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Then What is it Called When You’re Not Adopted?

INTRO: Adoption can be really hard and it raises some serious issues for adoptees. But as this adoptive family demonstrates, open and healthy conversation along the way, helps children feel safe and secure.


By Adoptive Mom and Guest Blogger, Kelly Lute

what is it called when you are not adopted

Buildings and people along the road flashed by. It was a normal day of running a few errands, but instead of the whole family being together, Kara got to have time with Mom and Dad on her own. She asked questions. She chattered away. She made observations.

Then the conversation turned to her story, as it often does. She loves hearing about her first parents and about how she came to be ours. At six years old, Kara is growing more and more in her understanding of what it means to be adopted.

adoptive family

My husband and I were explaining, once again, what it means to be adopted. We were specifically explaining that the parents you were born to don’t raise you--just like she grew in her first mommy’s tummy, but is not being raised by her. Instead, her first mom chose me to be her forever mom and raise her and take care of her. That’s what it means to be adopted.

Kara asked, “Then what’s it called when you’re not adopted?”


She had stumped us! Casey and I looked at each other with terms popping into our heads.

Natural born?

No. That could imply that an adopted child is unnatural. There’s nothing artificial about Kara’s place in the family! Some adoptees and adoptive families feel very hurt by this. It’s not the best term.


Oh, no no no no. Stop right there. Adoption isn’t imaginary. That’s not helpful language, either.

adoptive mother

You see, we have things to call a family someone is born into when they belong to another family--birth family, biological family, or first family. We likewise have ways to explain blended families and foster families. But when someone is just born into a family and stays there, there’s no real word for that. Everyone just says “family”--no qualifiers. But to an adopted child, that’s not their reality. Kara was trying to understand why everyone isn’t classified, so to speak. She has a special explanation of how she belongs to our family. Why don’t her other siblings? What are they?

I suggested “tummy born”, and Kara lit up- “Yes! That’s perfect, mom!”

If you are pregnant and need support, here are pregnancy resources:

The 9 Things to Know About Adoption In Oregon and Washington

You may also like some of these great adoption resources:


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