The Hypocrisy of Classifying All Biological Mothers as Relinquishers – An Adoptee’s Perspective

I don’t like anyone telling me what to call my biological mother, and when they try, it grinds my gears in a wild ass way! I had a fellow adoptee DEMAND I call my biological mother, MOTHER. If I didn’t, she insisted I was feeding into the adoption industry propaganda and that I wasn’t being honest because she was, in fact, my mother! I get what she was trying to say; however, no one gets to tell me what to do or how to refer to my biological mother. 

I will never try to tell anyone how to refer to their BIOLOGICAL MOTHER, FIRST MOTHER, or BIRTH MOTHER. I couldn’t call her mother because she didn’t earn the right to gain that title. I will share more about that in a few. 

I have had biological mothers jump my ass in online settings for using BM (birth mother or bowel movement) when describing my biological mother. I let them know I can use BM because it’s easier to describe biological mothers in adoption spaces, and most people know what BM means.

Now that I have been on a healing and growth journey, I try to be sympathetic to this. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

For anyone to tell another person how they should refer to anyone in their life is something I can’t entirely agree with. Of course, we are all free to refer to our biological mothers or anyone else as we wish, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about using a blanket statement calling ALL biological mothers relinquishers. Many individuals call the entire category of biological mothers RELINQUISHERS for those unaware of it.

Over a decade, I have been in the adoptee community and longer than that in online adoptee spaces, better known as ADOPTEELAND. While several years ago, I since retired from Adopteeland altogether, gladly passing the baton over to those who are better equipped to handle the complexities that come with it. There have been many situations where I learned that all biological mothers are referred to as relinquishers, and I have some thoughts on this. 

Relinquish – voluntarily cease to keep or claim; give up. 

Voluntary – done, given, or acting of one’s own free will.

This is a loaded topic, and I am only sharing from my perspective because I see an issue with ALL biological mothers being classified as relinquishers. 

Here’s why. 

When we refer to ALL biological mothers as relinquishers, we classify them ALL as voluntarily, of their own free will,  giving up their babies for adoption. However, we admit that adoption agencies, adoption officials, churches, evangelicals, the pro-life movement, and adoption advocates have particular ways to manipulate and coerce mothers before they give their babies up for adoption.

In that case, we have to consider this when classifying them ALL as relinquishers. We can not know this and rightfully call all biological mothers relinquishers because many of them had no choice. 

Most of us are aware that adoption is a multi-billion dollar unregulated business and that there is a lot of money to be made in this arena. We also know that the coercion tactics used on mothers are very sly and cunning. The exploitation runs deep and raw.

I had the experience of reading The Girls That Went Away, a remarkable book that recounts the experiences of biological mothers through the baby scoop era. They share feelings associated with the lifelong trauma of their babies being separated from their existence.  Many of them would have kept their babies if they could. However, they had no choice or options between the era they were in and a lack of support. Many were conditioned to believe their babies would be better off without them, and sadly many believed it. Sadly, this still happens today.

Many of us recognize and acknowledge that not all adoptees have the beginnings of their life, which means they don’t know the truth about their beginnings. We can not assume that all international adoptees or domestic adoptees weren’t stolen. We must acknowledge that many adoptees are stolen and sold on the black market and in other awful ways. When we know this, we can’t assume that the biological mothers relinquished their babies, yet many of them were legitimately stolen from them. 

How can anyone call all biological mothers relinquishers when they know this is a part of adoption? Once again, If you know this, and you are still calling ALL biological mothers relinquishers, I believe you are just being cruel and mean. This usually always occurs on the internet because most people don’t dare to be this mean in real life. 

There are many adoptees who are referring to themselves as “relinquishee” instead of “adoptee.” I wrote an article about that called, “My Views on Adoptee vs. Relinquishee.” While I sometimes use the term relinquishee, it fits my story but it doesn’t fit everyone’s story. Some adopted people are uncertain if they were stolen or relinquished which are two very significant differrences. I will be writing about this soon.

