Are Birth Moms Considered Moms?

By: Meika Rouda

I really want to volunteer my time to a nonprofit that I like but something on the homepage is stopping me. The organization is dedicated to helping birthmothers after they place children for adoption. It provides mentoring, scholarships for education, and counseling in a community environment. It is a place for birthmothers to talk to one another and get emotional and financial support. It is an amazing group and I believe in it 100%. I think often about my daughter’s birthmother and how she was 18 when she decided to place my daughter. She wanted to go to college, to live a life before she became a parent. My own birthmother wanted the same thing when she, a 19-year-old, placed me and returned to college. Both women would have benefited greatly from an organization like the one I would like to volunteer with and I would to work there in order to honor them and the brave decisions they made.

But what is stopping me is a quote on the home page from a birthmother who says “When I am talking to another birth mom, I’m not a birth mom, I’m a mom. We don’t have to put a title on it. I can say ‘Oh my son did this or my daughter did this ‘and I can just be a mom. There are no stipulations on it, there’s no stigma. We can just be moms.”

This freaks me out. What do you mean you can just be moms? I find this confusing, as I do a lot about open adoption. It sounds like this birth mom is taking a lot of credit for mothering the child she placed. I don’t agree with this. The adoptive mom is the mom, she is the one who is there for the child everyday. I don’t know why this organization, which is very popular and has a tremendous reputation, would condone this and put this quote on the homepage. Is this what the birth moms are sitting around talking about? It seems the idea is for them to have the resources and support to move on with their lives after placing a child. I recognize that placing a child is a difficult decision and very hard for some birthmothers to get over, but if this organization’s main mission is to help birthmothers take care of themselves post placement, I find this quote on the homepage misleading. It is very off putting to me and sounds like this birthmother needs a lot more counseling than what she is getting.

Am I wrong? To the birth moms out there, I would love to hear your opinion about how you view yourself in your child’s life. Do you consider yourself a birth mom, a mom, an extended family member? And should I join an organization that fosters a philosophy I may not agree with?

Placing a child for adoption is emotional and difficult and I hope there are more organizations out there than this one that provide post placement assistance for birthmothers. Retreats, counseling, financial aid, and tuition. Yes, 100%. But I think it is dangerous thinking for birthmothers to be sitting around talking about the children they placed like they’re the ones mothering them. It is a different job and one that adoptive moms should get the credit for.


  1. says

    Meika, I agree with you. If they felt they could have raised their child I assume they would have. Maybe the one quoted is involved with her birth child and the parents. If not, maybe this is her wanting to still feel like a mom. Having not done either (adoption or placing a child) it is hard for me to speculate. But I agree if the purpose is to help them deal with their decision and move forward then I would think counseling would be of a different nature than this. I hope you hear from some who have done this.

  2. says

    I’m also an adoptive mom and I see what you’re saying. But what does it cost you if she calls herself a mom? Does her being a mom diminish your mothering in any way? I have two adopted kids and I am their mother. Period. That’s it. However, I know that their birth mother’s have carried my babies and birthed my babies and have made very difficult decisions that I am grateful for. That experience should not be minimized. If they want to call themselves moms then I respect that and I appreciate that. I wrote an essay for Huffington Post that talks a little about this too.

  3. says

    It’s hard for me to think how to consider this quote without seeing its context, but the thing that stands out to me is the preface “When I am talking to another birth mom…” I think it’s important to remember that we all wear different “masks” in different situations. Imagine another scenario, maybe a support group for parents of children with disabilities, and two women in a similar situation discussing a topic they shared without a reference moniker might seem more natural. Maybe the group isn’t providing the counseling that they should, or maybe the conversants were simply enjoying being able to put aside labels. The role of adoptive mom and birth mom are both very different, but without either one, the child that exists today wouldn’t be around. But my perspective is that of a traditional surrogate/birth mom to gay men, so again, it’s a different situation than presented.

