The Power of Words … and an Adoptee Rights Petition

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Sometimes my blog posts are inspired by conversations which occur on message boards, and this is one of them.  So, it is very possible that you have read the original conversation where this took place, and if so, then I apologize for the repetition.

This came from an online conversation about a recent “birthmother petition,” where an organization is requesting the signatures of natural mothers to support adoptee-rights.  Now, I believe wholeheartedly in open records, and that EVERYONE has the right to their original birth records, their family history, and the right to make contact with their lost family members if they choose (this means both ways!) … BUT, I also do not believe that it is the right thing to do to objectify a group of people in order to further the rights of a separate group, at the expense of the first.

So, in this conversation about this petition, several natural mothers such as myself stated that we would not be signing it.  Not that we do not support adoptee rights (we wholeheartedly DO! and the women discussing this have spent years of their lives actively working for open records), but because: (1)  being mothers still, we are not “birthmothers;” (2) we find it offensive, dehumanizing, and objectifying to be defined and labelled as “incubators;” and (3) we feel that the organization which sponsored this petition could just as easily have used the term which respects us:  “natural mother.” Even if it used both terms, that at least would show respect for all of us, those natural mothers who respect themselves as being mothers, and those who accept the adoption industry’s statement that we are no longer mothers.

So, this is my response to the person who defended the use of the term “birth mother” in the petition.   I sincerely respect her an an open records advocate, but I do feel that even if she does not feel that her own natural mother is a mother to her, that is her personal choice in her life, but it does not mean that this can be generalized to cover other mothers-of-adoption-loss without our consent.  And I do not give consent to be dehumanized.

” I am sorry to hear, xxxxxx, that your natural mother is nothing more than an incubator to you (yes, this is what she is reduced to if your adoptive mother is awarded the status of being your sole mother, it means that her only relevance/action as a mother in you life was to gestate and push you out), but the word dehumanizes and objectifies women as being nothing more than convenient uteri. Legislators also recognize and understand the term natural mother. They have for ages, as much currently-in-effect state and provincial legislation still uses that term.

”  I disagree with you that it is necessary to use this term with politicians. I have been involved in open records campaigns in 3 provinces, actively writing to politicians, creating websites that promote open records, and sending out bulletins to members of nonprofit organizations I belonged to in order to publicize open records campaigns and get members in involved in open records. I have never yet had to use the term ‘birthmother’ in any of these actions.

”  People have the right to not be objectified. The ‘birth terms’ objectify women. They were invented and defined by the adoption industry, which treated and treats us as livestock anyway:

‘… the tendency growing out of the demand for babies is to regard unmarried mothers as breeding machines…(by people intent) upon securing babies for quick adoptions.’ – Leontine Young, ‘Is Money Our Trouble?’ (paper presented at the Nationa…l Conference of Social Workers, Cleveland, 1953)

”  And, if one reduces a human being to an object, one can then treat them as voiceless, with rights, in need of protecting. The term ‘birthmother’ actually plays into supporting closed records legislation by defining us as having NO continuing love or connection with our lost child, and thus no interest in ‘reunion’ or being ‘found.’ And reunion IS the elephant on the dining room table when it comes to ‘adoptee rights’ and ‘open records.’

”  I have the right not to be defined as an non-mother, an incubator, etc. So do all other MOTHERS who have lost children to adoption. Thus the term natural mother, which recognizes and respects our continuing motherhood, is the one which is not derogatory or denigrating to us. Or you can call us mothers, or mothers of adoption loss. Or mothers separated from a child by adoption.

