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Birth parent terminology

Mummy to be April 16, 2021 17:16

I have an AS who is 3 and we are starting to talk about the fact that he is adopted, using books and stories etc. He is obviously too young to really understand but I have always been very sure that I wanted him to always know that he was adopted, so thought best to speak about this early on as and when it might come up.

The longer he is placed with me the greater our attachment and the more I love him and feel absolutely that I am his Mummy.

I didn't anticipate this but I am finding it really hard to refer to anyone else as his Mum/Dad/Birth Mum etc. I totally appreciate that it was someone else who gave birth to him, but I can't get over the feeling that she was never his mummy. He was taken into care very early on and there is very little evidence that his birth parents provided any care to him. I am the only person that he has known as Mummy and he knows that Mummy is someone who loves and cares for him. I can't help but think that it might be confusing to speak of another mum/mummy who had a very different role.

Has anyone else felt like this? Do you have any suggestions of how I can speak about his birth parents without using the terms mum/dad/birth mum etc? I realise that some people people may feel that I should just accept that his birth parents were/are his mum and dad, but other than biology, they didn't ever behave like his mum and dad and I am struggling with this.

Thank you

Remy2 April 16, 2021 19:09

We are early in our journey haven't been matched yet so I have no experience to offer, but our SW has given us examples of life story work and referring to "when you were with Julie" and to just use their actual name. Will follow with interest as I'm sure I will feel the same when it comes round to it.

Mummy to be April 16, 2021 20:11

Thank you Remy. I had wondered about using first names but it wasn’t something that was ever suggested in training so I wasn’t sure. Really interesting that it has been suggested.

Safia April 17, 2021 00:40

We used first names too - I don’t think it was ever suggested but just felt natural as that’s how we thought of them. At some stage - later when they understood their history a bit more we referred to them as birth mum etc in the right context. Similarly with foster carers we always referred to them by name

Simon April 17, 2021 09:06


It has been very interesting to read the thoughts of adoptive parents on birth parent terminology.

We have always referred to our adopted children's parents as "first mum" and "first dad".

There is no doubt that the conversations about our children's first parents have changed over the years (our children are now 14 & 13). How we feel about things related to contact and conversations are very different from the early years i.e. we are far less worried and more confident about discussing birth family.

If you are a member of Adoption UK, in the last twelve months there have been some excellent webinars on this subject. I would absolutely recommend you watch them. They are brilliant and really do help adoptive parents to cope with this very emotional and complicated subject. I would also recommend that you join your local Adoption UK "virtual" peer to peer support group. This is a subject that comes up all the time from adoptive parents. Nothing beats shared personal and learned experiences.

Take care


windfalls April 17, 2021 23:05

Hi mummy to be,

Use first names. So you tell your son that he grew in "x"'s tummy and she was unable to properly look after him so a new mummy and daddy were found who would love and look after him forever. With my ad we have always called her birth mum by her first name and that's how she also refers to her. She knows the terminology of birth mum but prefers to use her name. I think using birth mum/ first mum at his age will be too confusing for him so I wouldn't use such terms. You are his mum and that's all he needs to know for now.

Best wishes xx

Mummy to be April 18, 2021 21:24

Thank you all so much. I was worried about posting and being told that I was being unreasonable!

I think first names it is. It does feel more comfortable.

Thank you

Elaine H January 26, 2022 10:57

My 5 year old daughter is really proud that she has got 3 mummy’s and 2 daddy’s. She calls me Mum, her birth mum … mummy first name, the same with birth dad but also the foster parents too. She did not live with her birth parents but straight to foster parents. She knows she grew in my heart not under it and that she was adopted at 2 years old. She started to have flash back to her past recently so was able to understand them because she could put names to the faces. I don’t feel any less of her mum because she calls them Mum/Dad too. It’s her story and she is proud of it. This works really well for us.

Edited 26/01/2022
Ziggie-Star January 26, 2022 14:34

I haven’t been on this board in a long time so only just seeing and felt it would be of benefit to someone if I responded. My nearly 9 year old came home at 19 months and we have had annual face to face with birth mum up until recently. Also have had annual contact with younger sibs living with other relatives that have increased contact with birth mum. We had to come to grips with the who birth mum situation very early on, as we knew that we would be in contact with a younger sibling that would potentially have a high level of contact with birth mum. We have always called her by her first name but describe her as his tummy mummy or first mum. He refers to her by first name in conversation. He excepts that he has two mums, one that gave birth him and one that looks after him. It’s helped for him to have always had some way of talking about this. So as early as reception I was informed that during a classroom discussion about siblings he informed the class that he had siblings they just didn’t live with him.


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