Many hopeful adoptive parents wonder what typical birth mothers are like. They worry about speaking with a birth mother on the phone because they don’t know what to expect.
How old are most birth mothers? Why are they choosing adoption? Are they married or single? What’s their background? Is there such a thing as a “typical birth mother?” Here, I’ll share the answers to these commonly-asked questions and more!
What is a Birth Mother?
Let’s begin with a simple definition. What is a birth mother? 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” refers to a woman thinking about adoption or choosing to place her child. To differentiate between the parties involved in an adoption, it makes it simpler and more 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 mean the people involved in a child’s adoption. Most adoption professionals will use the term “birth mother” because it’s warmer than “biological mother,” which has a bit of a cold, clinical tone.
The term “birth mother” became common in the 1950s and 60s with the help of author and adoptive mother Pearl S. Buck. Later, Marietta Spencer, a social worker at the Children’s Home Society of Minnesota, standardized the term in 1979 in her article “The Terminology of Adoption.” Spencer created a framework for “Positive Adoption Language,” which included more emotionally correct terms. These terms uphold the legal validity of adoption, convey adoption as the birth parent’s choice, and attempt to reduce the stigma surrounding adoption.
Myths About Birth Mothers
There are many adoption myths circulating out there about birth mothers. For example, the stereotypical birth mother is in her teens and dropped out of school once she found out she was pregnant. She has no job skills, and since her parents kicked her out, she has no place to live. So, she has to go on welfare. But the reality is most birth mothers don’t fit into this mold.
Some birth parents are young adults still completing their education, and their current situation isn’t favorable for becoming a parent. Most aren’t financially (or emotionally) prepared to parent, and they choose adoption because of their intense love for their baby or child.
Many seek a two-parent home for their child, something they can’t provide at this point in their lives. Some birth parents are married but can’t care for more children than they already have. For a struggling family, the adoption decision can be heart-wrenching and difficult, especially for a couple whose relationship is already strained to a near-breaking point.
The decision to place a child for adoption is a tough one, often made because the birth mother loves her child. She often could have chosen to get an abortion. But, because she loves her baby and values her baby’s life, she has decided adoption is best.
Some birth mothers are on state or financial aid and feel they can’t adequately provide for their babies. But, there are also birth mothers from middle-class backgrounds. They may be in college, already have children, or may live with their parents. Often, birth parents feel like they’re getting by but just can’t provide for one more child in addition to all they’re already doing.
It’s an adoption myth that birth mothers have no education or job skills. Birth mothers may be going to school, already have a college degree, or have a stable career. Most have graduated high school and have held jobs.
Research* has shown that women who decide to make an adoption plan are likely to have higher educational and career goals for themselves than those who choose to parent. Also, those who placed children for adoption are more likely to complete school, be employed, and less likely to be on government assistance.
*Source: The Institute for Adoption Information, Inc.’s “An Educator’s Guide to Adoption.”
What’s a Typical Birth Mother Like?
After learning more about the term “birth mother” and the myths surrounding birth mothers, you might be wondering, “What is a birth mother like?” or even, “Is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ birth mother?”
Lifetime has helped birth mothers ranging in age from 12 to 46 from all walks of life. Some have degrees, while others are in college or high school. They also come from a variety of situations; a birth mother may already be parenting other children, or she may be pregnant with her first child. While some birth mothers live with their parents, many live on their own.
However, Lifetime’s adoption professionals have found that a typical birth mother is parenting other children, is in her twenties or thirties, and wants a better life for her child than what she can provide. She may have a man in her life, but he’s probably not taking the role of a father to her kids.
She knows adoption is a difficult choice, but it is the best decision for this child. She knows that even though ongoing contact may be painful, her child should know their adoption story. Plus, she needs the reassurance that her child is growing up happy, healthy, and with the adoptive parents she selected for them.
One of the best ways to learn what a birth mother is like is to hear from a real woman who has created an adoption plan for her child. Visit Lifetime’s Adoption Stories page to hear in birth mothers’ own words why they made the loving choice of adoption. And below, you can listen to Lifetime birth mother, Adrienne, as she shares about her path to adoption:
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 12, 2018, and has since been updated.
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.