' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Birth Parents —an 'endearing' term for expectant parents?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Birth Parents —an 'endearing' term for expectant parents?

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.)

And:

“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.)

And:

“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?)

And:

“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.”

And:

“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;

Natural and Real Language;

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

43 comments :

  1. I believe that everyone has the right to choose to refer to themselves by the words that they feel are appropriate for them. However, I question CUB's website statement that Lee Campbell coined the "birth-terms."

    Adoptive mother and adoption industry promoter Pearl S. Buck used the term "birth mother" in “Must We Have Orphanages?” (Readers Digest, 1955) ("... When we wanted to adopt her, however, the birth mother took her back again."). Then in “We Can Free the Children.” (Women’s Home Companion,1956) and in “I Am the Better Woman for Having My Two Black Children.” (Today's Health, 1972).

    Adoption industry employees Baran and Pannor and psychiatrist Sorosky used the terms "birth mother, "birth parents," and "birth relatives" in 3 articles submitted for publication in 1974 and 1 in 1975.

    Also in the early 70s, "birth terms" made it into Marietta Spencer's white-washing campaign known as "Positive Adoption Language." She finally published “The Terminology of Adoption” in 1979, with the stated objectives that adoptive parents and baby brokers take control of adoption language:

    “Social service professionals and adoptive parents should take responsibility for providing informed and sensitive leadership in the use of words. ... For professionals, the choice of vocabulary helps shape service content” (p. 451).

    and that the purpose should be to strip us of our motherhood:

    “Choosing emotionally-correct words is especially important in adoption transactions, followed by an example validating the sole parenthood of adoptive parents after the adoption of a child, implying that no emotional or familial connection remains between members of the pre-existing family.”

    The editor of Child Welfare endorsed this as the formal terminology set for social workers, continuing the trend started by Baran et al.

    That is why PAL/RAL was intentionally created, and what the term "birth mother" as part of this set thus means.

    I also have personal correspondence from a well-known activist of that time, regarding the choices CUB had for its name "... somehow the struggle with the agencies and adoptive parent groups narrowed down to "'birth mother"' and 'biological mother'."

    So, this evidence seems to indicate that "birth terms" were not terms we chose for ourselves and our children that imply our continuing motherhood, but instead terms chosen by the very industry that took our babies, to amputate motherhood from us, defining us as no longer being mothers after the reproductive act.

    That is why I use the the term mother, or natural mother. I am a the mother to my lost child by the laws of Nature, whereas another person was a mother to him by the adoption laws of society that were created in 1851.

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  2. Yes, let's twist history and insult Annette Baran, Rueben Pannor, CUB, and Lee Campbell! Annette and Reuben were in the forefront of adoption reform and are good friends to birth/first/natural mothers, having spoken at many CUB retreats and now advocating guardianship rather than adoption. They are "good guys" not enemies!

    Both Annette and Reuben apologized profusely and publicly for what social workers had done in the past collectively, and what they had done personally. They really stuck their necks out professionally siding with early adoption reform groups. They are hardly adoption industry shills as you imply!

    I was one of the original members of CUB in 1976, at that time living in MA and was there for the discussions with Lee Campbell on what to call the group. She coined the term "Birthmother" as one word like "grandmother", not because some social workers had used it before as two words, but because she felt it did give us and the act of giving birth dignity and meaning. It was NEVER meant to imply that our concern or connection to our children ended at birth.

    You are correct that it was a compromise between "biological mother", the term that was coming into vogue in the adoption industry at the time,which we hated, and "natural mother", the term that had been used previously that adoptive parents did not like because they felt it made them "unnatural".

    The compromise to use birthmother was a political choice because we wanted to work with sympathetic adoptive parents for adoption reform, not alienate or argue over choice of words. It was only a way to differentiate between the adopted person's two mothers, "birth mother" and "adoptive mother". Descriptive, not pejorative.

    Believe me, we KNEW we were real mothers no matter what we called ourselves or anyone called us. We spoke out publicly when that was unheard of, and most of us searched for and found minor kids, because we had to know what happened to our children. We risked legal penalties to help other mothers and adoptees search, and we took a huge amount of flak for what we did and bravely stood for when most of the new internet "first mothers" were still deeply in the closet and would be for decades. And now you rewrite our history!

    You dishonor some very good people with your false and skewed "history" of this word and its use.

    "Birthmother" was the term that we, a group of mothers who had surrendered, chose to use FOR OURSELVES in 1976, just as you are now choosing to use other terms. It was not forced on us, we were not duped into using it, and it was not a tool to obtain surrenders. The largest number of surrenders in the 60s and early 70s were obtained when the preferred legal term was "natural mother", which did not make anyone treat us any better nor did it engender one ounce more of respect.
    Word do not change practice, they are not magic talismans.

    That the adoption industry later picked up this term as part of their stupid "positive adoption language" does not make it a curse word as it has become among some recent groups. We knew Marietta Spencer as an old bitch, we hated her, and certainly did not use ANY term on her recommendation! She had many run-ins with Florence Fisher who founded ALMA, and we all cheered for Florence. Did it ever occur to you that two opposing groups might use the same term for different reasons?

    You can question all you want, but I was there for the discussions when the word "birthmother" was coined by Lee Campbell. That is was used previously by some social workers was not a factor. Lee is also still alive and well and you could certainly ask her! This is not ancient history and legend lost in the mists of time. Most of the players are still with us, me, Lee, Annette, Reuben, many others.

