Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Call My Child's Birthmother "Birthmother"

Why I call my child's birthmother her birthmother:
Because she gave birth to her. 

Seems simple enough, right?  Apparently not.

Evidently there is a bit of controversy in the adoption world surrounding the nomenclature of women who give birth to children and place them for adoption.  Perhaps I was too naive or idealistic before I adopted for thinking "Why would something as beautiful as creating families through adoption be considered controversial?"

If you don't think adoption is full of controversy, you will quickly discover it certainly is once you've started the adoption process, adopted, or placed a child for adoption.  Better yet, start publicly writing about your experiences and you will most assuredly receive immediate criticism for your viewpoints and experiences- whatever those happen to be. 

You may also learn something new about yourself in the process of sharing your story.  For example, apparently my husband and I are selfish "baby-shoppers" as are all prospective adoptive parents- something I was unaware of until I wrote an editorial in my local newspaper.  Who knew!  Furthermore, I am a horrible person for loving my foster children as if they were my own children (which, as one commenter informed me, can cause excess trauma and confusion on the part of foster children).   What can I say- I have a tendency to err on the side of too much love rather than not enough.  Guilty as Charged!

Although adoptive parents and those who have been adopted receive their share of prejudice and criticism, I have found that it is the birthparents and expectant parents who all too often receive the brunt of harrassment and mistreatment from adoption critics. 

What is most disturbing to me is that much of the condemnation heaped upon birthmothers is from other birthmothers who have been in their exact situation and whom you would hope would thus be filled with a greater amount of understanding and compassion. 

Take, for instance, Jill's thoughts on the matter in her recent post Name Calling:
"One of the first things I noticed when I encountered adoption meanies on the interwebs was that many of the birth mom meanies consider the phrase "birth mom" to be the vilest of insults. One compared using it to using the N-word. And I thought, wow, really? Because I've never heard "birth mom" used as a put-down, an slam, an insult, a verbal weapon, or a dressing-down."
"The meanies feel that calling a woman a birth mother is insulting, akin to referring to her as an incubator or a breeder. Again I think, really? The only names that would suggest to me that woman was an incubator or a breeder are ... well, incubator, and breeder.
The meanies would much rather be referred to as natural mothers, first mothers, or original mothers. All three of those make me a little uncomfortable. Because if I'm Roo's natural, first, original mother, what does that make Roo's mama? Unnatural? Second? Unoriginal - an impostor? Pshaw. I don't buy that for a second. Roo's mother is her real, natural, actual mother. I didn't place with a robot or a cardboard cutout."
I've come to the conclusion that the birthmothers who are the most critical of adoption in general are those who placed their babies in an era where open adoptions weren't as prevalent as they are today and/or the agency they worked with used "coercive tactics" (whatever that means) pressuring the prospective birthparent to place for adoption. 

Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't the fact alone that a pregnant woman is consulting an adoption agency or looking at profiles of adoptive parents in the first place attest to the fact that she has thought out her options and is considering adoption?  (Unless, of course, she has no free will in the matter and has been FORCED to place her child for adoption, a hypothetical and highly unethical situation).  But whether the birthparent decides to place or parent their child IT IS THEIR CHOICE so can it really be considered coercive, manipulative or predatory for prospective adoptive parents to address the woman who is considering adoption as a "birthmother"?   Is "prospective birthparent" better?

I've already shared my opinion:  I Call My Child's Birthmother "Birthmother" because she gave birth to her.

What are YOUR feelings on the matter?

If you have placed your child for adoption do you find the terms "birthfather" or birthmother" to be offensive?

If you are an adoptive parent , how do you refer to your child's biological parent(s)?

If you are adopted, what do you call the people who conceived you and gave you birth?  


Von said...

I called my mother, mother when she was alive.After adoption she was a broken woman and never recovered, although was so happy to be reunited.
I believe your view of adoption is somewhat naive but then I guess you haven't been an adopter as long as I've been an adoptee.
There can never be too much love in the world and how wonderful it would be if America began to encourage the love between mother and child, by assisting them to stay together where possible, instead of paying massive ammounts of money to separate them.

Cricket said...

I'm an adult adoptee and refer to my adoptive parents as monsters (sorry, but it's true) most of the time and say "natural mom" or "natural family" in reference to my family of origin when on my blog or with my friends.

For me, the term "birthparent" diminshes the role that heritage plays in a person's life.

Carlynne Hershberger, CPSA said...

There are meanies on all sides of this issue. I simply feel people need to know about the dark side of adoption. I am a mother, a mother who lost a child to adoption. I am not a "birthmother". Calling a woman a "birthmother" when she is pregnant IS coercive. It reduces her to a walking uterus, a vessel to be used, like stripping her of her motherhood once the baby has gone home with the adopting couple.

