Thursday, May 7, 2009

What’s Wrong with Birthmother Events on Mother’s Day? Just about EVERYTHING


The famous holiday from hell as far as birth mothers are concerned is upon us: Mother’s Day. Reminders are as common as grass: on television and in the newspaper, on the computer. AOL has a click-on icon that takes you to a virtual catalogue of goodies to buy: eye shadow (I am not kidding) to leather briefcases and of course, the ubiquitous flowers.


For those of us who want a relationship with the children we lost to adoption, reminders of the flowers and cards we will not get on Sunday are fresh knives to the heart. Especially after I found my birth daughter, Jane, and she did not remember me in any way—no card, no phone call, drop dead, why don’t ya—it was a depressing day. Remember, over the years we had spent a great deal of time together; she had lived with us for months at a time. Yet Mother's Day would come and go without any acknowledgment. Did it feel like further punishment? You bet it did. The card I got from my stepson simply reminded me of a daughter who had decided to forget. I would counter my gloom by repeating yogic thoughts: Mother’s Day is only one day. Tomorrow is another day, a not Mother’s Day.


And: We make ourselves prisoners of our feelings, when they are neither good or bad, they just are.


I only succeeded up to a point. I was sure that Mother’s Day was being celebrated with bells and whistles and flowers and dinner with Jane’s adoptive mother back in Wisconsin. I never asked. I did not harbor any resentment over that, naturally, but could not Jane have at least sent a card or made a last-minute phone call? She had to be aware it was Mother's Day. Yet I kept my feelings to myself. I did not call her. I called my own mother instead; some years I brought my mother to New York from Michigan at that time and my husband and I were able to take her to a fancy lunch. Other years I sent flowers. Like many birth mothers, I did not have other children, and so had no one to distract me from Jane's ignoring me on this day.


Finally, after years—hell, decades—of being forgotten by my daughter on this day, I took a leap of courage and told Jane during one of our close periods that her ignoring Mother’s Day really hurt my feelings. That a mere phone call, or a card, some acknowledgment that I existed, that I was also her mother, would have turned the day completely around for this birth/first mother.


Jane’s life was not without travail, and she was on her own by this time. Now she remembered to call or send a card for Mother's Day as often as she forgot. But somehow the mere act of having told her how I felt made it easier on my mind when I did not hear from her. The cards I prize the most are the funny ones that obliquely refer to our fractured relationship. The best has a humorous photograph of a mother and daughter who look amazingly alike and which thanks me for “keeping her head on straight.” Once she was married, she always remembered, except for the year or two when she had decided I was not going to be in her life anymore. Yes, that continued to happen, right up until the end.


The one card about which I am not enthusiastic was the $3 pink Hallmark special: For My BirthMother it says on the outside. I wanted to ask, but did not, had she sent her other mother a card that said: For My Adoptive Mother? By the time she sent that, I'd known her for so many years and through so many trials and tribulations. Naturally I kept my little internal carping to myself and simply thanked her for remembering.


Not surprisingly, I am not a fan of any “birth mother celebrations,” even if they were the brainchild of first/birth mothers themselves, as apparently some of them are. The Saturday before Mother’s Day is designated as “Birthmother’s Day.” Special gatherings of first mothers are planned in several states, I read. To all this I say, gag me with a spoon. I can not think of anything more depressing that getting together with other first mothers on the day calibrated to remind us of possibly the worst day in our lives…unless we were going to the theater, a super lunch, a day at the spa, or just getting together because we are friends.


This is the first year in several that I did not get numerous reminders to attend a Spence-Chapin gala in Manhattan, which I looked upon as a mawkish reminder of all that had been lost. I know a hasty email I sent offended at least one of the birth mothers involved in the planning. But I can not see how such a “celebration” for women who have relinquished their children--sponsored by an adoption agency--is anything more than a pat on the head for good service done, as in: You gave us product for our business. Thank you. Hey, have lunch on us, light a candle together, we share your pain.


Maybe smarter heads at Spence Chapin decided this year that such a pity party was not a great idea. I would have liked it if it had turned into a raid upon their records! So while I know there are several events planned in several states for Birthmother’s Day, I will refrain from taking part. There are enough reminders everywhere that doing anything extra to mark the day becomes an exercise in self-flagellation.


