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Published Thursday October 1st, 2009 at 11:45pm

Original Article by Pam Connell

A while ago, there was a debate on a listserv for parents who'd adopted from Korea. It was triggered by an advertisement for jewelry with the Korean letters spelling "omani". Many adoptive mothers embrace wearing the jewelry as a part of honoring their Korean-American children's birth culture.

But one writer, after wearing the jewelry for years, imagined herself meeting her child's birthmother while she was wearing the "umma" bracelet. Would the jewelry cause pain to the birth mother? Would it seem to be a usurpation of a role as Korean mother that the adoptive mother was not? Heated debate ensued over whether the title "omani" belonged to the birth mother or the adoptive mother or both.

What occurs to me now is that in domestic adoption
, or any adoption where the birth and adoptive parents speak the same language, there is not that luxury of having another word. As painful as it may be to hear a child she has borne call another woman "Mom", surely no one would debate that the title, in the adoptive family's language, belongs to the mother raising the child.

While many adoptive families speak of the umma as the birth mother, my kids were old enough that they were calling their foster mothers "umma". We are fortunate to know the birth mother's first name and that is how we refer to her. Our kids know they grew inside Eun Ah (not her real name), were cared for by their ummas and then came home to Mom.

(When I met my one-year-old, I tried telling her, pointing to myself, that I was her umma now. Her little eyebrows knit together sharply and she gave me this look like, "you expect me to believe that? Wrong hair, skin, voice, eyes, scent-lady, I know the difference!" I decided that if I acted like a mother, she would come to know who I was, and the woman who had cared for her for ten months could remain "umma".)

I think we are fortunate to have another word. Even if I know it means "mother", I think it would be emotionally harder for me to hear the kids say it. Still, reminding ourselves that those who adopt domestically use the same name can remind us that we should be sensitive to birthmothers' feelings-but never shy away from claiming our child as our own.