    I really don't care if you prefer not to use the term "birthmother, either as one or two words. Today, it is the most commonly understood term for a mother who surrendered, and if, like Lorraine you want google to pick up your blog, you get many more hits if you use it rather than the new terms like "first mother" or the archaic like "natural mother". But if you prefer those other terms, or just "mother" at all times,that is fine!

    Just don't spread false information and insults about how the word came to be widely used, or demean good people you don't even know who have been working for adoption reform for decades, some still active despite the lack of respect we have received from the "new kids on the block".

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  3. For the record, I do not think that the words "birthmother" or "first mother" or "natural mother" or any other term for a surrendering mother should be used before the surrender, agreeing with Jane on that one. Until a woman surrenders, she is a pregnant or expectant mother, or just a mother, just as a woman who has not legally adopted is not yet an adoptive mother. I suppose "prospective adoptive mother" or "prospective birthmother" might be ok in some circumstances.

    But the bottom line that really matters is that the pregnant woman is give a real informed choice, not just pushed to surrender, no matter what she is called.

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  4. "And, at least when I and my clients' use it, it is one of the most endearing, loving terms out there."

    Loving? When used to describe a pregnant woman who has not yet given birth?
    Yeah, right.
    Like the tiger loves its prey.

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  5. "I try to avoid the term "birthmother" because, for me, it implies that this woman did more than just give birth."

    I just thought I'd get everyone's dander up. Looking over the referrals to First Mother Forum, I came upon the above quote at:

    http://forums.adoption.com/adoptee-support/332292-what-do-you-call-your-biological-mother.html

    There you will find a short essay by the adoptee who wrote the above sentence explaining why she doesn't like the term birth mother because...it's way to intimate for her.

    Someone had googled "what do you call your biological mother" and eventually found their way to FMForum.

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  6. There you go, Lorraine....the same word seen from different perspectives can and do have different connotations and meanings, even meanings that are exactly opposite. This adoptee sees the word as "too intimate" some mothers who have surrendered see it as not intimate enough. it is a matter of perspective, not of life or death or one term being evil and another perfect, as this debate has become for some today.

    Most of you probably know that Lorraine is also an old-timer in adoption reform, starting with ALMA where most of us started. She stuck with ALMA longer than I did; I got more involved with CUB, but all of us worked together on open records. Florence Fisher preferred the term "natural mother" but did not like her own mother very much, nor searching for minor adoptees.

    We are the history of adoption reform, from all of our perspectives, and we are still here to tell it. It is too bad nobody took the trouble to ask us rather than picking old quotes from social workers out of context and old rumors to paste together a "history" that is inadequate and largely false, but backs up someone's current agenda and view of how things should have been.

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  7. The "history" of this word that I present is not "skewed," and removing a space between an adjective and a noun does not constitute "creating" a new word.

    The evidence from Buck and Pannor et al. proves that Campbell did not "invent" the word, and even you state that it was chosen as a compromise.

    What Pannor, Baran and Sorosky have done to mothers, including conducting focus groups on single mothers in the 1970s to find out what would convince them to surrender their babies (hence, the invention of open adoption), is not made up for by their advocacy for open records for adoptees. I have yet to hear them speak publicly in favour of redress for coerced mothers, open records access for mothers to both the OBC and the ABC, or the right of adoptees to annul their adoptions if force/coercion was used in the surrender. And these are not pipe-dreams as these are reforms introduced in other nations. Open records for adoptees does little or nothing for natural mothers.

    As for apologies from them for the damage they did, I have seen nothing in print. Have they issued them as press releases? If so, then post the links to the published statement.

    Pannor and Baran have not apologized to those mothers who were coerced and lied to by the agencies these people worked for and headed up during the time they were baby brokers. I know mothers who have been personally "disembabied" by these people and they have received no apologies. In fact, Baran implied to one of these mothers that she was lying about her experience at the hands of Baran's agency.

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  8. Annette Baran is a personal friend of mine and woman of sterling integrity. I'm sure she never "disembabied" anyone, whatever that bizarre word means. If said your nameless friend was lying, she probably was.

    Annette followed what was considered good practice at the time as a young social worker; when she got older, she felt differently and apologized publicly many times, including at two large AAC Conferences that I attended, the first in 1978, and at several CUB retreats. No, there are no press releases to refer you to, sorry.

    From the tone of your writing I do not think anything could change your mind, as you are determined to hate all social workers, but I felt I must defend Annette's good name, and Reuben's as well. Both are elderly and not that well, but they are still good,honest, ethical human beings who have been just as sympathetic to birth mothers as to adoptees.

    Please go spew your hatred of decent people somewhere else.

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  9. Hey folks,let's call a truce here. No name calling on either side. and all are welcome to comment. I don't really want to monitor this site.

    As for Annette Baran, I also know she is a great friend of open records, and while I have not talked to her about how she feels about adoption per se, I believe her perspective has changed from when she was young. I consider her a friend of adoption reform.

    I prefer birth mother as two words but I'm not upset if it's used as one; Jane likes it as one. Linda, I don't believe has a preference.

    But I remember being irritated when I got a Happy Birthmother Card for Mother's Day. I'd known Jane for something like 20 years when she sent it, and that just seemed to erase everything.

