I know some birthmoms who struggle with feeling like their right to call themselves “mom” and to act like mothers was signed away when they signed relinquishment documents. In fact, my best friend feels that way. She relinquished her son last December to an open adoption, and though she calls herself “momma” to me when we’re talking about her son, she doesn’t feel it in her heart as she expects to feel it. I think several things have contributed to birthmoms in general having that feeling.
Terminology has had a negative effect on our being able to feel our motherhood. I know I’ve spoken before about how proper terminology can make a huge difference, but even the usage of good terminology can have pitfalls. I think the term “birthmom” can actually cause some women to feel that they don’t have the right to simply refer to themselves as a mom. I don’t have an easy answer for this. For instance I have no problem calling myself a birthmom, but I also use the terminology interchangeably with “mom” or “other mom” depending on my audience. I have no problem saying this because I am my daughter’s mother, but society in general expects us to not refer to ourselves as “mom” because we’ve supposedly signed that right away. The signing of a legal document will never change my biological relationship to my daughter. I believe a general need to refer to the children we’ve relinquished as “birth son,” “birth daughter,” or “birth child” stems from that same attitude. Relinquishing our legal rights to parent our children doesn’t make them less our children. It just means we have no legal right to make the decisions their parents now make for them and about them.
I believe the other reason that my best friend and others who feel as she does feel the way they do happens on a much deeper emotional level. No matter how positive and at peace we feel about our decision to relinquish, I think there will always be at least a small part of us that reminds us of the fact that we didn’t feel we were “good enough” for whatever reason to parent our child. Our inner self is saying that if we weren’t “good enough” to parent our child then we’re not “good enough” to call ourselves mothers. The problem with that feeling is that we are good enough to parent our children. Every single one of us is good enough to parent our children. We just decide that we want to give our children more than what we feel we can provide.
So how do we fix our own internal voice? We have to drown it out with another voice telling us that we are mothers, and that we are good enough to take that term as our own. That means lots of repetition to ourselves that we’re good enough to deserve that title. That means we act like proud moms and show pictures of our children off. If you’re not fortunate enough to have pictures of your child, you can still tell people that you have a child. If you’ve decided for other reasons to keep the birth and relinquishment of your child a secret, you can still tell yourself that you’re a mom even if you’re not raising any other child. Even the birthmoms that feel uncomfortable being as public about their adoptions as I am but have access to pictures of their child can say to themselves when they look at those pictures, “That’s my kid,” with pride in their voice. It’s important to change the voices around us and in our heads that tell us we don’t deserve our motherhood. There’s a line in the P!nk song, “Less Than Perfect” that says, “Change the voices in your head; make them like you instead.” That attitude can and should be applied to a situation where a birthmom doesn’t feel like the mother that she is. The same line in this case could say, “Change the voices in your head; you are a mom.” Obviously it doesn’t fit well with the music if you’re familiar with the tune of the song, but the attitude needs to be there.
How will you work on changing your voice?