Birth Child Label

24 Mar

I got myself twisted into knots this week. Why I allowed myself to be triggered probably comes down to the fact I’ve been on a strict no-stress diet for what seems like forever. Positive Adoption Language or PAL was the cause of my lapse of living stress free. First, for those reading, I don’t take issue with all the language listed, but my word, some (or most) of the “rules” about adoptees needs to change, and the change needs to led by adoptees; adoptive parents, birth parents, adoption professionals can weigh in, but it’s ultimately the adoptees who should decide the language used about them.

I know the term “Birth Child” has been listed on PAL forever, but recently, it’s become a term used by first mothers, so it’s worth delving into. It’s also the term that initially triggered this post because I still have the same feeling of being punched in the gut when any first mom uses “Birth Child” to describe the child she placed for adoption. When I first heard first mom’s using “Birth Child” to describe the child they’d placed, I queried why they used it. The answers I heard was that their adoption professionals told them that was how they should refer to their child. Describing their child as a “Birth Child” really bothered me, but I sat with it, that is, until I saw the term used in the title (or tag line) of an article. Seeing it there in bold font where it couldn’t be missed really hurt my heart in a way things seldom do anymore. I decided I needed to step back and ask other adoptees on how they felt about its usage and received varied responses – some similar to my feelings all the way to meh, but not any that saw it as a positive.

I also recognise that “Adopted Child” is listed as a Negative on PAL, it’s also still a label widely used both within and outside of adoption, a label we can’t escape even when we are old and are still referred to as an adopted child. Adoptees don’t need to have two different labels slapped on them, one from each set of parents; we are already adopted, we don’t need to be labeled as a birth child too. And, I really don’t care whether it is a sign of respect by the birth mother to the adoptive parents, if you aren’t secure as an adoptive parent, don’t put that on the child by needing the birth mother to call her child her birth child, fix yourself.

Just when we seem to have finally gotten most adoptive parents to recognise and accept an adoptee has two families a label comes into active use to divide us. Two families; one they were born into and one they are raised in is all that is needed. Which leads me to ponder what happens now in regards to openness, acceptance of the child having two families, the common story about the mother/father loving their child but finding it impossible to raise them the way they want their child raised so they chose an open adoption. Where in that narrative does it include the distancing, devaluing language of the child being just my birth child, how does that language bring closeness and openness of the heart. And why are we burdening the child with labels instead the parents (both sets) taking ownership for their choices, i.e., child I placed, child I adopted.

Maybe I’m worrying over nothing but having two separate labels doesn’t shout inclusive and loving to me; rather, it shouts distancing and othering the one adopted, not to mention the fear adoptive parents have that their child will be defined by being adopted seems more likely the more labels they are assigned.



Posted by on March 24, 2019 in Adoption


Tags: , , , , ,

18 responses to “Birth Child Label

  1. Dannie

    March 24, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    Idk I guess I don’t understand why there needs to be labels at all anyways. I know my child is more than capable of deciding what she’s comfortable and wants.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      March 24, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      Why we are friends Dannie. 🙂 Happy Sunday


  2. AdoptiveBlackMom

    March 24, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    I can’t imagine my daughter’s mom referring to Hope as her “birth daughter.” It just seems weird, super weird why such a label would ever be needed. Of course, the weirdness stems for the need to center and coddle the feels of us APs. So many of us feel so threatened by things that shouldn’t. 😦


    • TAO

      March 24, 2019 at 9:42 pm

      Thanks Dr. ABM – I don’t know how to get through to them that adoptees are wholly capable of loving their folks and also needing their other half the puzzle, it’s not either/or. Glad to see you feeling better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nara

    March 25, 2019 at 7:22 am

    I’ve never heard it and I wouldn’t like it either. It seems superfluous to requirements.

    I’m taking a break from fb. It’s actually been quite nice in terms of triggers. I realised pretty much all of mine are fb related. I generally see myself as quite level headed but I can get wound up by fb groups. I made a decision this year to avoid drama if at all possible so going off fb for a time was the way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      March 25, 2019 at 1:05 pm

      Good for you, it’s really easy to get riled up and then stew on it.


  4. pj

    March 25, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    Honestly,I find the whole positive adoption language thing exhausting. As an adoptee, believe I should be able to use whatever language is within my comfort zone. I’ve even had a birth relative( non-adoptee, PHD psych) correct my language…sigh

    Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      March 25, 2019 at 4:31 pm

      Yes, you should be able to use what works for you.


  5. aniela2017

    March 25, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    I had never reviewed the PAL until after reading this particular blog post. I have to say I find most of it (positive & negative verbiage) triggering as an adoptee. At almost 50 years old if someone called me an adopted child I would not react in a positive/constructive manner. I don’t have an issue with “adoptee” but why on earth would anyone use the term “birth child”? It’s a horrible thing to do to an adoptee or non-adoptee. smh


    • TAO

      March 25, 2019 at 6:03 pm

      Welcome – adoptee works for me as it states my position in adoption. Thanks for commenting.


  6. Lara/Trace

    March 25, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    If someone called me a “birth child” in my birthfamily, that would lead me to think I was different than them and being treated different by them (also abandoned). I will think more on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. beth62

    March 26, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    An Adopted Birth Child. Crazy label to put on one kid.
    Instead of the no stress diet, that I can’t seem to stick to for long anyway, I’ve been working out, toughening up. It might be working, have been visiting the ‘surrogate mom house’ with my lunch friend, what a label :/
    But I didn’t puke last visit, so, that’s an improvement, I guess.
    All that to say, “Birthchild” is a popular term there, Birthmom too, no spaces, capitalized. I discussed it with several of the moms, they were happy to tell me a thing or two. Only a couple didn’t use the terms. And agreed with my opinions on it, they referred to their child to be as their son or daughter. They were the only ones that used their own eggs (it pays more), the others used another’s embryo. I was told by the others that Birthmother and Birthchild is their only connection to each other. That was the intention from the beginning.
    I think in the future, or even now, adopted children of surrogate mothers and the language and theories will be put on Adoptees like us too. I don’t know labels to differentiate, but I’m sure there are, or will be. Maybe we will remain unintended adoptees. I might not mind that so much now, maybe.
    Too dizzy thinking on it, adding new puzzle pieces, it’s interesting. It all gives me that strange numb feeling tho.


    • TAO

      March 26, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      You’re way stronger than I will ever be Beth.


      • beth62

        March 30, 2019 at 11:43 am

        Most likely way more dumb 😀 I’ve gotten my fill of the intentional and clinical for now. Going back to the limited stress diet, there is cake today.

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Kat

    March 27, 2019 at 12:44 am

    Birth child..adopted child…
    What’s the common denominator? Child!
    We are not children forever. As adults are we still children?

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      March 27, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      Apparently we are Kat, even when we’re old enough to be their mother, grandmother. sigh

      Liked by 1 person

  9. beth62

    April 16, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I heard “Gift Mother” on TV. The Village. I’m still choking.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. KPMominTexas

    April 15, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    I can see why that language would disturb you. As a birthmother, I find it a strange way to describe one’s child! I don’t label my other children so why would I label her. Yes, sometimes it’s awkward. “My first child, my oldest daughter” or “the six we raised” but unless some clarification needs to happen, I just call her my daughter. I do my best to not label or decide what language she should or should not use. I have tried to let her know she’s not going to hurt my feelings. And yet she worries about all her parents. So much pressure. 🙁



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