No one can really make the decision to give a child up for adoption until after the child is born. A young woman has no idea how she's going to feel until after she's given birth, been through the post partum hormone changes and is healed from the birth. What I find extraordinarily upsetting is to see people claim the "birthmother" as theirs and the baby as theirs. There is a sense of ownership when that happens and that puts pressure on the young woman to surrender. If she develops a relationship with the adopting couple and they are at the hospital for the birth she feels she doesn't want to disappoint them. This is a tactic used by agencies, they encourage the adopting couple to be as involved as possible, and to have a feeling of entitlement so there's more of a chance that the mother will surrender and not change her mind.

When I surrendered my daughter in 1980 closed adoption was still the norm. During that time we were openly and bluntly shamed into adoption. It was not a choice I made, it was an act of desperation. Mother's don't want to give up their children. When you are young, poor, have no family support and the father is not there, your back is against the wall. Mother's now dealing with open adoption feel the same way but now the agencies just use more subtle and manipulative ways of getting her to surrender. Open adoption came about because the supply of babies dwindled in the 80's. Promises are made and when you're in a desperate situation you want to believe the happy promises. Most open adoptions close soon after the finalization and the mother has no power at all at this point.

Follow the money. Adoption is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Of course they're going to do everything they can to convince a young, scared, naive, vulnerable pregnant woman to surrender. That's how they make their money. Why is adoption so expensive and why are there actually price ranges depending on age and race of the baby? It's a supply and demand issue. Why are there 40 couples competing for every baby while there's tens of thousands of children in foster care desperately needing homes? Why does a baby's identity have to change and their records sealed in order to be taken care of? Why so many lies? Why does it have to be "as if born to"?

Adoption should be an absolute last resort, after all other options have been exhausted and it shouldn't even be adoption. What's wrong with legal guardianship, where the child knows who their mother and father are, they know where they come from? It's so much healthier for the child. There are much less painful ways to help children. Adoption is painful for children. First and foremost we all should be helping them to stay with their mothers. It's a sacred bond that shouldn't be broken unless there's abuse or neglect.

I invite you to visit my blog..
and the blog of an adoptee who share so much knowledge and insight...

Ashley said...

We call the wonderful young woman who wasn't ready to be a mommy yet, "Julia's Carri." We do call her "Our Carri," which has nothing to do with a sense of ownership.

We call our Carri "Our Carri" because she's a member of our family. AS far as the whole ownership argument, I must say that I'm sure it came across that way with us but the truth is that we LOVe this woman and I would do anything to protect her from the vile things that have been, and still are, said to her. It boils down to this; she's family. When people ask who Carri is, we let Julia answer.

"I came from Cawwi's tummy! Cawwi LOVES Juuweah!"

I don't think "birth mother" is a derogatory term unless you warp it into one. I agree with Jill; you can't really win on this one without degrading one side. I will say that I wish there were a stronger term for "the incredible woman who loved and nurtured and broke her own heart for this child so that the child could have the life that she wasn't able to provide and had the strength of mind to realize that it's wrong to put a child on hold while one works out one's own issues and mature/are ready to be a mother," but that's a bit of a mouthful.

And as for this whole "open adoptions become closed" business, that's unfortunate yes. But you can't condemn the majority for the mistakes of the minority. We, along with EVERY adoptive couple I know, have a very open, very honest and very loving relationship with our birth mom. Or tummy mommy. Or the other mother. To say that most adoptions close after finalization is like saying that most birth mothers tell everyone that adoption is evil and that their babies were stolen from them just because some do feel that way and are very vocal about it.

Adoption is not perfect, but it's not perfect because people aren't perfect. And let's face it, if people were perfect then there would be no need for foster care, no need for adoption and who knows, maybe infertility would vanish altogether. I don't know.

If you were to spend a day in my home, talk to my two and a half year old and eavesdrop on the conversations we have with those around us regarding Julia and her adoption, you'd find that we do NOT in any way, shape or form belittle or demean our daughter's BIRTH MOTHER by using that phrase. It's said with the utmost reverence and love that we can muster in our meager human voices. People hear what they want to hear, but in my home when "Birth mother" "Birth mom" "Tummy mommy" or most especially, "Our Carri" crosses our lips, it's filled with love, appreciation and death threats to those who want to turn it into something LESS than what it is.

Love, reverence and gratitude.

Menz41 said...

I am an aparent and we refer to our daughter's natural parents as her mommy and daddy in xxx. We refer to them as her mommy and daddy because, quite simply, that's what they are. She was adopted internationally from a country that provides no information on the parents, so we unfortunately know nothing about them. I believe that by referring to them as anything less than her parents is being untruthful to her.

