What’s in a Name?

IMG_3795-001In the world of open adoption what your child calls his or her birthmother (or birthfather) is of no small significance, and it’s different for every family.  It also may change as your child grows.

Many adoption professionals caution against having a child call his/her birthmother “Mom” or some variation thereof for the simple reason that it has the potential to be confusing.  That being said, for some it may be exactly right.

For us, August has always called his birthmother by her first name.  And I must admit–for the reasons proffered by the professionals and possibly for what may have started as my own selfishness–I was glad.  We refer to her by her first name and as his “birthmother,” and August understands he grew “in her belly.”  When it’s time for a visit, we say, “You’re going to see your birthmother,” and on the ride I remind him of who she is, of the significance she holds in his–in our–life.

The word “birthmother” is always part of the conversation.

For August, today’s visit had a slightly different feel, an energy I had yet to discern at any previous visit.   He held onto me–very tight and for a comparatively long time–and referred to me as his “mommy,” his “mother” many times.

Too many it seemed.

His place in my life and mine in his is never in question.  He is my son.  I am his mother.  We don’t broadcast it because we don’t need to.

But he needed to today–for reasons he cannot yet articulate and I can only surmise.

And I found myself feeling uneasy, worried even lest his birthmother–someone who selflessly passed the role of August’s mother on to someone else, to me–would be hurt.

Adoption begins with a loss–a loss for a birthparent who understands that true parenting begins by putting your child’s needs before your own.  But even in the best of circumstances–when a birthmother’s decision is her own to make–the loss is palpable.

It is also painful to watch.

August is beginning to understand who his birthmother is, but he also seems to have a need right now to publicly proclaim me his mother–to her.  It was uncomfortable to be sure, but clearly it is what he needed.

And I realized whether the road before us is smooth, uncomfortable, or downright painful, August is driving; and his needs trump ours–birthmother and mother–now and forever.

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