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  10. Annette Baran and Reuben Pannor stated at a CUB retreat in Nebraska in the late 90s that they felt that adoption should be replaced by permanent guardianship.

    There was a large crowd present, this was not just a private comment. They had written some stuff in the CUB Communicator about this as well. No, it is not online and I can't quote exact dates, so I guess to some people this never happened. But it did, and Annette and Reuben were and are good friends of birth mothers and adoption reform. I stand by that statement.

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  11. I used to eschew "birthmother".
    However, even though I don't care for it, I am now quite happy to use it when talking to somebody who is using the term innocently - or even ignorantly, as you will. I don't feel it's useful to preach to people who are open to discussion, but haven't yet caught up with the finer points of terminology.

    As far as the term "birthmother" (as a composite) is concerned, the identity of its creator has been debated up to here. And then some.
    Now "disembabyment", OTOH . . .
    Who, in the name of all that's unholy, came up with THAT one? I've seen some recent quibbling about it on Bastardette, but so far no-one seems to have come up with an answer.
    Color me unsurprised. Whoever it is would hardly want to lay claim to it.
    It would be just too embarrassing.

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  12. Let's twist history? Cedartrees, had documented who used the dreaded b word first. Looks like it might be Pearl Buck in 1955. an adopter.

    Seems to me 1955 came before 1976!

    I have been to several "events" where these TWO have been, Pannor and Barran, I have never once heard them say, they are sorry. If they have said sorry, why don't they actually put it in print. So many mother's can see it?

    yts

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  13. History does not consist only in what is on the internet, or in writing.

    The people who made this history are still with us, why don't you ask them?

    If all you care about is that Pearl Buck, an adoptive parent, was the first to use the word, fine. But it was Lee Campbell, a birthmother, who popularized it in 1976 when she used it in the name "Concerned United Birthparents."

    No, we did not know in those days who was the first to use it, we did not do the kind of research for quotes out of context that is so beloved of later groups. But we did choose to use the word to describe ourselves, as I said before it was not forced on us and it did not make us any less mothers.

    As to that bizarre term "disembaby", was it Karen Butterbaugh who came up with that one? I don't know, just a guess from other jargon she had invented.

    Anyone know the history on that one?

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  14. Pearl Buck used the word "birth" adjectivally.
    Lee Cambell created a composite word.
    Different.

    That's my take, anyway.

    But the point is, neither way should be used to describe expectant parents.
    Apart from the fact that it doesn't make sense, it is subtly coercive because it's jumping the gun.

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  15. Exactly, Kippa. Neither "birthmother", "Birth Mother," or "first mother", should be used to describe an expectant mother, as it assumes she will surrender and take on that role, which is an unfair assumption.

    Thanks for getting this back on subject.

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  16. It was either in 1989, or 1990, or 1992, I don't quite remember...
    Baran and Pannor led a workshop at an AAC conference in which they both said that they looked back on their social work careers and regretted that they took part in this separation of mother and infant. I took their words to be sincere. They were, indeed, apologizing.

    I first read Baran and Pannor's works on adoption in 1976 when I was 20 years old. I've always looked up to them. It takes integrity to re-think one's past actions and speak out publicly with a new point of view.

    Having said that, I must say that I have blindly used words that others used at points along the way. That is how I learn. And I was a youngster at my first adoption conference in 1980 --- Adoption Forum of Philadelphia. I even went so far as to refer to my father as my "birthfather" because I didn't know what to call him. Now, he's my father.

    Now I realize how we've all had to compartmentalize, not only ourselves, but others, just to survive.

    This Saturday will be the 53rd anniversary of the death of my mother. She had given birth to me three months earlier. I'm sure didn't think of herself as anything but my mother. She is my mother in my eyes.

    Legalities gave me a second mother. In her heart and her mind, she is my mother. For the first 18 years of my life, she is the one I knew as my mother.

    These past two years have been quite a learning experience for me as I read online some adoptees say that they were adopted by strangers. At first I was shocked, then, I realized that is exactly what happens when a woman becomes a mother through adoption.

    Going back to the point of this post, no, to refer to a pregnant woman as a "birthmother" is not an endearing term. It is insulting and implies her only existence is to provide a baby as product. It negates that she is a mother, a pregnant mother.

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  17. Joan,

    A very endearing post I must say.

    I agree because of adoption we ALL have had to compartmentalize our lives.

    I refuse to call myself that name, and that is my choice, as I find it disrespectful and insulting, implying that I was just there to give birth, and am not a mother.

    Anyone, that gives birth is a mother. Period. Now if she loses her child to adoption, she is still a mother, that can never change, just as any mother is, mother even after losing her child to death.

    The adjective "birth" shouldn't be used on a mother, especially one that hasn't even had her baby yet.
    That's just another coercive ploy of those who are benefiting from adoption.

    Correct adoption language from the agencies, is laughable. NO, matter how they spew it the truth is a mother is a mother is a mother.

    The several times, I have been in both Barran and Pannor's presence I have never heard them say that, I am NOT doubting it, at all, just wished they would PUT it in print.

    So that the mothers and adoptee's the one's that have been truly hurt by adoption could see it. It might be healing to some, I am not that forgiving, I don't find any comfort in the spoken words, but would like it much more if they put it in print.

    By the way they have made money, on all aspects of adoption, on someone's pain, sadly, they have tore lives apart. I hope their maker is more forgiving than I.

