We wanted to share a question that our Florida adoption agency received recently about positive adoption language:
“I’ve noticed a few people saying online that the term ‘birth mother’ shouldn’t be used until after a woman places her child for adoption. So, I’m wondering if we should stop using the term ‘birth mother’? Is that negative adoption language?”
Let’s start with an easy definition…”birth mother” simply means a biological mother. So actually, a birth mother is any woman who gives birth.
In adoption language, we use the term ‘birth mother’ for a woman who’s considering adoption, or who is deciding to place her child. To identify the individuals involved in adoption, it makes things more accurate and simple to refer to adoptive parents (those adopting the child) and birth mothers (who will or have given birth). You’ll see that the legal paperwork required for adoption will use this adoption language to designate those involved in one child’s adoption.
Many adoption agencies and other adoption professionals prefer to use the term “birth mother.” It’s warmer than “biological mother,” which has a bit of a clinical ring to it.
We’ve seen terms like “expectant parent” or “expectant mother” used, but these aren’t always correct, since not every woman choosing adoption is pregnant. A mother can make an adoption plan weeks, months or years after her child is born; it’s never too late for adoption. Since many refer to adoptive parents as ‘expectantly’ waiting, using a term like “expectant parent” gets confusing. It starts to get very complicated, especially for people new to adoption and unfamiliar with positive adoption language.
Here at Lifetime Adoption Agency Florida, we don’t assume a woman is going to place her child when she’s in contact with us. We educate and provide support to every woman who calls us, regardless of whether she’s sure about adoption. In Lifetime’s social media accounts and informational materials, we use the term “birth mother” to protect her privacy. Of course, when we communicate with her one-on-one, she’s referred to by her name. Each woman who contacts Lifetime is listened to. We’re here provide her with help on her own terms, and as it applies to her unique situation.
It’s so important to be sensitive to a woman’s feelings when she’s deciding about her unplanned pregnancy and her baby’s future. Women typically see the term “birth mother” as positive adoption language when they were given the choice to lovingly and willingly choose adoption for her child. Using the term “birth mother” reminds us that she has an important role in creating her child’s custom adoption plan. Our hearts break for women who felt coerced into adoption, which was, unfortunately, the norm decades ago.
In open adoption, a woman who creates a plan for her baby or child can create and develop an on-going connection with her child and the adoptive parents. Whatever questions and thoughts she has are recognized, before, during, and after the adoption takes place. Even if she decides that adoption isn’t right for her, she’ll be able to help another woman who does choose adoption. So as you can see, the term “birth mother” is actually positive adoption language.