This topic is quite personal to me due to an exceptional individual in my life who was brave enough to share their story with me, who happens to be a biological mother. She was pregnant in the baby scoop era at 15 years old, and like many other unwed mothers, she was swept away to a mother/baby home to prepare for the surrender of her baby. But unfortunately, her parents wouldn’t support her, and at 15, she had no options. 

When her daughter turned 18, she had already found her and sat at her high school graduation from afar, watching the baby she gave birth to 18 years earlier walk across the stage. She slipped out, never to be noticed by anyone. Not long after, she pursued reuniting and a relationship with her daughter, and she had an existing one until her dying days. On her deathbed, she still wept tears from the loss of her daughter. 

Even in the hospital, she whispered to her many years later as tears wept down her face, “I wish I would have taken you and ran; I’m so sorry I didn’t.”  Even with all the cards stacked against her, she carried the pain of the separation from her daughter to her last breath in her last words. 

Knowing that she experienced this, and so many other biological mothers, to put them in a category labeled RELINQUISHERS is something I can’t agree with. But, this is one story of countless that I have been willing to listen to and learn from. 

Now, my biological mother, on the other hand, might be able to slide her into the category of relinquisher because I genuinely feel she was old enough to know what she was doing. She made a clear and conscious choice as a grown adult, and even when in 1974, things were significantly different than today. She could have kept me and parented me. 

The circumstances around her decision are based on the fact that she had an affair with a married man, and I was conceived as a product of this affair. He was a close family friend, and she kept the whole pregnancy a secret, even from my biological father. I don’t call her a relinquisher because I feel it has a vile tone and a mean connotation attached to the way the word is used. Instead, I choose the word biological mother or birth mother for the woman who gave birth to me because that fits my story and what feels comfortable to me. 

I feel it’s exceptionally hypocritical to use a blanket statement calling all biological mothers relinquishers when we know these realities exist and that every single separation from our biological mother is different from the next.

Call your biological mother a relinquisher if you wish! But I feel when anyone refers to ALL biological mothers as relinquishers, it’s fueled by anger and spite resulting from unresolved trauma wounds.  As we all know, anytime a mother and a child are separated, a trauma occurs, so every adopted person and their biological mothers carry trauma with them whether they understand it or not. 

I don’t refer to all birth mothers as relinquishers, nor do I refer to ANY birth mothers as relinquishers. Part of my journey has allowed me the opportunity to have many one-on-one, heart-to-heart online and in-person conversations with biological mothers. I have been willing to try to understand the depths of their experiences. Everyone has said it was a traumatic experience, and almost all said they had no choice. I’m not saying this is the case for every story because I know it’s not. 

Kindness and compassion go a long way. However, being a mean human being isn’t cool at all. When someone is mean, rude, or disrespectful on the internet, or if they have bullying tendencies, I completely tune them out and turn them off. They get no airtime in my world. I encourage you to do the same! 

Let’s try to do better and reconsider when we think about using blanket statements by calling all biological mothers relinquishers and let’s handle each experience as its individual own. Let’s take accountability that we legitimately know not all birth mothers have or had a choice. Let’s grow in our journeys to have more kindness and compassion for others. 

Don’t forget this article along with all my other articles are available in audio for your convenience, just look up Pamela A. Karanova Podcast on Google Podcasts, iTunes , Spotify. and Amazon Music. Interested in treating me with a coffee, to add fuel to my fire? Click here. Many thanks in advance to my supporters!

Thanks for reading, 

Love, Love.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova

10 thoughts on “The Hypocrisy of Classifying All Biological Mothers as Relinquishers – An Adoptee’s Perspective

  1. Congrats on “telling the truth”……In addition to not having “any say” in giving my baby up for adoption at age 17………….I didn’t stop crying until I was at least 30. I couldn’t watch any show on tv that had mothers & their children in it ( happy or not happy…didn’t matter)…..I had to undergo “therapy” for my anger toward my father for making me give away my first born child………I attended a “support group” ( in my 30’s ) because I couldn’t even talk about the experience……and needed to meet others who could relate………..I went to family get-togethers where “no one” even mentioned it…… yes, pretended, that “life just goes on”………I basically was a “basket case” while pretending to be o.k………….so, yes, you are a brave person to talk about the other side…..Thank you!!

