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Published Friday September 4th, 2009 at 1:23pm

Original Article by Kelly Conley

Helping your child frame their references to their first family is a healthy part of the adoption process.

In the adoption world, it has become common place to use "positive" adoption language and educate about "negative" adoption language. Yet, how many adoption professional and adoptive parents alike refer to our children's families of origin doesn't seem to align with these terms. Currently, it is most common to refer to our child's first mom as their "birthmother". During the adoption of my first few children, I too used this term, but became increasingly uncomfortable with it as the years passed.

A simple google search on using the term "birthmother" will bring you many hits to sites strongly advocating against the use of this term, purely for the implication it makes--the person who gave birth to your child was a vessel--and nothing more. Now, many years and many adopted children later, it feels to me more like a dehumanizing term, and I don't like to use it at all.

Our adopted children have another mom somewhere. Some parents may be uncomfortable with this, but it's the truth. This other mom may not have raised our child, but in most cases, it was not due to lack of desire. It was most likely due to poverty, current family situation, or perhaps inability due to a number of other reasons. This other mom may have made the choice willingly, as in making an adoption plan with an agency, or she may have had that choice made for her by a State agency. It's also possible that she was pressured by her family, by society she lives in, or she may have felt she had no other options. Our children's stories are as varied as they are, but they all have another family out there somewhere--other relatives, another father, maybe even brothers and sisters.

In our home, we refer to these important woman as my children's "other moms" or "first moms". In the case of our internationally adopted children, we may say "your Chinese mom" or "your Ethiopian mom". When we know their names, we use them. We talk about how difficult it must of been for these women to make the decision to place their children with another family or to leave them at an orphanage. Even in a case where CPS may have been involved, is the relinquishment any easier?

Adoption is both happy and sad, all at the same time. And the sadness is due to the loss that someone else is feeling in helping me create my family. Each time one of my children has a birthday, it's a happy occasion at our house, but part of me always feels very sad. I cannot help but think about my child's other mom, their other family, somewhere out there, and how they must be feeling on that special day. Sorrow. Grief. Regret. Most likely lots of emotions. In wanting my children to grow up healthy and happy, talking about their other moms and how they may be feeling is an important part of the process.

We can't pretend that our children don't have other families, even if the picture isn't rosy. These first moms, these other moms, despite their lack of a parenting role in life, are still a critical part of our children's lives. Let's not minimize that role with outdated language.