Cami said...

Wow. I've NEVER even considered that calling my son's birthmother "birthmother" was in any way an insult. When she signs her letters to him, she signs them as "birthmother." I believe that having the word "mother" in it is showing her the highest respect and adoration. I believe that despite the minority of people that have a problem with adoption, most experiences are wonderful and done in the best interest of the child. It's unfortunuate that some women feel like they were forced into a decision, but when you allow yourself to get preganant (unless it's a case of rape), you should have also made the decision to do whatever is BEST for the child. Not what will be easist on your conscience.
Are there bad adoptive parents? Absolutely! But that's a problem of PEOPLE, not adoption.

Jessalynn Speight said...

As a birthmother I wouldn't want to be called anything else but birthmother. I also feel that since adoptive couples are their parents. They should be called mom and dad. When I am with my baby I placed I call her mom mommy her dad daddy and me Jessa.

I have talked to several adoptees and they feel that calling their birthmother birthmother is totally fine. They call their parents mom and dad and their birthparents birthmom or birthdad. Since they are adults when they see their birthparents they call them by their first name. I see nothing wrong with this.

Mom Forever said...

Of course adoption is a touchy subject! Anything that involves so much love on so many people's part will be controversial. I think it is important to acknowledge and stay open to different people's experiences and feelings whether it is for or against adoption. I believe however to say that adoption is all bad based on some situations that were indeed bad lacks validity. I'm not sure that there is anything that is wholly good or wholly bad, including people. I think that parenting, whether you are doing it as an adoptive parent or parenting your biological children, is very difficult and there are always bumps in the road. I know there are people who resent or despise the parents who raised them even though they were raised by their biological parents. This is an imperfect world and sometimes there is just not a perfect solution to some of life's trials. I do believe that adoption can be one of the most beautiful things to experience.

An adopted child calling their adoptive parents mom and dad is not a lie. At least not in my eyes. I have seen plenty of parents who have created a child who, I feel, have no right to be called mom or dad. To me that title is something that someone deserves because of the love and care they give to their child. Whether one is called adoptive mom, birthmother, natural mother, biological mother...does it really matter in the whole scheme of things? The more moms a child has the more loved a child is.

To say that adoption is painful for a child is a very narrow-minded statement. It's true that the process can have moments of pain for a child (most things in this world do) but for many children being adopted is a joy. A way to truly belong as a family.

I do feel very strongly that adoption is not something that should be kept secretive. Being secretive about something infers shame. Adopted children should grow up knowing they were adopted and they should be told as much about their biological family as is appropriate for their age. I also think, when possible, that there should be an album made of the adopted child's biological family. We have one for each of our children and it's really great when they look at it and sometimes we get to talk about who's in the pictures and we answer their questions.

I am truly sorry to those who have had a negative or traumatic experience with adoption. I wish it could have been the beautiful blessing for you like it has been for our family.

jendoop said...

My MIL is adopted and she doesn't want to use the term mother or father in anyway to associate herself with the people who gave her life. She has no interest in seeking them out. Whenever family members ask about it she tells us all that her real parents are the ones who raised her. That is just another experience of an adoptee.

Now I'm a foster mom to a 18 month old. He has started calling me mom only because there are 4 other kids in the house who do. I still consider his mom and dad his mom and dad. We try to encourage him to call us by our first names. That's just one foster care perspective.

Like others that commented I've never thought "birth mother" to be a negative label. It clarifies and still gives the honor due by using the word "mother".

Susie said...

I am a mom who lost a son to (closed) adoption 31 years ago. I do not like the term birthmother because I feel that it negates the importance of the adoptee's ancestry & implies that the mother has no part of the child beyond giving birth. Just as I only use the descriptor "adoptive" for my son's mom when necessary, I also prefer to not use a descriptor when talking about my role in my son's life. When I do, however, have to put a "title" to my role, I prefer first mom. I do not get bent out of shape when the other term is used ~ that is the title that society in general knows & uses. If, however, I am on a site or forum where it has been stated & is widely known why the term is considered negative, it does hurt to see the term used.

As to calling a pregnant woman a birthmother ~ that is completely wrong and is indeed coercive. A pregnant woman is just that ~ a pregnant woman. The child's only mother. She is a mother, in an unexpected pregnancy, considering the options in order to do what is best for this child being born to her. To call her a birthmother only makes her think of herself as something "less than" a true mother.

Sadly, there are people that think simply being unmarried, or too young, or whatever, makes the mother unworthy to raise a child. Because the mother is made to feel "less than", and is shown all the wonderful people that want to adopt a newborn ~ people who are "more than", she feels that in order to really love her child, she must give him/her up to the people that society deems more worthy.

