Mother’s Day is fast approaching, as evidenced by the barrage of Mother’s Day ads, gift guides, and greeting cards that are suddenly everywhere we look. On May 14, many of us will be awoken to the sounds of little feet running into our rooms to bring us breakfast in bed or giddily thrust their homemade cards into our hands. But as she recently shared on Facebook, Jill Robbins, a Babble contributor and the voice behind Ripped Jeans and Bifocals, will be sitting down to carry out a Mother’s Day tradition of her own that she celebrates each year in private.
“So, Mother’s Day cards are popping up in the stores and I sort of have this secret,” Robbins’ post begins. “I buy two extra cards each Mother’s Day.”
Her reason, Robbins explains, is that she writes personal notes to the biological mothers of her two adopted Chinese children — every single year. In the cards, she pens messages of hope and gratitude to both birth mothers, whom she says she has never met, and due to bureaucratic and international legal issues, likely never will. But that doesn’t stop her from performing this private annual tradition of love, from one mother to two others.
Yet while each one of the cards is heartfelt and carefully chosen, Robbins explains that both mothers will never actually read the words she writes to them each year. In fact, the cards themselves never even make it to the mailbox — but not for the reason you might think:
“I write these notes during my quiet time after everyone else is in bed,” Robbins explains. “I re-read my words and then I seal the cards. And then I put them away in a shoebox that sits on my closet shelf because I don’t know what else to do with them. I don’t have any place to mail these cards, you see. There’s no such thing as an ‘open Chinese adoption.’ There are laws in China that prohibit a mother from making an adoption plan AKA giving a baby up for adoption.”
Robbins says the inspiration behind the idea came suddenly one Mother’s Day many years back:
“On our first Mother’s Day after we adopted … I saw ‘Birth Mother’ cards in the store with all the other Mother’s Day cards,” Robbins tells Babble. “I’m not sure what prompted me to buy them, honestly, but I bought two. I didn’t buy them with the intent of really doing anything with them. I can’t really tell you what I thought I’d do with them when I put them in my cart … that was five years and lots of sleep deprivation ago.”
In China, it’s illegal to abandon children; but sadly, it is still very common. In fact, Robbins’ oldest child was abandoned as a newborn and found by Chinese police and placed in an orphanage. The story is almost too heartbreaking to think about, but it’s one that’s in the forefront of Robbins’ mind as she writes her Mother’s Day cards every year.
“It is really hard for me to put myself in the position of those moms because I like to say ‘I would never do something like that’ because that’s what most Western women would probably say, right?” says Robbins. “I don’t understand their motives and know nothing of their lives, but I’ve always wondered if they know what happened to their kids.”
That said, her empathy for these mothers, and the desperate circumstances they likely faced, is still there. And if she could share one thing with them above all else, she says it would be “to let them know their children are loved and valued.”
This year for Mother’s Day, Robbins isn’t hoping for funny wine glasses or day spa treatments (although it sounds like she definitely deserves them!). Instead, she has one simply wish: “A happy family for me and peace for our birth moms.”
Here’s hoping she gets her wish.