Mother’s Day has been celebrated annually in over 40 countries around the world (on various dates) going back to the 1800s. The first official Mother’s Day was observed in the U.S. in 1907. Anna Jarvis began the push to create the holiday in 1905 after her mother passed away. Anna was insistent that it was a day for each family to honor their own mother, hence the singular possessive spelling of Mother’s Day instead of the plural possessive spelling of Mothers’ Day. Moving that little itty bitty apostrophe makes all the difference.
As an adoptee however, the plural possessive, Mothers’ Day, is actually the more appropriate spelling to represent my family because on Mother’s Day, I have two mothers to celebrate. One who grew me, gave birth to me, who shares half my DNA, and who also gave me 2 brothers and the one who adopted me, cared for me, and raised me as an only child but gave me a great big family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Both of these women have contributed to who I am and who my children are, as both blood and love pass through the generations.
In 1990, Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh and a group of fellow birth mothers felt that there was a need to create another day that was set aside just to honor women like them. They wanted to make sure that birth mothers were not forgotten and that their strength and sacrifices were recognized. Thus began Birth Mother’s Day, which is celebrated on Saturday, the day before the traditional Mother’s Day holiday.
I remember when I first heard about this special day set aside to specifically celebrate birth moms, I thought it was a sweet gesture and that it was nice for society to acknowledge the role that birth mothers play in the life of an adoptee. But over the years, I have come to have more mixed feelings on the holiday. While it initially seemed to be very thoughtful (and I believe that the intent was pure), I can now see how the day can serve to minimize birth mothers by giving them a separate day and ostracize them instead of honoring them. Birth mothers are in fact, mothers. Why can they not be celebrated on Mother’s Day? Is it just implying again that they are less than a mother or not good enough to be an actual, full fledged mother? Because for many mothers that’s what they were told when they were experiencing a crisis pregnancy – they were told that they were not enough for their child and another mother would be better. Fathers are all celebrated on Father’s Day – no Birth Father’s Day exists. So why the need to separate the celebration of mothers?
Both of these women have contributed to who I am and who my children are, as both blood and love pass through the generations.Jamie Weiss
Having Birth Mother’s Day immediately followed by Mother’s Day also mirrors the experience of adoption in a way that makes me feel icky. One day my mother was my mother, but then I had to quickly move on and get a new mother. Society then declared my mother was now my birth mother and my adoptive mother now my mother. And if it were left in the hands of government, I still wouldn’t even know my mother’s name because neither of us are deemed worthy enough to be given the privilege of knowing one another and sharing a mother-daughter bond.
So for me, Birth Mother’s Day is a holiday that I don’t choose to celebrate. I have elected to honor both of my moms on the same day and for me that is Mothers’ Day. (The plural possessive one.)
Happy Mothers’ Day, Mamas!