Menz41 ~ I applaud you in your wonderful view of your child's first family. An adoptee does have 4 parents. To put a "title" to any of them infers that one or the other is more or less than the other.

Jill Elizabeth said...

Well, I reckon you've got a good idea of my feelings on the subject since you did quote me, but I thought I'd comment anyway.

I think a lot of the meanies, such as they are, feel the way they do because adoption was a horse of a different color twenty or thirty years ago. I'm not going to argue that their experiences weren't negative, because I'm not them.

But just as it would be wrong for me to insist that adoption was a good thing for them, it's wrong for them to insist that adoption was a bad thing for me and the baby I placed. I hate to think of the mess she'd have been caught in if I'd seen adoption as a last resort and insisted on parenting her when adoption was so much the better choice for her. She deserves so much better than to be caught in a nasty custody battle, to have her loyalties divided between warring parents. You want to talk about something being painful for children? I have more than a dozen friends who grew up being shuttled from one parent's house to the other, and not one of them has ever said they liked it. I'm not saying that divorcing parents should choose adoption (that's just stupid) but I think the idea that Roo should have stayed with me no matter what is ridiculous. Adoption is about what's best for the child, and that simply wasn't me. Parenting would have been horribly selfish. I chose adoption out of love for my baby.

Adoption was painful for me but Roo will never know that pain. And she knows exactly who her parents are - they're the ones she calls Mama and Dada.

Blah. I don't mean to be so defensive. I know adoption has sucked for some birth mothers. But I'm not one of them.

Long story short: It's "birth mom" for me forever, and if you try to call me anything else I will correct you.

jenny81271 said...

I am my daughter's mother, but she has parents. The fact that I did not get to raise her was faciliated by shame, coersion, and money that I lacked. Her "parents" dislike me for being her mother....I cannot change the past, but please don't call me birthmother because that relegates me to the role of only "birthing" her. I'm sorry that they couldn't have any of their own..oh wait...they have two children who are theirs alone, so why am I damned to be the plague....because they "bought" her. I am an educated woman...I was then's too bad that my family and the world thought I was "bad"....again...I am a mother...

Carlynne Hershberger, CPSA said...

Just to be clear on some things ~ I have not lived a horrible life, I am not bitter, I do not think that all adoptive parents are bad, every situation is different, I do not claim that every adoptee is resentful and had a bad life, I have been reunited with my daughter for 8 years and we have a wonderful relationship.

I am simply here to be sure that all the voices are heard. I've come a long way from 30 years ago and in that time I've learned a lot. Recently I've learned even more about how adoption of newborns works in this country. It's a sad statement about our society that we are willing to spend so much of our resources on separating families instead of spending those resources on helping families stay together.

I applaud those families who are taking in older children from the foster care system. These are the children truly in need. No one wants to see children remain in abusive or neglectful situations. I want to help young women keep their children and prevent unnecessary adoptions. This is an industry in desperate need of reform. It should not be profit driven because it creates an atmosphere where children can too easily become commodities.

birthMOM said...

While i was still pregnant i actually did have a problem with the word/label/name 'birthmom'. but not because of the 'birth' part. because of the 'mom' part. at the time, i felt like giving birth did not make me a 'mom', it made me a woman who had given birth. at the time i felt like what makes a mom are the things that come AFTER the birth, the sleepless nights, the bottles, the diapers, the bathing, the teaching, the nurturing, the sheltering, the protecting, etc. to me, THOSE were the things that make a woman a mom. not an act of simple biology. and i wasnt going to be doing those things, i wasnt going to be the 'mom' to this baby i was carrying.

i tried to come up with another word/label/name to call myself, the best was 'uterine storage vesicle', which was always only used with love and humor btwn me, my friends, and my family. (i always use humor and sarcasm is my middle name) i can totally understand how uterine storage vesicle would cause many to be offended and irate, but for me and my situation, it was hilariously perfect.

that label didnt stick however and i proudly entered the realm of 'birthmother' when i gave birth, and then took care of my son for 2 days and then did what any good mother would do- what i thought was the very best for my son.

then a couple of months later, at one of our post placement support group meetings, a bunch of us were talking about how i was almost literally to the day twice the age of one of the girls who was about to place. I was 28 at the time. my roommate, who was still pregnant and pursuing an adoption plan, said to me, 'you are like the mom of the birthmoms, taking care of all of us.' i started blogging right about then, so i chose my screen name to be birthMOM.

Now, i am proud to be a birthmother. and i always will be. i feel it sets me apart and above all the 'regular' mothers and i feel like it demands a sacred reverence to utter. but just like anything that has ever been sacred and/or reverent, it is a word/label/name that has been completely degraded, disrespected and forever tarnished. yin and yang, good and evil, hot and cold, up and down. there is always opposition, in everything. what matters, is what YOU choose to make of it.

