Books on Adoption and Interview with Maggie Mei Lewis


As a topic, adoption has many different facets. Some people adopt infants and need help figuring the best way to explain adoption. Others bring home older kids who already know what it means to be adopted, but whose communities still have some things to learn.

We tried to put together a list of books that would reach everyone in the adoption community, and know there are plenty more wonderful books out there! Don’t see one of your favorites on our list? Make sure to leave your recommendations in the comments to this post!

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Here’s Why We Use the Term “Birth Parent”

Here's Why

image c/o

Are you a birth parent, a first parent, or a natural parent?

Most adoption professionals refer to biological parents as “birth parents,” but not everyone agrees that it’s the best term to use.

“Positive Adoption Language”

The term “birth mother” comes from the Positive Adoption Language (PAL) framework developed in 1979. Previously, biological mothers had been referred to as “natural mothers” or “real mothers” which many felt was disrespectful since it implied that adoptive parents were “unnatural” or not “real” parents. PAL also encouraged the use of terms like “place for adoption” rather than “give up for adoption.” The idea was to use language reflecting respect for the feelings and decisions of all parties throughout the adoption process.

“Honest Adoption Language”

Almost fifteen years later, a researcher developed the Honest Adoption Language (HAL) framework, which is generally used by people who believe that adoption is rarely healthy for biological parents or adoptees. They prefer the term “natural” parent because they see adoption as indeed being “unnatural,” and they also use terms like “surrender for adoption,” “lost to adoption,” and “separated by adoption” because they believe that adoption is never a biological parent’s choice, but rather something that they have been coerced to do.

Many of the people who use the HAL framework are those who experienced adoption during the Baby Scoop Era of the 1940s to 1970s, so it makes sense for them to use language that reflects their losses; that was a time during which many women were indeed forced to be separated from their biological children against their will. There are also many unethical adoption organizations today that pressure people to choose adoption for their babies, and HAL works well for people who feel victimized by these adoption professionals.

Which is Correct?

Both HAL and PAL users sometimes use the term “first mother,” but it’s not quite as popular as the other terms, and some adoptive mothers do not like the idea of being “second mothers.” Here at Adoptions Together, we prefer the PAL framework and the term “birth parent” over the others because we believe that adoption, while difficult, can be a healthy choice for biological parents who feel it is right for them. We are very careful to educate our clients about all of their options and to support them even if they do not choose adoption, so we feel confident using language that reflects adoption as having been their choice. We also think that a parent who adopts is just as “natural” and “real” as a parent whose children are biologically related to them.

But more importantly, what do you think about this terminology? Do you consider yourself a birth parent, a first parent, or a natural parent to the child you placed? Tell us in the comments section.

“Adoption Saved My Life”

adoption saved

image c/o www,

When browsing birth parent blogs last week, we were touched to read Courtney’s April post at I’ll Love You For Always where she explained her conviction that “adoption saved my life.” She describes how seven months prior she had been so depressed that she “could scarcely get up to make my oldest something to eat” and how the path she was on was “dangerously close to costing me everything. Even my life.” The process of adoption, she explains, gave her hope. Through the love and compassion of her baby’s adoptive family and a few other people, she came to know herself to be a person “worthy of happiness and success,” whereas if she had not made the adoption plan, she doubts whether she would even be alive today.

Courtney’s story got us thinking about the many women we’ve worked with who were at a rough place in life when they became pregnant and for whom that pregnancy was an incentive for change. Whether they chose parenting or adoption, the desire to be the best parent or birth parent possible motivated them to work hard to make changes that improved their lives. For some of our clients who chose adoption, the desire to maintain a relationship with their child and their child’s adoptive family and to be a positive presence in their child’s life helped drive their efforts to overcome major struggles. Often, those struggles were financial; in her post, for example, Courtney describes how before she placed her baby, she was living in a hotel room with her two children with nothing but vouchers with which to clothe them. We have heard from many birth mothers that adoption played a large role in their ability to become (or remain) financially stable. It is wonderful to read on Courtney’s blog that she is now leasing an apartment and doing better both financially and emotionally.

Read Courtney’s story and let us know what you think! We’d also love to hear from you about how adoption affected your life.

Support During Decision Time

So… I just finished watching Oxygen’s “I’m having their baby.”  It’s a new TV show that follows two expecting women/couples in their adoption plan and journey, delivery and placement.  It was amazing to see the journey from start to second start and a little peek into “life after placement.” 

The time of re-deciding in the hospital for many moms can be very difficult.  No matter what you made up in your mind, you were still thinking about the future and now, the future is here!  This baby is in the room, or down the hall in the nursery, and you have to decide what in the world you’re going to do.  The reasons you gave yourself pre-delivery are still there but now there’s a cloud called “discharge day” hanging over your head and you have to make a decision within a day or two.  Now, for some women and couples, their feelings don’t change much at all during this time b/c the circumstances of life right now make it impossible to bring a baby home.  For others, the time to think and feel the love and emotions still allows for you to maintain your decision to place your child.

As an adoption counselor, I help women and couples make sure they are not being rushed, not being forced or coerced, and thinking clearly and realistically about the decision made, no matter what the end result.  Not every birth mother has had that.  Some spend time in the hospital alone, some have family angry at them the entire time, and some are even pressured by hospital staff or made to feel like they are doing something wrong by any and everybody who knows.  Support from family, friends, your counselor or even simply the hospital social worker is vital at this time. 

