I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but Laura Dennis inspired me (and I hope she’ll forgive me). Please suggest terms and/or definitions in the comments.
ABC (amended birth certificate):
Adoptee: An adopted child of any age (adoptees are Peter Pan). Adoptees come in two flavors, Good and Bad. Your adoptee will be Good because you are Good. See Adult adoptee
Adoption: A beautiful thing. The most loving and beautiful way to build a family. I swear I don’t know why people go on fucking, because adoption is so much better. It’s an institution made of fulfilled dreams and fairy wings and moonbeams and kittens and did I mention there are ponies? When you get adopted, you get to live here:
Adoption coercion: A very bad, mean thing which never happens, only maybe it happened in the past, but only in Australia where they apologize for it, and definitely not in the US, where we have nothing to apologize for, ever. Well, maybe there was a little of it here in the past, too, but not much, and you have to remember things were different then. No contemporary birth mother has to be coerced to give her child away. Birth mothers like to lie back for nine months and eat bon bons, having their every need met by PAPs, and then not raise their children. Pretty sweet deal, eh? It’s the only reason they get pregnant at all.
Adoption community: A place wherein all people affected by adoption may tell their stories without fear of judgement. Note: Adoption does not affect adopted children or their first parents. In any context imaginable (news stories, internet forums, real life) “the adoption community” will always, always, always refer to those who have adopted or who want to adopt, and often to those who profit by adoption. I mean, really, who else’s opinion means diddly?
Adoption fraud: The practice of pretending to be pregnant and accepting money from hopeful couples. This is the only fraudulent activity it is possible to perform in the adoption arena. Kidnapping children to sell for adoption is not fraud; nor is bribery; nor is closing an adoption one promised to keep open. These three things happen, but the first is A Very Rare Unfortunate Thing that did not happen to my orphan, the second is The Cost of Doing Business in Country X, and the third is a Parenting Decision.
Adoption magic: often (erroneously, of course!) referred to as “denial” or “enough money,” this is simply another term for love. It explains why adoption is the only economic industry in which supply never affects demand; the only transaction between rich and poor that cannot be corrupted because it involves no power imbalance; and the one thing the government of every wealthy, western nation Gets Right. It turns kidnappers into agency workers, non-parents into parents, children with loving families into orphans, and Ethiopians and Koreans into white USAians. Adoption magic is traditionally believed to have been shat out the asses of unicorns. See God, destiny.
Adoption poetry: Poetry produced by P/APs to celebrate the angel-bestowed miracle of adoption. Can you imagine the pony picture above with more sugar? Lots more? Even twice as much sugar? More. …More. …Go get another bag; we’ll wait. OK, that’s enough. Now get some honey and marshmallows and apricot nectar and Kool-Whip and maraschino cherries and chocolate syrup and a can of cond–two cans of condensed milk. Glop it all together. Now, while watching your face in the mirror, put a spoonful of the glop in your mouth. The expression on your face is identical to the one you’d wear if you had just read an adoption poem.
Adoption triad: A phrase, possibly originally well-intended, that offers a skewed version of adoption by A) leaving out some of its major players and B) making it appear that the baby or child, the first family, and the adoptive family are all on an equal footing with equal amounts of power.
Adoptive: See real, natural. Descriptive of the highest love humans can aspire to, yet also of all things shameful and unspeakable. It is a sin to call an adoptive parent an “adoptive” parent…because adoption is the best thing in the universe and the one true way to raise a child and gosh don’t you feel sorry for all those schmucks who had to make their own kids shut up he is too mine none of your business where I got him or what he cost shut up!
Adoptive breastfeeding: Would someone else like to write this entry? I just can’t.
Adult adoptee: A curious phrase denoting an adopted child who has somehow managed to grow up, like a regular person. Adult adoptees come in two flavors, Grateful or Happy and Angry or Bitter. Your adult adoptee will either be Grateful or will, through a miraculous act of love, gratitude, and willpower, break all the laws of the universe and stop being adopted at all, becoming the product of your! special! loins! because you are raising her or him with love, which bio-parental-unit-incubator-thingys (see birth prefix) never do. Adoptive parents who have a different outcome were either deceived into adopting a defective product and/or fucked up because they are not as smart and loving as you are. See baby buying, adoption magic, ABC.
Baby buying: A thing adoption never, ever, ever is, no matter how much money changes hands. That’s why paying a birth mother’s expenses is totes OK and means she owes you nothing even if you don’t get her baby. See adoption fraud.