Cricket said...

Even if I had grown up in a happy home with people who actually cared about me, I still would have felt loss and pain surrounding my adoption.

Just wanted to clarify that.

It seems like it's easier for some to say that people who had bad experiences as an adoptee/natural mother are bitter or meanies.

Can somebody tell me why I SHOULDN'T be bitter?

Lindsey from The R House said...

first, love birthMOM's comments, as always.

i think when we use verbiage to label someone, anyone, it is important to ask that person how they feel about it. i think much of the time people in the same situation who could be labeled with the same term have different and personal feelings on the matter--the comments have proven that.

for example, i have a good friend who has black skin. when our relationship first started, i asked her "hey, do you think of yourself as a black woman or an african american woman?" technically, she could fall under both labels but had really strong feelings about one label and not the other. we laughed about it and she told me she had never been asked which she term she preferred.

when our oldest son's birth mother came to visit this last month, i asked her which term she preferred. she said i could introduce her as "nicole, tyson's birth mom." but that's just her. i think the important thing is that we ask.

i will admit that i got into the habit of calling expectant mothers who were making an adoption plan "birth mothers" mostly because i wasn't sensitive enough to even see the distinction. sure, the person who called me out on it should have been a little more kind as it was an innocent mistake, but the distinction made sense to me, so i have been trying to change that habit. that said, one of my dearest, dearest friends placed a couple years ago and she was offended when people called her an "prospective birthparent" and not a birth mother when she was pregnant and planning on adoption because she felt like people weren't taking her decision to place seriously.

so, moral of the story: it's so individual.

oh and jill, your quote in the post was hysterical. i will be quoting you for sure on that. bryan kehl (who plays for the NY Giants in the NFL and happens to be an adopt adoptee in a closed/recently reunited adoption in a transracial family ...and very good looking) has a very similar POV.

Sterling Bo said...

People are not dysfunctional because of adoption. Adoption can sometimes be dysfunctional because of people. That's that.

There is a definite pattern here, that may infuriate some people (but hey, that's why I blog about open adoption, isn't it? to get a rise? heh heh...) but here it is - Women who placed in closed adoptions when it was not their decision (which is not always your fault, and I don't mean to belittle your situations at all, because I do understand how strong you had to be), don't have the same closure that women who have placed more recently, were given more than one option, and (usually) in open adoptions have.

I am a birthmother. Amy, my son's mommy, is not an infertilemother, an unnatural mother, a second mother, an a-mom, or just a guardian. She is his mother. I am his birthmother. He wouldn't be here without my uterus, but he wouldn't have the wonderful life, his daddy (Dave), and the love of TWO families that he has. I do not see my placing as cruel, nor do I dislike being called a birthmother. I *LOVE* being called a birthmother. It is empowering. It indicates that I was able to do something so strong, and tear out my own heart, so that my little angel would have a family and a stable life. If I am a monster for that, then go ahead. Believe that. (Then tell Dave and Amy because they'll chew you up and spit you out soooooo fast...)

The truth is...
Nobody will ever win this debate. Not everyone will always be happy. I hate being called short, but why would I jump down someones throat and tell them it is demeaning and belittles (hahahaha) me when they call me that? How are they to know? Instead of being upset and angry, kindly correct someone if you wish, but allow the rest of us to take pride in being called a birthmother.

Also... to adoptees. I will never know your situation, or your home life. But I can promise you that biological families have a lot of problems, too. We just can't blame anyone else...

I am blessed to have found peace in my placement. I am blessed to have a wonderful, loving relationship with my little boy's parents and extended family. And because of that, I pray every day for every woman who has placed, or will place. I pray for every child that has been placed, or will be placed.

(And if it bothers you that there is a Mormon girl from Utah praying for you and/or your children, get over it. I'ma do it anyway.)

Stacey said...

I am waiting for the birth of the little baby boy that my husband and I will be adopting. I call the birth parents, birth parents. I asked them both what they preferred and we all agreed and that is what works best for the 4 of us. I never knew that there was such controversy over a name. It doesn't sound like there is a "right" title for anyone. There will always be someone offended. I think the best thing to do is remember the child... does any of this matter? As long as ALL of the child's parents are working together.

StefanieJinelle said...

I'm going to give two examples that happened to me. Right after placement, I was still transitioning from mom to birthmom. So, on Facebook when I would add pictures I would say, "This is my 11 day old daughter." "I love my daughter." An adoptee said to me, "She isn't your daughter. Why are you still calling her that?" Well, excuse me. I'm sorry that I didn't cut off my motherly instincts as soon as I dotted my i's on my signature relinquishing my rights. I didn't know that was the rules, sorry. It took a while for me to transition that but I do call, Olivia, my birthdaughter now.