  4. says


    I’m an adopted child, now grown adult, mom to a biological mixed race child who always gets mistaken for an adopted child. Whew! Mouth full! I’ve known I was adopted since I was 4 years old and have always been able to ask questions and get answers regarding my bio mom from my adoptive mom. My mom (adoptive mom) is my mom. She raised me , loved me, took care of me, and did all the things moms do. I’ve never met my bio mom but if I did she would also be a mom, just in a different way. It’s not about who gets credit it’s about each one loving for different reasons and in different ways. One has the most unselfish love by giving the child a better opportunity and the other brings someone else’s child into their heart and they become their own. Both moms, both love, both care. The birth mom gives birth the adoptive mom raises. They are both women who gave life to a child. It’s pretty special and one is no less important than the other. There are no rules…if you love this organization then volunteer. You all might learn from each other.
    Amy Wise

  5. says

    Hi Amy-
    Thanks for your post. I appreciate your comment and insight. The more I have thought about this the more I have realized that anyone with an interest in the well being of the child is in a way a mother. I had a nanny growing up that I was very, very close to. I often thought of her as a second mother and that never threatened my mom or took away from the love, caring and mothering she provided. There is no doubt that birthmothers are amazing in giving a child the chance to have a better life. That it takes a lot of love to be able to do that. I am grateful for all the posts here on this subject. It has helped me learn and come to terms with an issue that was difficult for me to grasp and accept, which is that mothering is a role that can be shared. I know from my own experience that my nanny/second mom was invaluable to me growing up. Just like my children’s birthmothers were invaluable to them as was my own birth mom. I wouldn’t be here and neither would my children without them.
    Thanks again for the post.

  6. Tara says

    This article bothers me considerably. I’ve returned to it several times in an effort to put my thoughts together in order to comment. I’m an adoptive mother in an open adoption. I consider my daughter’s birthmother to be an important part of her family (and ours), and truth be told, it would bother me greatly to think that her birthmom might NOT consider our daughter to be her daughter as well.
    Without seeing the context of that quote, it’s hard to speculate, but I presume that what the birthmom meant was that – when talking to another birthmom – she can talk about her child without having to explain their relationship. She can be proud of her child’s accomplishments and share them with another birthmother without having to attach any disclaimers about why she’s not raising that child.
    This woman in no way suggests she’s mothering the child she’s talking about, and it disturbs me that you think that anyone should get “credit” for raising a child. What Katherine says above is bang on: “That experience [of carrying, bearing, and placing their children] should not be minimized. If they want to call themselves moms then I respect that and I appreciate that.”

  7. says

    Hi Tara-
    Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate your insight and opinion on this subject. Several people have reached out to me to express feelings like yours, where open adoption is fundamental to their child raising process. I happen to have a different experience, both as an adoptee and adoptive parent. It seems both ways can work depending on the child and the adults involved. I respect birthmothers tremendously which is why I wanted to volunteer with the organization to begin with. I am a proponent of making sure birthmothers have the support emotionally and financially to resume their lives after placing a child. And I do think adoptive parents should get “credit” for raising the child. Raising a happy, healthy, well adjusted child who has a clear sense of self and identity is a job that adoptive parents should take pride in. I don’t think that minimizes the role birthmothers played in “carrying, bearing and placing the child”. Thanks again for sending in your thoughts.

  8. Alberta says

    As a birth mom I can tell you I find it a bit disheartening that you are uncomfortable with birth moms calling themselves moms. If it wasn’t for the birth mom and the decisions she makes to carry her child and take care of herself, often all alone for 9 months and go through labor and delivery all to gift this child with the life she couldn’t give her child…she deserves a lot of respect. Obviously the adoptive parents are important in raising the child but in no way does that discount the unselfish parenting decision birth moms have to make in the very beginning when they decide to place their children. No mother WANTS to place her baby for adoption…its hurts a lot to realize you aren’t the best thing for him or her. Placing a baby is not something we birth moms EVER get over. There is nothing in this world I love more than my child and if I thought me parenting alone was the best thing for him than I would have. I made the decision to be a great mom when I decided to give my son and mother and father. So call birth moms whatever you want but at the heart the birth mom will always be the mother, and the adoptive parents will always be the parents. Both are equally important and both mothers deserve the title of motherhood for what each of them contributes.

  9. says

    Thanks for your comment. You have a really good point about birth moms being moms and adoptive parents being the parents. I never thought of it that way and appreciate your insight.

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