Holiday Gifts: A Birth Mother’s Perspective

Kathryn Russell
Kathryn Russell

LMSW, Director of Absolute Love Adoptions

Holiday Gifts: A Birth Mother's Perspective

Gift giving during the holidays is fun but it can also be especially daunting within adoption.


Even with a fully open adoption and a great relationship, it still can be difficult to pick out the perfect gift for one another. There are still questions of What would they like? What do they need? How can I get something special that they will appreciate or will actually use? I can’t answer those questions exactly for you because every person and situation is unique, but I can give you my perspective of gift giving and receiving over the last 18 years of my open adoption with my birth daughter.

Gift Giving As A Birth Mother

Finding a gift for my birth daughter is like a delightful scavenger hunt. Some years it’s easier, while other years it takes more searching. Throughout most of her childhood, I would ask her adoptive mom what she needed or wanted, which usually were things any little girl would want like dress up or craft supplies. However, I always tried to add something sentimental that she might appreciate growing up with or that would help with adoption conversations. That piece ranged from a storybook talking about adoption, a photobook with her birth family and story in it, items that her birth father had given me while we were dating, or a photo frame of us at previous visits.

Over the more recent years, it has gotten easier because my relationship with my birth daughter has grown closer and more direct. Now I can listen to clues through the year of what she says in our conversations or while we are out on a shopping trip together. It has become more natural to tune into what she might like, just like with my parented children. I’ve also tried to incorporate more experiences as she’s gotten older.  We have a running “bucket list” of firsts we would like to experience together so that has helped shape what I give as well. Last year, her gift was concert tickets and getting to meet the band that we both love. While it wasn’t a gift she could use when she opened it, it was an exciting weekend we were able to fully enjoy one-on-one time with later and she loved it! 

In my conversations with my birth daughter, she has shared that she treasures anything that I gift simply because it’s from me. Even a complete set of Little House On the Praire books… they may be “just books” but it’s something she’s held on to. The pictures I gave her of us still are on her walls. The jewelry I’ve given her is tucked away safely. The keychain I had personalized with my handwriting still hangs from her keyring. That feels good to know whatever I gift her, it means something because I mean something to her. (And that’s how I feel about her gifts as well!)

This year the biggest gift we both are receiving is the gift of time as she will be spending Christmas with our family. For the first time we get to include her into our family traditions, which will include more gifts than in the past simply because I want her to feel immersed and part of our family while she is here. So, a stocking is hung with her initial on it and I’ve been slowly tucking away items that I’ve heard her mention. She also will get to participate in “Secret Santa” where my kids pick a sibling’s name to buy a gift for and open Christmas Eve. Getting to know her deeper with her living with us for a few months has absolutely helped to know who she is more, and therefore what gifts she would love. I’m excited to experience that Christmas morning with her, matching pajamas and all.

Receiving Gifts As A Birth Mother

My daughter’s adoptive family has always been wonderful about gifting meaningful gifts, though I never expect them. In the earlier years, I received a lot of photo gifts and I adored them. Everything from framed photos of her through the year to hang on my own walls to monthly calendars. A mousepad when she was five was my favorite and I used it for a long time (until my toddler decided to use it to color on).


When we began our relationship technology wasn’t like it is today, it was just beginning to take off. We communicated through phone calls and emails for many years between visits, but as technology advanced and video calls became a thing, I was touched one year to receive a camera to plug into my computer so we could talk that way and “see” her more often. This gift wouldn’t be nearly as appealing now given our phones ability to video call, but it communicated that her parents wanted my birth daughter and I to have more opportunity to connect. It also helped the children that I parented to be more involved in their sibling relationships between visits. Their gift acknowledged my place in her life and provided a small way to be more present.


I also love to receive art made by my daughter! She has become an incredibly talented artist so I’ve enjoyed every piece she has spent time on and framed for me to hang up proudly in my home. She paints from the heart and often from memories of our experiences together, which makes it even more special. Receiving gifts from them is never about the amount spent, or how simple it is, but the thought behind it. Their thoughtfulness put into every gift makes me feel loved, seen, valued, and included. 


Why Giving A Gift Matters

The truth is, there isn’t a perfect gift. Take that pressure off yourself! Growing up I was often told, “it’s the thought that counts,” and I still believe that. Yes, we want to pick out the perfect gift, but we can’t control how it is received. We can control the intentionality in making that person feel special, even in a small way. 


Whether you are a birth parent looking to buy your child and adoptive family a gift, or you are an adoptive parent figuring out what your child’s birth family may like, the simple fact that you are wanting to gift anything and thinking of them is meaningful.

Gift Suggestions


  • SOLACE Birth Mom BoxesThese are an easy, ready to go option to gift to the birth mom in your life. With three different box themes you are sure to find one that will fit her interests to help her feel cared for and pampered.
  • Photo gifts: You can’t go wrong with photo gifts! Photos of our children’s adorable faces and memories are always enjoyable and make your gift personal to them. 
  • Search Etsy for personalized gifts: Having a gift with a special message, handwriting engraved, their name, or their child’s birth month flower can be meaningful options.
  • Browse Pinterest for DIY ideas If you are more crafty and want to put together something truly unique, Pinterest has tons of ideas! Think of things you would like as a mom and gift that to the birth mom in your life– hand or foot prints, memory boxes, or easy ornament ideas.

  • Practical gifts: Think about where they are in life. Did they just start college? Did they just get married? Start a new job? Traveling? Just move into a new house or get a pet? What could be a fun gadget that would make their life easier?


Looking for more ideas? Head to Leah’s Adoption Gift Pinterest board.

About the Author

Leah Outten  is a mother to five at home and a birth mom to one. She still maintains an open adoption relationship with her birth daughter and the adoptive parents she chose when she was 16 years old. Using her experiences a birth mom and a teen mom, she now works in the adoption and pro-life community through her writing, education, and mentoring. In her speaking and writing, she aims to educate on complex issues surrounding motherhood and adoption with grace.

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