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Adoption Issues/Developing relationships: Titles, Labels


Hi Alice,

I asked you for advice a couple of years ago about contacting my birth father, and I liked your advice, even though he never answered my letter, so I have another request for advice on an issue that's been bothering me.

Over the last two years since I reconnected with my birth mother's family (she unfortunately had already died from cancer), I have become very close with them, and I really feel like I am a part of them. I have been to family parties, and had many birth family members attend the weddings of two of my children. As I have learned more and more about my birth mother, I have realized just how much I and my children are like her - in looks, voice, mannerisms and personality. I have also learned her very sad story, and that she would have welcomed me with open arms. I feel a strong closeness to her, and have taken to referring to her as "Mama Betty". As is the custom in Jewish tradition, I have even said the customary memorial prayers for her on Jewish holidays, as according to Jewish law she is my mother as she gave me life. I am extremely grateful for that.

The problem I am having is that while I am very close to my adoptive parents, who are, Thank God, still alive and very supportive, and I have always called them Mommy and Daddy and still feel comfortable doing so, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with referring to them as "my mom" and 'my dad" in the third person. I really feel that I have four parents, and especially two mothers, and I am especially proud of both my mothers. I'm looking for a way to acknowledge this, and often wish that I could call my a-mom "Mama Rachel" and not have the world and my a-mom think of me as ungrateful or insensitive. Is this wrong of me?

Any advice you could offer would be appreciated.

Sara, certainly your feelings are not "wrong." They are based on the thoughts and beliefs you hold about your own unique life experiences. Reunion has brought changes and helping your loved ones adjust can be tricky. Thank you for writing.

Since reunion is a personal journey that often leads to growth and understanding, it is reasonable to expect that your feelings would change with time. Some adoptive parents may view these changes as a threat. Others will understand that your personal growth and the expansion of your family are both necessary and welcome.

Please do not fret so much about what "the world" thinks, Sara. Live your truth, share what you are comfortable sharing, and manage relationships and titles with love and honesty.

I hope I have been some help, Sara. Thank you for your question.

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Alice Allen, Rev (ULC)


Adoption Reunion and Reconciliation - "Do I matter to you?" - To adopted persons and their families, it is an especially important question. I offer guidance related to post-adoption search and reunion. Questions about how to search, what to expect of reunion, and where to locate resources are welcome. Please 'View Profile' for more detail.


Universalist minister and counselor specializing in post-adoption search, reunion, and reconciliation issues. Founder of GrannysCupboard, a ULC ministry that assists individuals who are searching for missing or estranged family and community members. Confidential information provided to GrannysCupboard is not shared without explicit permission. All costs associated with search service are paid by GrannysCupboard. No fees are charged.

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