Choosing Life: Thoughts on National Adoption Month

15 Nov

“Choose life” is a favorite slogan among those who, of course, focus only on the “life” part while ignoring the “choice.” For those women who do choose life, the vast majority are also choosing parenting. Yet, for those women who are pregnant but don’t want to parent, anti-choicers offer one seemingly simple solution: adoption.

But it’s not simple, not even close. Historically, adoption in the United States was built on stigma, shame, and frequently coercion. When faced with unplanned pregnancy, young women had no good options. Single, nonmarital motherhood was shamed to the point of invisibility – it virtually did not exist among White, middle-class women. Women who wanted to have and raise their children were ostracized from their families and communities, and were told their children would be taunted on the playground as a “bastard,” and were denied information about public services that might have helped them establish greater self-sufficiency and venture out on their own – a feat which would have been an anomaly, with or without children. Women could also choose to have an illegal abortion, if they knew where to find one and were willing to take a serious risk with their health and safety. And finally, there was adoption, which before Roe v. Wade was the most common response. (At least among White women; black women almost always raised their children. Single motherhood has a longer history of acceptance in Black communities, and there was no market for Black children, and thus no financial incentive for the adoption industry to reach out to Black women.)

Adoption before Roe v. Wade was predicated on emotional and financial coercion. I have interviewed many women who were funneled into maternity homes where they wished and begged for better options, where they were shamed and ridiculed by those purporting to “help” them, and where they were promised they would walk away after giving birth and soon forget about their child.

I spoke with these women nearly half a century after their adoptions, and they were still traumatized.

These abuses are anti-choice, and today’s adoptions have evolved from this anti-choice history. In some places, at some agencies, adoption has evolved far more than in others. But there are still many, many fundamental problems with the way the adoption industry is set up. (Please note that I am specifically discussing voluntary domestic adoption here – international adoption has further complications, and foster care adoptions are a whole different story. Because adoption is so complicated and good discussion of it requires such nuance, I’m limiting the scope of my discussion to be able to do it some amount of justice.)

So, what does pro-choice adoption look like?

1. Pro-choice adoption is not-for-profit. Yes, adoptions will always cost money – there are legal fees, medical fees (if the mother is uninsured), and travel costs that the agency, and consequently the adoptive parents, usually cover. And the level of post-adoption services that birth parents and adoptive parents deserve will require skilled professionals to administer them. This is not about making adoption inexpensive; it’s about removing any potential for profit-motive from the adoption system. (Yes, there are still for-profit agencies and private lawyers. How will this influence their ability to present young women with whom they’re working with all the available options?)

2. Pro-choice adoption should be open. Open adoptions, where there is ongoing contact between birth family and adoptive family after the adoption placement, are essential to improved outcomes among all members of the adoption triad. Openness is not just for the benefit of the birth parent – it also helps the child know where they came from (which all adopted people hope to know), and can increase the stability of the adoptive family by building trust and opening lines of communication. Openness is not easy. It requires a lot of emotional (as well as logistical) work. It requires trust where society presumes there should be conflict. And it requires a new idea of what a family should be – not a nuclear, isolated core, but a group of people bonded by different degrees of biology, legality, and emotional connectedness.

To achieve openness, adoption agencies must recognize that when the child is placed, their work is only beginning. They need to provide professional support in navigating and negotiating openness, in keeping lines of communication open, and helping resolve conflicts if and when they do emerge.

What about the women who would choose a closed adoption? I acknowledge that there must be some birth mothers out there who prefer closed adoptions, but I have met and interviewed many, many birth mothers over the years, and I have never met one. Futhermore, among those who were initially interested in a closed adoption but were encouraged (either by the agency they were working with, or by the adoptive parents they chose) to have a more open adoption, they welcomed and appreciated the openness after the adoption was finalized. Perhaps most tellingly, none of the women I’ve interviewed have wanted less contact with their child after the adoption. We should respect a woman’s desire for a closed adoption, but we should also recognize that it is easier to have periods of limited contact in an open adoption than it is to open up a closed adoption – working towards greater openness preserves more options for women throughout the course of their lives, as they live out the adoption.

