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Respectful adoption language

(130 Posts)
Offredalba Sat 09-Jan-16 14:26:13

Sometime ago there was a brief discussion about why some people might find the term birthmother offensive. Perhaps this will inform and promote understanding.

thefamilyvonstrop Sat 09-Jan-16 20:35:26

Thats an interesting article. I haven't fully settled on what to call my son's birth mum / first mum (he is young so not come up particularly yet) but I know it won't be 'natural mum' as I just find that too diminishing of our relationship or tummy mummy which is horribly cutesy (in my opinion).
Sadly, my feelings move with my emotions - when I see my LO struggling, I tend to pull away from using mum at all and call her by her first name.

I don't think birth mum is offensive although I appreciate this paricular blogger doesnt like it and sees it as a diminishment of her role to one of pure biology.

anxious123 Sat 09-Jan-16 20:45:34

I'm a birth mum. Hate natural mother/mum as it makes his mum sound like some sort of alien in my point of view which she isn't. Don't like first mum either. Or tummy mummy. Both just make me go blurrrrrgh for a multitude of reasons. In the same way "adoptive mum" pees me off... she's either his mum or his forever mum when I mention her.

Devora Sat 09-Jan-16 21:56:55

It's an interesting piece, though much of it doesn't translate to the UK. I do think adoption in the US is so different, and we have no comparison here to the big adoption 'movement' and ideology they have there.

tbh, I don't quite understand why she prefers 'natural parent' because it explains her core biological connection to the child, but not 'birth parent' because it reduces her to a core biological connection? Or am I misunderstanding her point?

I don't think there's any easy answers. She refers to adopters calling birth mothers a whole string of insulting names that I have never heard used. It had never occurred to me that BM is also short for bowel movement, maybe because only doctors and nurses use the term 'bowel movement' here. I quite like 'first mum' and don't really get her objection to it - I think it honours the birth mother's status at the start of the child's life, and acknowledges the realness of the relationship and therefore the enormity of the disruption. I have, though, grown a bit uncomfortable with the phrase 'bringing home' when referring to a child first moving in with adoptive parents. It does kind of gloss over the enormity of what is happening and implies there's something easy, natural and resolving going on.

But in the end, my priority is to try to find language that makes sense to my daughter and allows her to explore her complicated feelings towards her family of origin. I'm not really interested in sectarian tit-for-tats between different categories of mother, though would always want to know if I was unwittingly offending someone.

Devora Sat 09-Jan-16 21:57:18

What do you think, Offredalba?

mybloodykitchen Sat 09-Jan-16 23:08:28

Can I ask what you use/are thinking of using instead of 'coming home' devora (and others)? I'm going round in circles a bit with that one. It's so pov dependent - it wasn't your home when you 'came home' to it but now it is your home and we are your people, so what else can I call it? But it still wasn't your home.

I don't have to talk to my ac about it yet as she's too young but there is an older person to speak to who needs to be familiar with the language so they can process it and speak it to ac when she is old enough iyswim? And at the moment it is birth mother or name and 'coming home' but it's all constantly under review. ..

Kewcumber Sat 09-Jan-16 23:32:38

The problem with that article is how on earth do your disagree respectfully with someone who has lost their child not once but twice without sounding like a cold hearted cow.... but here goes....

I (if I had any contact) would refer to DS's birth/biological/first/natural mother in any way she preferred I have no insecurities about the fact that I am his mother and he is my child, he is also her child as she is his mother.

What the author pays little notice to, until virtually the last sentence, is what language is helpful to the child - who gives a shit what either sets of parents think! We are all big enough and ugly enough to cope with a slightly wonky descriptor being added to our title but DS is very sensitive to what language is used. Up until quite recently he would have felt very upset about anyone using any kind of qualifier to my title of "Mother". He needs to know that I am permanent, present and fixed and so I am "Mum" and his biological mother is "Name" or "Birth-mum".

FWIW I talk about bringing DS home or coming home - but really more in the context of bringing him to my home and also to the place that is now his home. That he thinks of as home. I hate some of the triumphalism (is that a word) around "Gotcha Day" though we also have an extra chat, a think and a nice piece of cake on our family birthday.

Devora Sun 10-Jan-16 00:02:07

mybloodykitchen I don't really object to coming home, more Coming Home IYSWIM. It's less of a thing in the UK, but in the US there's this whole adoption-speak thing which kind of implies the adoptive home is the child's home before he's even there, and that the adoption is bringing him back to where he always belonged rather than being another traumatic disruption.

