Adoption Words

A word about words

Let’s have a word about adoption words.


I’ve been looking at other adoption/birthmother blogs and general adoption sites on the internet. What I’ve found is that there is no consensus among birthmothers about what we want to be called. Some of us think the word “birthmother” is derogatory and implies being used as a breeder. The word birthmother is sometimes a hyphenate, sometimes a compound word. I like the word birthmother in its run-on one word fashion. There’s something headlong about it that describes my personal experience. I can’t believe this is happening, but it is happening and there’s no way I can stop it.

Birthmother seems appropriate for other reasons, too. I gave birth to my son. I’m his mother. The mother who gave birth to him. Even if he has an adoptive mother. The other terms out there include bio-mother or biological mother, first mother, exiled mother. I desire no squabble with any woman who has had a child and relinquished it for adoption. Let her call herself by the name she prefers. And let us not divide ourselves from one another.


The word “relinquish” also interests me. It was the word used by my social worker in 1970 as I prepared to give up my son. It’s in common parlance today as well. I use it, but maybe I would like to break myself of the habit.
Relinquish according to Webster means to withdraw from, to retreat from, leave behind or give up–and here’s the part that pisses me off.  It “usually does not imply strong feeling but may suggest some regret, reluctance, or weakness.”  I wonder if adoption professionals got together and handpicked this word. I find it far more insulting than birthmother or any of its alternatives.

1 thought on “Adoption Words

  1. Pingback: The Word Birthmother - Denise Emanuel Clemen

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