A Uterus With Legs ?

The issue of referring to an adopted child’s first mother as the tummy mummy came up somewhat coincidentally today but it did cause me to reflect on this again. Somehow, I always feel a bit of cringe at that phrase and the title of this blog reflects how some other people feel about it. I found that Lori Holden aka Lavender Luz did a poll. She is an Author & Speaker, Diarist & Open Adoption Advocate. She also has a podcast – LINK>Adoption: The Long View.

First what got me here. The commenter is blocked from posting/ responding for a month in a Foster/Adopt group. The reason she notes is that it isn’t ‘kind’ to mention to someone with ‘guardianship’ whose 4 year old child sees her biological parents – that agreeing/ pretending, letting child pretend that the child grew in HER belly vs reinforcing to child that she grew in ‘mama name’s ‘ tummy…. That mama ‘name’ is more respectful than tummy mummy.

Of course, there is also this – that they “saved” the child …. and have done xyz for that child – still does not change the fact that child did not grow inside her. The issue started when a photo was posted that showed a non reading age child in a shirt with letters only stating she loved her as ‘mom’… allegedly the child picked that shirt out and insisted she wear it in front of the tree….again listing all the things ‘she’ saved child from…

The commenter was blocked after mentioning that seemed passive aggressive since the sees her actual parents.

In the LINK>Poll about the term “tummy mummy”, the 300 respondents broke down this way –

  • 66% were adopting or adoptive parents
  • 11% were adoptees
  • 13% had a professional or nonprofessional interest in adoption
  • 10% had placed a child or lost a child to adoption

You might expect that with such an Adoptive-Parent-heavy sample, the results would lean positive toward use of the term “Tummy Mummy” but you would be incorrect.

  • 61% either didn’t like the term (26%) or detested it (35%)
  • 25% were either neutral (12%) or found it acceptable (13%)
  • Only 5% loved it
  • The remaining 9% chose “Other,” which allowed for commentary.

Some of their comments included – Feels like a white-wash term trying to sanitize truth. It diminishes the woman’s motherhood. 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.

This one was interesting – I hate “tummy mommy.” When people told me babies grew in their moms’ tummies, I pictured babies swimming their stomachs with all the food. And babies popping out of tummies, Aliens-style.

Another one noted – My husband is a reunited adult adoptee. I actually shared this with him and he made a vomiting noise.

Another adoptee noted – young children are not given enough credit for understanding that we can have two mothers that love us, regardless if one can’t be there at the moment. I know for me personally it would have helped me tremendously to have been able to see and talk freely about my mother as this real person.

And this – “Tummy mummy” makes her sound like [my long-gone birth mother] was a surrogate rather than a human being making a difficult decision. It reduces her down to a particular “role”.

It Was Divinely Orchestrated

Texas State Senator Donna Campbell

So the Texas State Senator, Donna Campbell, appeared on my radar Sunday when I received an email notification from The Adoption Files blog by Ande Stanley. She writes – “One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the unrestricted access to original birth certificates in the state of Texas has been the Texas State Senator Donna Campbell – (I add, who not coincidentally is) an adoptive mother who has voted against allowing access every year since 2015.” Texas Monthly has had Senator Donna Campbell on their Worst Legislators list.

State Senator Donna Campbell as an adoptive mother shares her story in a Houston Chronical article featuring state officials that have adopted (there is a bit of an infuriating paywall but I include the link anyway). Her voice was described as breaking when she talks about promising her youngest daughter’s birth mother that she would “take good care of the baby” and calls the adoption divinely orchestrated. Pro-Life legislator Donna Campbell says also that she actually said to the birth mother, “You had a choice nine months ago, and you chose life and you will be blessed, and I will always take care of this child.” So like a politician to do double duty with their recorded statements.

