“I’ve recently seen a few articles online saying that people shouldn’t use the term ‘birth mother’ until after a woman places her baby for adoption. Should we stop using the term ‘birth mother’? Is it proper to call her a birth mother before adoption?”
Let’s begin with simple definitions…a ‘birth mother’ is a biological mother. So, technically, it’s any woman who gives birth to a baby.
In adoption, the term ‘birth mother’ typically applies to the woman who is thinking about adoption, or who is choosing to place her child. To distinguish between the parties involved in adoption, it makes things more simple and accurate to refer to birth mothers (who will or have given birth) and adoptive parents (those adopting a child). Even the legal paperwork required for adoption will include these terms to indicate the people involved in one child’s adoption.
Most adoption professionals choose to use the term “birth mother” because it’s warmer than saying “biological mother,” which has a bit of a clinical tone.
Using terms like “expectant parent” or “expectant mother” aren’t always accurate because women choosing adoption are not just pregnant women. A woman can make an adoption plan after she gives birth, or months or years later; it’s never too late for adoption. Also, using a term like “expectant parent” becomes confusing for adoptive parents who are ‘expectantly’ waiting. Especially for those new to adoption and unfamiliar with the terminology, it starts to get complicated!
At Lifetime, we don’t assume a woman is going to place her child until she signs the paperwork that releases her parental rights to the adoptive family of her choosing. It’s up to her. We support and educate every woman who calls Lifetime, whether she’s sure about her adoption decision or if she’s just learning more. In our informational materials and social media, we use terms like “birth mother” to protect her privacy and to differentiate between the roles in adoption. Of course, when we communicate with her directly, she’s referred to by her name. Every woman who contacts Lifetime is listened to and cared for. We provide her with help as it applies to her unique situation, on her terms.
It’s vital to be sensitive to a woman’s emotions as she decides about her unplanned pregnancy and her child’s future. When she has the choice to lovingly and willingly choose adoption for her child, she typically sees the term “birth mother” as a positive. This simple title reinforces the fact that she has a role in forming her child’s custom adoption plan. It also recognizes that she has a role in her child’s life if she wishes.
Many of the women that Lifetime has helped through adoption planning are proud to be called birth mothers. Our heart breaks for women who felt coerced or forced into adoption, which, unfortunately, was the case decades ago.
With modern, open adoption, a woman who creates a plan for her baby or child can build an on-going connection with her child and the adoptive parents. Her questions and thoughts about her situation are validated, before, during, and after the adoption takes place. Even if she ends up deciding that adoption isn’t for her, she’ll be aware of what adoption is like today. She will also be better equipped to help a friend or be an understanding peer for another woman who does choose adoption.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.