Levon has recently started to notice pregnant women. He knows they have babies inside their bellies and has even asked me, “Did I grow inside your belly?”
“No. You grew inside of your Tummy Mommy’s belly.”
For now, we refer to his birth mother as his “Tummy Mommy” because that’s what makes sense to him. As he gets older, we will adjust what we call her, according to his age and preference. It’s always been important to me to attach the name Mommy or Mama to his birth mother when talking to him about her, both to help him understand the concept of adoption, as well as his connection to her. If he chooses to call her something different in the future, we will follow his lead.
We reached out to fellow adoptive moms to ask what name they call their children’s birth parents, and the results were so touching. We’re sharing their stories below, and we hope you’ll share your story in the comments. It’s so wonderful to connect with other adoptive mamas and hear your experiences.
We use whatever our son feels like at the time. If it’s not obvious, he’ll say “my first mom”, but if the context is obviously about her (and not me) he just says “mom”. He calls me “Mama”. And just as important, he does the same with his dad.
We refer to her as his “birth mother.” In our son’s case, there is no contact and he has only once, two years ago, asked me questions about his adoption. His birth mother’s lawyer was also an adoptive father and gave us excellent advice regarding questions. He said, “Answer truthfully, but only say what you absolutely know to be true, and only include in your answer what he has asked. I found that it be very helpful as I saw there could be the tendency to say more than what I know to be true. After all, these are people that gave me the greatest gift of my life. However, they may not be able to live up to how I could paint their picture, based as it is on my gratitude.
We use “first mother” because I feel like I share the mother role with her in a lot of ways. He will always be my child, but he’s not just mine. His personhood is a result of all of us working together. She gave him what I could not and I give him what she could not. Without her, I could not be his mother.
From Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: “Your children are not your children. / They are the sons and the daughters of life’s longing for itself. / They come through you but they are not from you.”
He came through her as much as he comes through me. More, in a lot of ways. So I just decided she needed a more reverent name than birth mother.
Jessica Butler is the creator of "Raise Magazine," stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to "Raise," she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and five-year-old son, Levon.