Even in the cases of open adoptions, many people involved take a big sigh of relief after the delivery is over and the revocation period has ended and move along trying to make sense of the rest of their lives as if “whew…well now that’s over!”  I see birth parents back away from me and from the support we offer after a few months into their adoption journey, which… is understandable.  We have to readjust.  If you’ve just spent 9 or maybe just 3 months (if you found out late!) thinking, wondering, worrying, praying, hoping, all about this baby and the adoption plan, after delivery it’s, “Now what?”  Now it’s time for the second “beginning” not the end.  It's time to readjust your life to either life without the baby or figuring out how you're going to make this work.  For those birth parents who chose to place, this is really just the start.

Placemcementent day of your child with the adoptive family is the first day of the rest of all of your lives.

  • Remember your reasons for considering this plan in the first place, and consider what life will be like after placement.
  • Request an interim care provider if you have even a smidgen of undecided feelings.  Even private adoptions can figure out a way for you to have temporary care before the child is placed with the adoptive family.
  • Talk to family and friends before you leave the hospital.  Family and friends sometimes help you step back and see things in a different light.  They may even provide support you never knew was available.
  • Remember that you have rights in the hospital and don't be afraid to take advantage of them.
  • Meet with your counselor the week after you deliver (and more if you can).  So many birth parents back away at this time but your counselor is there to help.


What are some things you wish you knew or want to know about hospital and those first weeks after placement?

Honoring Birth Mothers on Mother’s Day

Mothers Day Flowers-2011


As Mother's Day approaches we wondered what ways families honor birth parents on that special day or on other days.  It is very encouraging to know the ways other birth parents are celebrated and acknowledged.  We wanted to share the results. If you have a story to share please let us know!

We asked some of our Adoptions Together adoptive families:

How do you/will you honor your child’s

birth mother on Mother’s Day?

One adoptive family wrote:

"We first talk about the birthmother ALL the time.  Our kids are 5 and 3 and they can tell anyone about their birthmother and where she lives and her name.  The birthmother chooses not to be a part of their lives right now so we do not have a picture but if we had a picture of their birthmother – we would laminate it and post on their wall beside their beds and have them say good night and talk to her everyday.

 "We write the yearly letter and try to include a winter holiday card that we sent out to others so that she is kept up to date.  We hope to meet her someday and want the kids to have at least one picture of her.

"I am not sure this is really anything special but I hope it helps.  We also honor our two different foster mom's on Mother's Day as well."


One of our other adoptive families wrote:

"As the parents of three children, two joined our family through domestic adoption and one through international adoption, we thought we would share our thoughts on how we honor the women who gave birth to our kids. 

Quite honestly, we do not do anything special on Birthparent's Day.  We believe there are better ways we can honor our children's birthparents.  They are:

1. We do the best we can to raise our children up in a household that is taught to love others as we want to be loved. 

2. Anytime we hear someone use terminology that is offensive, we gently correct them (not so gently for repeat offenders).  Correcting misconceptions is one small step towards changing the way our society views birthmoms.   Specifially, we correct statements like:

     a. Why did his/her Mom give him/her away?  They did not give him away.  She  first chose life and secondly thoughtfully and carefully picked out (in the domestic adoptions) the family who she felt would best parent her child.  Her specific reasons are personal and between my child and his/her birthmom.


     b. How much did your son/daughter cost?  We did not pay for our children.  We did, however, freely give some money to the adoption agency to ensure that our child's birthmother received services, if she wanted them.


     c.  I could NEVER give up my child.  It is impossible to know what you would  do in the situation our child's birthmom was in.  Judging people without all the facts (actually, judging them at all) is completely inappropriate.


     d.  Do your kids know they are adopted?  Of course they do!  They have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of!  In fact, there are two Moms that love them unconditionally.  (sometimes I feel sarcastic and I answer by saying, "No, my Chinese daughter does not know that she was adopted.  Do you think she will notice?")


3.  All year long we talk to our children about their individual adoptions and encourage them to ask questions.  If possible, we allow them to have contact with their birthmom.  Unless there is a situation that is simply not healthy, guiding our child as he sends a letter or email only reaffirms that I am his Mom and that we love his birthmom.  I do not 'fear' his relationship with her, I celebrate it!  She is not going to replace me as his Mom and I will never replace her as his birthmom.  These are two very distinct roles and, again, can reaffirm to our child that his birthmom loves him.

4. Recently, we realized that we honor her by providing her with a way to contact us directly (as opposed to routing things through the agency).  Finally, since she trusted us enought to place her child with us, surely we can trust her with our email.


While we will most certainly think about the women who are such a huge part of who are children are on Birthparent's Day, we try to remember that there are 364 additional days in the year!"


Kudos to these families for keeping the thoughts of their child's birth mother active within their families and desiring even more!!  Here's a link to some  messages from a birthmom blogger to adoptive mothers.

In what ways has your child or children's adoptive parents recognized you on Mother's Day?  

Does anyone do anything special for themself on Mother's Day? 

Your words are valuable and impactful.  We share your stories with brand new birth parents and they are encouraged by your honesty.  You would be surprised how the smallest anectode or gesture can mean the world to someone.