Finally, there should be some legally enforceable degree of openness. Some states allow this; some do not. This prevents either party (though it’s usually the adoptive family) from completely ceasing communication with the other, especially without legitimate concern for the child’s safety or well-being. (Please remember that no adoptive parent would be forced to actively include an abusive or seriously unstable birth parent in their child’s lives; enforceability would simply require that they – at minimum – maintain some level of contact with their child’s birth parents.)

Openness is not easy, and it will not solve all of adoption’s problems. But it is a necessary first step.

3. Pro-choice adoption recognizes the problems with adoption’s past and present and seeks to fix them; specifically, it advocates for open records and against child-trafficking.

Currently in many states, adult adopted people who were raised in closed adoptions do not have access to their own original birth certificates. This denies them access to their own legal records and to their own original identity. Those in support of keeping records closed say that birth parents where promised anonymity – this is fundamentally untrue. In fact, most birth parents were never promised anything (other than, of course, that they would forget) and were forced to make the promise that they would never search for their child. In my experience, most birth parents want to be reunited with the (now adult) children they placed for adoption. In states where records are open, birth parents are allowed to place a hold on the records if they wish to maintain the secrecy around their adoption; less than 2% have done this.

Regarding child-trafficking, there is much to say that goes beyond the scope of this post. I will simply state the manipulative adoptions, child stealing, and baby selling are not solely in our past (particularly in international adoption), and that advocating for their investigation and prohibition is absolutely necessary to a pro-choice concept of adoption.

4. Pro-choice adoption supports unbiased counseling. This one is pretty intuitive, but adoption counseling should not be solely within the realm of anti-choice advocates working out of Crisis Pregnancy Centers (the modern-day equivalent of the maternity home). If a counselor doesn’t feel comfortable providing a woman with accurate information about abortion and parenting, that counselor has no business talking to a woman about adoption.

5. Pro-choice adoption does not glamorize or create a martyr out of the birth parent. Birth parents are simply people trying to make the best out of an incredibly difficult situation. Narratives that present them as especially selfless, as “giving their child something better” makes, by inverse, the mothers that choose to parent selfish or even irresponsible. While it’s true that many birth parents do choose adoption because they want their child to have a different life than the one they can provide, this usually (but not always) boils down to two things: having two, married parents and money. If we consistently frame two parents as always better than one, we’re stigmatizing single mothers. And if we’re framing more money as always better than less – well, then should we all just be transferring our children to a family with more means? All of these narratives create martyrs of birth parents in a way that also highlights their inevitable shortcomings and denies them of any capability.

There are other, more specific policies and practices that can go in to building a better, more pro-choice adoption industry. I’ve refrained from discussing all of them because I’ve already said a lot that I hope you’ll think about, and because there’s less consensus (within the birth parent community) over those specific ideas than those that I have chosen to discuss. For example, pre-birth matching: some birth parents find it coercive to have to select adoptive parents before the child is born, it can create an obligation which they must fulfill and denies them the room to freely make a choice once the baby arrives; other birth parents find it necessary to select adoptive parents while they’re still pregnant in order to feel in control of the situation and be able to make a long-term plan and discuss what the adoption will look like. This one example highlights how diverse birth parents are – they are not a homogenous group, and they certainly do not agree on everything. This is just another reason why we must focus more on listening to their experiences, not just within the context of adoption, but in speaking to a larger, reproductive justice framework.

I wanted to reiterate that there are some agencies out there that are actively working towards pro-choice adoption, but adoption still has not been embraced as a core issue by the larger choice community. This National Adoption Month I encourage you to consider the ways in which your concept of choice is accountable to women who choose adoption, and how we can work to build a better model of a respectful, safe, accessible, pro-choice adoption system.

18 Responses to “Choosing Life: Thoughts on National Adoption Month”

  1. Shannon LC Cate November 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    How very refreshing. Thank you. Yes, yes and yes. Whenever I see a bumper ticker that says “adoption not abortion” I want to pull the person over and say “so, have you ever given away one of your children? Adopted anyone?” The two things have nothing to do with each other. Utterly different decisions. And we definitely need to make adoption more of a real choice for women instead of emotionally coerced, and/or the only choice but dire poverty.

