One of the fastest ways to trigger adoptees as an adoptive parent is to refer to their first mother as a “tummy mommy” or some similar variation, as in the book cover image here. Today’s opening comment reads – “I have two children both adopted through foster care. My son is 4 1/2 and my daughter is 2. I’ve had conversations with my 4 1/2 yo about his tummy mommy and he’s seen pics of her.”
Not surprisingly the first comments were – “Please get rid of the phrase tummy mommy.” Followed by “Yes please leave off that crap. It’s so gross.” “It reduces his mother to nothing more than an incubator.” Or this, somewhat crude comparison but totally on point – “If you wouldn’t refer to your adopted children’s father as dong daddy, or penis papa, then don’t refer to their mother as a tummy mummy.” An adoptive mother answers the question – “What if the mother wants to be called tummy mommy?” with this – “I’d tell her that I want them to know that I see her as more than that and that I want her kids to as well.”
From the LINK>Lavender Luz Opinion Poll – Some don’t like the term – either because it is anatomically inaccurate or it is reductive of the first mom. Some like “first mother” because it honors the mothering that was done from conception until placement. I have personally struggled with “first mother” as opposed to “birth mother” but this explanation has won me over to “first mother” from now on.
Another person expressed her perspectives – I can’t think of a single woman who would appreciate being known as “tummy mummy”.
My objections are threefold:
1. It diminishes the woman’s motherhood. Like it or not, she is a mother, period, not just one in the tummy (see how ridiculous this sounds when you run with it).
2. It implies that the other woman carried the child for the adoptive parents. This is untrue unless it’s a surrogacy situation. Of course, pre-birth matching may encourage this view (witness people talking about “our birthmother”), but this only exposes the manipulation inherent in pre-birth matching. A woman’s child is her child, until she makes the decision to surrender – and even then, she is still a mother.
3. It could be potentially confusing to the adopted child’s understanding of his or her other family, heritage, siblings, and so forth. What is the important thing, that he grew in someone’s tummy or that he is genetically connected to the other family? How is this phrase actually used? “You grew in her tummy but we’re your parents”? Original family isn’t reflected in this phrase, which seems intent on removing all important connections and substituting them with a biological detail that isn’t even accurate. Who needs a phrase like this, anyway?
Heck, they used to claim that kids with two parents of the same sex would be totally confused as well, and it simply isn’t the case. Confusion tends to be tossed around when people don’t like the paradigm shift. In the phrase “tummy mummy” I can’t help but hear the adoptive parent hanging onto her status as real. No need to do that. Everyone is real, even when we’re absent or not perfect (which is all of us).