Monday, April 12, 2010

Watch Your Language

I don't usually borrow blog content, but I feel the urge to opine on the topic of positive adoption language. The following chart comes from LDSFS, on this page *here* (source code FTW!).

Negative Terms

Preferred Terms

Gave up her child for adoption

Placed her child for adoption

Real parent; natural parent

Birth parent, biological parent

Adoptive parent


His adopted child

His child


Born to unmarried parents


Child who was adopted

To keep

To parent

Adoptable child; available child

Waiting child

Foreign adoption

International adoption

Track down parents


Unwanted child

Child placed for adoption

Is adopted

Was adopted

Not every person who has an adoption connection is going to take offense to anything found in the left-hand column. I think with a few of these items it's sort of like how some people to whom the terms apply prefer "black" and some prefer "African-American." And similarly, I find that while many people involved in adoption may use some of the negative terms, they don't like to hear those who aren't involved using them. Sort of the adoption equivalent of the "n" word.

(I'm probably going to get a lot of tripe for that comparison, but I stand by it.)

"Gave up" doesn't bother me as much as what I tend to hear, which is "gave away." I did not give my baby away. That makes it sound like I placed an ad on Craigslist or Freecycle. That said, I neither gave her up nor gave her away. I gave her more. And I use "keep" instead of "parent" on a regular basis.

I also refer often to "adoptive" parents, but not as any slight on them or to imply that they aren't really their child's parents. In the case of my blog, I use it as a means of identifying people who have adopted. Not in any negative sense. But for my part I feel that if I simply mentioned "parents" it would be unclear if I was referring to people who had children the typical way and for some reason really liked my blog anyway.

Part of the reason - well, all, if I'm honest - that I wanted to blather about positive adoption language is because of one phrase that just peels the enamel off my teeth: "unwanted pregnancy."

I want to rip my hair out when I hear that. Just because a pregnancy was unplanned does not mean it was unwanted. I wanted Roo as soon as I found out she was growing in my belly. I wanted her before then, I think. I always wanted her. I did not plan for her to get here the way or time that she did, but never, ever mistake unplanned for unwanted.

I hate "unwanted." It makes it sound like I chose adoption to get rid of my baby - I didn't want her, so I didn't keep her. Please, please, please don't use the word "unwanted." Adoption truly is about love. Make no mistake, no baby could ever be as wanted as my Roo. I grew her and birthed her and cared for her and placed her with her mommy and daddy because I wanted her more than I'd ever wanted anything in my life.

When in doubt, ask the member of the adoption triad to whom you are speaking. "Does it bother you when I use that word? That phrase?" If it does, they'll let you know, and tell you which word or phrase they prefer. Simple as that. As in every other aspect of adoption, it is so important to be open and honest in communication. Which reminds me ...

Oh, and memo to H: referring to a baby as a "bastard child" just makes you look like a bastard.


jgirl said...

i think all off us as your loyal blog readers would have to agree on H's bastard status...

Margaret said...

I agree with jgirl about H.

On adoption sites or with people who know my story I will use words like "adoptee", or refer to my parents as my "adoptive parents". I hated the terms "real/natural parent" growing up.

The only time I refer to my birth mother as "mom" is when talking to my birth sisters to make things easier for them. I tend to call her D or nothing at all.

Candace said...

I love this... most babies. No matter how unexpected are rarely rarely, unwanted. It kills me when people refer to babies as mistakes too :S Great post

Kristina P. said...

I appreciate you posting these! The language is always changing. As a social worker, I am more in tune with it, but I know a lot of people, Joe Schmo, if you will, have no idea because they only know what they hear in the media.

Que and Brittany's Adoption Journey said...

I really have a hard time with "unwanted" too. One time a dental hygienist got into it with me about adoption. (This wasn't smart on my part, considering she was cleaning my teeth at the time.) She said (about Liam's birth mom) "But why would she do that? Did she just not want him?"

Arrrrrgghh!! Maybe it was a good thing (for her sake) that she had sharp tools in my mouth at the time. LOL

Jamiecrafts said...

I agree with you as well, Jill. I have to say that even when a pregnancy is unplanned doesnt EVER mean the baby was or is unwanted, you take what you can get when you get it and sometimes the timming is off but we deal with it.

Mama Bear said...

you bring out lots of good points here!

Danya said...

I suppose I never really thought of the fact that adoptive parents might take offense if you refer to them as "adoptive parents" rather then "parents." I paused for a moment when I read that and thought, "Am I offended by that?" *Short pause* "No, that's stupid." LOL!

But I COMPLETELY see the offense that is taken with some of the terminology you used. I'm trying to be sensitive to everyone's emotions through this process but it's soooo nice for the reminder. THANKS! :D