot of information and many ideas online about honoring birthmothers in domestic adoption, it can be more difficult in an international adoption where you may have no information at all about the first parents and no way to send gifts or cards. Obviously if you have an open adoption, cards, flowers, jewelry (like this special gift from On Your Feet Foundation) and any other gift specific to the recipient can be delivered.
1) When you are not able to deliver items to the birth mother, you can focus on symbolism or on what the child needs to express to the birthmother. The child can make a card, draw a picture, or write a letter which can be possibly read out loud and symbolically delivered to the birth mom via helium balloon or burning the letter and letting the ashes float into the sky. At certain stages of development, this will play into the child-appropriate “magical thinking”, allowing a child to feel a real connection. If you live near water, you could also let the letter float away.
2) Rather than trying to symbolically deliver a card, the child may prefer to bury it or to save them all in a special box or album. While some children may want to keep the relationship with the birthmother special and private, many will benefit from hearing adoptive parents read a letter to his or her birthmother, sharing your thoughts and feelings.
3) Another way to honor the relationship with the birth mother is through a tangible item for the child. You can find matching gifts for birthmothers, birthfathers, and their children. Your child might want to wear the bracelet or dog tag. I like the idea of a jewelry item that can include names; for an international adoption in which you do not know the name of the birthmother, the word for mother in the child’s native language could be used. There is also a great necklace with the phrase “forever in my heart” translated into the child’s native language. Your child may or may not want to have the matching birthmother jewelry to save for the future or as a sentimental item.
4) Other tangible items could include a drawing the child created for the birth mother that is framed in his or her room, pottery painted by the child, or any other item chosen by the child. These may be stored safely on a shelf in the child’s room or in another safe place where they child can hide it or go through it as he or she wants to think about the birthmother.
5) While a sponsorship may not be from a child monetarily, involving the child in the process may still be an effective way to honor the child’s birthmother. Families way want to consider Kiva micro loans, giving livestock through Heifer International, or child sponsorship through Compassion International or Children of Promise.
This blog was originally written in 2013 and is being re-posted with some updates; however, I would love to hear how your family celebrates Birthmother’s Day or how you like to be celebrated as a birth mother!