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    What Does Your Child Call Her Birth Mother?

    Dawn Davenport

    What does your adopted child call her birth mother?

    Adopted people have two mothers, which begs the question of what to call their birth mother.

    We had great response from our online community to a survey we took about what adopted kids/adults call their birth mothers. The responses that had more than one vote are as follows in order of popularity

    • First name
    • Birth Mother/Mom/Your birth mom
    • Tummy Mommy
    • Mom/Mother
    • First mom/mother
    • China Mom/Russia Mom/etc.
    • Bio Mom/Biological Mom
    • Mommy (first name)
    • My (first name)
    • Other mom

    Calling her by her first name was by far the most popular choice of adoptive parents, adult adoptees, and first moms.  A number of people clarified that while they call her by her first name at home, they refer to her as “birth mom” or “birth mother” when speaking outside the family

    Some families that opt for calling the first mother some variation on the word “mother”, call the adoptive mom one variation (e.g. “mommy”) and the birth mother a different variation (e.g. “mom”). Some families don’t make a distinction at all, with the families that call both the adoptive mom and birth mom “mom”. “Nothing wrong with having two moms.”

    Two families who opted to call their child’s birth mother “Mommy/mama (first name) noted that all the kids in the family called her Mommy “Sue”, which struck me as very sweet.

    Tummy Mommy

    I have to admit that I’ve never warmed up to the term “tummy mommy” or “tummy mummy”, and yet, even as I type I feel like an old schoolmarm focusing on correct word use. OK, humor me here: Babies grow in a mother’s uterus, not her stomach. I can’t help but feel we are contributing to a bunch of kids worried about swimming around the first nine months with a disgusting mixture of broccoli, potato chips, and milk. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I feel better. Go ahead and do as you please.

    Cute kid story

    Along the lines of kids say the darndest things:

    Referring to our oldest’s birth mom by her first given name works great since it’s an uncommon name. When my youngest got older, and we started to refer to her birth mom by her name, we ran into problems. She was getting very confused, then it dawned on us she has the same name as my daughter’s young cousin. So then we started calling her ‘your birth mother Emily’ to distinguish the two Emily’s. In her toddler speak it got smoshed into “my birth Emily”. So it’s now birthemily.


    What do your kids call their birth mother? If you’re an adult adoptee, what do you call your birth mom? If you’re a first mom, what do you want your child to call you?


    Image credit: Triston Wallace

    05/02/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 17 Comments

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    17 Responses to What Does Your Child Call Her Birth Mother?

    1. Skyler says:

      I call my (refuse to type mother here because she’s not my mother to me) by her name because all she is to me is a woman who gave birth to me.She’s not my mother.My grandma is technically my mother because she’s the one who loves me,and would take a bullet for me anyday. I love that woman to death and I would do anything for her.

    2. Cabber says:

      My daughter’s birthmom’s name is Samantha. When my daughter was younger she couldn’t pronounce Samantha and it came out sounding like “Nana”. Perfect! Nana it is!

    3. Greg says:


      I doubt when a person says “real” mother or father they are implying “real-ated”. The intention of the individual is to imply one is real and the other one isn’t. It’s wrong when people say that. Both mothers are very real in their roles in the person’s life. Using the “real” term is to put down one person and elevate the other.

    4. marilynn says:

      When they say real mother what they mean is not like authentic and tangible. They mean real as in real-ated related. It’s which one are you related to and which one are you not related to not which one is a hologram and which is solid or whatever. And related means originating from the same source, vs say your in-laws or step siblings or your adoptive family. They are 100% real all of them your just not all descended from the same individuals in order that your related in medically important ways, keep them out of your dating pool and what not. Maybe if its thought of that way it would not feel like comparing processed cheeze whiz to real aged vermont cheddar or whatever.

    5. Susan says:

      My 10 year old daughter progressed from calling her birth mother “mama Tammy” to “Tammy” to “my real mother”. Ouch. I think adoptees still get “Who is you real mother?” from peers. So we had a little laugh about this; me as the fake mother, and “Can I make you some fake breakfast dear?”. She has now let her friends know she has TWO real mothers. And no fake ones :)

    6. Marni Levin says:

      Our kids are an older sib pair, now 11 and 17, home almost four years.
      I refer to their bio mother as their “Mommy in Ethiopia”
      but our daughter still refers to her as “our Mother.” They usually phone her about once a month and once when his sister suggested, “Let’s call our mother” our son looked at me, with a confused look on his face.

    7. Cyndi E. says:

      Our birthmom’s name is Shannon and her nickname is Nana. So far, we call her *his* Nana Shana. Silly but it’s working for us. And his bio grandma is Big Mama, that is what the kids Shannon is raising call her too…

    8. Hazel, you have great attitude.

    9. Hazel Ann H. says:

      We adopted our kids older and they call their birthmothers “Mom”–just like me or “real Mom.” It gets confusing sometimes and I’m working on having them use “First Mom” since it fits (and sometimes “second Mom” for important foster mothers in their background). Honestly, I am not really threatened by terminology, though. They love me, I love them. As long as they are respectful to me and their birth Moms, I don’t really have a problem.

    10. Yes, it does, which is why I think adoptive parents need to give it thought so it is a conscious choice.

    11. Jody D. says:

      Does that make sense?

    12. Jody D. says:

      Dawn Davenport, honestly, I think our children call our birth mothers by their first names because they hear us use those names. Nothing complicated.

    13. Jody, yep, that was the top choice in our survey. Why do you think that is?

    14. Jody D. says:

      By her first name.

    15. My daughter only referred to her birthmother once, as my “own” mother. Heartbreaking.

    16. Robyn C says:

      My kids both call their birthmothers by their first names. I’m with you on the phrase “tummy mommy”. I really dislike it when people say that babies grow in tummies. Children are literal. I know I was. I honestly thought babies grew in one’s stomach and wondered how they handled all the food that went down there.

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