    I know your mother would be proud of you, her daughter, your dad must be for sure.

    yts

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  18. I apologize for being so slow in getting to this discussion. Life and family have been occupying my time, and I missed it.

    As far as the discussion of Pannor and Baran, I am under the impression that they are largely responsible for Open Adoption. This has been a VERY mixed blessing, for mothers especially. Unless and until it is legally enforceable in all states, and the cost to hire an attorney is reasonable, this will continue to be little more than a marketing ploy to get fresh babies to market.

    I also know the mother in question. She is a very creditable person, as you say, Mary Anne, a person of sterling character and since Annette Baran actually was in charge of an agency in CA, I don't think that there is anything suspect about what she is saying. She sat near Annette Baran at a conference, I believe AAC, since she was an AAC State Rep for years, as well as active in CUB. She confronted Baran and Baran called her a liar and fled. Not too sure why that is hard to believe. Of course, we know that anyone who worked or works placing children has only the highest motives and would NEVER say anything that wasn't ABSOLUTELY true. But, you know her and I don't so I will bow to your superior knowledge of her, as I would ask you to do of my friend. She is not a liar as you stated. She is a very fine woman and has worked in legislation for many, many years.

    Sorry, Mary Anne, but I am not seeing anything in Cedar's post that implies that either Baran or Pannor are 'agency shills' either by implication or statement. She is just giving additional history that does nothing to negate the apparently sanctified history that you related. There are no contradictions here, merely additions. Why so defensive about it? They may indeed be 'good guys' as you state, but their history is not very Mother-friendly, to my way of thinking. And, you may be friends of Baran, but I am a friend of the mother who is being held up as an example, and I am equally as defensive about her as you are about your elderly friend. I think that possibly I would have a bit of difficulty not being real receptive to some of the general mea culpas that Baran and Pannor have done, when if I was as personally affected by her actions as my friend was. I can be remarkably forgiving in the abstract, but it is a bit different when it is up close and personal.

    I believe that these folks are just as accountable for their activities as any of the others who benefited from our losses. I don't believe that ignoring history is any foundation on which to build change. Delayed justice is still justice.

    During the era when I lost my son, in 1967, I was Mother, or Natural Mother. I see no reason to change that, no matter how archaic the term, and be defined by a coined term that I find silly and offensive. Why should I care if an adopter sees my choice of terminology to describe myself problematic. That is their problem, not mine. I refuse to redefine myself to accommodate others, especially those who gained from our losses. They can call themselves whatever they choose, but I refuse to be known by any name that was not in the common usage at the time of my loss. It just makes no sense.

    It smacks of the same mentality as the agency workers trying to tell me that I had made an 'adoption plan'. What a load! I 'planned' to keep my son; I 'planned' to marry the father; I 'planned' to leave with him when he came to get us; what I didn't plan on was them arresting him for trespass, me being drugged, them not allowing me to see, touch, feed, or spend a moment with my son. The only plan I had then was to make myself available to him when he came looking for me, and to keep the agency updated always so that he could find me the moment he turned 18, and to be the best possible person I could be so that he would find a winner instead of the loser he was told I was.

    As Cedar has stated, Open Records do ZIP for the mothers. The Constitution guarantees that there be equal protection under the law. That means that the records that include identifying information on the mothers, if made available to the adoptee, should allow Mothers access to the amended birth certificate, also with the identifying information on it, as well. That is only just and equal. And, while I am fully in agreement that adoptees (only them, certainly not the adopters!) be given a right to their original birth certificate, I draw the line at their right to my and my family's medical, social, psychological histories, or any of the medical information of mothers in their files. They can obtain that information the same way that any child obtains it from their family....by meeting the family and listening to casual conversation. I would refuse to provide any information whatsoever to any clerk in a government agency assigned to updating files of Mothers’ medical information! That smacks largely of government intrusion into my Constitutional right to privacy, which mothers do indeed have, just as any other citizen does. HIPAA is just as much in effect for mothers who surrender a child for adoption as for any other citizen.

    I think that every person has the right to define him or herself. I can choose to abide by their choice or not. But, I personally refuse to respond to the term Birthmother, as I don't find it endearing, or loving or any other thing positive. The very fact that adopters feel free to insist that this term be the accepted term, no matter what CUB and Lee Campbell's original intent, indicates to me that the term has morphed into something other than they intended. It has come to diminish and separate, not to show respect.

    Language is important, language counts, but language also changes and evolves over time. Twenty years ago, to say that someone was gay did not mean what it does today, by a long shot. Nor do many words that were perfectly acceptable a few years ago. I will use what I am comfortable with, no matter who insists otherwise, and I am strongly suspect of someone who forces me to use something other. It clearly states on my paperwork that I am the Mother of my son.

    The argument that in order to be found on the internet we have to use the term birthmother is lame, in my estimation. The reason it is the standard term is that the ones who wrote the ‘rules’ are the industry folks, the ones who earn their living by adoption, not the ones who are most intimately affected. If we are to make any changes, it seems to me that we would do better to be proactive than simply falling in step with what they dictate to us. If we want to be known by another term, we can simply refuse to go by their edict. If they want to get OUR attention or the attention of other mothers, they will find a way to figure it out. I am sick to death of allowing NCFA and Evan B. Donaldson to speak on my behalf. Nobody called an election and I never got a chance to vote on whether I want people who clearly ARE industry shills to speak for me.

