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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 ourchildren'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 usedthis term, but became increasingly uncomfortable with it as the yearspassed.

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

Our adopted childrenhave another mom somewhere. Some parents may be uncomfortable withthis, 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 likelydue to poverty, current family situation, or perhaps inability due to anumber of other reasons. This other mom may have made the choicewillingly, as in making an adoption plan with an agency, or she mayhave had that choice made for her by a State agency. It's also possiblethat she was pressured by her family, by society she lives in, or shemay have felt she had no other options. Our children's stories are asvaried as they are, but they all have another family out theresomewhere--other relatives, another father, maybe even brothers andsisters.

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

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

We can't pretend that our childrendon't have other families, even if the picture isn't rosy. These firstmoms, 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 minimizethat role with outdated language.