We all have our personal preferences when it comes to titles, don’t we? For example, I have a Papaw and a Grandpa; I would never call one Grandpa and the other Papaw. We are currently trying to decide who gets what title in regards to the eleven grandparents and great-grandparents that our Son Nicholas has; and those are just the living ones. It will come down to personal preference, tradition and, in the end, what Nicholas wants to call these people who are so important in his life.
So it is with adoption terminology. I, myself, prefer the term firstmother. Why? It was a slow evolvement. Originally, shortly after the placement of my firstborn, her Mom asked me what I would prefer to be called. Having never heard any of the other names, I said that birthmother was just fine. D, Munchkin’s Mom, went so far as to ask me whether I would like the title of Munchkin’s Mother. Still in the throes of postpartum hormonal outfall, I declined stating a desire to avoid confusion as my reasoning.
I went a long while calling myself a birthmother. It was not until my Husband and I had our first child that I began to rethink my original decision on which title I preferred. (In fact, you will see through my writings that the birth of my Son changed many of my thought processes. (Don’t all children?) After I placed Munchkin with J & D, I spent hours upon hours researching how to heal as a birthmother. I joined group upon group, hoping to find someone who understood what I was thinking and feeling. Some of these women called themselves birthmothers as well. Then we had Lifemothers, a name chosen by Skye Hardwick who has written a great deal as to why she chose that specific title. I found other titles that felt disrespectful to my daughter’s Mom. Then I found the title of Firstmother.
When I was reevaluating who I was to the Munchkin in those months after the birth of our Son, I found myself coming back to the term Firstmother. It seemed to click with something in my heart; in that one place that no one else fits or belongs but the Munchkin. At first, I tried to put my finger on in by saying that since she was my Firstborn, it made sense to call myself her Firstmother. Then I started to think about other firsts.
I have missed many firsts throughout her life. However, due to our fully open adoption, I was present on the day that she swam by herself for the first time. I also witnessed her first time jumping in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Yet I missed the first steps. I do not know her first word. And oh, if only I could have been there the first time she sang her alphabet. Thoughts like these really bogged me down. My heart felt heavy. I knew that I had to be looking at something wrong, that I was viewing things in the wrong light for some reason.
That is when it hit me: the title of Firstmother was working for me because I made the first decisions for her, as her Mother. I got her the prenatal care she needed to come out healthy. As it was a very complicated birth that put not only her health but also my own in jeopardy, it was not exactly the easiest task. I ate as healthy as I could during the pregnancy to assure that she was getting all of the proper nutrients; I wanted my daughter to be strong, to be healthy. In the end, I made that final parenting decision and placed her in the arms of J & D. After that point, all Motherly decisions were no longer my own but theirs even if they consider me in certain ways when making decisions. Yet, I made those first very important decisions for her with her best interest at heart.
She will always be my firstborn. I will always be her Firstmother. And someday she will choose what to call me. Right now, the name Jenna, from her lips, is the most beautiful sound on Earth.
With that, I encourage you to speak about titles within your own adoption situation. If you would prefer a different title, politely address the topic. Respectful titling goes all ways on every street, with grandparents, parents, children, siblings and, yes, even first parents.
Speaking of politely addressing topics, in my next post, I’I will go over some pointers on how to address touchy issues with adoptive parents without stepping on anyone’s toes. (Or vice versa!)
Illustration from images.com.