Why “Birthmother” Means “Breeder”

By Diane Turski

I had never heard the term “birthmother” until I reunited with my son. When the social worker who located me referred to me as his “birthmother,” my first reaction was to instinctively recoil in distaste. What is a “birthmother?” It occurred to me that perhaps she had merely applied this ridiculous sounding term in an attempt at political correctness, so I ignored it. However, when my son’s adoptive mother initiated her first contact with me she referred to him as my “birthson.” What is a “birthson?” And what would a “birthfather” be – I didn’t know that fathers gave birth! In a “birthfamily” are there also “birthsisters,” “birthbrothers,” “birthgrandparents,” “birthaunts,” “birthuncles,” “birthcousins,” “birthpets,” etc?

It was then that I began to suspect that these ridiculous “birth” terms were not merely being applied in a benign attempt at political correctness. Was it possible that the adoption industry intended to insult us by applying these ridiculous labels to us? Is it possible that we mothers have been so naive that we haven’t yet realized their true intent? Could it be that we are insulting ourselves every time that we apply or allow others to apply these ridiculous terms to us?

Investigating, I learned that U.S. social workers had collaborated about 30 years ago to invent their own list of contrived terms to appease their adopting clients. Adopters no longer wanted anyone to use the original term “natural mothers.” Why? Three reasons: 1) it indicated respect for the mother’s true relationship to her child – she could not be written-off as a “convenient slut” whose only value was reproduction, 2) it recognized that the sacred mother/child relationship extended past birth and even past surrender, and 3) it implied that the adoptive mother’s relationship to the child was unnatural.

The adoption industry didn’t want adoption to be considered unnatural – they could lose customers this way! After all, people were paying good money for “a child of their own.”

Adopters didn’t want a reminder that the child they were adopting still had a loving parent somewhere else. After all, social workers had promised them a child “as if born to.”

So social workers responded by creating a list of ridiculous “birth” terms meant to confine the mother’s relationship with her child to simply giving birth, ending at that point. In other words, “birthmother” is simply a euphemism for “incubator” or “breeder.”

Then, social workers deliberately disguised their disrespectful intent by calling it “Respectful Adoption Language.” “Respectful” to adoptive parents, who are now to be called “parents,” as if the two natural parents no longer exist.

Deliberately creating the term “birthmother” was a further attempt to break the bond between mother and child; in addition to altering birth records to indicate that adopters gave birth, sealing the original birth certificate, and changing the child’s identity with a false adopted name. Adoption is built on lies and denials of truth, so we mothers shouldn’t be surprised that “Respectful Adoption Language” is just another deceitful ploy.

However, one truth that cannot be denied is the truth that thousands of mothers and their lost children have found in reunion: that the deep spiritual/emotional mother-child bond between them has never been broken, despite the decades they were separated. That natural motherhood is forever, that the relationship extended *past* birth. Adopters feeling threatened by this sometimes try to pressure adoptees to end reunions: instead, they should hold their brokers accountable for lying to them with the “as if born to” sales-pitch.

Now that we mothers have learned the truth about the invention of these ridiculous “birth” terms, what should we do about it? Do we really want to continue to disrespect ourselves and allow the adoption industry to continue to disrespect us by applying and allowing others to apply these terms to us?

Or should we insist on applying truly respectful language, such as the term “natural mother,” which is still used in other countries who have not been as propagandized by the United States adoption industry? I believe it is time for us mothers to defend ourselves and our children from further insults and attacks.

Copyright © Diane Turski 2002



Diane Turski is a mother who lost her newborn son to a sealed-record adoption in 1968. Thirty years later they happily reunited when he found her, proving that the mother/child bond can never be broken. During those thirty years Diane, as a single mother, had successfully raised her daughter while earning an MBA degree and pursuing a business career. The reunion triggered Diane’s activism and her dedication to bringing truth and social justice to other mothers of adoption loss. Diane is a member of First Mothers Action, which perpetrates the BEBA site at http://www.exiledmothers.com .

Photo: Diane and her son John at Santa Monica Pier.