Baby Scoop Era: The decades between the end of WW2, when people apparently discovered extramarital sex, and 1973, when abortion became legal. Back then, if you wanted a healthy white newborn, all you had to do was apply for one through the government and wait and hope. Now you have to apply for one and wait and hope. Adoption has changed so much. Sosososo much. Isn’t it terrible? (Seriously: In 196whatever, my parents applied to adopt. They waited eighteen months, which is nowadays considered by many a criminal amount of time to except anyone to wait for something as insignif, AHEM, I mean as important as a baby.)
Baby store: Where some young Baby Scoop era adoptees surmised they came from. The Snurchin imagined it as a combination department store and auction house.
Balancing rights: Some human rights weigh more than other human rights. When the real rights of adoptees to their identities clash with the imaginary rights of first mothers to Double Secret Privacy, the rights of the two parties must be balanced such that the adoptee’s rights are lighter. Oddly enough, when the rights of adoptive parents and first mothers clash, the first mother’s doubly heavy rights become weightless and fly off the scale altogether. [looks up, waves] Goodbye, goodbye….
Best interests of the child: Desires of the P/APs. It is in the best interest of any child anyone wants to adopt to be adopted, because seriously, adoption is that kick-ass. Naah, it’s really because adoption is the taking of children from the powerless by the powerful. You wouldn’t want to grow up poor or not USAian or black or something, would you? Well, it’s not classist or racist or any such thing for you to project those privileged adult opinions onto children in poor families, especially those living in other cultures on other continents without a pony. On the contrary: it is noble, charitable, and good. It proves how enlightened you are.
Birth father or birthfather: A sperm donor. A man of so little importance he need not be consulted about an adoption. Hell, the kind of guy who impregnates a birth mother, even if she’s his wife, doesn’t want any damned kid anyway. Just go through with the adoption. It’ll be fine. See Utah.
“Birth mother” or “birthmother”: 1) An incubator. A selfless, loving, giving, wonderful woman while pregnant; a grasping, delusional pain in the ass after relinquishment, especially if she wants an open adoption. The phrase “our birth mother,” therefore, does not signify “the woman who gave birth to us,” but “the mother or mother-to-be of a child we adopted or want to adopt.” This usage can be confusing until one realizes that incubators are things owned by people, whereas mothers are human women. This is why we have a Mother’s Day and “Birthmother’s” Day.
People who say the term “birth mother” merely means “the woman who gave birth to you, whether you were adopted or not” are liars. If they say they use this term as an everyday way of referring to their own mothers even though they were not adopted, these people are both lying and crazy: crazy enough to think you’ll believe them. Say something polite while backing away slowly.
In popular imagination, “birth mothers” are all crack whores, even if they relinquished before crack was a thing.
2) A pregnant woman who, at any time during her pregnancy, expresses a desire to relinquish her child, wonders out loud what adoption is all about anyway, or has the word “adoption” whispered in her ear while she is asleep. Any of these events means she owes a richer couple her child and is honor bound not to disappoint them. The mother or mother-to-be of a child someone else wants.
“Birth” prefix: A means of denying an adopted child has blood relatives. It is the only acceptable terminology for such relatives. See adoptive and first….
Change: A thing adoption has done (for the better, of course!) without doing it at all (see adoption magic). Only one thing about adoption has changed, and that is the number of healthy white newborns available to people who want to adopt them (and, therefore, the price). Nothing essential about adoption has changed or will change until PAPs want it to change. Don’t hold your breath.
China: A country in which maternal love is not love and which hates girls and women so much it currently discards all its females, having found a way for men to give birth without female input at all. Alas, they still give birth to girls half the time, so go getchoo a China doll!
Chosen parent: An adoptive parent who believes so firmly in destiny or adoption magic or god that s/he believes s/he was chosen to raise their child…by the child, even if the child was too young to speak when s/he was adopted. These children simply chose adoption before they were born. Nobody knows why a child would do this, but I’ve heard some drivel about how our souls needed to learn A Very Special Lesson About Love.
Destiny: The name given by some APs to the time, money and effort they spent acquiring a child, as in “Somehow destiny comes into play. These children end up with you and you end up with them. It’s something quite magical.”–Nicole Kidman. See adoption magic, god, red thread.
Different: A thing adoption definitely is now, which is great! and which makes adopting too hard, because adding a new human being to your family should be a cakewalk. See change, baby scoop era.
