Sharing the Title

I don’t often put disclaimers at the start of my posts, but today I am.  Today, I feel the need to say that I may upset some people. So, please let me state, without hesitation, that this is not my intent, rather this is simply about me exploring some feelings I’ve been experiencing.

I’ve noticed lately a lot of people are asking How’s Baby MPB’s mom?  (I know what people mean when they ask the question – they are clearly asking about his birth mom and not me, because they wouldn’t refer to me in the third person, instead they would just ask how are you?)

And so for the first time, the importance of adoption appropriate terminology is starting to hit me.

When we discuss Baby MPB’s birth mom in our house, we simply refer to her by her first name (which I will not share here).  We’ve never used the term birth mom or mom – Baby MPB is too young to understand right now so the language we use is just what comes naturally to Mr. MPB and I.  When we refer to her with family, we usually say birth mom – we made the choice, for now, not to share her first name with family and friends as we want to protect her identity from anyone being overzealous and searching her out on fac.ebook.

But, when I’m specifically asked How’s Baby MPB’s mom? I wont lie, sometimes it irritates the heck out of me.

My first unsaid reaction has been I’m great.  You know, since I am Baby MPB’s mom by all practical definitions of mom.  I change diapers, I feed him, I sing to him (albeit poorly), I worry compulsively, I worry obsessively, I make silly faces just to see him smile, I snuggle him any time he needs a snuggle, I pick him up when he falls, I bathe him, I console him, and I love him with every ounce of my being.  Since the moment I met him, in every sense of the word, I have been his mom.  And I will always be.

But of course, as almost everyone knows, our family was brought together through open adoption and so while I care for Baby MPB just as any other mom care’s for her child, we do not share DNA.  I am thankful that we are a family, please don’t misunderstand me.  In fact not a day goes by that I’m not thankful to be his mom. It’s just that this also means I am not his only mom.  I am proud of the mother I am – I do not always get it right, but I try my hardest and most days we get by.  But, I am also proud of the fact that another women chose me (and my husband) to raise the child she created and cared for until birth and will forever love.  Rationally, I get that our family isn’t as simple as everyone else, and that’s not a bad thing.  We embrace it as part of our family identity which means that our son has 2 mom’s.  Which of course means I share the title of mom.

I’ll be honest, some days I wish I didn’t share the title.  Some days I’m a tad envious of Mr. MPB because no-one asks him these types of questions and no-one ever asks about Baby MPB’s birth father.  Some days I wish I could have it a bit easier too.  I guess, some days I just wish it were easier.  

Yet, when I look into his eyes and I simply see a beautiful little boy who I love more then anything else in the world and I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to be his mom.  Some days I just wish we weren’t a complicated family.  And some days I wish our family narrative wouldn’t include having to explain all this stuff to family, friends and sometimes even random strangers who don’t get it or are overly curious.  And some days I worry about the day when Baby MPB struggles with his emotions around his adoption and we have to support him as he works through that.  Honestly, some days I just wish we had a boring family narrative.

But one thing I know for sure is that wishing won’t make it so.  This is our lives, for better and for worse.  And so, the unique challenges that come with being a family brought together through adoption are ours to deal with today and in the future.  I knew this when we chose adoption so in many ways I have no right to complain about the narrative we have.

.

So, how do I actually answer the question How’s Baby MPB’s mom? Usually I just say she’s doing good.  Or sometimes I say his birth-mom is doing good.  I guess like most things it just depends on the day and the exact circumstances. 

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33 Comments on “Sharing the Title

  1. Yes, language is so important!! I also try to correct it, and as kids grow, correcting these questions gets more important. You don’t want your child hearing these questions that are worded inappropriately (even if “innocent”) and have second thoughts about them. A careful correction, a reminder that language is important is a good idea.
    I also struggle some days with sharing. And some days, the feels natural and wonderful to share. The journey doesn’t end with legality, and is ongoing forever, with its roller coaster feelings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As an adoptee, I would say it’s okay to have two mothers. Adoptees are used to the idea and it’s not “wrong” to say that. As adoptees get older they get to pick the language they use to describe their families, and it is not really ideal if adoptive parents or others mandate what that is.