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  19. I apologize for being so slow in getting to this discussion. Life and family have been occupying my time, and I missed it.

    As far as the discussion of Pannor and Baran, I am under the impression that they are largely responsible for Open Adoption. This has been a VERY mixed blessing, for mothers especially. Unless and until it is legally enforceable in all states, and the cost to hire an attorney is reasonable, this will continue to be little more than a marketing ploy to get fresh babies to market.

    I also know the mother in question. She is a very creditable person, as you say, Mary Anne, a person of sterling character and since Annette Baran actually was in charge of an agency in CA, I don't think that there is anything suspect about what she is saying. She sat near Annette Baran at a conference, I believe AAC, since she was an AAC State Rep for years, as well as active in CUB. She confronted Baran and Baran called her a liar and fled. Not too sure why that is hard to believe. Of course, we know that anyone who worked or works placing children has only the highest motives and would NEVER say anything that wasn't ABSOLUTELY true. But, you know her and I don't so I will bow to your superior knowledge of her, as I would ask you to do of my friend. She is not a liar as you stated. She is a very fine woman and has worked in legislation for many, many years.

    Sorry, Mary Anne, but I am not seeing anything in Cedar's post that implies that either Baran or Pannor are 'agency shills' either by implication or statement. She is just giving additional history that does nothing to negate the apparently sanctified history that you related. There are no contradictions here, merely additions. Why so defensive about it? They may indeed be 'good guys' as you state, but their history is not very Mother-friendly, to my way of thinking. And, you may be friends of Baran, but I am a friend of the mother who is being held up as an example, and I am equally as defensive about her as you are about your elderly friend. I think that possibly I would have a bit of difficulty not being real receptive to some of the general mea culpas that Baran and Pannor have done, when if I was as personally affected by her actions as my friend was. I can be remarkably forgiving in the abstract, but it is a bit different when it is up close and personal.

    I believe that these folks are just as accountable for their activities as any of the others who benefited from our losses. I don't believe that ignoring history is any foundation on which to build change. Delayed justice is still justice.

    During the era when I lost my son, in 1967, I was Mother, or Natural Mother. I see no reason to change that, no matter how archaic the term, and be defined by a coined term that I find silly and offensive. Why should I care if an adopter sees my choice of terminology to describe myself problematic. That is their problem, not mine. I refuse to redefine myself to accommodate others, especially those who gained from our losses. They can call themselves whatever they choose, but I refuse to be known by any name that was not in the common usage at the time of my loss. It just makes no sense.

    It smacks of the same mentality as the agency workers trying to tell me that I had made an 'adoption plan'. What a load! I 'planned' to keep my son; I 'planned' to marry the father; I 'planned' to leave with him when he came to get us; what I didn't plan on was them arresting him for trespass, me being drugged, them not allowing me to see, touch, feed, or spend a moment with my son. The only plan I had then was to make myself available to him when he came looking for me, and to keep the agency updated always so that he could find me the moment he turned 18, and to be the best possible person I could be so that he would find a winner instead of the loser he was told I was.

    As Cedar has stated, Open Records do ZIP for the mothers. The Constitution guarantees that there be equal protection under the law. That means that the records that include identifying information on the mothers, if made available to the adoptee, should allow Mothers access to the amended birth certificate, also with the identifying information on it, as well. That is only just and equal. And, while I am fully in agreement that adoptees (only them, certainly not the adopters!) be given a right to their original birth certificate, I draw the line at their right to my and my family's medical, social, psychological histories, or any of the medical information of mothers in their files. They can obtain that information the same way that any child obtains it from their family....by meeting the family and listening to casual conversation. I would refuse to provide any information whatsoever to any clerk in a government agency assigned to updating files of Mothers’ medical information! That smacks largely of government intrusion into my Constitutional right to privacy, which mothers do indeed have, just as any other citizen does. HIPAA is just as much in effect for mothers who surrender a child for adoption as for any other citizen.

    I think that every person has the right to define him or herself. I can choose to abide by their choice or not. But, I personally refuse to respond to the term Birthmother, as I don't find it endearing, or loving or any other thing positive. The very fact that adopters feel free to insist that this term be the accepted term, no matter what CUB and Lee Campbell's original intent, indicates to me that the term has morphed into something other than they intended. It has come to diminish and separate, not to show respect.

    Language is important, language counts, but language also changes and evolves over time. Twenty years ago, to say that someone was gay did not mean what it does today, by a long shot. Nor do many words that were perfectly acceptable a few years ago. I will use what I am comfortable with, no matter who insists otherwise, and I am strongly suspect of someone who forces me to use something other. It clearly states on my paperwork that I am the Mother of my son.

    The argument that in order to be found on the internet we have to use the term birthmother is lame, in my estimation. The reason it is the standard term is that the ones who wrote the ‘rules’ are the industry folks, the ones who earn their living by adoption, not the ones who are most intimately affected. If we are to make any changes, it seems to me that we would do better to be proactive than simply falling in step with what they dictate to us. If we want to be known by another term, we can simply refuse to go by their edict. If they want to get OUR attention or the attention of other mothers, they will find a way to figure it out. I am sick to death of allowing NCFA and Evan B. Donaldson to speak on my behalf. Nobody called an election and I never got a chance to vote on whether I want people who clearly ARE industry shills to speak for me.

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  20. "The argument that in order to be found on the internet we have to use the term birthmother is lame, in my estimation."

