Ten years ago I knew nothing about adoption. I didn’t know that a woman who placed her child for adoption is referred to as a birth mother. I do know that if I would have had a friend or relative making their way through the home study and adoption process, I would have had questions–lots of them!
I realize that we each have our own stories, but adoption was NOT something I spent years thinking about, anticipating, and planning for. Yes, for years I dreamed of babies and motherhood, but I just always assumed I’d get married and pregnant like so many do! When we learned pregnancy was unlikely and fertility treatments were unsuccessful, we changed our focus to adoption and embraced it as an opportunity to have a family. Now remember I knew nothing about adoption. With a phone call to an agency and a completed home study application, my learning began. I tried to learn all I could about this new path I was on. I read books, I devoured adoption blogs, I loved to hear every success story I could. Each gave me hope and encouraged me on.
Now, nearly 10 years and two adoptions later, I’m a “pro”! I’ve taught adoption education classes, mentored birth mothers, attended adoption conferences, moderated panels, and myself in the world of adoption in many ways. It is a community I love being a part of.
Over the years, I have learned that there is preferred terminology in the adoption world. In my interaction with friends and family, I often have to remember that they have not been immersed in adoption and are not always aware of what to say. They are where I was 10 years ago: curious and without a lick of adoption knowledge! I never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, and I certainly want people to feel safe asking questions. I have had great experiences educating gently.
Our youngest is still not yet a year old. She is a happy baby and has a smile for anyone who will look her way! We love to share her adoption story and enjoy each and every opportunity to tell of the miracles surrounding her birth and placement. This adoption was a surprise, and we have shared the events of that day again and again.
Each time we tell the story the listener replies hesitantly,
“So do you still communicate with. . . her. . . mom?” or
“How long did you spend with. . . the mom?” or maybe
“What did her. . . uh. . . mom. . . look like?”
The hesitations in their questions are obvious. Many people genuinely do not know how to refer to our daughter’s birth mother. As I mentioned before, I would never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, nor do I allow myself to become “upset” that they don’t refer to her as a birth mother. My knowledge and understanding has been gained over a period of many years.
My favorite reply to these kinds of questions is a smile, and a reply using the term “birth mother.”
“Yes, we do still have some contact with her birth mother. We text occasionally!”
“We were able to spend a couple hours with her birth mom in the hospital.”
“Her birth mother is beautiful! They have the same eyes.”
I have noticed repeatedly that my efforts to educate by gentle example are effective. In subsequent questions and later conversations I notice these friends and family members using the terms “birth mother” or “birth mom.” They become more relaxed asking questions and feel confident that they are referring to her in a way that is comfortable and appropriate.
Learning has to begin somewhere! I know a whole lot more than I did 10 years ago, and I love to see those around me show an interest in my family and learn, little by little, about our daughter’s birth mother and the miracle of adoption.