      You will find most adoptees find their own ways of talking about adoption that are very protective of their [adoptive] parents… One of the things that parents sometimes do that alienates their adoptive children is to deny their right to talk about their two families.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have a very open adoption. My son sees his birthmom and grandparents minimum of once a month usually. We began calling his birthmom by her first name when he would always look to me for mom, not her even if her name was placed after the word mom (mama “first name”). He didn’t respond to her at all when mom was used, but using her first name works well. If he’d ever want to use the term mom towards her as he grows, I agree, it could work, and I’d not prevent it.
        I love hearing adoptees opinions. It helps us navigate since we don’t know ourselves how it would feel to us.
        I do think I have insight to birthmoms, having been a surrogate. It’s not “the same” but is similar. I try to treat his birthmom how I’d like to be treated if roles were reversed.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oof.
    Honestly the appropriate response *is* “I’m fine.” You’re his mom. If they want to know about his birth mom, then they should ask about his birth mom. I know, not that easy, but it’s easy for me to be prickly on your behalf. ❤

    Liked by 8 people

    • Actually nope. As an adoptee I don’t think adoptive parents should mandate how people talk about adoption, *especially* adoptees. You’ll find many adoptees who are able to talk about their two families and know which one they’re referring to, just like MPB has done in her post. She understood who they were talking about and didn’t get defensive about it.

      You’ll find adoptees in general develop their own way of referring to it that’s very defensive and thoughtful of their [adoptive] parents. But for me that is for the adoptee to decide and not the parent to get prickly about. Honestly, you are the everyday and legal parent… There is no need to try and erase the child’s past/biology.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t think it’s about trying to erase anything. At least for me. For me it’s about not having my kids feel like they are different from each other, or anyone else. I don’t want terminology to make them feel that way. So I ask for proper references and terms in front of them. Adoption should not define them. It’s not an adjective to describe us, my kids, or our family. It’s a verb, past tense, action we took to create our family.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, to much of your point, but I still think that MPB gets to manage how her friends refer to baby’s first mom when talking to her. That is her right. Baby doesn’t have a verbal voice right now and when he does, I trust that MPB will let him navigate his own way. But the question, “how is his mom?” minimizes MPBs role as mom. And this is all very new with the rise of open adoption. You grew up in a closed adoption where I ASSUME (because I would never say that I understand) you knew your parents role, but in open adoption, it can get murky depending on how often they talk about first mom, see first mom, etc. It is difficult, and that question would annoy/upset anyone, I would guess. And I still think it’s not in most peoples place to even be asking about babys first mom. It’s like when people ask me, “what are you going to do with your frozen embryos?”. Ummm…. not your business unless I know you well! MPB should have the right to tell people that SHE is his mom when they ask these questions. She’s speaking for herself, not baby MPB.

        But of course, this is just my uneducated, unexperienced opinion talking. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is tough, and the proper response to that question is, “I’m tired, but great!”. Let them stumble. Let them catch themselves. They’ll learn that way.

    You’re stuck in this transition in the US where almost everyone is moving towards own adoption and society isn’t sure what open even means. They hear about it, so figure they should change with the times too and ask questions to show that they get it and are comfortable with it. But they don’t get it when they ask that question. They don’t understand that we say “first mom” (even moving away from “birth mom”) and “mom,” not “adoptive mom.”. So much confusion that you’re paying for.

    Hang in there.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wow I am glad you wrote about this. I’m sorry you’re navigating people’s insensitive comments (no matter how innocent they are). I also think the appropriate response is “I’m fine” because you are baby MPBs mommy. But I can see how that would be awkward for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It can also be hard on the children as they get older to hear that. My distant cousins (second ones removed?) are adopted. They don’t look like their mom. All their lives she has been “mom”, but people will from time to time bring up “so have you ever met your real mom”.

