I know there are some people who might ask… when they hear the words ‘Birth Mother’s Day’…
What does that mean? What is Birth Mother’s Day? Well, it is a day to remember and to honor the experience of birthmothers everywhere.
For many birth mothers, Mother’s Day can be one of the most challenging days of the year.
Even those of us who had other children and raised them still feel an emptiness in our hearts for our “other” child.
In a quiet part of ourselves, we remember that we are mothers, and we wonder, do our children think about us as we think of them? We wonder if the adoptive parents remember us…, we wonder if our family and friends remember we are mothers…, and we wonder if there is room anywhere in the annual celebration of mothers and motherhood to include birth mothers and our experiences. We are the ones who lived through the pregnancy, the ones who gave birth and then had to experience the loss of our children. No matter how far the physical distance or how hidden the emotional pain…, the heart and spirit never forget.
And so a special Birth Mother’s Day Ceremony was created to honor ourselves in the company of our sisters who walk these same experiences.
Over the years, the birth mothers from Adoption Network Cleveland have updated and personalized the ceremony by adding more current touches to our poetry and music.
In 2020, Adoption Network Cleveland’s Birth Mother’s Day Committee was moving forward with plans for our annual Birth Mother’s Day Ceremony held every year for over the past 25 years on the day before Mother’s Day. Then Covid-19 resulted in a necessary cancellation and it remains the case for our 2021 Ceremony as well. It is not possible once again to gather with those who support us and to recognize and remember all birth mothers on this important weekend.
You may ask, “Why does that even matter?”
The answer is both simple and complicated. Well… Every year as Mother’s Day approaches, numerous unhappy memories and emotional pain begin to surface in the lives of many birth mothers. So coming together as we typically do every year helps to ease the pain of our great loss.
Mask wearing, social distancing, or a virtual gathering cannot substitute for our Ceremony as we know it. The ceremony consists of personal poetry, special readings, a candle-lighting ritual where we acknowledge and honor our children. We also include the voice of an adoptive parent and a reading from an adoptee. The past few years we have been blessed with live music.
Some of the material comes from the time period when everything was a secret and birth mothers were considered shameful young girls. Times have certainly changed and we were doing our best to enrich the ceremony by reaching out to younger birth mothers and their experiences with open adoption and those who actually have a relationship with their child’s adoptive family.
My personal story starts with my son, Eric, who was born in 1957. When he turned 20, he began to search for me and it took 20 years on and off, for him to finally succeed. One of the first things he said to me when we met face-to-face was, “I don’t hate you, I don’t judge you, I just love you.” And I felt that love, I was overwhelmed by his love.
But then it wasn’t long before the memories and feelings of unworthiness and shame came roaring back into my conscious mind and I wondered, “Do I deserve all this unconditional love he offered me?”
The feelings of being unfit, undeserving continued to mix in with the feelings of love and I actually thought I was going insane and I wondered if I would ever feel normal again. Then I found Adoption Network Cleveland and I began attending their meetings, where I heard other people's stories and I met other birth mothers. I learned that my reaction to having Eric suddenly come into my life was actually very normal.
And so …volunteering to be a part of organizing the Birth Mother's Day Ceremony as well as attending the ceremony each year became a big part of the healing process for me. Eventually, I was able to let go of the painful memories and open more to the love. Eric and I had 15 years of knowing and loving each other. But then he developed lung cancer and passed away on Aug 4, 2013, and I miss him.
I look forward to the time when we can come together once again to participate in this special Ceremony, share our tears and smiles, hold a hand, or give and receive hugs…hopefully in May 2022.
So this year as Mother’s Day approaches, if you know a birth mother, maybe give her a call, or send her a note or a simple email message. It will be appreciated more than you know. I’m sure it will lift her spirits and help her healing.
Jeanne Hood is a birth mother, Birth Mother's Day Planning Committee, and Adoption Network Cleveland Volunteer. The artwork was created by Jeanne.
For information on Adoption Network Cleveland's services and support for birth parents, including one-on-one support, our Birth Mother's Day Ceremony, Birth Mothers Support Group, and General Discussion Meetings, please visit: https://www.adoptionnetwork.org/service-areas/adult-adoptee-birthparents/birthparent-support-group.html.