I think the first person I actually corrected that called me a mother would have to be my fiance(my husband in less than a month- oh bliss!). He met Olivia for the first time in January and he would say stuff in front of the a-fam. "She's cute- just like her mom. She got her looks from her mom." I got REALLY embarrassed because I didn't know how Val (adop-mom) would take it. Of course, Olivia is cute like both of her moms. ;) After they left, I told him it really bothered me because I wasn't her mom. I'm her birthmom. I agree with what birthMOM said. A mom is the one who takes care of you when your sick, kisses your boo-boos, makes you crazy if you're out past curfew, there to cry with you after you first major heartbreak, etc.

Every once in a while, when I get e-mails from Val. And she will reassure me that I am her mom. And I cringe. I don't know why. Because I don't think I deserve that title. I gave my daughter life and a (FOREVER) family and will call Val, mom, and Dustinn, dad. She will call me Stefanie/Stef/SJ, her most fabulous birthmomma eva ;)

Cricket said...

"Also... to adoptees. I will never know your situation, or your home life. But I can promise you that biological families have a lot of problems, too. We just can't blame anyone else..."

Honestly, that was the rudest comment I think I've ever heard.

I would have gladly given up growing up with an adoptive mother and an adoptive father if I could have just grown up with my natural mother. I would have LOVED to have dealt with any and all issues that my "biological" family would have had.

Carlynne Hershberger, CPSA said...

@ Sterling, I believe the post ASKED for opinions on this topic. I gave MY opinion without calling anyone names, I never implied that I thought anyone was a monster and you have the right to call yourself anything you want as do I.

I take issue with the industry itself and as long as open adoptions are not legally enforceable I'll speak about it. As long as adoptees are not given the rights to their own original birth certificates like everyone else I'll speak up. There is still coercion going on whether you believe that or not. I've seen too much of the pain that the industry has caused. I'm simply asking people to learn more about what really goes on.

Sally Bacchetta said...

We refer to both our children's birthmothers as "birthmother" because that's what they requested. I'd happily call them anything they'd like. No title or label diminishes either their importance in our lives or mine. Neither of us is threatened by the other. That's the power of love.

David and Amy said...

@ Christina
I don't know what your home life was like, or what experiences you had while growing up. But let me tell you this: I will do ANYTHING for my son. And I know that my son's birth mother not only would do anything for him, but DID do EVERYTHING for him. I don't take the responsibility of motherhood lightly. That doesn't mean I will be the perfect mom, but I know my love for my son is perfect.
@ everyone else
I have spent the last 8 1/2 years trying to figure out what a mother truly is. Now I know. Motherhood is a calling. The title of "mother" is more than just someone who gave birth. It is more than someone who raises a child. It is a connection that lasts eternally, and is sacred. I love my son's birthmom as if she were a sister to me. I cannot imagine my life without her in it. I pray for her everyday, and thank the Lord for bringing her into my life. There is no doubt that David is my son. It is not just a series of events and coinsidences that led to him becoming a part of our family. It was perfectly orchestrated by the hand of God. I am humbled and full of gratitude for being able to have a front row seat to the miracle of a family. In all its forms. Thank you Sterling, for being my son's birthmother - and a part of our family.

Anonymous said...

I was separated from my son by adoption, but I never ceased being his mother. For this reason, I am NOT a "birthmother," his "birthmother" or anything of the sort. The term "birthmother" was definitely coined in order to mean someone who was a mother for gestational/uterine/vaginal purposes only. In other words, nothing more than an incubator. It is up to a woman to make her decision of course whether she wishes to be called a "birthmother" or whether she still considers herself to be a mother after the loss of her child to adoption. No-one is forcing a mother to call herself anything else.

I am a mother, a natural mother, because child adoption is a modern socially-created legal concept, only dating back to 1851. whereas I am still a mother by the laws of Nature. My love for, and bond with, my son was not destroyed by an artificial and unwilling separation.

You call us "meanies," but at the same time, IMHO, it is mean of someone to call me a "birthmother" and thus insult me by saying that I am not a mother, nothing more than a convenient set of reproductive organs. The people who adopted my son do not consider me to be his mother either, hence negating our experience. IMHO, the meanies are those who insist that I am not a mother, only a "birthmother," no relevance in the life of my child other than an incubator and "gene donor" as I have heard us called by the employees of adoption agencies.

Erimentha said...

I call the mother who gave birth to me Mum and I call the mother who raised me Mum. If I have to differentiate, I call them my natural mother and my adoptive mother. I have found in my exploration of the web that potential and adoptive parents just don't seem to realise just how traumatic it is for a woman to give up their child, coerced or not. In an ideal world, women would not need to give up their child for adoption just because they were young or unmarried - they should have support from their family and society as a whole to keep their family in tact.