    And the answer is “no”, but the damage has been done.

    Their real mom may not be their biological mom, but she is their “real mom” to them and to hear others dismiss her from that role is painful to see.

    Most are not doing it in cruelty, but it’s tough having to explain, “this is my real mom”.

    And she has had to explain “they are my real children”.

    I guess it’s just one of those things that’ll always have to be explained. :/

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Mom just used mom to refer to herself and mother to refer to any of our other mothers. I think the nuance of the term mom is made clear in the word, it’s familiar and an endearment name vs mother which comes across as solely a title. Perhaps if you change your terms when you answer – his mother is fine they’ll pick up the nuance and learn?

    Liked by 3 people

  7. We deal with something similar when people ask about Charlotte’s “father.” I don’t care whether it makes them uncomfortable–I am very clear that Charlotte has a donor, not a father. People have to learn, and the more people I can teach before Charlotte becomes cognizant of these kinds of things, the better. In a similar vein, we are often asked which one of us Charlotte belongs to–often I will say both and they will say, “but who’s her mother?” WE BOTH ARE.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I am so impressed with how you were able to write about your feelings so clearly. Honestly, it is not something I have ever had to deal with in any way. I would hope that if I knew you I would be able to say the right things to you, things that are not hurtful and not confusing to your child. Without a doubt, the woman who physically gave birth to your child demonstrated love by carrying him, birthing him, and entrusting him to you. Without a doubt, you are his mother, his mom, his mama; you are the one who will be with him through the tough times and the mountain top times. Please forgive people for not understanding the correct terminology. Truly most do not mean any harm; help them gently perhaps by sharing with them the terms you use. “Oh, do you mean….? We call her ….. when we talk about her.” And always, regardless of what anyone says, rejoice in this beautiful gift from God. He chose YOU to be your son’s mother. YOU! What a blessing your son is!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The right term is the least of a problem here. It is people’s curiosity and not minding their own business. Why do they eben ask about her, as if they cared! They are never going to see her or talk to her.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Like Molly, we’ve had to correct folks about terminology around our donor too. Our girls don’t have a dad, they have two moms. And while we’re at it, the kid I carried isn’t “mine”, and our younger daughter is not my wife’s. They’re both ours. It’s so frustrating that folks are so insistent on upholding the 1950’s genetically related nuclear family model with terminology.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. This reminds me of an old infertility ‘joke’…it’s that moment when friends and family come up to you at a Christening or child’s birthday and say ‘it’ll be your turn next’. Just wait until a funeral and return the comment…joking aside, I’m with your instinctive comment – just say it, and follow it with a softening wink… xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Like some one already said I would say ‘I am good thank you’. You do need to correct and in doing so educate people which I am sure you will. Thank you for giving us the insight in to your experience, it should make us all think before opening our mouths. I did also think is it appropriate to ask after baby MPB’s birth mom anyway? I guess it depends who is asking but generally speaking I would think it is your call to volunteer information if and when you want to. Are people being nosy or simply curious I wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You’ve gotten some good advice here. I think it’s good to “train” the people in your life early that your son has a mother, and it’s you, and that if they intend to ask about his birth/first mother, they should use that designation. Otherwise think how confusing it will be for your son when he is old enough to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. How crazy irritating and even hurtful that must be. I really think you should answer with a breezy ‘I am doing fine’ when someone phrases the question like that. You don’t have to say it bitchy and can even add a good natured smile but I think it would go a long way in setting people straight. It’s so strange to me because even though I only follow you online and met you once- I only think of you as his Mom. That phrasing would never cross my mind. Man– this building a family stuff can get complicated but you always manage to bring it back to what truly matters. I love you for that. Xo

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I can relate to this in many ways… I have not adopted my sons but we have a complicated narrative as well, and it gets frustrating for sure. It’s almost as if when people ask it is as if i am less of their mom simple because we do not share DNA but I love those boys with all my heart… somehow people make it clear that I am neither of their mom or that the word stepmom must be included when I say that I am their mom, they almost act as if I’m a liar when I say mom instead of clarifying that I am the stepmom, it is extremely frustrating. You don’t even need to respond you are the mom no matter who’s DNA baby MPB has!!! HUGS

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I think there is a variety of feelings on here and they are almost all from parents/adoptive parents and only one other from an adoptee (as far as I know), whose response is similar to mine. I think it is absolutely natural for adoptive parents to feel defensive about questions like this, but there is really no need to. I think you handled it just fine and you worked through your feelings in a really logical way (as I would expect from you!).

