Caught In The Middle

Some circumstances in life are just plain hard to judge. I understand the point of view of this adoptive mother, even so, where is the compassionate middle ground. I haven’t decided. Here is one adoptive mother’s point of view –

I had to discuss with my son’s biological mom that there are boundaries and if she wanted to be involved in any way then she needed to understand them and honor them. My son is MY son, not hers. We came up with a special name that we refer to her as. Never mom. Also we discussed social media. She is never to address him as her son. He is not her son. She is to call him by his given name. I understand that biological moms have to deal with the emotional aspect but so do the adoptive moms. She is no longer his mother. A mother is far more than giving birth. A mother raises you and puts you first. I am very close with his biological mom. I have a great relationship with her for my son’s sake and it was a surrender. She was not forced in any way. But she is not his mother any longer. I am. I accept her role in his life as a special person who loves him. But I am his mother, not her. And she understands and respects that. She is thankful that I allow her to be a part of our family. I didn’t take his mom away from him. She took her role as mom away from herself including by making bad choices and choosing drugs over parenting. I’m his mom and will always be. She will always be a special person in his life but never his mom. Advice to other adoptive moms – set boundaries and don’t let biological moms walk all over you. Let them know their role in the family now.

The person who revealed this mindset commented – I find this very sad and very controlling. What if the child decided one day to call his birth mom “mom” ? She can’t call him her son ? This is sad. Birth parents grieve too. They hurt too. Even parents from foster care. They grieve. They lost their child. I wish we can offer empathy to birth parents especially from foster care instead of looking down on them and using innocent children to hurt them and the child.

I do feel that putting a child in the middle of this situation isn’t fair to the child. The same kind of thing happens very often in divorce. I remember trying to walk that difficult middle ground. “You still have a mother who loves you. And you still have a father who loves you. But we are not going to all live together anymore.” Life is complicated enough. So how to simplify the situation suggested above ?

I do agree with this perspective – “I’m sure the only reason the biological mother agrees with this is so she can have something to do with her son. There is a difference between a ‘mom’ and a ‘mother’ but it is ultimately up to the child to decide how to view each one of these women. Not the biological mom or the adoptive mom.” These two should not be playing their own issues off with the child caught in the middle.

Someone else disagreed and I do see this point as well – No difference between a mother and mom to me. I have two moms and two mothers. Same difference. It’s not confusing. I see no reason to distinguish a difference or set them apart.

And in fact, this is a valid point – If it wasn’t for the biological mom, the adoptive mom wouldn’t even have her son in the first place. I don’t give a damn if the biological mother’s rights where legally severed, she is still his mom at the end of the day and always will be the woman who gave birth to him.

I am still seeking what I sense is an important middle ground. I understand the need for the adoptive mother to be the final say in most of what happens in this child’s life, to maintain her parental authority to make decisions – at least for a minor child. Yet, emotions and feelings are less clear. I believe that most children actually are capable of keeping the two women in a separate yet proper perspective. My heart tells me that is the truth.

What I am sensing is a possessiveness, an ownership of one person over the love of another person, by putting the magical role of motherhood into the middle of this situation. As the divorced mother of a daughter who’s step-mother married her father and so, the two of them raised my daughter, I already understand what a difficult balancing act these situations are. I did attempt to put my daughter’s feelings and interests ahead of my own. My daughter and I have discussed how similar her childhood was to that of someone who was adopted.

The Correct Terminology

My mom was adopted.  She referred to my maternal grandmother as her “birth mother”.  My mom died in September of 2015, but if she were still alive, I would not have attempted to correct her own terminology. There is no way for me to second guess the meaning an adoptee or a such a mother may place on the role of that event in their lives.  I am not either one.

Certainly, a woman who has given up a child for adoption is going to have a preference.   How she might be identified by others would matter to her.  After I began learning who my genetically related grandparents actually were (both of my parents were adoptees), I soon learned that in the mature adoption community “birth” mother is no longer considered the best choice when referring to any woman who gives up her child for adoption.

An adoptee might refer to her own self as a “surrendered daughter” but never as the “birth daughter”.  Many times, her mother will have had other children subsequently, who she did raise.  That mother would not call those children her “birth” daughter or son.  When an adoptee goes into a reunion with the woman who gave birth to her – to that woman – she is the mom, though one who lost one of her children for a little while and now has her child back in her life.  I understand such a sentiment.  I lost (physical custody of but never legal custody of) my daughter for a little while during her childhood.  I am grateful she is still in my life and accepts me.  Very often, the adoptee (and this was true for my own daughter as well) will be expected by BOTH mothers to refer to them the same way, ie “Mom”.  My daughter did not call her other mother “step-mom”.  The adoptee (or my daughter for that matter) has no difficulty in keeping the two of them separate in her own mind.

I believe such issues are the truth for every person who’s family dynamics are complicated.  Everyone who has been a part of that person’s life is “real” to them.  My relatives due to the adoption of my parents – the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – were always “real” to me.  Duh.  Hello?  They live and breathe (or did, if now deceased).  No one is more or less real than anyone else is.  Everyone who was involved in an adoptee’s existence and their nurturing on this earth is “real” I do not refer to the people I now know were my grandparents (deceased) or the still living aunt or cousins (who I have been fortunate enough to locate and meet) as “real”.  But they are my genetic, biological relatives and the adoptive ones are not.  This is a fact of DNA.

What the terminology I am highlighting here is intended to be focused upon is referred to as person-first language–a way of speaking about others that puts them first.  In this regard, how we refer to someone else is informed by following their cues or asking them how they identify.  This is being considerate or respectful.

So I did learn new terms when it came to referring to the people I am in community with in an adoption related group (all aspects).  I now refer to parents who adopted children as “adoptive parents.”  And so, now I call the people who raised my parents (who I viewed as my grandparents for over 60 years of my life) as the adoptive grandparents.  I call parents who have surrendered children “original parents” – or the “original mother” or “original father” – the people who were the ones who conceived and gave birth to my parents, for example.  “Adoptive” and “original” are the terms that make the most sense to me.  I feel they are the most accurate in general and totally clear as to their reason and meaning.

The truth is that “birth parent” is still the most commonly recognized term for those not steeped in the issues around adoption.  Too often, adoption places an overwhelming importance on the role of original mothers for their reproductive ability because this enabled someone, usually an infertile couple, to have a child to raise.

I believe that ALL original mothers matter to their sons and daughters. I am a feminist who has become aware of the stereotypes and issues of gender and class when it comes to the practices of adoption.  Therefore, I have grown uncomfortable using the “birth” label in discussing adoption.

I believe all women should be valued by society; and sadly, too often they are not.  Women are not here on this planet to simply give “birth” more human beings.  A woman’s value is greater than her ability to reproduce.  All of this is an explanation regarding why the label of “birth” has fallen out of favor with those in the adoption community to whom it matters the most.