    Have you tried googling "mother" or "natural mother" on the internet?
    Thanks to the change of title, this forum is more accessible and so likely to attract more traffic. Which, I believe, was a good part of the point.

    I don't know about you, but "bIrth mother forum" takes me here, as do a number of other words, individually and in combination - and to this discussion, in which you, like others, have been able to put forward your own POV and make your argument.

    Thanks, Lorraine.

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  21. I find the response to Cedar’s comment quite a bit over the top. We’re really earning our wings with such drama!

    Maybe some women did chose the “birthmother” term for themselves, and I would think that having a choice would be part of the reason that the term has a very different connotation for them, but the term has been, dare I say, bastardized. For myself, I came out of the fog of motherhood denied more recently and all of a sudden I found this label of “birthmother” awaiting me. I didn’t choose the label; others chose it for me. I’ve seen how the agencies, et al use the term and it is demeaning to me. I see how some adopters use the term (especially the abbreviation), and KNOW it is demeaning. That’s the tip of the iceberg of my dislike for the word.

    I respect a lot of the work that has been done by women who lost children to adoption when I was still an innocent little girl playing with dolls and tea sets. However, each of us (and every person) comes to their own truths about the labels they will accept or reject, and as Joan pointed out, that is a process. It is a process I would not have begun to understand as quickly had I not been able to read the words of the few outspoken women who’ve ‘been there done that’, but damn I dearly hate the bitch-slap festival that ensues every time one of us “youngsters” “steps outta line.” Add your knowledge to the mix, but leave the tire iron in the trunk.

    First Mother forum, can’t you just put birthmother or birth mother in the html code under *keywords* so search engines will pick up the term? With all the discussion here about the word/s I would think it would come up in most searches anyway.

    As for lawyers who specialize in adoption, you could pass on to them that I consider them, along with facilitators and agency personnel simply, adoption workers.

    Carol

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  22. 'As to that bizarre term "disembaby", was it Karen Butterbaugh who came up with that one? I don't know, just a guess from other jargon she had invented.'

    Mary Ann, if you want to discuss me, please do so with me. No, I had nothing to do with the disembabyment term. What "other jargon" are you referring to that you claim I invented? And yes, Cedar is right, Pearl S. Buck did coin the birth term. You are just so enamoured of your long-term value to CUB that you choose to overlook and ignore the proof of where that term came from. Just because CUB and Campbell had discussions about it, does not annoint them as coining it. You did not, she did not, they did not. It's that simple.

    It is clear you don't like me or any of us who disagree with you, but that does not mean that our views, our thoughts, our research and our opinions count any less than yours. Just try to remember that. I know it is difficult since you hold yourself in such high regard.

    Btw, the esteemed Rickie Solinger said at our 2006 conference, debating the "birth" term with the audience and Carol Schaefer, that all words evolve with time. Nothing stays stagnant. So let's embrance evolution, shall we, instead of fighting against it, otherwise people get stuck in the past don't learn and grow. Society has grown. That means that TODAY we use respectful terms, reality-based terms. Natural mother was the industry standard and it is reality-based. I choose reality and so do many other mothers, even if you choose not to.

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  23. "As to that bizarre term "disembaby", was it Karen Buterbaugh who came up with that one? I don't know ...Anyone know the history on that one?"

    Yes, I know who coined "disembabyment" and it was not Karen. You may call the term "bizarre" but frankly it is the only term that remotely describes what was done to me. Tied down, drugged up, sliced open (with no anesthetic), and my baby whisked off ASAP with my shoulders held down and a sheet put up in front of my face so I could not see him. Did it feel violent? You bet.

    You have no right to judge my experience as "bizarre." It was "standard hospital practice" across Canada for more than 30 years when dealing with unwed mothers who had no support.

    And it violated the Criminal Code section on abduction of a minor. "Disembabyment" is a word that fits the level of violence and violation perpetrated on an unwilling innocent young woman. To lose the baby this way who was a part of your body for nine months is like an amputation. To apply the word to any coerced surrender with the baby taken away at birth for adoption against the mother's will is not a stretch. But this is tangent to the blog post we're discussing.

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  24. Use any words you want, enforce any word use you prefer on your sites, just don't make up history or tell me what words I can or cannot use. It is that simple. And please drop that asinine "B Word" stuff as if the word itself had dire effects. I use all the words when it suits me, natural mother, birth mother, just mother when that is clear. To me it does not matter. To you it does. Oh well.

    Cedartrees, I have not judged your experience as bizarre. I have not judged your experience at all, not knowing it, and what you describe sounds horrible. I am sorry that you or any mother went through that. I have my own hospital horror story, not as bad as yours but not good.

    In any event, calling "disembabyment" a bizarre word, because to me it is, in no way criticizes your experience. The word is not the experience. If it works for you, that's ok, but don't expect most people to know what you mean.

    By the way, who did make up that word? Is it a secret?

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  25. "Kitchen table" is an example of a noun being used adjectivally.
    "Kitchen" is being used as a descriptor for table.
    Just as some people use "birth", for whatever reasons of their own, as descriptor for mother.

    Personally I think those who like the term and don't use it disparagingly it shouldn't be castigated for it.
    We could quibble about the finer points 'til the cows come home.
    ART has already made it redundant, and in its own good time it will become simply archaic.
    Only sayin'.

