I was intrigued, recently, by a forum discussion I followed about what adoptees call their birth mothers. As an adoptive mother in a closed adoption, the topic didn’t come up in our home until our adult adopted son was reunited with his birth mother. For him, as an adult, it was a no-brainer. He calls her by her first name. So I just assumed that’s the way it is for everyone. Not so!

Some birth mothers, some adoptive parents, and some adoptees prefer some sort of distinction—something special that shows the respect and special kind of love an adoptee has for his or her birth mother. For some, the relationship between birth mother and the child is something between friendship and relative. In those cases, some just add “Aunt” to the birth mother’s first name and that is a great symbol of their relationship. Others, wanting to recognize that a birth mother shares a maternal role, will use the word “Mama” or “Mommy” in front of the birth mother’s first name. And then there are those who use “Tummy Mommy,” although I found that some find that terminology offensive.

Some who have been adopted internationally refer to their birth mothers using the name of the country they came from (China Mommy, Uganda Mommy, etc).  Surprising to me, it’s quite common for adopted children to call their birth mother “My (first name).” Some kids create special names for their birth mothers that make no reference to the relationship—it’s just a name they like. For other suggestions, check out this article by Dawn Davenport who conducted a survey about what adoptees call their birth mothers, or hop on the Adoption.com forum where this discussion has been ongoing.

That there is any controversy at all over what kids choose to call their birth mothers is just plain old silly. Relationships vary and so do names—so whatever your child wants to call his or her birth mother will be the perfect choice. For those adoptive parents who are the ones making the choice (because your child is too young to decide), a discussion with the birth mother to find out her preferences may be what will influence that decision. At any rate, it’s the relationship that is the most important of all!