To Say Mother: Adoption Community Labels and Language

The word mother is a slippery concept within the adoption community, and one that leaves me often wondering where I fit in. Oh, just call me a mother. Because I was once a first mother, briefly. I was an adoptive mother for 14 years, and I’m the mother of a child I gave birth to and raised to adulthood. 

I hold close to my heart first mothers. My mom was 15 when she was pregnant with me, and I was once a pregnant teenager with a baby to be surrendered for adoption. I hold close to my heart adoptive mothers because for 14 years I was an adoptive mother to a son, and the only reason I’m not still his mother is because he died. And for 8 years I was an adoptive mother to a daughter adopted at an older age, who decided she did not want to be adopted, and chose to leave. Which is why I hold adoptees who have had hard, hard journeys close to my heart.

They say that the oldest child has the worst of it in most families, suffering from all the mistakes his or her parents don’t have enough experience to avoid. It struck me in later years when the mission was completed that my oldest daughter had two rookie mothers to contend with; the mom she had for the first 10 years of her life, and then she had to start out all over again with me for those last 8 years. While I was busy planning out the kind of life I hoped we would lead, she had her own hopes and her own dreams. 

This is yet another reason why I wish more adoptive parents would show more respect, more compassion, both on the internet and in person, to adoptees who have reasons to hold strong opinions. Because after all, what if their child grows up and has something he or she wants to voice. Won’t those parents someday want their own adult son or daughter to be spoken to kindly, treated with benevolence?

When I hear the word mother, I know that even when they are trying to divide us with a  motherhood label to describe us, the one common thread that is embedded in all of us, in first mothers, adoptive mothers, and in all mothers worldwide, is that we want our sons and daughters, the children we gave birth to, or have raised, to be treated with kindness.

The thing is, the word mother is an identifier best describing the sacred clan of us who link our own personal identity and have journeyed into the realm of motherhood in one form or another. It is made up of women whose children live within our current lives, or are alive within our heart.