    But surely, Lorraine's point is that it is TOTALLY (like, no two ways about it) inappropriate to use it to describe a woman who is still pregnant and has not yet even given birth.

    I think we would all agree on that.
    No?

    P.S
    I have a personal fondness for 'biological parent' because I think it says it like it is and I have a great respect for biological connectedness.
    But I understand that others dislike the term - again, for whatever reasons of their own.
    And that's O.K by me.

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  26. "By the way, who did make up that word? Is it a secret?"

    It is not a secret. As far as I recall, I did.

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  28. Kippa,
    I agree. I like the term biological parent, as that is the literal truth. No one else can EVER be the biological mother of my children, not any of them. However, I stick by the fact that I will go by the terminology of the time of my loss, and that is simply mother or natural mother. That was who I was at that time and who I remain today.

    And, I am in 100% agreement on the term 'birthmother' or any of the equally or more odious terms such as 'birther' or 'BM' used when referring to a woman who is still pregnant. She is none of the above, she is a pregnant woman and that is all. To use any of those terms to describe her is coercive. Even to use them with potential as a descriptor is coercion.

    The other term that I detest is when aps are discussing 'our birthmother', as if the fact that she bore a child that they adopted somehow transfers ownership of the mother. Every time I hear that it sets my teeth on edge!

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  29. I too do not like "our birthmother" as used by adoptive parents. But "our child's birthmother" is fine. I don't mind "biological mother" either any more. I care more about the intent of the speaker than the particular word used and assume most people have no bad intent behind their choice of words.

    Cedartrees, that "disembabyment" is your own word makes it clear why you took criticism of it so personally. No disrespect meant of your horrible experience, but the word really does not convey what you want it to outside of your own closed inner group.

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  30. I agree, Sandy. "Natural" is good too.
    I must say, I really don't know why "biological" is my (personal) preference.
    Come to think of it, I can't remember any term other than "unmarried mother" being commonly used in the U.K circa 1962.

    That said, I totally accept that those mothers who originally adopted the term "birthmother" to describe themselves had no cunning agenda in mind. I believe the word was conceived out of the best intentions, and there was no conspiracy or skullduggery involved in its creation.
    That the word has been co-opted and sullied by the industry is no fault of theirs.
    I think they deserve to be able to continue to use it without being constantly excoriated for doing so.
    They've earned the right by dint of their hard work and positive contributions to fighting corruption in adoption.

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  31. Amen, Kippa!:-)There is no need for all the fireworks over what we call ourselves or each other. If it makes anyone feel better to call themselves "natural mother" or "first mother" or anything else, that's fine, and if it makes them feel bad to use "birth mother", don't use it. Just skip the grand pronouncements over which word "everybody" or "nobody" should use. Anyone should call themselves whatever they want.

    As someone said, language evolves. Even Lee Campbell said she would not be upset if the term "birthmother" faded from common usuage. Some people like it, some do not, but that certainly is not crucial nor an acid test for who is "working for the adoption industry" by a mere choice of words. I'm ok with being called natural, biological, birth, first mother or any other term as well as long as it is meant with kindness. Intent is everything, and communication.

    But right now,birth mother is the most commonly used term for mothers who have surrendered, and as I understand it Lorraine's choice to add it to the blog title was purely pragmatic, to get more hits, not ideological or philosophical, and it certainly does not change anything here.

    Can't we look at word usage in context and by the intent of the speaker, rather than just having a bad reaction to a word and jumping to correct or lecture those using the "wrong" one?

    The same word can have very different connotations to different people. Yeah, I know, there are all those essays out there that "Birthmother means Breeder" and etc, but the truth is it didn't and doesn't mean that to everyone who uses it.

    Like Lee, if it fades away I won't be heartbroken, nor cling to a word no longer in common usage. But for now, it is useful to facilitate communication with the widest spectrum of people outside of our little adoption world.

    Making people change the words they use does not really change hearts and minds. Mostly it just annoys and makes it harder to get our real message heard sympathetically.

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  32. Mary Anne, I understand what you are saying about intent, but often it is not easy to discern intent during a conversation. It is clear, however, when discussing the intent of the industry, which is and always has been to separate young mothers from their infants so that a more deserving (financially more so, at least) party may adopt it. I have no problem with discerning the intent there...they want the babies, mothers want the babies...there can be no compromise .

    And, Kippa, I don't think that anyone is arguing another person's right to use the term, but what I am saying is that the reason it is the standard of the industry is not a reason that we should acquiesce. The industry is not something that I want to support or endorse. We are the ones who have been most affected by this industry, so therefore we should have some right to set the standards that we will be defined by, and if the industry demands it, I will likely be against it.

    Just as the women who decided, by their efforts, that they would like to be known by a term have the right to it, so too do the women who find the term offensive and limiting have the right to refuse to use it. They further have the right to not be ridiculed about their choice in other venues. It seems to me that no one here has said that the women who worked to push the use of the word birthmother cannot use it. They have simply said that they don't like it and refuse to be defined by it. Therefore, it is NOT the standard that it is being claimed to be, other than the standard for the industry and their (as Mary Ann has called them) Shills.

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  33. Believe me, Sandy, I don't want to support shills for the adoption industry, nor do they tell me what to call myself, nor do they define me. I know who I am no matter what term is used.

    But for good or ill the term "birth mother" is now in common usage among people who have nothing to do with the adoption industry but innocently use that term. It has become standard; most people outside of adoption now refer to us as birth mothers; some still call us "natural mothers". Is either term worth fighting about?