It happened when she went to the hospital nursery to give a message to another doctor, and she heard people discussing a baby. “There was conversation about, ‘This baby is so cute’ — everybody wanted to take the baby home,” Campbell recalled. “They said, ‘Do you want to take the baby home?’” She said it turned out that the mother had been headed from San Antonio to Houston to find an adoption agency and went into labor in Columbus. Campbell and her husband had been talking about adoption but hadn’t moved forward on it. The decision was made quickly, and she asked to talk to the mother to thank her for the little girl she named Anna Beth after her own mother. “It happened just like that. But you know, so many others that would like to adopt, it doesn’t come that easy,” Campbell said. “This is truly divinely orchestrated.” God meant it to be – a lot of adoptive mothers will say that.

Lori Holden wrote Donna Campbell an open letter – Let’s talk – adoptive mom to adoptive mom – on the Lavender Luz website. “I understand having fears about adoption and, by extension, fears about making changes in adoption law. Change can be scary. For decades many states have had laws on the books to protect people from the humiliation of unwed pregnancy or the shame of infertility or the stigma of being born to unmarried parents. In response, we have put up walls to hide the shame and stigma and humiliation.”

“One of those walls is the practice of closing birth records for one group of people who, due to circumstances of birth, to this day do not enjoy a civil right that all other citizens in your state do. It is time to re-evaluate the existence of this wall, as so many of your Texas bipartisan colleagues in the Senate and House were eager to do at the close of the legislative session last month.”

When you say privacy I wonder if you are confusing it with secrecy,  which takes simple privacy and wraps it in toxic fear and shame. Privacy is chosen, secrecy is often imposed. Secrecy exists because shame exists. With openness, by unsealing records and providing equal access for all, we can dissolve the shame and  vanquish the need for secrecy. Regarding the privacy issue, accurate birth records should be kept private from the public but not secret from the parties directly involved.

As you may already realize, the Internet and advances in DNA testing have enabled birth mothers and birth fathers and their now-adult children to find each others’ identities by skirting laws that were constructed in that era of shame and secrecy. Psychotherapist Karen Caffrey, who is an adult adoptee with birth family from Texas, says, “Family genetic secrets are very soon going to be a thing of the past.”

There is more in her open letter at the link I’ve supplied.

The Open Hearted Way

Headed into the future, I will always prefer a mother raising the baby she gave birth to. That is hands down the best outcome as far as I am concerned. But as a realist, adoptions are still going to happen. Today I caught a mention of this book – I’ve not read it but the intention behind it seems to be a good one.

Prior to 1990, fewer than five percent of domestic infant adoptions were open. In 2012, ninety percent or more of adoption agencies are recommending open adoption. Yet these agencies do not often or adequately prepare either adopting parents or birth parents for the road ahead of them! The adult parties in open adoptions are left floundering.

There are many resources on why to do open adoption, but what about how? Open adoption isn’t just something parents do when they exchange photos, send emails, share a visit. It’s a lifestyle that may feel intrusive at times, be difficult or inconvenient at other times. Tensions can arise even in the best of circumstances. But knowing how to handle these situations and how to continue to make arrangements work for the child involved is paramount.

It is said that this book offers readers the tools and the insights to do just that. It covers common open-adoption situations and how real families have navigated typical issues successfully. Like all useful parenting books, it provides parents with the tools to arrive at answers on their own, and answers questions that might not yet have come up.

Through their own stories and those of other families of open adoption, Lori Holden (an adoptive parent) and Crystal Hass (a birth mother) share the pathways to successfully navigating the pitfalls and challenges, the joys and triumphs. The most important focus to center on is putting the adopted child’s best interests FIRST as the guiding principle. It is possible for the families involved to travel the path of open adoption by mitigating whatever challenges may arise.

This book is said to be more than a how-to. More a mindset, a heartset, that can be learned and internalized. All the parents involved CAN choose to act from their love for the child and go forward with honesty. The goal of everyone involved should be to help their child grow up whole.

The take-away ? The adoptive/birth family relationship is not an “either-or.” Within the framework of an open adoption that works for everyone involved, it has to be an “and.” Adoption creates a split between a person’s biology and their biography. Openness in adoption is an effective way to heal that split when the reality is – the adoption is – and must be lived through.

Lori Holden’s website – https://lavenderluz.com/. Podcast link – The Long View.