It makes me think of that documentary that was on a few years ago following an American woman adopting a toddler from China, who was obsessively over-invested in getting the toddler to breastfeed. It was horrifying to watch this confused, traumatised child being pressurised to breastfeed from a stranger (bear in mind this was an institutionalised child who had never bf). It was like the adoptive mother was doing everything in her power to erase the past and pretend it had never happened.

thefamilyvonstrop Sun 10-Jan-16 08:38:35

"Gotcha day" - that sounds bloody awful!

fasparent Sun 10-Jan-16 10:52:59

Seen many changes over the years, but every circumstance's will be different , We use term Mummy.............. Name. As they grow older its just Mum or whichever personal or natural term they wish too use, its their choice. Same applies too other acronyms, will be occasions where explanation or correctness will have too be explained. Down too choices of the individual relay, No need for issues.

combined02 Sun 10-Jan-16 11:53:45

It was who wrote about the protocol in another thread. It is good to read other people's perspectives, so thanks for posting, Offredalba.

Kewcumber, I don't think the author was prescribing what people should do within their families, more writing about her own feelings about the protocol generally, about experiences of having her language corrected and how she felt about that, etc.

From the point of the view of the child, I do feel/think that the term birth mother is potentially too diminishing and distancing and therefore could be damaging - but that is just my personal view, and I haven't ever been referred to as one. I agree with fas, that the best thing to do is to try to ascertain the feelings of the children, which are likely to change from time to time.

In terms of formal language I do feel that there should be review....

combined02 Sun 10-Jan-16 11:54:31

It was me, I meant.

thefamilyvonstrop Sun 10-Jan-16 14:24:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

combined02 Sun 10-Jan-16 14:49:29

I struggle too, to find a word. First mother sounds better to me.

What did she do, that was harmful, familyvonstrop? (or tell me to mind my own beeswax, that would work too)

"birth mother" covers a wide set of circumstance - there will be times when there has been nurturing and good parenting (such as when parents die,) - to say birth mother would be totally inappropriate there, surely?

Italiangreyhound Sun 10-Jan-16 15:02:57

Interesting article. I totally understand why this woman did not see the other again after being pulled up on talking about her own experience. That was really was horrible.

I think the author has a particular horror of the term birth mother before the baby is born....

"A particularly evil practice is calling women who are considering relinquishing their children “birth mothers,” well before a child is born. Live among those who adopt, and you hear them refer to "our birth mother" long before any baby is born. Designating her as such establishes a mindset—in the social worker, in the adoptive parents, and, most harmfully, in the pregnant woman herself—that she is on a track to relinquishment of her child. Thus changing her mind, and keeping her child, will appears to be some sort of chicanery on the part of "their birth mother." Until she signs the surrender papers, she is no more a “birth mother” than a person who wishes to adopt is an “adoptive parent” until a child is brought home. Those designations need to come after, not before, birth, or the singing of the surrender documents."

But I agree with other posters that the situation in the USA (and probably many, many countries) is very, very different from the UK.

It seems logical to me to refer to birth mother when we want to distinguish our son's birth mum from me. And I am sure she woudl do the same and call me adoptive mum when talking to others. We also use her name with ds, we use both so he know who she is and he understands their relationship. Sometimes, because he is still young, and I am often still called Mummy, we refer to her as birth Mummy.

I don't think I would use first Mummy, it just sounds odd to my ears... re "How about first mother? That too is stilted and unsatisfactory, and irritates adoptive mothers because they say, it makes them second mothers. They do come into the child's life second..." But my son has had three 'mother figures', a birth mum, a foster carer and me. The idea that there were three women (and three corresponding men) lining up to parent him may well suggest.... will there be a fourth? I just don't like the ambiguity of it all. Almost like number 1 son, or number 1 daughter. I may use those as a joke but as I only have one of each they know they are not ranked!

Such a sad article and yet the last line is so telling, love, more than language, will out... "“She talked about you all the time,” the woman said, pleased to be telling me this. In that instant, I didn’t care how Jane referred to me with her friends."

Italiangreyhound Sun 10-Jan-16 15:05:30

I refer to our daughter as a birth daughter, to distinguish her from being adopted (because she was not) it doesn't define our actual relationship any more than the fact that our son joined us by adoption, is just factual, I give birth to her. I expect if pushed my husband would do the same though he clearly did not give birth to her!

