I got pregnant when I was 16. I kept my secret and I kept it well. Six weeks before my son was born, my mom took a guess at what was going on with me. She told my dad. Then my parents insisted that I tell my boyfriend. My sisters and brothers were kept in the dark. My boyfriend’s parents had no idea. I was hidden in a foster home in the Iowa countryside for eight weeks. Then I came home. A couple of weeks later I left for college.
I told the man I married about my son. I didn’t tell my friends.
After each of my daughters was born, I slipped into an abyss of grief. Then I met a young woman who told me she was a birthmother. Until that moment, I believed myself to be an unwed mother. I loved the word, “birthmother.” Shortly thereafter my new friend took me to a Concerned United Birthparents meeting. Here is what CUB has to say about language:
The terms “birthmother” or “birthparent” were coined by CUB founders, including Lee Campbell, who wrote an article in a 2005 issue of the CUB Communicator describing its origin. It is a term that honors the connection between parent and child, and has never been intended as a degrading or perjorative term.
We are Concerned United Birthparents. We welcome those with adoption experiences to share with, inform and support each other. Whatever terminology you wish to use will be respected here. We ask that you do the same for others, and exercise tolerance when others do not use the words you like.
The #1 search query that leads people to CUB is “birth parents.” That’s what people are typing into the search engines.
From time to time, arguments will occur on the list over the terms “birthmother” or “birthparent.” Others may suggest the use of “first mother” “natural mother” or just plain “mother” with no prefix whatsoever. We respect the use of the terminology you feel comfortable with, and do not impose any particular terminology on anyone. At the same time, we request you extend the same respect and courtesy to anyone who does not use the terminology you prefer.
This is my sentiment as well, and the protocol I will follow on this blog. I moderate my comments, and while I enthusiastically welcome comments that evenhandedly make a case for one word or another, I will not post comments that demean the vocabulary of others. Let us use the words we chose to use, but let’s not allow our words to divide us.