”  What is a natural mother? I am a mother by the laws of nature. The adoptive mother is the mother who was created by the laws of modern human society, pursuant to laws which began with the first child adoption law, invented in 1851 in Massachusetts. So, natural and socially-created. But the continuing love and blood-bond I have with my child, our sharing of genes, that I created him through the processes of Nature, all count towards me being a mother. (He also calls me Mom and I have adopted him back, but these are moot points). If laws and social-worker-procedures and the adoption industry had not been created to rip us apart, we would still have been together. My love for him never died, my connection with him that is just as strong as my connection and love for my other children. This is NOT saying that adoptive parents are unnatural. It is not a game of ‘Opposites,’ because if you say that this makes adoptive parents ‘unnatural’ then in the ‘Opposites Game’ the term ‘birthmother’ makes them into ‘deathmothers.’

Sometimes I feel that i beat this topic to death, and you, dear readers, are likely sick of hearing it. But why ask for my support in a way that treats me as less-than-human, that assumes that I do not have or want a family relationship with my son?   The issue this time is that we, as natural mothers, are being asked to further the interests of another group while ignoring our own interests (e.g. open records for natural parents as well), but we’re being asked as “incubators” do to so.

Meanwhile, please sign this petition, which has been active and on in the internet since 2000:

Mothers for Open Records Everywhere


7 thoughts on “The Power of Words … and an Adoptee Rights Petition

    Denise said:
    May 1, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Did it. Thanks for sharing this declaration.

    Denise said:
    May 1, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Just got notification that the email to which I sent my info was undeliverable.

      Adoption Critic responded:
      May 1, 2011 at 2:05 am

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ll let the site admins know so they can fix it.

    angelle2 said:
    May 1, 2011 at 3:56 am

    I do not think of myself as a birth mother, a natural mother or a first mother. I am my son’s mother. I gave birth to him. I really do remember being pregnant and giving birth to him!

    His adoptive mom is the woman who parented him, the woman he calls mom. Makes me no less his mother. For all intents and purposes he has two mothers. I will not be defined by a qualifier.

    Lorraine Dusky said:
    May 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    While I do not like the appellation birth mother myself, and try to incorporate natural and first (not much better than birth) into my writing, I did sign the petition of the American Adoption Congress, which I assume you are talking about, because if we are splintered over this issue, we have a voice less strong, with fewer of us.

    No one is called a “colored person” anymore but the NAACP did not change its name.

    NAACP | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

    I am sorry that any petition will have fewer signatures than it might because of a word, when we all should be united in this fight.

    I have also asked that my name be added to your list.
    lorraine from First Mother Forum

    heatherrainbow said:
    May 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I never use the term “birth” in anything that I write either. I am my daughter’s mother, whether acknowledged by her or anyone else.

    Unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way. And, the cyclic systemic nature of the situation, is this that follows:

    -our children were stolen from us. We were coerced, we were threatened, and so on and so on.

    -This has been happening in the courts since the early 1900’s, and the courts sealed these records to protect themselves. (To protect judges, lawyers, agencies).

    – The more we (as mothers) remain divided on language (and I do recognize the importance of language see this: the longer the judges, lawyers and agencies will be protected from public scrutiny.

    – Opening records, birth records, adoption records, all family court records, will mean that information will be accessible for outside courts and human rights agencies to investigate and get us all the justice we deserve. Or at least, will be one step closer.

    – Don’t let language disagreements in the bureaucratic process keep us from moving forward to reach the end we all seek. Having solidarity is one thing, having a circular argument that not everyone in our position of mothers will agree on is destructive to our movement.

    Fresh! said:
    June 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    And until we can all get past our egos, adoptees and mothers alike, we’re going to stay in the cycle of hurting rather than creating one of healing. Birth Mother, Natural Mother, First Mother, for too many adoptees they all equal strangers they long to know. Over the years I’ve met so many, so many wounded adoptees. And, I’ve heard horrible story’s from mothers who also long desperately to find, meet or just know how their children are doing.

    Far too many times, our pains turn against each other and it plays out just like when someone who has no language, uses an inappropriate one, gets punished for it, shamed for it and the process of finding our truth gets lost. And this happens over and over again – Ego always wins by keeping us in this cycle.

    I’m sorry you were hurt and I plead for your patience and compassion as we all work through this process.

    And thanks for the petition, I will also share it.


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