Thursday, March 4, 2010
What to Call a First/Birth Mother in an Open Adoption
It's a question posed by a prospective adoptive mother, who is considering adopting the child of a friend, with the intention that the child will be raised with full and complete knowledge of his biological mother, who apparently will not be a stranger in this home. The mother, Hayley, hopes that the child can be raised with the love and support of both families. Amen to that. But what to call the two different mommies?
"Birthmother" and "Firstmom" are demeaning, and obviously not what a little kid is going to learn to call someone. Likewise "Aunt" is demeaning and wrong; "Godmother" suggests someone else, and besides, is little Johnny supposed to say, "Godmother, I'm hungry" or "Take me to the park, Godmom!" or "Don't like white milk, Birthmom, want chocolate!" when the birth biological natural mother is visiting?
The question is, can two women share the moniker "Mother," or "Mom?" At first, I thought, maybe not, but then I wondered what children of two gay parents teach their child to call them? Since the argument has been successfully made that at least on a birth certificate, a child can have two parents of the same sex, I would imagine that "Dad" in the home works for both of the male parents, and "Mom" works for two lesbian mothers. Maybe one is called Daddy Bob and the other Daddy Joe? And when one is gone for an extended period, maybe the "Bob" or "Joe" is dropped?
So, Hayley, if you do adopt and are the child's primary care-giver, you will undoubtedly be Mom and Mama and Mother; how about MammaJo (or whatever the natural mother's name is) for the other mother? I have known one of my grandchildren (daughter of my daughter whom I surrendered to adoption) since she was born, and while I was Grandma when she stayed with us for extended periods during the summer, once she hit puberty she changed over to what her mother, my daughter usually called me, Lorraine. I admit I was hurt at first, but decided to live with it, though I always signed my emails "Gramma Lo," which the teenager she is converted to "Glo." And I decided I liked that. Glo. My step-grandchildren, who have a lot of grandmothers as they are happy to tell everyone, call me Gramma Rain. Works for me too.
While Jane called me Lorraine and referred to me as such to her friends and family, she would sign her notes and cards, "Your daughter, Jane." And some cards were addressed to me as her "Mother." It's only a name, it's only a word, but yes, it does mean a lot. I can only imagine that being willing to share the title of Mom or Momma-- with the child's natural mother would be noticed--and appreciated--by the adopted person, especially she grows older. And then she can make a choice on her own.
What about you, dear reader? What do you think the child's mother, who will apparently be a part of his life after adoption, should be called? Please give us your thoughts.--lorraine, aka Glo. Also Gramma Rain.
(For more on questions posed by this thoughtful prospective adoptive mother, see: When Should You Tell a Child He's Adopted and We Want to Have a Family. Is Adoption Ever a Good Solution? )