    It is also in common usage among younger mothers who have surrendered more recently, and would use it on google to be led to this site. Isn't it more important to reach people who need us than to be politically correct?

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  34. Amen, Mairaine.

    Today's New York Times in the Modern Love section....leads to a birth mother.
    In this adoption-crazed world, we are stuck with the term...

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  35. Actually, outside of adoption, many people believe it refers to surrogate mothers. This is what i found when the term came up a few years ago (2004?) among a group of university-educated friends of mine, none of whom had any connection to adoption in their lives. They did not associate it with an "adoption-related situation" at all.

    I do not think we're stuck with it. But we will be stuck with it if we don't insist on an alternative and explain why we find this one offensive and unsuitable (those of us who do, of course).

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  36. (Repost, with thanks to moderators for removing my original half-asleep post at my request :) )

    back to the term "disembabyment": I've never used "disembaby" or "disembaby." The parallel was to be to "disembowelment" as an impersonal noun, not as a verb.

    I think the first place this term was used outside of support groups, was this collection on the First Moms Action Group's exiledmothers.com site. And this site was not designed to be subtle."

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  37. "The horrors of war pale beside the loss of a child."

    Tell that to a combat veteran, or someone whose family member died in war. No, I don't think my loss as a surrendering mother makes the horrors of war pale!

    This is the heading on the site Cedartrees cited previously. The rest is equally hysterical (not in the funny sense) and overblown. Just the kind of thing that does not win friends to our cause.Yes, I am being "judgmental".

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  38. Cedar said "Actually, outside of adoption, many people believe it refers to surrogate mothers. "
    Well yes, of course. University educated women. Wow. They've gotta be right.

    As I suggested earlier. I believe that as applied to biological mothers the term is already dying a natural death.
    So let's just let it, eh?
    Gently.

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  39. Mary Ann,

    I am not sure that judgmental would be exactly the word that came to my mind after reading your post. However, after reading some of your more satirical writings, I guess we take our comforts where we find them, huh?

    As far as that quote goes, that wasn't something that Cedar said, but a quote from Anna Freud. Why does that offend you?

    I have been married for the past 25 years to a Navy Seal, UDT Seal Team 2, who served in Viet Nam for 3 years. His duty was almost all behind enemy lines, and he is the only one of his unit that survived. He is being treated now for PTSD, and for Agent Orange. We have been working for the past 5 years to get a disability rating for him, but because the nature of his service was classified ( we were never there....) we had to wait until the Pentagon opened up some of the covert files recently. He just had a hearing with the Pentagon last month and we are awaiting the findings, after the covert files were lifted.

    I also am the mother to a son, Navy, who served on board the USS Forrestal and acted as a Sideboy to the first President Bush when he came on board the Forrestal for the Malta Conference during the first Iraq war, and who served as Naval Intelligence during the second Iraq war under George the Second. He is also being treated for PTSD, after watching his roommate be blown away, literally, as he stood at the bathroom sink shaving in their trailer. He is having some serious problems.

    All of that is to tell you that my husband and I discussed this exact thing. We were in agreement that what the government and the society expectation had done to mothers is no less a horror story than what he experienced in Nam, and that we both continue to experience it over. Just as I watch him 'check the perimeters' in our yard when he goes outside and have been warned by his psychiatrist that I may be safer sleeping on the couch when he is having dreams, so too does he see me re-experience the powerlessness I felt at the hands of the Social Workers and the Agency and Home personnel. Little things act as triggers for both of us. It isn't that we are unable to cope in the 'real world', either of us, since we both have good coping skills, but coping is not a good way to live. Indeed, none of us were flung violently against the wall, "retraumatized", puked green pea soup, were made to relive our surrender in technicolor, or just had our heads spin around and explode all over, leaving a nasty mess for our friends to clean up, but there were times when the feelings were very, very similar for both my husband and I, and for my son, as well, I suspect. I guess that this means that there is truth in that quote by Anna Freud, despite the fact that you don't care for it.

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  40. "The horrors of war pale beside the loss of a child."
    I believe the original is "The horrors of war pale beside the loss of a mother", and the modification is courtesy of Joe Soll.

    I would like to know the context of the original quote.
    Anyone?

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  42. This is the nearest I could find to put the Anna Freud quote in its proper context.
    Talk about distorting meaning to serve your own ends.
    By distorting Anna Freud's words to make them convey something other than was originally intended, Joe Soll has done neither himself nor mothers who have lost children to adoption a service.

    http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/
    onthisday/bday/1203.html
    ' Another of her significant books was ''War and Children,'' written in collaboration with a friend, Dorothy T. Burlingham, and based on case studies of the effects of World War II bombing on British children. It upset preconceived notions of children's reactions.
    ''General sympathy has been aroused by the idea that little children, all innocence, should come into close contact with the horrors of war,'' the authors wrote, and then showed by example that children were not at all saddened by the sight of destruction.
    ''Love for the parents is so great that it is a far greater shock for a child to be suddenly separated from its mother than to have a house collapse on top of it,'' the book reported. ''It is surprising how little interest children show in sirens, bombs, guns and allclears.''

    Miss Freud and Miss Burlingham concluded that the world of the small child is pivoted on the mother and that the child has little if any instinctive horror of combat, blood or destruction." '

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    ReplyDelete

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