Terminology revisited

Someone left a response to a response I left on this post by Nicole. The original post was not about terminology at all, but terminology has a tendency to raise its head when I have the audacity to call myself a birth parent.

The response was:

I take it from your post that you are likely male, and thus would be an ejaculation father, as men can’t give birth and even the people who coined and promote the term “birthmother” admit that the term “birth father” is a gestational impossibility (which is why they favour “begettor” or “male genetic ancestor” for the male half of conception).

New one on me there. Ejaculation father. I think I like it. That way, I can run away after the deed and not need to appear at the birth to claim my coveted title.

But I digress. Because this is not actually about me. Because what this person has done, by turning my title into a physical act, is turn mothers of loss into incubators.

There are three reasons I call myself a birth father.

  1. I was commenting on Nicole’s blog, and she does not like it when I refer to myself as a sperm donor. (Yes, I am being flippant here).
  2. It is the most widely understood and accepted term in the world at large. Natural father and biological father do not necessarily imply relinquishment, and I personally dislike the first father term because to me it devalues the father Sprog now has.
  3. At the time of Sprog’s birth, I was his father. I did not sign those rights away after ejaculation. I signed them away after his birth. I am therefore his birth father, not his ejaculation father.

When you devalue my role by referring to me as a father by bodily function, you do the same to his mother. Instead of her role being an ongoing one in our son’s life, you have turned it into a physical process with a beginning and an end. You have turned her into nothing but a vessel to hold someone else’s child.

Furthermore, you imply that my relationship with his mother was nothing more than passing ships in the night. That his existence was the result of a sordid drunken romp in a back alley, and not the expression of love between two people with an ongoing commitment to each other. Sure, for some people it does happen that way, and there is nothing wrong with that. But to stereotype birth parents in this way is to reduce their power and silence their voices.

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10 Responses to “Terminology revisited”

  1. BRAv-FREAKING-O Brad. Seriously. Awesome post all around.
    You rock

  2. As an adoptee, I have kind of a different take on the whole terminology dilemma. I could be reading you wrong but it seems you claim the title birth father out of deference to your child’s adoptive father. Which may feel good, but from my point of view, I resented my natural family’s constant prostration at my adoptive parents feet.

    As one of my good adoptee friends says, calling yourself a birth mother (or father) sounds like giving away your baby is your job–and who can get upset with someone for doing their job?

    It denies the importance of what the adoptee loses. I lost my mother and my father, as well as a whole host of other things, and while my father never had to sign away his rights, he did not do right by my mother, or me, therefore the whole adoption occurred, my father may have been a crap father, but nonetheless he was my father, continued to be my father and I consider him my father today.

    While he did not parent me, his choice to walk out shaped the most fundamental aspects of my personality by his absence as much as had he stayed around and continued to party AND parent me.

  3. Thanks Suz.

    Joy… I was going to say you are reading me wrong. And you are, but not completely.

    I do not claim the title of birth father out of deference to my child’s adoptive father. I claim that title because it makes my relationship to my son clear to a third party who does not know us, and it beats crap out of claiming that any link to him is severed once the swimmers are let loose.

    Of course I defer to his dad when it comes to raising him. Raising him is not my job. Hell, I defer to my wife when it comes to raising our daughter, and raising her IS my job. I think that is a guy thing. As to my level of importance in my son’s life, well that is for him to decide. Whatever he chooses is what is right for him, so I am not going to sit there and tell him I should be more (or less) important to him than what I am.

    For now, I just am.

  4. The idiocy of the comment still has me reeling.

    “Ejaculation Father”? Seriously? That sounds like a bad punk band.

    It never ceases to amaze me, some of the crap people think up in their spare time. But this response to it was wonderful, Brad.

  5. thanksgivingmom Says:

    I saw that original post/comment and was shocked at the insistence that you couldn’t be “birth”father. I’m with Coco on the whole bad punk band aspect of Ejaculation Father too.

    I really think this post clearly and succinctly explains the “why’s” of how you define yourself and I think it makes complete sense.

    Perfect 🙂

  6. andrea Says:

    I don’t know why people who have placed their children for adoption think of themselves as mothers/fathers or parents. It is very disrespectful to the parents who are doing your job and raising the child. It takes more then giving birth, that makes you a parent or a “mother/father” in the real world.

  7. That is nice Andrea, but it takes more than caregiving to be a parent too, otherwise everyone who ever wiped my nose I would have to call Mommy. That is a lot of baby-sitters, pre-school teachers etc., that can now claim they are my real mommy.

  8. andrea Says:

    I just finished reviewing the responses. Joy, sorry, being a parent requires “more” than making a baby! To be willing, able and committed to parent your child makes you parent. It’s a fact; children don’t come with instruction on how to raise themselves- that’s the “parents” job!

  9. scientically speaking I believe that genetics play a very very important role in every person. Adoption does not void that importance. It is important to value everyone equal, or at least try to. Yes adoptive parents who nuture a child are important but so are birth/first parents who are the reason the child exists and has certain characteristics and talents. Being a good parent means not only accepting the child is made up of genetic material from two whole people who will always have value to that child.

  10. I think I will leave it to my son’s father to point out when I am being disrespectful to him.

    I would like to see an adoptive parent attempt to parent a child who nobody had ever created though. That would be something. Can’t help thinking of that invisible dog on a leash toy.

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