  2. Monika November 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    As a birthmother, I just about screamed “YES!” to every one of those points in this post. Pro-choice adoption is more than about giving pregnant women the choices they deserve. It’s about making adoption ethical, a far cry from the unethical mess it has been in the past. I’m not certain I agree with making contact agreements legally enforceable, as any punishment given to the parents inevitably harms the child for which the agreement was initially made. However, perhaps even having that option or a written contract in the first place would inhibit those adoptive parents that don’t want an open adoption from promising that they will keep to an open agreement simply to get the child they want, and the threat of legal action might help some triad families get past the rough stages that happen in any relationship. Anyway, great post. :-)

  3. Michelle November 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    I really appreciate this post. It says much of what I believe is necessary for adoption to be a positive choice. The not-for-profit agency we worked with to adopt our son does nearly all of the things you mentioned as important. They truly work to help women make choices they feel are best. They are tireless in their efforts to get the women whatever assistance is available to them.

  4. Kate November 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Yes, Yes, Yes! I’m an adoptive mother who spends her days working in a reproductive health clinic, and I am constantly amazed by the anti-choice people who think of adoption as an “easy” alternative to abortion. I am also finding it virtually impossible to identify a way to pursue another adoption in a way that feels ethical and respectful of the choices and agency of women who are considering adoption. Thank you for articulating these issues so well. If there’s anyone out there who can recommend a truly pro-choice adoption agency, I would love to hear your experiences.

  5. Dana November 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    I’m having trouble believing any woman could truly, honestly “choose” adoption in a culture in which we are still punished for being single mothers.

    1. If you look at the pay statistics from the Department of Labor you will find that single mothers are the lowest-paid of any of the parental demographics (married mother, married father, single mother, single father, childless adult).

    2. Most daycares only operate during ordinary daytime working hours, despite the fact that the women most in need of daycare (those who are single parents or cannot afford a nanny) tend to work swing shifts, evening shifts, weekends and generally odd hours. It doesn’t matter whether we can afford daycare if we can’t even obtain any because all the providers are asleep. And where you can find it, evening and weekend daycare is nearly always more expensive.

    3. Welfare (TANF) is a joke. It was a joke before “reform” in 1996 and it’s even worse now, especially in the current economic climate. You *must* work for less than subsistance wages and you cannot become a full-time college student as an alternative to better yourself. Food stamps are not great either. There’s a years-long waiting list for Section 8. And there is NO official poverty aid that I’m aware of for mothers lacking transportation–nothing to help with mass transit (unless you’re disabled or elderly or a student–and poor mothers often can’t become students now), nothing to help with auto repairs and nothing to help you obtain a new car if your old one dies. This is the most devastating of all, in some ways, because not being able to get around means you can’t work either, which cascades into destruction of the rest of your life as well. (I speak from experience.) In some cities there are private charities trying to do something about this but the efforts are uneven and poorly funded where they exist in the first place.

    4. Even if poverty aid of any sort were worth pursuing (not that people who receive it feel they have any other viable option), society shames us for accepting it. It is even more difficult to keep your family together when you have suffered social death. And your children tend to be punished right alongside you.

    5. Extended family find it far too easy to reject a disadvantaged mother and her child, especially in white families. That hasn’t changed since the Baby Scoop Era. My family had met my son and made a great fuss of the first grandchild from me, and yet when my in-laws basically kidnapped him and refused to give him back (I was never declared unfit, but they were granted custody despite the power of attorney I had drawn up for them), my entire family turned their backs on him. To this day they don’t talk about him much, if ever, with me. Society needs to start shaming people who reject their own grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. rather than ignoring this very real obstacle against disadvantaged families staying together.

    Because of all these factors, as far as I’m concerned, right now there is no such thing as “pro-choice adoption.” Those of us who have had to pursue adoption or had it thrust upon us literally had no other options. I’m sorry that it’s difficult to become a parent if you’re a gay couple that didn’t produce children from other relationships while you were still in the closet, or that you’re now infertile because you put off childbearing to pursue a career, but that doesn’t mean it’s the responsibility of poor single (and especially white) mothers to provide children for you. Unfortunately, when “pro-choice” people try so hard to make adoption more palatable, that’s the message you’re giving us, that all we’re good for is as baby factories.

    I’m kind of tired of it, too. Could we have some real help, please? I for one would appreciate that.