First mother/father/family: These words are a means of accepting an adopted child has blood relatives. This is an unforgivable slur against APs, who were so the first, oh yes they were! It’s also a slur because “first” is never used to distinguish an event that happens in time ahead of a “second” event. It, like natural, always means “superior” or “best” or “adoptive parents are losers and they suck.” Likewise, “second” has no other meaning, definition or connotation other than that of “second best,” so insecure APs are perfectly within their rights when they have a hissy about not being first. (Adoptees who point out that they were their parents’ second choice, however, are ungrateful brats.)
Forever family: A thing children available for adoption and shelter pets both need and both sometimes get.
Formula: Fake human breast milk. If there were no infant formula, what would adoption look like? Who would it have to acknowledge? Would there have been a baby scoop era at all? I suspect not.
God: An all-powerful, supernatural being who concerns himself only with satisfying the desires of P/APs, never those of other triad members. Any child someone manages to adopt was made for, meant for and given specifically to that person or people by divine right…unless the child turns out messed-up, in which case its birth relatives are to blame (and God was mysteriously powerless against them). Note that God always has babies born For A Reason and has them taken away from their mothers and given to others For A Reason, but never causes anyone to become infertile For A Reason (unless that reason is so the infertile party can adopt this particular baby made for them in China or Utah or wherever). God is sometimes AKA fate, karma, destiny, the alignment of the planets or a miracle.
Gotcha Day: aka one’s adoption day. Proper terminology makes everything better, doesn’t it? (Warning: It really, really doesn’t.)
Gratitude: The only acceptable emotion adoptees can feel about their adoptions. Compared to other people who were raised in loving homes, adoptees have remarkably short memories. This leaves them at a constant risk of forgetting how great it is to be alive and of blaming every silly little “problem” they ever had on their adoptive parents. Therefore, adoptees must be reminded again and again how very lucky they are to be adopted and how they have to STFU about it. People who were not adopted are born knowing how to shower their parents with gratitude, and they do just that on a daily basis, from the time they can find a way to express it (“ga ga!” is the first sound in “grateful! grateful!”) until they die tending their parents’ graves.
Home study: A brief, breezy yet inexcusable invasion of the privacy of PAPs which insures, once and for all with one hundred per cent certainty, that they are fit to parent a child they are not related to. Home studies are grueling, and if you adopt a child, you will have to pass an entire one of them before you bring that child home. One. Once. There will be no follow-up, ever. It’s so harrrd. And if you really did have bad intentions, it would be impossible to fool the person doing that one study, so why do they even bother? Your wanting to adopt is proof of your good intentions!
Hoops: Horrible, flaming, spiked iron rings PAPs must all jump through over and over and over again while those people who don’t adopt just have six or seven kids of their own, can you believe it?! It is so unfair to be held to a higher standard just because you didn’t give birth to the kid you raise. I mean, it’s not like you’re taking on a sacred responsibility or anything, geeeeeeeeeez. And there is poison on those spikes. There is! My adoptive parents had to die three times each before they took me home yes they did there was a law. See home study.
International adoption: The practice of adopting a child from another country, which was not terribly popular until all those birth mothers back home decided they had rights (see Baby Scoop Era and open adoption). Children available for adoption overseas are guaranteed to be one hundred per cent orphan in composition. That makes them the blankest of slates. Being blank means they will face no hardship at all upon being taken out of their cultures and losing their names, languages, families and homelands. Orphans are also more resilient than other adoptees. This means they thrive on being plunked down in the middle of a country about which they know nothing, among funny-looking, funny-smelling strangers, weird food, and a culture than judges them inferior by their skin color. They thrive even better on being raised by oblivious, enlightened, “color blind” white parents who can’t help them deal with the world in which they find themselves. If the orphan is very lucky, s/he may thrive on being raised by parents who don’t get what the big deal is and dismiss these experiences as the child’s being too sensitive (i.e., feeling things a non-orphan would feel under the same circumstances). See gratitude. Cf. Transracial adoption.
Maraca bop: 1) The act of striking one’s forehead with a maraca. 2) A magico-musical gesture imbued with the power to make the worst things about adoption go away if one does it hard enough, which nobody can. Seen in the first link in this post.
Natural: Superior, the best, the only acceptable way to do anything at all. It is the opposite only of hurtful words like unnatural and artificial, never of positive ones like created, adopted, supernatural, or refined or improved by human intervention/art. This is why it is wrong and hurtful to assert an adopted child ever had any parents other than his/her adopted ones, who were, in most cases, reared by their natural parents. (Ironically, this adjective was once applied to bastard children: to be “the natural child of” one’s father was once to be illegitimate, inferior, the worst, having been born in an unacceptable fashion.)