There are certainly some women who consider themselves to be birth mothers but there are many more who find the term jarring and sad because in their hearts they are simply mothers. Calling women who are considering relinquishment birthmothers is coercive because it is a way of stopping the woman from feeling like a mother. Just because a woman considers it, doesn't mean that she will definitely give up her baby after he or she is born, she may choose to parent that baby which would mean she is simply a mother. I have read many potential adoptive parent blogs where this has happened where they ask for their friends to pray that the "birthmother" will change her mind - this is why people find the term offensive, because it is misused by selfish people.
As for this comment - "Also... to adoptees. I will never know your situation, or your home life. But I can promise you that biological families have a lot of problems, too. We just can't blame anyone else..." The whole point of adoption was supposed to be to serve the best interests of a child. If a child is placed in a abusive situation, that is just inexcusable. The fact is that adoptive parents are taking on the care of another person's child and I believe they should be held to a higher standard because of that, especially since so many people adopt for their own happiness, not to provide a child with a home. My adoptive family are lovely people but I grieve every day that I could not be raised by my natural mother, with people whose genetic potential I share, simply because my mother was young and single when I was born.

Ashley said...

Here's the thing.

I think the sensitive issue with the titles in an adoptive relationship is that because of insecurities (on BOTH sides) we tend to be overly sensitive about the titles we use in this.

As an adoptive mother (with a very close relationship to my daughter's birth mother, I might add) I've stopped correcting people when it comes to what they call me. I. Don't. Care. I really don't.

Carri loves my daughter to a million little pieces. She loves her just as much as I do. Yes, we love our daughter in different ways because we play different roles, but the intensity is there on both sides. If she wants to call herself "birth mother" or "first mother" or "biological mother" or "natural mother" I'm cool with any of that because, quite frankly, we both know that it doesn't matter.

I'm teaching my daughter that she lived, grew and was very loved in Carri's tummy and no matter what, Carri has and will always love her just as much as Mommy does.

My role in Julia's life has nothing to do with the love Carri has for our daughter. Carri's role in Julia's live has no effect on my love for Julia.

My experiences with adoption have taught me one thing;

legal guardianship
and all that jazz do NOT make a mother.

Carrying a baby doesn't make a mother.
Raising a child doesn't make a mother.

Plenty of women do both and FAIL.

Want examples, look at the number of children in foster care.

What does make a mother?

Love does.

Hands down, flat out.

Not having a child you love near you or not being allowed/able to play an active role in that child's life doesn't make one less of a mother.

Because the intensity of the love is still there.

Carri could be a million miles away (and even though she's in the state next to me it feels like she is sometimes :( ) and she'd still love our daughter.

If Carri wants to call herself "Julia's mom" I'll gladly support her in that.

It doesn't bother me.

I don't want her to use any phrasing she's not comfortable with because she's afraid it will hurt my feeling.

I'm the one Julia calls "Mommy." If she wanted to call me anything else, I'm cool with that. Doesn't mean she loves me less.

Doesn't mean that calling Carri "Carri" or "My birth mom" will make her love Carri less when she's old enough to understand it.

I guess in our house, it's not the words we say but the tone and emotion we use when saying it.

A healthy adoptive relationship struggles with terms because there is not cute little compartment for all of us to fit in and label ourselves with. If I could put Carri in a box I'd have to go with "half-sister" (I have a very intense sisterhood love and relationship with my own sister that almost is more solid than the relationship with my spouse, so in my mind "sister" doesn't **QUITE** fit) and I just don't care about labels.

So call me whatever you want. I know who I am. I know what I am. Carri knows who she is and she knows the love we all have for her.

And we're all happy with our roles. And titles.

Both moms.

*giggle* (Julia has two mommies!)

Seriously, how lucky am I to have someone loving my daughter so much??? Poor people who haven't adopted. I've got twice as much mommy love going toward my daughter. Neiner neiner neiner....

Sterling Bo said...

Ashley - you just made me giggle out loud. :-)

Anonymous said...

Another TRA here.

I call the mother who birthed me "mother"... or "Taiwan mom." It's usually obvious according to context. The prefixes can kind of get tiring after a while.

kclarsh said...

"blood legal guardianship and all that jazz do NOT make a mother. Carrying a baby doesn't make a mother. Raising a child doesn't make a mother"

Actually all that stuff DOES make someone a mother. It doesn't make a good or bad mother, but a mother none the less. You diminish and disrespect ALL women who have given birth with that statement, whether they placed or raised their children. And you ask your child when they get older if they think of their first mom as a mother...ask any adoptee how they would label the woman who gave birth to them and I do not doubt that "mother" will be in there somewhere.

