Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Name Calling

I have made an effort to whine less and help more on this blog. Whether I've been successful is anyone's guess, because a lot of my little rants are actually whines in disguise aren't they (cold risotto, anyone)? But I hope that my whiny rants skew towards education rather than irritation. And on that note, here's another :-)

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. Maybe that's just me and my sheltered little life of hot risotto (sorry, I really liked my cold risotto analogy and I'm probably going to use it to death here). Maybe there are circles of people and places in the world where if you want to deal someone a terrible blow, you call her a birth mother.

But I've never felt that way. You may have noticed that I refer to myself and others like me as birth moms. I certainly don't take offense to it and you can be sure that I don't mean it to offend anyone else. I think that a birth mother is a great thing to be!

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 a 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.

Why is it that all of these so-called less offensive names for birth moms are inherently offensive to the parents of an adopted child? Can't we be friends, people? Can't we all have nice names? Does one person really have to demand to be called something that makes them look like the better person? I realize I'm speaking from the non-smoking section of the restaurant here, but I don't know a single adoptive mom or dad who feels like they're superior to their child's birth mom. The adoptive parents I know love and respect their children's birth moms. Doesn't that deserve love and respect in turn, rather than being called or thought of as second-best, unnatural or fake?

I'm in a different situation than a lot of birth moms, too, because I single parented for nine weeks. I think that in my situation, I certainly could make the case for being Roo's original mother, or first mother.

But I don't, and I never will. If it was that important to me to be seen as Roo's mother - to BE her mother, I wouldn't have placed her. As I've said before, Roo's parents are her parents, no qualifiers or modifiers or any other kind of adjective necessary.

Again, the meanies would object. That's not fair! Why is it that I, a quote-unquote first mother, am the one who gets an adjective and the adoptive parents get to be just plain Mom and Dad? Easy. I'm the one who placed a child for adoption. They're the ones who parent that child. It makes much more sense to me for me to be the one with an explanation attached.

But there's another difference there. The meanies never refer to placing a child for adoption. They say they "lost a child to adoption." What a horrible attitude! I certainly didn't lose Roo. I know exactly where she is. She and I both gained so much from placement! Loss is the last word I'd pin on her adoption.

I'm doing my short-story-long thing again, and I apologize. The point I want to make today, I suppose, is simply this: I am a birth mother, and I'm perfectly happy being called just that.


Savannah said...

Your posts always give me a warm fuzzy feelings. :) Thank you for being a wonderful voice of adoption.

Bellatrix and Narcissa said...

I just wanted you to know that your blog always makes me smile. My life was always very simple in terms of controversial issues until we adopted (or got involved in the process, even). It amazes me some of the things I read or hear about adoption, and many of those thing make me very, very sad (and often, angry). It is so wonderful to hear from a HAPPY birth mom (like I believe ours is!) because, as you said, the meanies sure take a lot of space on the net. So thanks!!

Christy said...

Great post! It all rings so true with our house. Just read a bunch of "meanies" comments on FB and it just breaks my heart. Thanks for keeping adoption real and positive!

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I agree with you completely. And I've found (with my own unfortunate encounters with adoption meanies) that usually those issues come up for women who felt that they were "forced" to choose adoption. I can definitely see how they would become bitter and sad if the decision was not really theirs, ya know?
Keep up the good fight Jill, you inspire and encourage so many people...birthmothers included. :)

Lara Zierke said...

There certainly are camps of negativity about language - and those who "lost" a child to adoption. It seems to me that these birth moms who harbor such negative experiences tend to be a generation or so older than us. Would you agree to that? I just wonder if it has to do more with the social pressures of the time they placed and the lack of openness (a.k.a. control) they felt they had in their adoption experience. I am just wondering if you've come to the same conclusion. For me, that's one reason I champion open adoption so much! I call jocelyn's biological mom her birth mom or biological mom. I would call her whatever she wanted because I certainly never want to offend her, but she's never had a problem with it.

Anonymous said...

I've been loving your posts! The risotto analogy was very interesting, and I won't mind if you continue to use it.

I think that calling a woman a "birthmother" before she's placed isn't appropriate. She's an expectant mother, just like any other pregnant woman. After that, however, I think that she and the child's adoptive parents can decide on the terminology that works for them. If that's first mother, great. If it's birthmother, that's good too. Giving birth is a pretty difficult experience, and it brings the child into this world, so, how can it be an insult?

Anyway, that's just what I think. Thanks for writing!

Lia - not Juno said...

For what it's worth, I like your cold risotto post too. I actually just wrote an entry about it. And linked to it. La la la la.

I'm okay with birthmom too. I mean, whatever. I think I have more trouble with the "mom" part than the "birth" part. I'm not his mom, never gonna be. Like, I could be the birthgiver. Meh, maybe that is a little "incubator"-like. I dunno. I just don't really care - maybe I would if people DID use it as an insult, but you're right, I have never seen that.

