Friday, August 19, 2011

Imbalance of Power

Imbalance of Power
oil on canvas

Seems like everyone's talking about the 'b'mother terms right now. There's the argument that it's just semantics and what's the big deal. Then there's the view that the 'b'mother term is used to put us in our place and relegate us to just a walking uterus. So where do I stand? Well, I used to stand with the first camp and now I stand with the second. Robin at Motherhood Deleted just did a very good post about this issue.

I used to think it wasn't a big deal but then I learned how important language is. We create our reality with what we think. We think in words. How we define ourselves in our own minds and in words we speak to other people is what we become. If we constantly tell ourselves and others that we're stupid, can't accomplish something, or we're clumsy then that becomes our reality. This is why motivational speakers are so popular. They're using words and their energy to pump you up, get you excited about what you can do and who you are. A child who grows up being told that she isn't good enough will believe it and it then becomes a self-esteem issue to be overcome as an adult in order to be successful.

If language has this much power then it stands to reason that the terms we use to define who we are in the world of adoption are critically important. If we want to make changes and have an impact on how others see us in relation to adoption we have to be careful with how we define ourselves. I am my daughter's MOTHER. There are no qualifiers needed. I gave birth to her, I wanted to raise her, I wasn't allowed that privilege, the power was taken from me.

Sometimes I think it's a shame that we end up having these discussions over and over again but maybe that's what's needed for people to understand. The down side is we end up embroiled in this battle between mothers instead of focusing our energy on regaining some of our power. I see language as a way of doing that. Changing the language can shift the power. Hell, just the fact that the industry uses that word makes me want to never hear or see it again. Taking back our rightful moniker can be one of the ways we take back our identities and our rightful place in our children's lives. That slight change can be very powerful. Making that change in my own mind made a huge difference for me just like working on the painting series has been very healing. This latest painting gives an indication of just how out of whack the world of adoption is.

There is a huge imbalance of power. The industry has the money, the lobbyists, the clout and legislation on their side. The PAP's have the desire for babies, the money and the clout. The adoptee has no say - she hovers there between two families. The mother of course has nothing - no money (isn't that why she's surrendering?) and certainly no lobbyists (our families and society didn't lobby for us to raise our children).

Here's another word that's a lie - triad. This multi-billion dollar a year industry uses a constellation of people, organizations and businesses to keep the scales tipped their way - doctors, lawyers, lobbyists, religious groups, women's clinics, advertising agencies, even other mothers. They use women against each other. Young women who have recently lost their children to adoption and still believing the words of the agencies are put on display on the websites to reassure other young women that giving their child that beautiful fake family tree won't be so bad. What they haven't realized yet is that tree has no roots and they're the ones who are going to be crushed along with their children when the idea of the perfect life in adoption falls.

I'm taking back my power, one word at a time.


  1. I was one who thought that birth mother/adoptive mother words simply described the facts of what happened, so what's the big deal? Or maybe the facts as I thought they were. I came to realize that natural mothers are once forced to give up their child and then forced again to give up their identity as related to that child. Double pain: initial pain and then a constant reminder of that original pain. Any person should know what a huge deal that is, and most of all, mothers of all types.

    I am an adoptive mother of a niece who needed a new home. My child was almost 7 when the court finalized the paperwork. This was a long time ago and at that time, I did not know that they would issue us a new birth certificate with my name on it as if I had given birth. Her first mother was wiped off the slate as if she did not exist. And then as if that were not enough, they asked if we wanted to change my daughters name. Even though in this case, it was obviously an open adoption, the same rules applied. It was assumed that we wanted to pretend what was real never happened and the people never existed.

    This is all about identity. Words matter, most especially when we are children and learning about the world and who we are. Very good post.

  2. Just call me "mom" - because that is who and what I am.