Three Ways We Can Better Understand Adoption Titles

Three ways to better understand adoption titles

Sierra Kilpatrick September 20, 2014
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I have witnessed positive and negative comments regarding adoption titles in the adoption community. I have personally had a very positive experience in my role as an adoptee and a birth mother. I have created a unique role for myself and I try to bring my unique role into my relationships. Adoption titles never offended me because of my own experiences.

Recently I heard a birth mother say that she did not like to be called a birth mother. She wanted to be called her child’s mother, because to her, that is what she was. I have heard many adoptive parents who do not like the title “adoptive” in front of the word parent because they feel their title should just include the word parent. I began to ponder why there were so many negative feelings towards adoption titles and what could possibly be done to help ease the negativity.

1. Titles help people avoid awkward situations.

If a child who was adopted introduced both the mother who gave birth and the mother who raised him or her as, “both of my moms,” people would get confused. Many people do not want to accept the answer that this child has two mothers. It makes them uncomfortable. It is human nature to place titles on things so that those things are better understood. I do not think it is necessarily good or bad that people think this way; I just think it is how it is. Titles define a position. Especially in situations where people do not understand, titles can be used often.

If the child who was adopted clarified with an answer of, “this is my birth mom and this is my adoptive mom,” the confused person would most likely would have an “ah ha” moment and no longer be confused. Their comfort would be restored. People need titles to help reference what they do not understand. People want to make sense of situations they are not familiar with. Should we conform and place titles on ourselves to make others comfortable? We all do it in our everyday lives. Think of stepparents, especially those who raise their “step” children. They may never legally adopt those children, but often others still refer to them as the stepmother or stepfather, instead of just mother or father. It makes others understand and feel comfortable.

2. We use titles to understand our roles.

My title of birth mother does not change the fact that I am the mother to a little boy. I use the title birth mother so that I can define my role. Society has determined a view of the title of birth mother, and I have determined what that titles means to me. I define that role. Just because one person thinks the title of birth mom should mean one thing does not mean that is how I view my title.

I understand my role as a birth mother. I have created my role based on my circumstances, experiences, and faith. Others might create their role based on different factors. That is okay! Being different is okay. Not all birth parents, adoptive parents, or adoptees will be the same. Each unique person will bring something entirely different to the adoption triad, creating unique roles in that triad. The titles might be the same, but those involved in the adoption triad create the roles.

3. Titles do not diminish who you are.

For some reason, people assume that if you put any title before mother, father, or child, that role is somehow diminished. I am a birth mother to a little boy, but I am still one of his mothers. Adding “birth” before the word mother does not diminish my role. My role is simply different from that of his mother. He has two mothers, and that is okay. Choosing to be a birth mother means that I am choosing to share my role as mother. Even if I am sharing my role as mother, I am still a mother.

People often assume because roles are different, that one of the roles must be less than the other. This is also not the case. Think of a mother and father. Typically, mothers and fathers have different roles that they bring into the family. One parent might be the breadwinner. Another parent might teach the children certain skills that the other parent lacks. One parent or role is not better than the other is. They lean on each other and aid each other to create a harmonious environment for their child. Adoption roles are similar. Each role aids each other and leans on the other to create a beautiful harmonious environment for the child.

Do not let a title diminish who are and your unique role. You will most likely have to use that title when explaining to people who do not understand. What does that title mean to you? Determine what it means and create a unique role for that title. A title is a name that defines a position. While the title has already been given to a particular position, YOU get to define how that title applies to that position.

Define and love your roles.

Me and my moms

Me and my moms

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Sierra Kilpatrick

I had the privileged of being adopted as a newborn baby. I have a great relationship with my birth mom, who I met when I was 23. At 22, I had my own unplanned pregnancy and decided adoption was best for my birth son. I have spent the years since his birth in 2006, mentoring other birth moms and sharing my story. I hope to shed a positive light on adoption. I love both my roles as an adoptee and a birth mom. I met my prince charming and was married in 2007. In 2010, my husband and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our world.


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