Campbell said...

Adopted closed domestically 47 years ago. Refer to the people who conceived me as my biological parents and now, having connected with my biological mother, call her by her first name.

Can't even imagine calling her mom in conversation and feel the term "biological" is the most meaningful as the only other biologically related person I've ever known until now is my own son.

Having said all that, I do try my best in conversation with other people about their experience with adoption to use terminology that they are comfortable with.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say, as a prospective adoptive parent, that when I first started research on adoption, I had not often, if ever, encountered the terms "birthmother" and "birthparent" before.

To me, the "birth" part of the phrase implied so many things. First of all, it implied that the "birthfamily" and the baby share so much - history, genes, culture, etc. Frankly, it never occurred to me to think of the "birth" term as merely a set of reproductive organs: it implied something like the term often used with married couples, "family of origin."

"Birth," meaning "this is where I (the child) came from; this is a huge, important and integral part of who I am." The "birthmother" term, from what I've read and heard, is a label of honor, used to teach and protect children and to honor and preserve the dignity of both sets of parents.

(I would never use the term to try to diminish a "first family's" role, and naturally, I would not use a phrase for someone who I knew disliked or dispised it!)

I also talked to adopted friends and relatives and to a few "birthmothers" I know. They all have had different, but mostly positive, experiences. We - my family, my friends and I - whose lives have involved adoption accept it as part of life... although we know we're extremely blessed to be able to do that, acknowledging that not every adoption and foster experience is nice or acceptable.

When I read what some consider the more positive adoption terms (including birthmother/family vs "real" parent, make an adoption plan vs. give up or away, etc.), I tried to think of them in terms of what could be healthiest for many children and what could be "nice" for both sets of parents.

For example, I've heard people ask adoptive parents in front of the child, "What? Couldn't you have any REAL children?" That hurts the child; that hurts the adoptive parents; and that is insulting to the "birthfamily/original family" who, in many cases - probably in almost every healthy adoptive experience - made certain decisions for their child's life.

Adoption and fostering aren't new. We have stories about them throughout history - even the children of kings and queens of the past were removed from their parents' company and raised by others.

As we in countries of leisure have more time - because we've been blessed with a lot of money compared to the rest of the world - we will continue to argue about the various terms and phrases.

I hope we all remember to keep in mind that what we do, we should do with the best interests of each individual child - based on the educated decisions of his or her family. If a woman or family decides that an adoption plan is best, they should be supported. If a woman or family decides that they might not have "ideal" circumstances but can nonetheless give the child a loving and nurturing home, they should also be supported.

I wish everyone the best in health and happiness throughout your lives.

halforphan56 said...

The woman who gave birth to me is my mother, her husband is my father. My mother died when I was three months old and my father relinquished me to adoption. That's when I got adoptive parents, who raised me to call them Mom and Dad. After reunion in 1974, I called both fathers "Dad" and looked them in the eye when I said the word. I called my adoptive mother "Mom" and my stepmother (my natural father's third wife) by her first name and slowly called her "Mom", too. Afection and respect for all of my parents. But the deceased woman who did not get the chance to raise me because she died is my mother. Had she lived, she and my father would have raised all five of their children. I was their baby. Had that been the case, my now adoptive parents would have adopted a different baby.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about the term "birth mother" and whether it was offensive or not. However, having just received our son through the miracle of adoption 2 weeks ago, we know that his birth mother doesn't take offense to that term at all. I mostly call her his birth mother but sometimes his biological mother. Either seems to work okay for us. We're blessed that the birth mother is completely supportive of us and refers to us as his parents, rather than secondary or adoptive parents. I think those offended by the name birth mother are probably from the older era of adoption. The present day is a lot more open than it used to be. Our son's birth mother was adopted and her parents have found it interesting to watch our arrangement as it's far more open than what they themselves experienced a couple decades ago.

jimm said...

I'm an adoptee and I prefer the term "first parents," because that's what they were.

Third Mom said...

I call my children's parents their parents when I talk to my children, and their first parents when I talk to anyone else.

I think it's up to the person I'm talking about to define how they want to be addressed, however. The majority of my friends whose children were surrendered and adopted have expressed a preference for being called mother and father (with no additional description) or first mother and father if a distinction needs to be made.

Funny, my son chose the same way as jimm above to describe his first mother.

Bean Sprouts said...

I'm a Birth Mom, I refer to myself as Birth Mom, not any of the other names listed. To each their own I guess, but it doesn't offend me.

Unknown said...

I have so much love and appreciation for our twins birth mom that no term can do her justice. I try to honor her in ways big and small.
You may find this post I wrote interesting.