' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Surviving Mother's Day as a Mother of Loss

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Surviving Mother's Day as a Mother of Loss

Here it comes again, Mother's Day, impossible to delete from the calendar or totally ignore due to the incessant ads that pop up everywhere, from the internet to the newspaper to gifts on the morning shows that are "Perfect for Mom." 

I got my hair cut today and as I was waiting to pay my bill, I heard the receptionist say to the woman ahead of me--Happy Mother's Day. The woman responded, I never had children. Neither, it turned out, did the receptionist. When she said this to the woman, I could see they shared a moment of understanding.  

When I approached the receptionist, I quietly told her Mother's Day is a painful reminder not only for women who never had children--and wanted to--but also for those whose child had died, or were like me, a woman whose only child had been relinquished and adopted. In years past I might have ignored her well-meant gesture, but I'd known her for a while and felt comfortable speaking up. Besides, she had several more days to remind other mothers of loss that this godawful holiday was upon us.

There's no way around how much a trigger Mother's Day is for mothers of relinquishment, whether you call us biological mothers, birth mothers, first mothers or natural (same as biological) mothers. I've been through the gamut of emotions myself, beginning when I did not know where my daughter was (a nightmare), and my own mother did not even know my daughter existed (no one to share the blues), to those years after reunion when I tried to ignore the hoopla the week preceding the big day, always hoping she would remember me in some small way. But alas, she often did not. (A good day to dig in the garden.)

The card Jane sent one year.  

While I was feeling sorry for myself, I always imagined a big celebration going on with her adoptive mother--card, flowers, lunch in a restaurant, the whole works. I never knew if the day went off as I imagined because I never asked. I tried to remind myself that the day was a made-up holiday, designed to help Hallmark and florists and restaurants, but that never erased the painful emotions flooding in. Everyone else was celebrating Mother's Day--I was too as long as my own mother was alive. After I left Michigan, I sent flowers, I called, I remembered. My next door neighbor is getting on a plane Saturday with her 12-year-old son to visit her mother in Florida. 

Mother's Day for women who have had other children is different than it is for me, one of the approximately one third who never had another child after relinquishing a child. The others will be honored by the children they were able to keep
Lorraine, her granddaughter, and Jane in  1993.
. Many of them will not even know about their missing sibling, but the mother will. She's almost certainly going to be remined of her missing child at some point, wondering who she/he is and if that child ever thinks of her. So no matter the celebration by the kept children, Mother's Day will be one of bittersweet emotions. 

As for me, I just suck it up and wait for the damn day to be over. It's only one day, I remind myself. After my reunion with my daughter, when she was married, she did a whole lot better remembering--especially after I told her that her ignoring me on the day--was hurtful. Once I got a handmade card that said: To my Other Mother. Inside it says: "I couldn't find a 
card that defined our relationship, but then all truly matters is that I let you know, I Love You. Happy Mothers day LORRAINE, love Jane." 

Now my daughter is gone--she died more than a decade ago--as well as my mother, and I realize the day is mine to deal with as I choose. I could mope all day. Or not. It is a given that throughout the day I will let thoughts of my mother, and my daughter, flit by with sweet sadness. My mother died two decades ago. We fought when I was growing up, but she was the rock I leaned on when I went to college against some odds, and later, when I went public about being a woman who relinquished a child and argued for unsealing birth certificates, she encouraged me. "Everyone must want to know where they came from," she said. Despite what others thought 
in the senior-apartment complex in our home town, she held her head up. I admired her courage for surely there was gossip.
My mother, Victoria Wrozek Dusky
in her twenties
I had a daughter, gave her up, found her, had a 26-year relationship, and then lost her again. As a friend of mine said, We've all got something. He'd been caring for his wife with advanced Alzheimer's for several years at home, and that is not a simple thing. Because of his devoted care, she lived more than a decade with Alzheimer's. 

We've all got something. But I will admit that since my daughter's passing, the way I handle the day is different from when she was alive and I did not know where she was, or how she was. Dealing with her death was a matter of mourning, of accepting and accommodating grief, but also knowing that she was at last at peace. The grief wasn't trapped in some damn limbo of closed adoption that leaves you wondering if your child is dead or alive, and you are supposed to just stuff it down, pretend that you are not dying inside. That kind of grief is insanely consuming, and never changes. You can stomp it down--otherwise you will go crazy--but it's still there like a sore that will not heal to the scar phase. When she died, I could grieve publicly, I did not have to pretend that I was "okay" within days or weeks of her dying. 

While I can't put myself into the head of an adopted person, I imagine that if you are longing to know your original mother, or have a relationship with her, you also endure Mother's Day rather than celebrate. For both mothers and adoptees, the day is bound to be fraught. One can be honor one's adoptive mother, but how can you not be reminded of that other mother? Does she ever think of you? Is she thinking of you on this day? Without answers, the questions remain, and a truly quiet heart is impossible. 

