#AdoptiveMama: What It Means to Be Mothers by Adoption

I spent some time scrolling through Instagram at the nearly 5,000 posts related to the hashtag #adoptivemama. As you may expect, some were cutesy photos of moms and their kids, but some were more profound. One post in particular stood out to me. A photo of a mother and her child, and a birth mother describing the letter she was writing to her child’s future mother. I saw a similar photo with a similar story—this time a foster mother writing a letter to the adoptive mother of the child she had been caring for. #Adoptivemama may seem like a catchy hashtag to put at the end of a family photo, but in reality, it is so much more.

Understanding Why Everyone May Not Be in Favor of Using #Adoptivemama

If you’re reading this, you probably get that I write about adoption. I love to share the articles I write on social media because it’s my goal to tell other people’s stories, share their lived experiences, and provide opportunities for others to think and learn about the unique nuances of adoption. This particular hashtag isn’t one I use to describe myself or my posts. I know I’m a mom through adoption. In order to be parents, my husband and I built our family through adoption, but when I describe myself, I say I’m a mom. Like any of the other moms who gave birth, I’m also a mother. However, when I’m talking to other people about adoption, I do refer to myself as a mom by adoption. There are so many ways to identify family members that it doesn’t seem fair to be described as just one thing. People should use terms that make the most sense to them and their own families. 

If you aren’t an adoptive parent yet, but are thinking about or working toward an adoption, here is a great article about adoptive parent etiquette at the hospital

What Does It Mean to Be an #Adoptivemama?

Though some may not be in favor of the #adoptivemama trend on social media, one glance at Twitter shows us that many moms are taking pride in this term. They are sharing selfies with their children, discussing milestones in their lives, and celebrating court hearings that finalize adoptions. I love when social media offers the opportunity to have real conversations, and this is just that, an opportunity. Women are sharing stories of their own adoptions, which in turn, can help those who are considering adoption—both birth mothers and prospective adoptive parents. When I began my adoption journey, it was a lonely one. I had to seek out a community of other adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and adoption professionals to help me fully understand some of the processes and nuances that I was about to face. This was helpful to me, and these individuals continue to be important aspects of my life. And guess what? I met most of them through social media, some through hashtags like adoption, adoption agency, etc. 

Whether #adoptivemama is something you like or not, the reality is that it has an impact on the World Wide Web.

Are you or someone you know planning a baby shower for an adoptive mom? Here is an article that might help. 

#AdoptiveMama and Mothers Who Have Adopted 

In my efforts to fully understand and research the #adoptivemama movement, I did what I do best—I reached out to others in the adoption community to see how they felt about this term. Mothers who built their families had a lot to say, and all had different lived experiences and perspectives. Though we are quick to think that #adoptivemama may just mean one thing, it turns out that it means many different things to many people. 

“This is a highly contentious term in the adoption world,” notes co-founder of helpusadopt.org, Becky Fawcett. “Many feel that calling yourself an adoptive mama or mom by adoption diminishes the role of just plain mom. I truly believe on this one that you do what is best for you and what you feel comfortable with.”

I do wonder if all moms use these words outside of the sphere of the internet. Though I often use the hashtag #workingmom on posts in relationship to mothers who work outside of the home and my own experiences of juggling parenting and a career, I would not likely refer to myself in that way outside of the social media world. 

But, many moms do use #adoptivemama when describing themselves. As Becky notes, “I happen to use the term when referring to myself and will always be proud to call myself a mom by adoption, which is the term that I use, and I don’t feel that it makes me any less than. My children are well aware of who I am, and who their birth mothers are, and the roles that each of us plays in their lives. I am proud of how we built our family and I want the world to know.”

Amanda, who adopted her eldest daughter, notes that becoming a mother is one of the most special moments in her life. “My children (one who is adopted and one who is biological) continuously teach me to strive and be better every day. My oldest pushes me to be more adventurous, to maximize the joy and fun of every moment, and to live life to the fullest while my youngest reminds me to slow down and appreciate the small moments and milestones, to relax and appreciate God’s plan for all of us.” To Amanda, #adoptivemama is just another way to identify as a mom. 

Sarah is a mother to two children by adoption and has biological twins.  

“We adopted our two daughters from Ethiopia (separately) and I gave birth to twin boys.  Our kiddos are 12, 8, 7, and 7; the younger three are all the same age for 8 months of the year so it often feels like I have triplets.  I feel no difference between my four children – they are just that, my children.  I love them all fiercely, and, just like any mother, I try to meet them where they are.  Each of them has their own unique needs, and each season of life brings different challenges and layers.  My younger daughter was older when she was adopted and is still dealing with the trauma of not having a mother for her first three years; we participate in weekly therapy sessions to help recreate those early life experiences that she missed.  Having adopted children just adds an additional layer to their story and to how we parent them,” notes Sarah.

