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 | 25 Comments

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

  1. Avatar Erin Barnes says:

    I am the adopted kid here, grew up knowing there was another person out there who had given birth to me (closed adoption) but always refered to her as my mother and my mom was just my mom. If I was explaining it to someone I would explain birth mother adoptive mom, so they understood how different the terms are to me. Even now after meeting her my mother is still that, or gets called her name (especially after marriage, lot’s of mother figures in my life now). If I am talking to my (biological half) sister I may say your mom, because that is a closer bond. In the same respect, I have a dad and somewhere out there is a father I likely will never meet. Now the only thing is what names will my newborn daughter call her 3 grandma’s, cause my mother is fully in my life too, even if she lives in a different state.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience. And what a blessing that both you and your daughter have so many strong loving women surrounding you. Congratulations on your new baby and Happy First Mother’s Day.

      • Avatar Chelsea says:

        My children are asopted but they are used to calling me mommy and daddy daddy and the adoptive mothers said we had to force them to say our names. Im not going to force my birth children to call me by my name to confuse them if they are not comfortable with that but in order for them to allow me to continue visits they want me to tell my kids a lie and say our real names when they call us mommy and daddy. If the kids are comfortable using that term to their birth parents and are comfortable y make a chamge and confuse them? It wasnt part of an adoption agreement

        • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

          That sounds painful for you and potentially confusing for the children. Have you talked with the adoptive parents about how this makes you feel? Is there some compromise you can all hammer out together that doesn’t feel like a lie to you but helps the adoptive parents feel comfortable with the relationship (summed up in the way you are addressed) without feeling threatened or competitive by either party? It might take a while, too, considering that as the children grow, they will need to have a voice in this conversation as well. I’m sorry that they appear to be breaking your original agreement and I hope you all can find a way forward to work this out for the best interest of the kiddoes.

  2. Avatar Rayvon says:

    You are honestly setting yourself up for a lifetime worth of pointless therapy for yourself and you can’t even see it.
    Saying things like that only hurt yourself and I will bet you its way more than you even realize ATM.
    Hopefully one day you’ll grow up & be able yo actually understand that the only reason a mother is physically capable of going through with an adoption is because of the enormous amount of love she already has for her unborn child.. and until youre a mother yourself you will NEVER BE EVEN CLOSE to comprehending how much a person is capable of loving their offspring.
    Good luck
    Love & Light

  3. Avatar Sam says:

    Real mother, for biological mother. Carer, for adoptive carer. No matter how much time has gone by, using reality words is important as you only get one real mother.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      How about mother, for biological/first mother. AND for adoptive mother. Both are mothers.

      I think many would agree that many people, not just in the adoption world, often get the experience of more than one mother.

  4. Avatar Jenn says:

    My daughter calls her miss Krissy or refers to her as the lady who gave birth to her. Titles and labels are very literal for a child so calling the person who left her in a car, mom just doesn’t sound right. She doesn’t deserve a title and to give her the same title as the person who does everything for her just doesn’t seem right.

    I would’nt call the person who built the White House, the president. They have to completely different roles and once the White House was finished the president (mom) took over and did all of the governing work.

  5. Avatar 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.

  6. Avatar 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!

  7. Avatar 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.

  8. Avatar 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.

  9. Avatar 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 🙂

  10. Avatar 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.

  11. Avatar 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…

  12. Hazel, you have great attitude.

  13. Avatar 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.

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

  15. Avatar Jody D. says:

    Does that make sense?

  16. Avatar 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.

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

  18. Avatar Jody D. says:

    By her first name.

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

  20. Avatar 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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