Births Outside Marriage

When I first hear the term birthmother it was like breaking through the surface of a dark secret.
I knew what to call myself.

Most births to women under 30 occur outside of marriage. THIS STORY  from the New York Times is already a week old, but I can’t stop thinking about it.  For birthmothers my age, just reading the phrase, “births outside of marriage” gives rise to the stigma we experienced. The contrast between the era in which we gave up our children and today’s regard for single mothers is profound. As far as I know the term, “single mother” did not exist in 1970.

The term birthmother did not exist either. There was no name for girls like me except for girl in trouble or unwed mother. Birthmother is a contested term now. Many prefer first mother or bio mother. I suppose I date myself by using the term birthmother. I like it because it was such a huge relief to hear a word that described me without sounding pejorative. Like I could finally break through the surface of a dark secret and know what to call myself.

I think nowadays women who give birth outside of marriage might not even call themselves single mothers. Maybe they simply call themselves mothers.

3 thoughts on “Births Outside Marriage

  1. Pauline Gaines

    My birthmother feels just the way you do. She hid her pregnancy with me and was whisked off to a home for unwed mothers. She even hid it from her brother. Now my half-sister is actively trying to get pregnant with her boyfriend and they have no immedfiate plans to marry. Amazing the sea change in just a few decades.


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