Category Archives: Birth parent

Prefixing Mothers

There is no consensus about ethnic titles. Is “African-American” an inclusive term, with the emphasis on “American”? Does “Mexican-American” create a divide just by using the “Mexican” prefix?

There is no consensus about adoption titles, either. Is the woman who gives birth but doesn’t parent a “birth mother”? A biological mother? Just a mother? Or is there some better term?

There is no definitive answer that ruffles no feathers. But let’s explore some commonly used titles.

  • Birth Parents: Not accurate for a father — he doesn’t give birth. Too limited for many mothers — they contribute much more than labor and delivery. There’s prenatal care, and a loving, painful decision to place a child. Still, it is an understood and widely used term, not heinous to most first parents I hear from, and I occasionally use it to be understood.
  • Biological Mother: limits my children’s first parents’ role to that of DNA providers. In fact, Crystal and Michele have much more significance than that to us. They made decisions during and after their pregnancies that show they are much more than egg donors. Just too clinical.
  • Natural Parents: could imply that adoptive mothers are the opposite — unnatural mothers. Possibly an emotionally charged term, and could make it difficult for the child who wants to claim both his mothers.
  • Real Mom: so who changed all those diapers and woke up in the middle of all those nights to sooth — Fake Mom?

I like first parent. It is clear. It honors the people who gave my children life. It does nothing to diminish my role in their lives — I’m their Mom. And I don’t believe it implies that I am second. Rather, it denotes that I am last. Roger may not have been my first love, but he was my last. Last is good.

No matter what your intentions, never abbreviate BM for birth mother. No one likes to be equated with excrement, no matter how innocent the intentions. Instead, if you are limited on keystrokes: bmom or bdad, fmom or fdad.

Please note that these terms are accurate only when referring to parents who have relinquished. Prior to relinquishment, a pregnant woman is simply an expectant mother (no matter what your agency tells you). Use of the term birth mother — even when prefixed with the word prospective — to describe a pregnant woman who might choose adoption is considered coercive. It’ s not until she legally surrenders her role as parent that she should have any prefixes attached to her title at all.

Excerpted from The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.


Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.


It’s a matter of perspective

Remember when I wrote about the Drama Wheel? The short play where one person is the villain, the victim and the hero?

Well, there are other examples, as I’m finding, of stories in which two opposing parties are forced to see from the other’s viewpoint.

Here are two movies my kids have been watching lately. Check out the general theme of…

Seeing a situation from multiple perspectives

Tessa likes Freaky Friday. Mom thinks her teenage daughter is self-centered and incapable of thinking about the people around her. Daughter thinks mom has no idea how difficult it is to be a teenager because the Mom is so wrapped up in her own life. They argue with and rage at each other, missing each other’s point of view because they are so stuck in their own.

Through a magical fortune cookie, one freaky day they trade places. The daughter inhabits the mom’s life and the mom lives the daughter’s. Finally, in walking in the other’s shoes, they each can more fully love, respect, and appreciate the other.

Reed is into Brother Bear. Kenai is mad at a bear he thinks was responsible for the death of his brother, Sitka, so he hunts it down and kills it. But Sitka’s spirit has arranged for Kenai to learn about the connectedness of all life. So through the bear’s death, Kenai becomes a bear.

A third brother, Denahi, now hunts the bear for revenge, thinking the bear killed his two brothers. He doesn’t realize that he’s hunting his own brother!

What’s most fascinating is that when we see the bear through Denahi’s eyes, he looks like a National Geographic bear — all fierce and ready-to-kill. When we see bears through Kenai’s eyes, they look like Disney bears — cuddly and ready to have good-natured fun.

Kenai has to face something horrible he did because of his limited perspective, and both he and Denahi become wiser for their experience.

Whenever I see conflict in Adoption World (or in my own world), I wonder what would happen if the parties in conflict could trade places. Oh wait. Maybe in this lifetime we ARE trading places.

Could I have been a first mother in another reality? Might I have experienced what it’s like to have been adopted? How compassionate was I with the others in my constellation? How compassionate am I now?


Birth Fathers…Are You Out There?

On this Fathers’ Day weekend, I’m thinking about two gentlemen in particular.

where are birth fathers?

Our children have access to their birth mothers. We feel it’s what is best for them. And besides, we like Crystal and Michele. A lot.

The reasons we welcome Crystal and Michele in our lives:

  • to alleviate the rumored Primal Wound of adoption
  • to have access to medical information
  • so that our children will never have to wonder
  • so that our children will never have to search
  • so that our children will never have to begin a relationship with someone who is both a stranger and yet intimately necessary to their lives.

All these reasons also stand for birth fathers, yet we have no contact with either.

Tessa’s birth father is, according to Crystal, a wild card. He can be incredibly sweet and sensitive, or extremely manipulative and angry. Through the agency, we have invited him to introduce himself to us through letters, which could progress to telephone calls and maybe even visits, as his personality and intentions become clear. We have yet to get a response.

Reed’s birth father is just absent. Michele let us know about two years ago that he wanted our email address, and we wait to hear from him. He has moved out of state and may not know how to begin a relationship with us.

Even though the idea of a birth father is much more abstract than a birth mother, our children have begun to ask about the two male names we include in our nightly prayers. I ask that we soon have either faces to go with the names, or the guidance to answer the questions.



Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.


Birthfamily boys

My son, who is 4, has been very interested in his birth family lately — especially the male members.

About a year ago, Reed came across some photos of him as a newborn with his cradle care family (he was with them for about 2 weeks). Reed asked who the two small boys were in the photos, and my mom told him they were his foster brothers. Since then, Reed’s been fascinated with the idea that he has brothers somewhere.

He’s also been asking about AJ, his firstfather. We plan to contact AJ for the first time soon to see if he’s up for any kind of relationship. We’ve already cleared this plan with Reed’s firstmom, Michele.

The big news is that Michele, who got married last summer, is pregnant! She’s got a lot going on, with her move out of state and the new baby.

Reed was thrilled with this announcement. Well, he clarifed, he WILL be thrilled if this is a boy. But NOT if the baby is a girl.

We hope to see Michele before she moves. It has been over two years since our last get together.

Image: DBC Collectibles