Non-profit: All adoption agencies, even the private ones, are nonprofits. This means nobody makes any money off adoption. Not your lawyer, not the person you gave a cash bribe to, not the agency head, nobody. This is why so many people become adoption facilitators, finders, agents, etc.: They want to work their asses off for no recompense at all, possibly until such time as they starve; and they must, because, let’s face it, children really don’t have that much value until someone like you wants them. Therefore, all people who are drawn to work with children are, without exception, self-sacrificing, noble, and compassionate.
Only home s/he’s ever known: The adoptive home of a child whose adoption is being contested because somebody did something wrong and illegal and damned well knew or had reason to know it at the time. This term applies no matter how short a period of time the child has spent with the P/APs and no matter how long s/he was in her original family before the alleged adoption. (See grateful for more on the remarkably short memories of adoptees.)
Open adoption: The days wherein women were shunned, shamed and punished for giving birth out of wedlock are over; they were the stick. Open adoption is the carrot.
Note: If the donkey actually gets the carrot, the journey is over.
Orphan: A foreign child a white Westerner wants to adopt. An “orphan” can have no parents, one parent, or two parents.
Out of context: The way to read certain classic works of literature to make them say adoption is wonderful. Did you know this passage from The
Profi Prophet is about adoption? Me neither!
Paper pregnant: Descriptive of a female PAP who has achieved adulthood and embarked upon creating a family without ever quite understanding where it is babies actually come from.
Positive Adoption Language: A load of doublespeak concocted to make insecure APs feel better about raising someone else’s child despite the fact that said child is one hundred per cent legally their own.
Real mother/father/parents: In the past, this phrase was sometimes used to indicate the inferior family to which an adoptee was born. This is intolerable, because it somehow transforms the people who are actually, legally raising the actual child into not-parents or simulacra (see natural). The only real parents are the adoptive parents. Being told this helps the adoptee adjust to reality by thinking of him/herself as unreal (because s/he’s the product of two unreal people) and by inventing imaginary first families to live in. See gratitude.
Red thread/string of destiny/fate: “According to this myth, the gods tie a red cord around the ankles of those that are to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. […] The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break. This myth is similar to the Western concept of soulmates or a destined flame.” This Chinese myth about adult lovers is so awesome that white people feel entitled to steal it and ruin it by twisting it to our own ends. So “red threads” are actually for and only for connecting P/APs to their children. Shut UP, Chinese people, your myth means what I say it means, and I say it means I get your kid! (Does this one creep anyone else out every time they hear it?)
Resilience: A mystical quality denied other children but ubiquitous among adoptees. It means adoptees can be dropped, dribbled like basketballs, and tossed into wood chippers with impunity and they’ll grow up just fine as long as their APs love them. It sometimes means their first parents abused them but now they’re just fine because their adoptive parents rock so very hard.
Return policy: A thing adoptees don’t come with. Just ask Anita Tedaldi, Raymond and Meta Poeteray, Torry Hansen, Christine Svenningsen, Joyce Maynard, Henriette and Gert, and the estimated (because who’s counting?) ten to twenty-five per cent of all APs who disrupt an adoption (see adoption disruption, rehoming, forever family).
Solomon’s judgment: [OK, I need to reread this one]
Terminate parental rights: To give up a child. (Protip: For Great Insight, visit any page featuring Positive Adoption Language and read all the entries backwards.)
Utah: A US state in which adoptable children are produced via parthenogenesis and therefore have no fathers. Its adoption laws are not anti-father, but pro-child. See?
White Infant Shortage: Even though adoption is the one social institution containing no evils (or none worth doing much about), women who aren’t forced, coerced, or tricked into it rather rarely give up their babies. This makes no sense at all (see Adoption), and proves that women who get pregnant out of wedlock are even more unreasonable than other women. (The fact that such women want to keep their babies is clear evidence that should be discouraged from doing so.) Many, many, many, many people who can afford to adopt healthy white infants want to do so, but they don’t want to deal with “birth mama drama” (see Open Adoption) or foster care because sometimes Those People get their kids back (see International adoption). They want to be transported back to the Baby Scoop Era, but they are marooned in the twenty-first century. This is tragic and unthinkable. Anything that can be done to turn back the clock must be done…for the best interests of the child, of course.