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, 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.