Are a couple considering adoption for their unborn child in the same place as a couple who surrendered a child for adoption? Some Oregon attorneys think so.
An attorney posted a query on the Oregon Family Lawyers list about whether paying travel expenses to bring “birth parents” to Oregon whose child was due in August.
Being the somewhat obstreperous birth mother and attorney I am, I posted a response stating that a couple expecting a baby are not birth parents since the child has not been born, let alone surrendered. Calling them birth parents marginalizes and de-humanizes them. I noted that the term "birthparent" was coined by Lee Campbell, founder of Concerned United Birthparents in 1976.
This led to a flurry of responses. In general, attorneys saw adoption of the unborn child as a fait accompli once the expectant parents were in their office; there was no practical difference between expectant parents and parents who surrendered a child. Here are some samples of what they wrote:
“The term birthparent is commonly used for any biological parent considering or having placed their child for adoption. It is used both pre and post birth. And, at least when I and my clients' use it, it is one of the most endearing, loving terms out there. It does nothing to marginalize or de-humanize. In fact it does just the opposite; it makes that person's relationship to the child to be adopted very real.
I don't know specifically what Mr. Campbell, (he must be referring to Lee, assuming he is a male)or any other anti-adoption group, thinks of when they use the term but for us today it is a wonderful and honoring term.” (Incidentally, the writer is an adoptee as well as an attorney.)
“The term "birthparent” identifies with a sense of feeling and humanity the place of the parents who give life to the child. If one wants to use a term that separates the expectant mother from the child, another term that is cold and without feeling is available. One can always call the life givers "biological parents.” (“Life giver? Biological parents?” They haven’t given life and aren’t parents, but no matter.)
“It is unfortunate,… that in the decades of expanding civil rights, diversity, multi-acceptance and personal freedoms, we have concomitantly developed a narrow and faux sensitivity to the use of words, nominatives etc. which seems to elicit a censorship like obsession, exalting form over content and simply distracting from important productive outcomes by continually fussing about what "we call it". Unless something is simply inaccurate or boorish or indiscreet, let it be.” (Calling someone who has not given birth, a "birth parent," is not inaccurate?)
“Sperm donor and expeller would seem more descriptive.” (No comment.)
Thankfully, a couple of writers were supportive:
“Thank you for adding that. Little things like that tend to drive me crazy.”
“I, for one, appreciate Jane's sensitivity and sensibilities. While I don't always agree, I applaud her intelligence and voice. Thanks Jane. …
As readers of First Mother Forum know, we have discussed the issue of using "birth mother" to refer to women who have surrendered a child in an earlier post. See previous posts:Natural, Real, Biological, Birth...Mother;and more just the other day in a postscript as to why we are changing the name above but not the url, which has well over a hundred posts since we started blogging last August. And they are found at firstmotherforum.com.
But "birth mother" or "birthmother" is what people Google, even though many of us are trying to replace it with "first mother.”
Lorraine doesn't mind being called a "biological mother" by people who are not in the loop, but does get her back up when it's very clear people are talking about her or her daughter, whom she knew for 27 years! Or insist on calling her daughter her "birth daughter." Linda finds when she writes "birth mother" comes naturally.
I don’t get excited over whatever term is used to describe me and I can accept “birth mother.” However, I very much oppose calling a pregnant woman a "birth mother." It reinforces the message -- important to adoption attorneys and the adoption industry -- that she is carrying the baby for someone else.
And so dear reader, let First Mother Forum know what you think about referring to expectant mothers to be as birth mothers--I’ll pass it on the Oregon adoption attorneys.--Jane