Friday, May 21, 2010

What not to say

One of the highlights of my weekly routine is listening to the "This American Life" podcast in my car on the way to/from work. I love a good story (even more so when it is true), and I've always enjoyed the way "This American Life" weaves together different tales with a central theme. Ira Glass is the host and he does a great job of narrating the stories and interviewing the storytellers. The fact that I love an NPR program this much . . . it means I'm getting old, right? The other day I was watching a particularly amusing episode of Spongebob Squarepants. It was the one where Patrick is telling Spongebob how to become a mature adult. At one point Patrick says, "And now you have to develop an appreciation for free-form jazz!" I laughed out loud because I have long said that once I start listening to jazz, it's all over.

But, back to NPR. I hooked up my iPod in my car on Tuesday and started to listen to the most recent podcast. The theme was "home movies." Ira narrated an introduction wherein a woman was watching a home movie. You could hear the sounds of a projector whirring away. The woman was studying the movie intently because she was curious about one particular person who appeared on the screen. Then Ira said this: "She is adopted and she thinks this may be her real mother." I stopped listening on the spot. I couldn't be sure if he would continue using negative adoption language, and I didn't want my jaw clenched for a solid hour.

Adoptive parents are used to people not knowing the correct terms to use in relation to adoption. Most of us have been knocked around quite a bit in the journey to parenthood but even so, I wouldn't say we are overly sensitive in general. However, I was surprised to hear the term "real mother" used by a radio host/personality, someone who should really know better.

My daughter has a birthmother who loves her very much. I think about A's birthmother every single day. She gave birth to this beautiful child and she is the only reason I am a mother. I would never try to diminish her role in any way. The term "real mother" is just insulting all the way around. My daughter has a mom and a birthmom. From the moment she was born , I have taken care of A's needs. When she was a baby, I got up three times a night to feed her and changed the vast majority of the diapers. I take her to the doctor and make sure she eats well. I buy her clothes and everything else she needs (and lots of stuff she doesn't need). I read to her at night. I floss her teeth. I laugh at the "Guess what? Chicken butt!" joke every time she tells it. I hug her tightly every day of her life and tell her that I love her with all my heart.

What, exactly, do I need to do in order to be her "real" mother? Hmm, Ira Glass?


Lisa said...

I hate that term. Anti adoption groups use ti all the time.

radioactivegan said...

I'm sorry about the offensive language. I hope that you forward this to Ira, because I'm sure he has no idea that he said something offensive.

And, on an unrelated note ... that chicken butt thing will probably never end. I'm 27 and I still pull it out every time my mom says "Guess what?"

Mary said...

What, there are anti-adoption groups?!? I have NO idea why!! As far as the "real mother" remark, I think the birth mom is the birth mom, not to diminish her role in this in any way. I have seen birth moms hand over their baby to the adoptive mom, I believe at the point or whenever the adoption is final truly the adoptive mom is the "real mom". I do want to say again though I admire birth moms, they make this world a better place for many couples who would be childless. They give them the biggest gift of all. I also give a lot of credit to adoptive parents, I KNOW a lot of people would not adopt, DNA is way tooooo important, sad but true. To me adoption equals love all the way around.

anon - not your mom ;) said...

There are anti adoption groups, as well as life of a birthmother, no matter how good you feel about your decision, how good the relationship is, etc, can be extremely hard.

Most common and probably most painful comment.

"I dont know how you just threw your kid away"

Yep, left him in the dumpster, didnt take the time to select A-parents from stacks and stacks of papers, didnt take the time to send a "remember me" package along with him after I signed my rights away, etc...

Someone mentioned sending this letter to pod caster. It might be worth it.

Mary said...

I agree anon.;) People say the cruelest things, some I realize not to hurt, some people don't know how or what to say and may say something wrong and certainly didn't mean it the way it sounds. On the other hand I'm just saying I've heard and seen just about anything and I'm not a birth mom or a adopter but I've taken in well over 100 pre-adoptive babies into my home and have become friends with many birth moms (and dads) and adoptive parents. I've seen the birth moms love for her baby as she says her goodbyes. I've seen them come for their last visit before the court date. I've talked in depth to them about their feelings and one thing I do know is they love their babies dearly!! I've also seen many struggles adoptive parents have gone through, some may have tried to adopt 3-4 times before they had one actually go through. I give soooo much credit to both sides. My 13 years of being a foster parent was a very eye opening experience and I will never forget it. Sorry Claudia, don't mean to hog your blog.;)

Beth said...

Ugh. Insensitivity sucks, doesn't it. My mother-in-law turned 90 last month and, as she listed her vast number (more than 90) descendants, she added, "And I have one adopted grandchild." I'm not even that child's parent, but I have struggled with infertility and we considered adoption in the middle of it. Frankly, her comment pissed me off. (Am I allowed to say that on your blog? If not, feel free to edit as you please.)

YOU are A's "real mother!"

Arthur, Robin, and Maggie said...

As an adoptee, I do use the term "real father" quite a bit actually.

When people ask me about my "real father" I point to my dad (who happened to adopt me) and I say "There he is! He is my real father".

I don't use the term "birth father" to describe the male-contributed genetic half of my genes because he is not my father. I don't want the word "father" associated with him in any way. He had no interest, took no role, and did not earn the title even if coupled with the word "birth".

I guess what I'm saying is that adoptive parents ARE "real" parents and I cringe when people associate the blood only as something more "real" than the man who took me in, made me his, did the work, and loved me as the daughter I am.

And honestly, I'd mentally slap a person who insinuated that I wasn't a "real" mother to my two non-biological children or that I loved my birth child more than them.

People either "get it" or they don't. I hope that eventually more people will get it.

Rachel said...

Family is a lot more than shared DNA. You need to send a copy of your post to Ira, silence fosters injustice.

A is lucky to have two women in her life that love her as much as you and her birthmother do, both of you did and do what is best for her daily. People need to start realizing the weight their words carry.

Anonymous said...

I recently heard this episode on their December 2015 rebroadcast. It led me to post on my own blog about it, which led me to do some research, which led me to this post. If you're interested, my post is here, but as I say in it, you basically beat me to the punch five years ago. (And yet, people are still saying it all the time; and This American Life hasn't edited that episode at all!) Sigh.