Musings and Personal

Adoption Trauma, pt. 1

The other day, I read and participated in a Twitter conversation about adoption trauma.

Here’s the background of the conversation:

A person retweeted a blog post from the Twitter page of Adoption and Fostering which posed the question Is adoption trauma? The author then listed reasons as to why the answer is yes.

The person who retweeted this article disagreed. He works as a developmental psychologist with children affected by abuse and neglect, who enter the foster care system. His assertion was that adoption heals trauma.

Of course, this is a highly emotional subject and as you can imagine, some strong words were exchanged. I’m not writing this post to get into a debate or piss anyone off, but share my point of view.

Rather, this Twitter exchange got me thinking about adoption and trauma, so much so that I’ll probably post more thoughts on this subject.

But before going any further, we need to define trauma:


According to the English Oxford Dictionary trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.

As a foster-adopt mother, I get a bad taste in my mouth when I hear someone say adoption is trauma. I am raising two girls, both of whom have experienced trauma through neglect, intrauterine drug exposure, and perhaps other adverse early childhood experiences. I spend each day trying to undo their subconscious reactions to the trauma they lived through.

But when someone says adoption/being adopted is a distressing experience, I don’t have that knee-jerk reaction. I am willing want to follow up with “Why do you say that?” or “What do you mean by that?”

I’m not advocating anyone change the words they use to describe their adoption experience, but rather we all try to understand the meaning behind the words.

After all, we’re all in this together.



Adoption Pet Peeves, part 2 (edited)

Dear Adoptee,

This is my second installment to clarify the things I wrote in my prior post, Adoption Pet Peeves. The last point in my original post was also upsetting to a number of you.

The section of the original post is italicized. I’ve added comments/clarifications in bold.

Here is part 2:

A word or two about the proper adoption terminology.

Apparently, the term “biological” isn’t PC anymore.  However, I don’t like the term “birth parents” because only one person is a birth parent, the mother.  Where does that leave the father? [Someone said this point indicated I thought the child-parent bond didn’t extend beyond that of the birth. I argue the exact opposite. The meaning of birth is, as quoted from, “an act or instance of being born” and “the act or process of bearing or bringing forth offspring.” When I consider the definition of birth, it seems to use the term is to say the parental bond DOES NOT extent beyond birth.]

Also, I was there for Paige’s birth, so couldn’t I also be called the birth mother[That same person said my presence in the birthing room was coercive but if she had read any of my other blog posts, she would know I had no intention of adopting Ruth’s daughters when I became her birth coach.]

A second term I’ve heard is “first parents.” I don’t like that one because we adopted through foster care and technically we are our girls’ third parents. 

Another term I’ve heard is “life parents.” This is true because they gave my girls physical life.  However, I am giving them a life by raising them so that term isn’t accurate either. [All of these terms are a matter of semantics, I suppose. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in that regard and it comes out here.]

I recently heard the terms “real parents” or “natural parents.”  These terms absolutely disgust me!!  (The other terms don’t bother me; I just choose not to use them.)  It implies I am not an actual parent and my daughters don’t have real parents.  It also implies our family is unnatural, or wrong. [Until recently, I’d only heard “natural” and “real” parent used by adoptees who didn’t have good relationships with their adoptive parents and thought there was nothing good about adoption. Obviously, the tone with which those words were used put me on the defense. Thanks to adoptee activist Angela Barra, an absolutely amazing and lovely woman who uses the term “natural parent,” I’ve been educated about the term natural parent. I still don’t like the term but now I understand it.]

To me, biological birth parents is exactly what they are; people who gave my girls their biology but are not raising them.[I recently asked both my daughters and Ruth what term they prefer. They all said birth parent so that is what I am using from here on out. I still prefer the term biological, but will use the term they chose because I love and respect them.]

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Though, to be honest, I think Payton came up with the best term of all.  Shortly after she began calling us mommy and daddy, she began calling her biological birth parents “my other mommy and daddy.”

I have absolutely no problem with that – she does have two mommies and two daddies. [And this, Dear Adoptee, was the whole point. I am not the only mother in my daughters’ lives; to deny that is to deny a vital part of them. That is something I will NEVER do!]

Adoption · Musings and Personal

My PC Adoption Terminology

I chose the term “biological” for my adopted daughters’ biological family.  This is the note posted on my Personal FB page addressing the reasons:

A word or two about the proper terms for my girls’ biological parents.  Apparently the term “biological” isn’t PC anymore.  

However, I don’t like the term “birth parents” because only one person is a birth parent, the mother, so where does that leave the father?  Also, I was there for Paige’s birth, so in a way I am a birth mother – don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have the hard part! -so that doesn’t fit well for me.

Another term I’ve heard is “first parents.” I don’t like that term for two reasons:  We adopted through foster care so technically we are our girls’ third parents; each lived in a foster home before they became part of our family.  Second, even though I don’t have a problem not being first, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth because many people believe if you’re not first, then you’re last.  

A third term I’ve heard is “life parents.” This is definitely true… in part.  They gave my girls the gift of life; however, I am teaching them life, so that term isn’t accurate either.  


To me, biological parents is the perfect term:  They are the people who gave the girls their biology (genes, DNA, etc) but are not raising them.

Though, to be honest, I think Payton came up with the best term of all.  Years ago when we adopted her, she called them “my other mommy and daddy.”  And I have absolutely no problem with that because she is right! She does have two mommies and two daddies.

These are my thoughts and feelings about adoption terms.  I don’t get upset if others use any of these other “PC” terms.

I did admittedly, for the first time, hear a term yesterday that I didn’t like: “natural parents.”  It implies I am an “unnatural parent.”  It also begs the question of who the “natural” parent is in the cases of surrogacy and other infertility treatments.  Finally, what about those people who cannot have children the “natural” way and must adopt if they want children?

Again, these are my thoughts and opinions – take what you like and leave the rest.