  6. Cully November 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    jmho, if you really want to see “pro-choice adoption” then STOP calling the Mothers, “birth mothers”. Unless the parent in question is a surrogate or other Paid child producer (i.e. paid to give birth with relinquishment of the off-spring as part of the process), then these Mothers are the Natural Mothers of these children. No Natural Mother ever had an “adoption plan”… in fact, no Mother ever plans to have a child to give up to adoption.

  7. Amanda November 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I completely agree.

    The two questions I ask people who say “adoption not abortion” are:

    1. In what way is adoption a solution for mothers with an unplanned pregnancy who give birth to a WANTED child?

    2. In what way is adoption a solution for a woman in early pregnancy whose life would be severly altered or lost without a medically-necessary abortion?

    Abortion is a decision about health care and pregnancy. Adoption is a decision about parenting.

    What people do not understand is that by Roe v. Wade putting control of a woman’s body back into her hands, it provided her with greater rights and a greater ability to advocate for the child she would give birth to, should she choose to. Since she was now in control, the instances of forced adoption lessened and finally, some support systems came into place for women to be able to parent as single mothers.

    Adoption post Roe v. Wade is hardly where it should be though some progress has been made. But anti-choice efforts threaten to throw us back into the darkages of women being abused by health care, a lack of health care being available, back-alley abortions, and forced adoption.

  8. Gretchen Sisson November 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Thanks so much, everyone, for your excellent comments! I appreciate the feedback, and always welcome thoughts that challenge any presumptions that I might be making. Please, keep them coming! I wanted to leave a few responses.

    Dana, I absolutely agree with you that we need to be more accepting of single parenthood, and make public benefits a less stigmatized, more accessible option. Absolutely we need to do this – not just because it would make more parenting options available, but because, given the inequality of the society in which we leave, these supports should be a given. However, I would challenge you on the idea that no woman can choose adoption. Yes, I recognize that there is pressure and manipulation and coercion, and that no one gets pregnant with the intention of placing the child for adoption. However, I do believe that women can have the agency to make this decision, and the resiliency to carry it through. The best we can do is make sure that decisions are made in the best of possible circumstances. One last thought –I also don’t think it’s super productive to be judging others who want to be parents (gay families, couples dealing with infertility) when we’re trying to encourage great acceptance and destigmatization of single parenthood. I think part of challenging and improving the system of adoption is really examining and overthrowing rigid ideas of who should be a parent and specific ideas of what families should look like.

    Cully, I definitely recognize that the diction “birth mother” is a fraught term. I use it because it’s the most accessible term to people who aren’t very familiar with adoption, and one of my main goals is to try broaden the discussion of adoption. However, I assure you that I don’t use that term lightly, and I know many women prefer “first mother” or “natural mother”, and I also recognize that most language around adoption has been promoted by the adoption industry. So, what words to we use when we write about adoption? I try to avoid phrases like “place for adoption” when talking about an adoption that I know was coercive; I try, whenever possible, to use the same words that women I’ve interviewed have used to talk about themselves. (Most of them do use the term “birth mother,” though not all.) I also always refer to adoptive parents as such. I view “adoptive parent” and “birth parent” as phrases that indicate the way in which that parents relationship to the child began, not to represent the full extent of their relationship to that child. I do not presume that birth parents’ relationships to their children are limited to birth or view them as incubators, just as I don’t believe that adoptive parents’ relationships are based solely on the piece of paper that proclaims them a parent. Is the phrase “birth mother” great? Nope. But adoption is more complicated than straightforward titles allow and, as a writer, it’s sometimes hard to capture all that complexity while still being brief.

  9. Christina Ramos November 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Being that I work for an organization that supports a woman’s right to choose AND supports the victims of foster care, I find this article absolutely fascination and right on! I can’t wait to share with my colleagues.

    Thank you!

  10. Cully November 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    thank you Gretchen. I guess I should have said the *we*, not just you, need to stop using the industry terms.

  11. TK November 19, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    To all the people pushing women with unplanned pregnancies – and obviously they exist in every walk of life – I’d love to see how they’d really, truly treat someone in that situation. Not the homeless teen, but the middle-aged coworker. The doting soccer mom. ‘Oh, Harry and I can’t afford another child, we already have three and he just got downsized. So we’ll be putting this last one up for adoption. We thought it might be too much for my body at this age, with some health problems, but… we read about it on a bumper sticker.’ ‘You wanted to see me in your office, sir? Oh, my pregnancy. Well I’ll be taking some sick day offs then I’ll be back. Adoption, sir. No, no, nothing like that, I guess, whoever wants the baby!’

