Adoption Sensitive Language

October 18th, 2006

Carrie Craft of posted a blog on October 10, 2006 in regards to Adoption Sensitive Language. You can read her blog on this subject at As we have seen here as well as on the Daily Basterdette, online mailing lists and other places through out the adoption community, adoption language is a highly controversial subject. The past couple of weeks, I have received emails privately, and comments on the blog here regarding the terms “birth mother”, “natural mother”, “biological mother”, and “first mother”. Some made some excellent points as to why they prefer to be called by their preference of any one of the above terms. I have been trying to be respectful and use terms that I know through my personal… [more]

Birth Mother – First Mother – Natural Mother Part 2

October 10th, 2006

The prefix of birth, although the most commonly used and accepted in the adoption community there are some who feel it is not respectful to whom it is applied. If I am understanding correctly, these women feel that the term “birth mother” reduces their motherhood to an event in time which ended at the child’s birth and their significance and the term “biological mothers” reduces their level of unfeeling donors of genetic material. The reality is that these women never stop feeling like their child’s mother and no legal event can change that. In the blog I wrote back in April titled Respectful Adoption Language located at A comment was recently posted there by a member who included a writing… [more]

Birth Mother – First Mother – Natural Mother Part 1

October 9th, 2006

Language in general is revolutionary and more awareness ahs become of the fact that adoption triad members are varying and sometimes conflicting perspectives in regards to the term birth mother, natural mother, and first mother. I think that there are several adoptive families that understandably do not want to feel different. They may dislike having their status repeatedly pointed out to them. Whether we like it or not, adoption is not the same as having a natural or biological family. The fact is that adoption is not going to go away and adoption related losses need to be acknowledged. Correct me if I am wrong but given a choice wouldn’t an adoptive mother preferred to give birth to their… [more]

Betty Jean Lifton Disinvited to Speak at Conference – Part 4

September 20th, 2006

A majority of those in the adoption community are fighting for truth and along comes someone like the organizers of this conference who want Betty Jean Lifton to expunge the term birth mother from her speech at a conference because there are people in the audience who find it offensive. Betty Jean’s books, all of them, use the word birth mother as do almost all other respected writing on adoption. After all, wasn’t she initially invited as a keynote speaker based on her writings? As I have said before, Betty Jean Lifton has incorporated the word birth mother into her work for years. I believe she was invited to speak, based on what she has written. It makes no sense to expect her… [more]

Betty Jean Lifton Disinvited to Speak at Conference – Part 3

September 20th, 2006

I would like to note that Betty Jean has a full speaking schedule booked for the rest of the year and into the next. Although Betty Jean was apologized to and re-invited to the conference, this does not erase the fact that the organizers tried to silence or forbid her from using specific terms in the first place. On the blog link listed above, a poster in the comments who is a member of Adoption Crossroads and a conference volunteer conceded publicly that should have made it known up front about the use of the word and that the situation could have been handled differently, but they are human. It has been discussed throughout the adoption community that Adoption Crossroads and Origins are… [more]

Betty Jean Lifton Disinvited to Present at Conference Part 2

September 19th, 2006

When Betty Jean Lifton objected to the language Joe Soll replied, "Please don't use the word. ....what does it cost not to use it?" Three days after receiving her initial language instructions and his initial reply, Betty Jean Lifton sent an email to Joe Soll telling him she would not change her terminology. She had no problem if women wanted to refer to themselves as First Mothers or anything else, but she didn’t want their language inflicted on her. She reminded him of the provenance of “birth mother“ and that it is the accepted popular and professional term for women who have surrendered a child for adoption. On August 27, she received this reply: "Your negative response to our request not to use the "b" term… [more]

Betty Jean Lifton Disinvited to Present at Conference Part 1

September 19th, 2006

Is this censorship? In planning for the “Shedding the Light” conference that was held September 15-16th at Fordham University in New York City, it seems that Betty Jean Lifton was disinvited to speak as the keynote speaker due to her not agreeing to avoid the use of the words “birth mother” as directed by the organizers. Birth mother is a commonly accepted term but apparently the organizations organizing the conference feel it is demoralizing, and marginalizing a mother to the role of a vessel. These two organizations, Adoption Crossroads, and OriginsUSA do not advocate its use, preferring “first mother” and other terms. For those of you who don’t know, Betty Jean Lifton, Ph.D. is a renowned adoptee rights activist, author of Twice Born… [more]

Names and Labels at Reunion – Part 4

May 1st, 2006

When I went to visit my son the first time, he told me ahead of time that he had decided to introduce me as "Jan". He explained that he thought "birth mother" sounded too clinical and cold. Then, he quickly went on to say that even though he planned to introduce me as "Jan", everyone would know who I was. As long as people knew who I was, I was okay with his calling me whatever he wanted. Had he wanted to introduce me as "a friend", however, it would have hurt me deeply and been very disturbing to me. I would have felt as though he was trying to hide who I was. There is a lot of hiding… [more]

Names and Labels at Reunion – Part 3

May 1st, 2006

Labels are another "hot button" issue at reunion. I have heard both adoptees and birth mothers alike express upset or frustration over how their reunited family members introduced them to others or referred to them in person. Some adoptees get very agitated when their birth mothers sign letters or emails with "Mom" or "Mother" or refer to themselves in that manner. Other adoptees, readily accept that their birth mothers are indeed their "mothers". Some people are able to accept the concept of two or more mothers; others are unable to do so. One birth mom I know hates that her daughter introduced her during a visit repeatedly as her "birth mother". She felt uncomfortable having the whole town know. From my perspective, it is a… [more]

Names and Labels at Reunion – Part 2

April 29th, 2006

In Part 1, I commented on how difficult it could be for a birth mother who had named her child to call her child by a different name at reunion. I wonder how many birth moms whose children were not adopted at birth are unable to ever to make the switch? Is there is a subconscious desire to not accept that the child has another name? Perhaps, it is a stubborn conscious refusal? I have heard from several adoptees whose birth mothers refused to call them by their adoptive names. Others said that their birth moms often “slipped” and called them by their birth names. For some adoptees, they may be upset at their birth mother’s refusal… [more]