Like other mothers by adoption, Sarah recognizes that every situation is different and that there are various complexities when it comes to parenting. 

“I read books about Connected Parenting, work with a therapist, and connect with other mothers who have adopted for fellowship and feedback, but honestly it has informed how I parent all my children.  If my biological son is having a meltdown about something, I have learned to respond differently just like I would with the girls (leaning in, validating the feeling before talking about his actions). I don’t hear it as often anymore, but I have been asked who my girls’ ‘real’ mother is; I always respond the same – I am their real mother.  They are all my real children.  We do talk about their adoptions and their birth mothers – but only with the girls since they are their stories to tell and not ours.”

Though some people come to adopt due to infertility or other health issues, Rachel chose adoption as a single mother with intention. “I knew that I wanted to be a mom, and if I wasn’t going to have a child of my own by a certain age, I always knew that I would look into adoption,” Rachel says.

“To be an adoptive mom, I feel, is the ultimate privilege. Someone chose me to raise their child. I was a stranger, a picture and profile on a page that someone thought “yes, her… she is the one that I want to be my child’s mother.” The thought of someone thinking this about me is hard to wrap my brain around even almost 8 years later. I take my role as a mother very seriously, but I think that because I am a mom by adoption that I take it even more seriously. I feel that adoption has given me the best gift, shown me unconditional love and I don’t take one day for granted. I am so proud to be an #adoptivemama.”

Check out this article about celebrities who were adoptive parents. 

#AdoptiveMama and Me: My Personal Story About Becoming a Mom by Adoption

My husband and I decided to build our family through adoption shortly after we got married and we were advised that I not carry a child for my own health. I had always considered adoption as a way to become a mother because I knew many people who had done that including my own family members. I had a lot of information, and my husband and I did our research, read all that we could, found an agency that worked for us, and took their advice and classes.

It was a long process. I have had many people tell me that I wasn’t a “real mom” because I didn’t know what it was like to carry a baby for nine months. Maybe I don’t, but, for a year, I did research, met with lawyers, social workers, and other adoption professionals to find what might work best for us. After completing a home study and filling out more paperwork than I even thought was possible, I waited for over a year to be matched twice. Those individuals chose to parent and I’m happy for them that they were able to do that. It was 18 months after we completed our paperwork, courses, and home study before we got the call that our daughter was born and we braved a snowstorm to go and get her.

At my house, I’m just mom, but I am proud to be an #adoptivemama, particularly when I’m out talking in the adoption community and greater community. I want people to know that there are many, many ways to become a family and no way makes anyone less of a parent. No way to parenthood is simple, and our journeys as parents will all be different in some ways, but, in many ways, the same. 

All of us hoped to be mothers. All of us knew it would be a privilege to parent a child, and we all just got there a different way. Adoptive mothers have the added understanding that others helped us to become parents. We are forever grateful to birth parents, who play an integral part in our lives and our children’s.

I am a mother. I am an #adoptivemama. Most importantly, I am a woman who loves her daughter and is grateful that on any given day, “Mom” is what I am honored to be called more than any other moniker. 

Hashtags: Be a Part of the Adoption Conversation

Do I love all hashtags that trend? Not all of the time. Do I see their value? Absolutely. Hashtags have the power to bring to light important conversations, share things that other people may find helpful, and highlight things that other people may not have thought about. The internet, though not always the best place to find information, opens the door for people to learn more and chat about things that are important to them. 

When I was first seeking more information about adoption, I did go to social media as well as the literature. There is a lot of information readily available to us, and, sometimes, it’s helpful to see the experiences of others to truly understand how things work, what the reality is of situations, and how we see ourselves as a part of this discussion. Not all information online is correct, as we know, but finding relevant search terms often leads to discussion forums and social media posts where people share their stories. This is a great way to make contacts as well to help answer any questions that you might have from someone who has experienced what you are going through. 

#Adoptivemama is used in many different conversations on the web. Birth mothers use it, adoptive mothers use it, and adoptees use it. Some people are seeking more information by using it. Others still are utilizing the phrase to get information because, like many of us, they’re hoping that this is a term they’ll get to use one day to describe themselves. It’s a powerful topic, and, when you can, consider engaging in the dialog. There is someone out there using this hashtag that will appreciate your input, lived experiences, and knowledge.  I can’t wait to see how #adoptivemama continues to grow on social media.