    Stigma? Check. I know women who have a fit if pregnant women don’t have a baby shower, or give the ‘wrong’ name to their kid. Choosing to give it away when they’re relatively healthy or well of, but not ready to be a mother (or not wanting to be a mother again)? Don’t make me laugh.

  12. Cristina Page November 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    This is a terrific piece. I only wish you had included mention of the Adoption Access Network, the only network of pro-choice adoption agencies in the nation. Here is our mission statement below and our website is http://www.adoptionaccessnetwork.org for more information. Thanks for your piece, I’ll be promoting it far and wide.

    “The Adoption Access Network (AAN) applies pro-choice standards to the field of adoption, viewing it through a reproductive justice lens. The AAN’s goal is to ensure that pregnant women are afforded choices and provided with a respectful, non-coercive environment in which to explore all of their pregnancy options. The member agencies of the AAN are pro-choice; welcome a diverse pool of prospective adoptive parents, including same sex families; embrace fully open adoptions and provide lifelong services.”

  13. Kidnap November 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    Hi Gretchen,

    You wrote:

    “Yes, I recognize that there is pressure and manipulation and coercion, and that no one gets pregnant with the intention of placing the child for adoption. However, I do believe that women can have the agency to make this decision, and the resiliency to carry it through. The best we can do is make sure that decisions are made in the best of possible circumstances.”

    A few comments from a natural mother who was forced into an unwanted, traumatic “surprise!” adoption:

    1) Your first sentence, which begins, “Yes, I recognize…” is problematic for me. I think that intellectual assent to the certain truths of manipulation and coercion in adoption, without a convincing demonstration of what this means, day after day, in a coerced woman’s life, tends to read, to an informed individual like me, as a dismissive, marginalizing statement. It says to me that you think you know what’s best. As a woman who was coerced, I have to tell you – unless you were coerced and have lived with it for years and years, chances are pretty good that you don’t know what’s best. I know many activists, and I can not think of one who would agree wholeheartedly with your statement. It’s not your fault that you don’t know – how could you? But you need to understand that the best you can offer is your opinion. Had you worked with women who have lived with this for decades, you might not be so quick to dismiss these aforementioned truths. You also need to understand that it is the case, that many women who are coerced live in a state of profound denial for ten, fifteen, twenty years. The damage is there, at work in a woman’s life: as relationship problems; problems in raising subsequent children; problems with identity; problems with entitlement to basic human necessities and comforts; a smashed sense of self; anniversary reactions; avoidance of many things that are triggering….I could go on and on. These symptoms may not be recognized for what they are, for a very long time. Until they come out of the denial, a woman living in this way is one of the adoption industry’s most useful tools. Such women are used and exploited again, this time as industry spokesmodels.

    Please be advised: Adoption leaves a permanent mark.

    Permanent.

    Your second sentence that begins “However, I do believe” is a statement of your BELIEFS. You believe. I can personally attest to the soul and health destroying effects of adoption loss. This is not one of my beliefs. This is experience of the type described by Samuel Johnson when he said, “I refute it thus.” I find it interesting that Johnson chose to use his foot to refute Berkeley. Feet are a symbol of human autonomy, of our ability to walk to, or away from, a situation. When you have a permanent mark on your heart, soul and self, it carries with it a diminished capacity to walk to, or away. Adoption can be an obstacle in your life path. This analogy is far more a concrete reality than your sentence would lead a casual reader to believe.

    You also wrote, “The best we can do is make sure that decisions are made in the best of possible circumstances.” I would like to ask you to tell me exactly what comprises “the best possible circumstances.”

    Lastly, “I definitely recognize that the diction “birth mother” is a fraught term. I use it because it’s the most accessible term to people who aren’t very familiar with adoption, and one of my main goals is to try broaden the discussion of adoption. ”

    Then please, stop using industry programmed language. Just…you know…stop. The term mother, first mother, natural mother, original mother are all acceptable. Whether or not you intend it, the B term communicates visions of a disposable, or, goddess forbid, reusable, incubator. It limits the role of mother, to birth. YOU may not intend that. Indeed you protest that you are aware and mean no harm. But you have no control over how your words may be understood. Especially in the face of so many concerted industry efforts to control the narrative. So please, just stop.