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Thank you so much!

      I am so very sorry for your pain! My heart hurts for you. I can totally understand all the triggers everywhere because I also experience them similar to what you have shared here.

      I’m so glad you found a space of support, as I know how critical that is due to creating Adoptees Connect for that reason.

      Talking about the other side isn’t very easy, and it’s a little out of my territory however I see it a lot in the adoptee community, and I cringe when I do! That’s what made me want to add it to the list of 100+ articles I want to write about this year! LOL

      XOXO Hugs and know you aren’t alone!

  2. Brilliantly written. My birth mother was barely 15 when she placed me for adoption. I use the word place because that’s what I feel best describes my experience/circumstances. I always encourage people to speak on their own experiences and avoid using “not all or all” comments, it really does help make conversations not feel so hostile or pointed.

    1. Hi Kaelyn,

      Thank you so much! I am so glad you have found the word that works for you. I have heard a lot of people use placed and it def suits many.

      I totally agree with you on people speaking from their own experiences. If only everyone would… lol

      Hugs to you! ❤

  3. I do agree that the word relinquishment is wrong for most birth mothers as it implies a voluntary act. I was a teenager in the baby scoop era and my parents would not allow me home with my baby. The moral welfare officer said I was not entitled to benefits and no-one would give me anywhere to live and she took my baby from the hospital. She said if I did not sign the consent to adoption he would stay in a children’s home. There was nothing voluntary about my son being taken away from me.

    1. Hi Moira,

      Thank you for sharing here. I am with you on the word relinquisher! Totally.

      SO sorry for your pain and loss. I know so many women who have the same story. It’s criminal what has been done. I am so so sorry. ❤

  4. *** Spell check version ***Delete the others plz. Totally agree with you. I am listening to all the old Adopteeson podcasts and really do not like it when I hear “My mother gave me away” – she most likely was shamed, forced, coerced, pressured or brain washed, young or older. My mother was 36 when she had me but was not married – was widowed and had a relationship and fell pregnant. Bothe my mother. and father wanted to keep me but the story goes the Nurses convinced her to surrender me to “better” parents ie a married albeit a somewhat dysfunctional married infertile couple. We were a social experiment basically – gone wrong. ( check out Barbara Sumner, Author, interviews online, and her book Tree of Strangers)
    I also do not like “relinquish” as you say it implies voluntary action – which most of our mothers in my country from, 1955 to maybe like 1980, was not voluntary. I prefer the word “Surrender” ,but some may have an even better term like Forced. But meaning of surrender is ” to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand surrendered the fort. b : to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favour of another. 2a : to give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner.” Great article 🙂 Go girl !!

    1. Hi AnonAnon,

      Thank you for sharing here! I absolutely love Adoptees On Podcast! It’s seriously been so lifesaving over the years!

      My first mother was in her 30’s also, and I totally agree about us being social experiments GONE WRONG. If someone did the stats of all the prisons, jails, treatment and mental health facilitates being overpopulated with adoptees, maybe they would understand this.

      I agree surrender sounds like a good choice, but I learned recently from an adoptee to use the term surrender for other adoptees is a slippery slope, because many adoptees were actually stolen, and when they don’t know their beginnings, surrender doesn’t always work for all adoptees. I am writing about this soon, and I think it’s important we distinguish the differences of the different areas we can and do call our adoption experiences. I lean towards separation (trauma) because it’s the way I feel covers all the separation, regardless of us being stolen or surrendered, relinquished, etc. Afterall, the SEPARATION however it came about, is the root of our pain… I am learning from others and listening also. I think it’s all a personal opinion based on how we feel and our experiences. 😀 TY so much on your input here! Much appreciated! Keep sharing, I love hearing others perspectives! ❤ 😀

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