So for those mothers without children who will be a part of your life on Sunday, and children whose original mothers fill their thoughts, make a plan: Call a friend or someone else who might otherwise be alone. In the era of Covid, doing the ordinary things such as going to a museum, taking in a movie (a comedy!), or even having lunch with a friend is complicated and maybe not possible. If the weather permits, and you're a gardener, dig in. Others might do yoga, go for a longer run or bike ride than usual, or even--clean out your closets. Throw out 31 things, I heard someone say that the other day. Why 31? I don't know, but it sounds like a reasonable goal. The mental rewards of throwing out stuff is not to be denigrated; it leaves room for the new. Cleaning closets is highly underrated. 

And remember, come Monday it will not be Mother's Day for another blessed 364 days!--lorraine

PS: I began writing an addendum about the noxious "Birth Mother's Day," the Saturday before Mother's Day, but I became annoyed about such a ridiculous day, designed to normalize giving up a child, that I quit. Supposedly it was started by a first mother herself. But when I Googled "Birth Mother's Day," it led to gifts for the occasion and adoption-agency sites. If we want to acknowledge our grief on this day, let us do it on our own, not through the conduit of our loss!  

PPS: The expanded and revised second edition of hole in my heart is taking a much longer time than I anticipated, but I'm nearing the end. I hope I can have it out in a month--in time for my own birthday! 


  1. Thank you for this article.

  2. To those of us who had children after, it takes everything to hold back the tears and pain for the sake of our other children who make a big deal of the day when all we want is to be left alone.

    I play along and wait until night time to cry for the child lost who refuses to acknowledge me now, but also for the ones with me whose happiness I struggle to share on that day.

  3. Lorraine,
    your mother is lovely..and thank you for this post.
    Sad that we have to keep dealing but, that is the way it is.
    My Mothers Day is not bad, so i don't feel too bad, but the sadness is always there.
    I was told "Birth Mothers Day was started by a first mother in the Seattle area ? who wanted us to have our "own special day" (why?) and also so the adoptive mother would not have to "feel intruded upon"....eeeeeek....
    My family and I celebrate the regular Mothers Day, as we think the day is big enough for everybody.

  4. What a pretty lady your mom was, Lorraine. I never had any more children after my first one, a boy, was ripped away from me in 1978. It was too much trauma, for me. Such is how I know the experience was more traumatic for my son. Yeah, Mother's Day I can do without.

  5. My first mother is one of the women you speak of that did not go on to have other children. We are very friendly but there is so much that is missing and I feel a lot of pressure to do enough for both her and my adoptive mom. I know it is a painful day for her and I try to do what I am capable of and then add a bit more.

  6. Actually, Mother's day can be a sad reminder to adoptees who had an abusive adoptive mother too and somehow survived it or are still struggling with the relationship. Something that is rarely talked about. I think Mother's day is only to make money for the the card and flower industry. I like mother's day so I can get special attention from my understanding husband.

  7. I miss my children very much as I fight for them. I am a dv survivor and they are using that, my stroke and its resulting disability, and my past honorable military service 25 years ago as excuses to adopt away my son. My oldest daughter was alienated away from me by my abusive ex who then tried to kill her, forcing her into hiding. My second daughter is in appellate care, due to her age, safe from TPR. But the government is absolutely desperate to adopt out my mildly autistic 11 year old son. Fortunately, we have a pact that I am to never leave my home so he will always know where I am.

  8. I always look to other first mothers on this day and especially to you Lorraine. It has become a day to get through but also a day to grieve. So many years my heart was in so much pain as I struggled to just get through this 24 hours. Now I allow myself an hour, no less no more, to grieve. It helps to acknowledge the loss. Hugs to all of you first mothers...I hear you.

  9. Since getting in contact with my b-daughter 2 years ago (on her 50th birthday) - this is the first Mother's Day that she sent me good wishes! :)
    I first found her 2007 but she wasn't ready yet to get "acquainted". And on her 50th birthday - I said "what the heck" I sent her an email wishing her a Happy one. And since then we have been in contact thru emails & Facebook. I love it. We are supposed to "meet up" in July of 2022.

  10. I don't celebrate and barely notice the "happy mother's day" nonsense that is poured on me by well meaning souls. I noted that my daughter is again rotating into my orbit. I don't even know how to cope...my health is failing and I can't do this again. Well, I keep trying...but yeah, not again.

  11. Hi Lorraine, I have a podcast with a good friend of mine called Adoption: The Making of Me (https://adoptionthemakingofme.buzzsprout.com/) where we discuss all things adoption. We are two adoptees, but we also are interested in interviewing birth parents and anyone with a direct experience with adoption. We'd LOVE to have you on our podcast! You can reach us at themakingofmepodcast@gmail.com. We'd be so honored!

