The phrase “birth mother” can be one of contention in the adoption community. I have no illusions that I am going to contribute ground-breaking insights into this issue, but here are some of my personal thoughts.
During the late 1980’s, when I surrendered my son, “birth mother” was the term the agency used to refer to me. Any literature they gave me used that word as well. I am quite certain that his adoptive parents were educated to use “birth mother” to refer to me and consequently, my son grew to understand that term as well. Despite the potential pitfalls of “birth mother”, the term is comfortable to me and my son. For me, it’s about the intent behind the word. My son and his adoptive parents do not use “birth mother” as a way to diminish me – it is simply the phrase they are accustomed to.
I have also been introduced as my son’s “biological mother” to his friends. That term is fine with me too. In some regards, it encompasses more of who I am to him. I was not a vessel and didn’t “just” give birth to him; I provided half his genetic code and we share certain traits, preferences, and mannerisms because of it. I was his nurturing mother and I took care of my body during pregnancy, nourished him with healthy food, sang to him and talked to him and prayed for him, before and after his birth. I “mothered” him just as I have done for each of my children.
I wholeheartedly object, however, to the tendency of adoption professionals to use the term “birth parent” in describing a woman who is expecting a baby and considering adoption. To do so appears coercive and an attempt to help a mother cognitively and emotionally separate herself from her baby before birth has even taken place. Before a woman surrenders her parental rights, that woman is an “expectant mother” or simply that child’s “mother”. Period. While I’m on my soapbox, BM, which some people use as an abbreviation for birth mother, IS offensive. BM stands for bowel movement in the medical field and I am quite certain I am not that.
I realize this may be a paradox but while I’m not opposed to being called a birth parent, I do not like the term “birth daughter” or “birth son”. My son is my son. I may not have been his “everyday mother” but who he is to me didn’t change. In the eyes of the State of Ohio, he is no longer mine. In my heart, he always was and will be my son.
There are other OBG members who prefer different words in referencing themselves. One of our community guidelines that we discuss at the beginning of our monthly meetings encourages participants to use the terms they are comfortable with, whether it be “first parent”, “original parent”, “natural parent”, or “birth parent” and to respect everyone’s preferences. There is room for all views in our meetings.