    I don’t write these things to pick a fight, or be cruel and mean to you. I am a retired activist. I rarely engage anymore, because four decades of adoption related stress have aceleated the development of health problems for me. I have had to cut way down on the activism – doctor’s orders. So, please be flattered that this old war pony felt that it was important enough to put aside doctor’s orders long enough write this well intentioned little critique of your essay.

    Be Well,
    Suzie Kidnap

  14. Dawn Smith Pliner November 20, 2011 at 5:48 am #

    Early morning thinking ~ as an adoptive mom; as the founder and director of an adoptin agency and as a member of the Adoption Access Network ~ thank you for writing the article and thank you all for the thoughtful replies. I will be sharing this at our staff meeting, with our Board of Directors and today at one of the largest adoption conferences in the country.
    Again,thank you all.

  15. Gretchen Sisson November 20, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Hello again!

    Suzie, thank you again for your comment (I’m responding to you on Facebook as well, and may be a little repetitive in my comment here). I understand you’re not being cruel or mean, and I appreciate the critique (it’s not one I haven’t heard before). You might find it ironic that, in other spheres, I’m critiqued strongly from other sides as having “too strong of a birthparent bias.” My work should, and I hope does, be able to account to both of these critiques. It’s clear that you’ve fought the fight behind your words, and I do appreciate your chiming in.

    I want to respond to the quote you pulled first, from an earlier comment I left on the original article: “Yes, I recognize that there is pressure and manipulation and coercion, and that no one gets pregnant with the intention of placing the child for adoption. However, I do believe that women can have the agency to make this decision, and the resiliency to carry it through.” The previous line here, though, is the most important: “However, I would challenge you on the idea that no woman can choose adoption.”

    In this excerpt, I am NOT saying that women’s agency or resiliency should or could be a way of overcoming coercion. There are no excuses for coercion, past or present, and I would NEVER attempt to further the idea that “if women really wanted to parent they would just try harder to keep their babies.” It literally makes me cringe me to write those words, though I’ve heard them — and I’m sure you have as well, and I can’t imagine the hurt they inflict on you, as someone living in the horrible aftermath of a coerced adoption. As you state, these scars are permanent, and your child’s adoption seems (based on what you’re saying there) like a complete violation of both your and his/her rights. What I was trying to say, in that statement, though, is that — while manipulation exists within the system, in some places more than in others — I don’t believe that precludes women’s agency to choose adoption in situations free from coercion. I believe these women (and these circumstances) are very rare, but I know that they exist, because I have spoken with some of these women. They are in more recent adoptions and, most notably, they aren’t interested in parenting a child at all (and weren’t prior to the adoptions). To say that these women were coerced or traumatized is to deny what they’re actually experiencing. I know this may not ring true to you, but as someone trying to convey other people’s stories with as much nuance as they deserve, it would be a violation of their trust in me to fundamentally misrepresent their experiences by saying that adoption can be freely chosen. Are these women rare? Yes, extremely. Do I wonder if they will feel the same way about their adoption as more time passes? Yes, absolutely. But they do exist, and I must include them in the discussion.

    Furthermore, my “beliefs” are not based on personal opinion or passing fancy, but, rather, years of research that I’ve devoted to speaking with as many women as possible. In the vein, I’d challenge you to recognize that your beliefs are based on your own experiences. I don’t believe that makes your thoughts less empirically valid, but I also don’t think it diminishes my conclusions.

    And, again, I find your challenge of my diction completely valid. I invite your honest response here: do you think I should abandon the term “birth mother” even if most women use it to describe themselves and feel comfortable with the term? I have never meant it as a diminishment, but I know a very vocal (but still a minority) group of women find it downright offensive. I asked all of the people I interviewed, and I must say, only about 5% found it problematic, but for them it was VERY problematic. Yet, many more women accepted, identified, and even liked the term. Can I justify telling women the language they use to describe themselves is problematic, and they should be using other words? My first instinct is that I have a problem with that; we should let people choose the language with which they’d like to be referred as much as possible — but I’m open to discussion on this one. (I will note that I have, in other pieces, used the term “first mother” only to have editors cross it out because “people wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.” Perhaps that should have indicated to me that I should try HARDER to use it.)

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