Of course, now it is different for me. Both my mother and my daughter are deceased and I will spend the day ignoring Mother’s Day. If it’s nice I’ll work in the garden, I always find that restorative. Maybe we’ll take in a movie—as long as it’s mindlessly escapist. I will probably not go to brunch in a restaurant that day, as they are always jammed. Maybe I’ll have a glass of wine with lunch, wherever that is. Maybe I’ll stimulate the economy and buy something nice for myself .


And the day after Mother's Day will be Monday. Another day. I won't have to think about this for another year. --lorraine

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For another take on “Birth Mother” celebrations, see

http://www.exiledmothers.com/speaking_out/birthmothers_day1.html

And

http://adoption.about.com/od/celebrationinspiration/a/honormothers.htm?nl=1

13 comments :

  1. Thanks as always for another insightful post that's got me thinking. Mother's Day is hard for me because it's around this time of year that my mother denied contact. It's also her birthday, if I can believe the non-identifying information. My family has a hard time understanding why I can't just let all that go and enjoy the day as a mother myself. I bought my mother a card that is still sitting unused in my desk. Don't know what to do with it.

    My guess is Jane's haphazardness over Mother's Day was another way of asserting control, in a negative way. It's not like she could forget you're her mother. Maybe she felt acknowledging your motherhood somehow lessened that of her adopted mother. Why do we have to play these hurtful games?

    I'm planning to garden myself, and go see the new Star Trek movie. I mentioned to my mother I watch Star Trek. I wonder if all the media coverage of this weekend's premiere will remind her of me.

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  2. Gardening must be a trend for us all.. I do it too!!
    No matter what though, there is no escape.. I just don't like Mother's Day.

    I'll be thinking of you as I dig in my dirt..maybe we can start a new eo movement.. save water, cry on your seedlings...

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  3. To give adoptees a break on this, I think Mother's Day might be an ambivalent and conflicted day for many of them as well. It is not just surrendering mothers who have a hard time with it.

    For those rejected or unable to find or who have found something tragic, the difficulty speaks for itself.For those in reunion, there is twice the angst over "doing enough/the right thing for not one but two mothers! To make it worse, often mothers in rivalry with each other over who is "real." That would give anyone a headache and make them run right out of the Hallmark store!

    I am fine with my surrendered son ignoring Mother's Day. I would never expect him to send me anything. I figure that's part of what I gave up when I surrendered him, and if he does not want to deal with it I understand. The kids I raised always send me something and the one who lives with me and my husband takes me out to eat. More than sufficient:-)
    Yes, there is an underlying sadness, but usually it is a nice day with my family.

    My son has sent me a few Christmas cards, his wife gave me an album of their wedding pictures, and this year he sent me a Christmas gift for the first time, some ornaments. It would not occur to me to critique anything he sent me, it is as the cliche says, the thought of sending anything that counts. And anything I send to him I really try to do with no expectations of any reciprocation. Gifts freely given and freely accepted.

    As to Birthmother's Day, I went to quite a few of the celebrations, both at conferences done as a workshop and the Spence Chapin event, and found them affirming and moving. So did many others. Some like Lorraine find the idea offensive, but to me they were no more mawkish than any Mother's Day event.

    Everyone is different. I enjoyed the celebrations I attended and the wide range of mothers I met there. I can see how others would hate the whole idea, though and chose not to attend. Perfectly ok.

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  5. I'll have to agree that I have seen adoptees and first/natural moms struggle with Mother's Day. It has to be hard on both sides to find that "fitting in" that place we know we belong to each other and yet can struggle so hard to find because of the loss adoption has caused us.

    Mother's Day is sold as a day to celebrate and yet for so many of us it brings mourning and tears. A reminder of what we have lost.

    I am so sorry Lorraine!

    And I am one that hates the very idea of Birthmother Day too! I have fallen off the "Good Bee-Mommie" pedastal and I don't have any desire to have anyone try to give me the pat on the back while trying to launch me back up. I REFUSE to acknowledge any day that celebrates the greatest loss of my life and I sure as heck would never have a desire to be in the middle of those who want to repeat the same script of what a great, honorable sacrifice I made and how "good" of a mother I am because I gave up my child.

    Sorry, but as a mother, yes I feel as if I have done some good but as a birthmother, I loathe the idea of anyone wanting to celebrate what I did or try to fill me with the same "good" beliefs they filled me with all those years ago when I lost my son.

    I think I'll stick with Lorraine and look forward to Monday!

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  6. I had three other daughters but I always think of my surrendered daughter Megan on Mother's Day.