Sarah Buttenwieser said...

Funny, although not surprising I wrote about this (well more than once) notably on Mother's day.

Giggles and Bloom girls said...

We have adopted 2 children from two drastically different situations. In both situations I found our birth mothers to be kind, brave, and absolutely amazing. My love for them is so strong, I cannot imagine either of them being offended by someone calling them birthmother. I love love love your blog, it gives me confidence that my dear sweet birthmoms are ok. Your posts are heartbreaking, real, beautiful, and a testament to your strong belief in faith and family. Thank you for sharing you story with the world, I am sure you have touched more lives than you will ever know!

CCmomma said...

LOVE IT and please feel free to wear out the cold risotto analogy- let's see how many of us readers will laugh every time it pops up!;)

birthMOM said...

"The meanies never refer to placing a child for adoption. They say they 'lost a child to adoption'. What a horrible attitude!"

exactly. it all boils down to the attitude- 'cry me a river', but then you damn well better be ready to 'build a bridge and get over it'.

"I have made an effort to whine less and help more on this blog."

thank goodness, we need more help and less whine in the adoption world!! imagine if everyone did that, the world would be such a happier place! would that really be so awful?

Anonymous said...

I am one of those "meanies" that you are likely referring to. The thing is, that I have never told any woman what she should or should not call herself or how she should define herself. If, after she is separated from her child by adoption (and, it is indeed a loss for both of them, a compounding loss over the years), then it is up to her to decide whether or not she is still a mother or not.

I lost my son to adoption in 1980. It was not a choice, as he was taken as soon as he was born. I was 17, and unwed, and there was no "decision" involved as I was never given the chance to recover post-birth before "deciding." The first time I got the chance to even hug him was when he was almost 20 yrs old! But this is no different from having adoptive parents in the delivery room, again preventing the mother from making a "choice."

But, I may have lost my son to adoption (and got him back again, but that is another story), but I did not lose my motherhood. That is why, as I still consider myself to be his mother, why I do not use the term "birthmother" and refuse to be called one. Because I am still a mother.

I use the term mother, natural mother, exiled mother, or mother of adoption loss. Natural mother, if I need to be distinguished from an adoptive mother. Natural mother was not only the term used before the term "birthmother" was coined, but it also means someone who is still a mother, and it does NOT imply that the adoptive mother is unnatural, only that legal child adoption is a legally and socially constructed invention of modern human society (true: it was invented in 1851! fostering is found in nature but legal adoption is not). Man-made does not mean unnatural. Analogy: Cornflakes are man-made, but they are not "unnatural." They are still food.

So, as a "birthmother" means a woman who was only a mother for the process of birth, I do not define myself as being a birthmother. My son considers me to be his mother, not his "birthmother." In fact, as an adoptee, he was really offended by the term, as he feels it devalues our family relationship.

But, it is entirely your choice what you want to call yourself. No-one has ever tried to force someone to use a term they don't want.

Jill Elizabeth said...

Cedartrees, thank you for explaining your point of view in a kind, respectful manner. I wish that more people could disagree so agreeably!

I do appreciate that you're not trying to dictate how I see myself. The meanies I refer to have, in fact, told me that I shouldn't call myself a birth mother. Because they find it offensive, they don't think I should be allowed to use it.

I can't imagine the overwhelming pain of someone else choosing adoption for you. I would never advocate for that kind of adoption. I really do ache for women who weren't given a choice.

Adoption these days - mine for instance - is very often a different story. Openness can be an amazing gift. It's very healing for me.

I hope that your reunion has helped you heal, too.

Kelli said...

Your post is very thought provoking. I think so often people just don't know what to say because all of our needs, preferences, and experiences are so different.

I am from the "camp" that we do what works for us and what feels best to us (the families involved in our son's adoption). Most often when people ask about our son's birth mother they usually say birth mother or real mother. We are VERY open. We refer to our son's birth mother by her first name, but say birth mother when we are talking with someone who doesn't know her name. One dear friend was horrified when she thought her use of "real" mother might have offended me. I quietly told her that her terminology doesn't change anything. "J" is the woman who bore our son. She is the mother who chose adoption for her son because she wanted something different than she could provide for him.

The way I see it, our son has two mothers (regardless of what you call us). Our roles have been vastly different, but our love for him unites us with one common goal-his love and happiness. Our families have been united by adoption. Respect and love have healed much for all of us and helps us work through things as they come up. From my experience, I think the key is that anytime we judge others, and worse when we tell other people how they should think, feel, or act we get into trouble.

What I love abut your blog is that you get people thinking and talking about adoption. Because adoption has, until recently has been very closed and ultimately secretive, it has been something people just don't talk about. There are so many misconceptions.

Thank you for sharing your story!