  12. This was the first Mother's day since reunion began in October. His amom posted a pic of them together, he was wearing the fleece I gave him for Christmas. I was not acknowledged that day.

    1. I am so sorry. It's awful. All I can say is to remember the guilt trips the adoptees are under for reunion in the first place. My daughter, even after years of reunion, did not understand the special stab that not being recognized inflicts on the worst of holiday for mothers who relinquish. One day I told her, and she responded well. It must be a weird day for adoptees growing up, thinking--what about that "other" one? Does she ever think of me?

  13. On June 7th, my daughter once again started her drive towards "speaking" to me by both reading my blog and making her profile searchable...today I decided enough...so I politely messaged her that she looked well and I hoped all was well...within minutes, without a single word, she once again ghosted me. I am relieved.

    1. I understand. The emotional turmoil can be overwhelming when the relationship is always iffy.

  14. I so understand "That kind of grief is insanely consuming, and never changes." I was just telling my therapist yesterday that the shadow/shame/guilt/loss never goes away.

    I lost my daughter to adoption at 16, and of course was told "awww dear you will have kids of your own when the time is just right for you". Well that never happened, I was unable to have any more children. Then my daughter found me over 17 years ago and I found out she was raised in the same zip code, so my family, the birth fathers family and the adoptive family all live in the same damn town and they continue to do so, as my daughter grows her family I am unable to see her or my grandchildren. (I guess in reality nothing is actually "mine") but she has chosen to have a relationship with the birthfather's family and his children-her half siblings. The adoptive mom also was adopted and was never a cheerleader for her daughter meeting me and made it very difficult for us to have any type of relationship and had to keep it hidden. Her amom wished me dead and held things financially from my daughter to where she had no choice but to bail.
    I was an emotional mess and continue to be.
    So for me to have some inkling of peace I had to move out of my home town away from that madness. So while my grandkids grow up right under me there is absolutely nothing I can do. I thought or fantasized really, that I gave her life she owes me at least a relationship of some sort or at least to know her children but in all reality - she owes me absolutely nothing. It literally took me till yesterday to realize I shouldn't hope nor hang onto any notion I will have anything with my daughter EVER!. I have no email, no phone number nothing I just know where everyone lives and I stay out of that town b/c I feel like the "forever secret" no one wants around.
    I just continue to go to therapy as I have all my life. However, as cruel as this sounds. I could have gone all my life without having met her. I could have just sent pictures of myself and gave info by mail. I was doing much better before I met her/reunion. At least I could imagine her out there having a good life but it is horrible as her life goes on around me and I am just a person in the crowd as I will always be.
    Thank you Lorraine for this forum so our voices can be heard!

    1. Patty--I am so so sorry to read your story. One sentence was unclear--about her adoptive mother --withholding financial help unless she "bailed" from a relationship with you? But she has a relationship with the father and her siblings? Sounds like a double curse. No one deserves that.

      Your name? I looked it up and saw that a Patty Reed was a child survivor of the Donner Party. It is a fitting choice of a name for you, as I assume that is not your real name.

  15. Dear Lorraine. My name is Cindy. Eight months ago I met my birth daughter. After what I thought was a wonderful reunion, at Christmas ,she decided to stop our relationship. She just stopped talking to me right in the middle of a conversation. I have been handling it until Mother’s Day. I totally broke. I don’t know how to move on. Is there anything I can read or any ideas to help heal. I’m missing out on my life because I can’t get past this pain.

    1. Dear Cindy,
      Adoption trauma is so severe that reunion is turmoil, and feelings well up from before language, when the loss occurred. We mothers come at reunion differently, and hope we might have a good relationship, but sometimes the feelings are just too overwhelming for a person to absorb. So they cut off contact. Mothers do it too. As for your daughter, her cutting you off might have been something you said, it might have been nothing you said that seemed innocuous, but wasn't to her. Or she couldn't deal with the flood of emotions stirred up by your obviously loving presence. Because that leads to: Why didn't she keep me?

      As I've written about my own reunion, it was up and down, good and bad, for the whole quarter of a century we knew each other. Recognize that your daughter's odd behavior is a reflection of her turbulent emotions, yes, caused by the adoption, but do find a way to live with the reality of it. People like to say, "you have to forgive yourself," but those words aren't adequate; I don't know any that are. We have to accept reality, and work with that.

      Give your daughter time, reach out periodically, cry when you must, send her your love through the ether, focus on the people who are in your life and realize however, that you cannot control what your daughter does. You can only control what you do. Remember that the people who want to be in your life will be; you don't have to go chasing after them.

      And may peace come your way.



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