    The first Mother's Day after our reunion, I stayed home all weekend, hoping for a call, a card, or an email. Nothing! I wrote Megan the day after Mother's Day and told her how happy I was to know all my children on Mother's Day. She emailed back saying she thought about calling but it got too late (?)

    Since then I haven't expected anything. I believe that Megan is not able to deal with the two mothers thing. She believes that God decided her adoptive mother should be her mother. I am just ???

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  7. Improper--I like your idea but I'm not sure I could do it. I haven't figured out yet how not to take my mother's denial personally, or how to make Mother's Day not bittersweet. If I'd gotten that Spence-Chapin invitation it probably would have ticked me off too, but I can see how others might not be bothered by it or even might be glad to receive it.

    The perpetual reminders that Lorraine mentioned before make holidays of any kind that much harder for all of us, I think. Today I walked into a business meeting and the chitchat for some reason turned to adoption. I mentioned that I wish I had more information for my kids' sake and of one of my colleagues, someone I respect, made the offhand remark, "Well, you can just start over from the beginning with yourself, can't you?" Sigh...

    To all mothers out there, I hope Mother's Day is as stress-free and hope-filled as possible. And you are all welcome to come over and cry on my tomato plants!

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  8. TYPO:
    Triona-you should write on that card 100 times, this is not my fault, this is not my fault, and then mail it yourself.....

    It was supposed to say mail it TO yourself-and not your fault as in what your mean AF did to you, and of course that this woman does not want to met you. Maybe they are lying Triona-we can't trust the Adoption Agencies. Mine lied to me for years about non-identifying information. Maybe they never contacted her at all. Knowing what a bunch of power trippers they are, I wouldn't be surprised if they do this all the time to alot of people just because they CAN.

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  9. Today is @#$%& moms DAY are we all Happy today WE have our day and the adoptive moms have "MOTHERS Day.

    so ridiculous,,,I would tell my son don't even bother wishing me
    Happy anything the day before MOTHER'S DAY.

    seems to me there should be Adoptive Mother's Day wonder if they would go for that, NO, way...
    would they go for that we are the ones that lose out all of children's life, and we aren't even supposed to celebrate on Mother's Day?

    I know who I am and my son is here as proof!

    ps hey my word verification was "beaten" how ironic! Not beaten yet or ever just fighting mad at the thought of someone especially another mother, of adoption loss, to celebrate Mother's day on the Saturday before Mother's Day.

    Don't give me crumbs...EVER!!!

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  10. Hi everyone, I'm was lucky enough to have found my natural mother when I was 27 but cowardly enough to not acknowledge her for Mother's Day until I was 42. I have always loved her without showing it, basically just taking the situation for granted because I didn't know what to do. It was so, confusing because even though I loved two mothers differently, I did not want to hurt or betray my adoptive mother. It was a lot to process and I handled it wrong, Now, I wonder what else can I do better. I adore my natural mom. I'm more mature, how can I be most attentive to her needs. For example, I have been calling her by her first name, and I've always felt for me its disrespectful to call her by a first name. I love her and want to make this relationship as positive for her as it has been for me. I'm a loving dope needing advice. p.s. she doesn't trust me because i pushed her away before i got my head together on this. I know not everyone has the ability to get their head around having two mothers, but i finally did, and won't push her away again, but could use a few pointers on tact. thanks

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  11. I think birth mothers day and mothers day are both fabulous.

    im curious as to why there is so much negativity on your blog about adoption and being a birth mother? or maybe that is the purpose of this blog? sad.

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  12. BirthMOM, I think you're the first shiny, happy birthmother I've encountered.

    While you perceive negativity in our essay and comments, I see a lot of frustration (e.g., the lack of support for open adoption records), heartache, and yes, lots of anger (so many birthmothers in the dark ages of adoption were forced to relinquish their children to adoption and were powerless in that decision, reunions that didn't occur because either the birthparent or adoptee refused contact, adoptees running into roads to nowhere during their search for their biological families).

    I've often said I'd love to hear from a birthmother who is at peace with her decision to have another woman raise her child. I'm sure my fellow bloggers would be happy to hear it as well. Would you like to be a guest blogger and tell us how you do it?

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  13. sure, gladly!

    (as long as all the negative birthmothers who are 'victims' of adoption dont attack me for being at peace, happy, honored, and eternally grateful for the opportunity that I GET to be a birth mother. I never lost anything by placing my son for adoption. it is and will always be the most amazing experience of my entire life - even the birth of future children wont come close to my adoption experience)

    here's my story in about 4 minutes.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IdPtGZ-3oM

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