Italiangreyhound Sun 10-Jan-16 15:09:53

And in day to day life we make non distinctions and many people outside family do not know ds is adopted at all.

I agree with Devora (as ever) I;ve grown less fond of the phrase 'came home'.

When talking to ds I woudl say "When you came to live with us" or "When you joined our family." And that would be what I would say to others too now.

I have heard people say "when you got ds" and it makes me wince! We did not get him, he is not a pet or a new tv, he is a person who joined our family by adoption. But the legal bit came months down the line and I can't remember the date of the court hearing or the court celebration off by heart! The day we first met him is not the day our daughter first met him, so the day he came to live with us is the really key day for us, it was the official start of his joining our family, even though he (so I am told) and we, felt he was part of our family before that!

mydutifullaunderette Sun 10-Jan-16 15:43:33

Surely, surely, someone has not just asked a poster to divulge confidential and sensitive information about a vulnerable child, on a public chat forum? I sincerely hope not. The early history belongs to the child, and is not a matter for curious strangers.

In England, the overwhelming majority of adopted children require that adoption due to severely negative early years experiences. I admit that, while I am totally comfortable with my LO exploring words for their birth mother and finding what feels right to them, I do not spend time wondering how the birth mother would interpret those words - my concern is with creating a therapeutic and healing environment for my child, so far as is possible.

Italiangreyhound Sun 10-Jan-16 16:04:59

Completely agree mydutifullaunderette it is totally inappropriate to ask about a child's early experiences, they could be very identifying and they are private.

ChocolateJam Sun 10-Jan-16 16:27:42

Combined, what kind of parental behaviour do you think puts a child on the road to adoption? Abuse, neglect, exposure to drugs and alcohol before and after being born etc...

FuckedOffMum Sun 10-Jan-16 16:39:56

I'm open mouthed that a total stranger thinks it's acceptable to ask an adoptive parent what it was that led their child to being adopted. It's so inappropriate I can't understand why anyone would think it's ok. What do you expect, Combined, a detailed account of the child's early life?

The inference that unless the harm caused by the BP is at a level you deem bad enough then the terms being used to describe the child's birth family are too distancing, is insulting to say the least.

Absolutely no one has to justify to you or any other random internet stranger why they use the terms they do to refer to birth family.

combined02 Sun 10-Jan-16 17:04:38

Italian, I think talking about a birth daughter who is with you, alive and well, is different from talking about someone using the same term who you have lost.

combined02 Sun 10-Jan-16 17:19:54

Launderette, not really relevant to this topic, but the "overwhelming majority" comes from what source?

The point of this thread is to try to communicate that not all first mothers or bio mothers or whatever term you use are the sort of people you think they are. I think more tolerance and understanding and knowledge is needed.

I was not asking for identifying details.

FuckedOffMum Sun 10-Jan-16 17:34:23

No one is saying all birth mothers are anything, are they? Perhaps you can point out where this has been said?

I know what the birth mother of my DC is like, just like the other adopters know what their BMs of their DC are like. I will use whatever terms both me and my DC are comfortable with, not what someone on the internet tells me to use. I wouldn't presume to tell another adopter what they should or shouldn't call the BM of their children, so I really don't understand why you feel you have the right to tell adopters what language is and isn't ok? Virtually everything about adoption is unique for each case there is no one size fits all solution.

Asking how the BM had been harmful is asking for details. There's no two ways about it. You were told she was harmful and that's all there is to it.

Italiangreyhound Sun 10-Jan-16 18:10:54

combined02 Re Italian, I think talking about a birth daughter who is with you, alive and well, is different from talking about someone using the same term who you have lost.

Yes, it is of course it is very different. I don't think the term birth mum should be used exclusivity for people who have given birth and then lost their child, by whatever means. Although maybe some people do think that.

To me it is just another way to say biological mum. And as I said I make no distinction between my children except when explaining in relation to adoption, so not day to day.

But the point is I use it to explain things about my dd here because I want to ask for advice etc about ds, who is adopted, and of course some of that includes dd who is not adopted.

My point was the words are used in a variety of ways to describe a situation.

Plus I do think what is massively different about the article is that it is from the USA, where adoption is very different (to how it is in the UK).

The woman in that article is talking about babies relinquished for adoption/given up etc whatever terminology that is preferable, and in the UK this is not the case in the vast majority of cases.

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