    As adoptees we can tell you that adopted people have to deal with questions like this *all the time* and we naturally develop our own narratives and ways of thinking about it. It is really normal for adoptive parents to feel hurt and defensive about terminology, being implied “not real” or the idea that their child might have another mother/father.

    But honestly, adoptees KNOW who their parents are. They don’t need parents to stake a claim on them or get defensive. They know who the parents are who look after them on a day to day basis, who they turn to for comfort, who they know and trust and look to for security. They know there is another set of parents who they don’t live with, who gave them their genes, their talent for sports or music, their appearance. But that’s just a part of who they are.

    Adoptees are used to the dichotomy because they have always lived with it. It’s hard for non-adoptees to understand that because they have never been separated from their biology/genetics. It’s something they might be curious about when they’re older and they might not. But it doesn’t detract from knowing who their “parents” are in the everyday sense. I wonder about my parents AND I know and love my parents. I’m entirely clear in my head about both sets… And that isn’t any threat to either set.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks to both of you for sharing. I’m so thankful that you are both brave enough to share your thoughts and feelings because it helps us all navigate adoption better. Wouldn’t it be awesome if people just put a little more thought behind what they say and ask?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think one of the hard things as an adoptee is that adoptive parents often speak over adoptees. For a really long time, the prevailing language in adoption has been “Positive adoption language” and that was primarily driven by adoptive parents defining what is and isn’t acceptable terminology.

        In recent years adoptees have coalesced and formed online communities of adult adoptees who are speaking up. That’s how the Flip the Script movement came about a few years back; a huge movement where adoptees decided to no longer allow others to speak for them. To rewrite our stories how WE saw them and not how others said we “should” feel.

        Adoptees aren’t a monolith. So different adoptees will feel different ways. However, the longer I’ve spent in adoption forums online, the more I’ve seen trends in how many adoptees feel. There are lots of key themes and one of them is the narrative burden that adoptees have to deal with. So being able to account for your family and where you are from is part of that… It’s just a fact of our life and we get used to telling it.

        It honestly isn’t something for adoptive parents to get really upset about. At the end of the day, you are the ones who have the adoptee living with you every day… They are your children. And they’re also someone else’s. And that is okay.

        LGA on narrative burden
        https://landofgazillionadoptees.com/2012/02/06/where-are-you-from/

        Where are you from? (Funny video)

        Like

  16. I feel like I would definitely feel the same way about this as you do. And that would absolutely be my first response if I was you, and someone asked me “How is baby’s mom?”…I would say “I’m fine, thanks for asking.” Not in a rude way, but you ARE his mom.
    I guess I also find it a little strange that people actually ask you how his birth mother is. I know that you keep in touch with her, but that’s just not something I would ever think to ask, because I feel that it’s none of my business. Obviously it can be a very touchy subject for all involved, I guess I just don’t feel it’s something that should be brought up freely. Maybe that’s wrong of me, but I just don’t feel that people should go around asking about such personal things.
    Anyway, I think you seem to be handling things brilliantly. You’re a phenomenal person, and an absolutely amazing mother. Try not to let others get you down. *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Having said this, I really appreciate Nara’s input on the subject and 100% agree with her… But that’s more the way that you as a family navigate the duality of adoption, allowing for feelings and attachments to two mom’s/cultures/ communities /history etc. without your bond being threatened etc… This blog seems a slightly different conversation, which is dealing with other people’s insensitive use of language.

    Liked by 2 people

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