Defining Mother: A Quick Vocabulary Lesson

A guide to all the convoluted, contradictory meanings the many words around motherhood have taken.

By Gabrielle Sierra

Mommy: a term often used by young children to address their mothers. Term may also be used by adults when calling their mothers in search of comfort or money.

Not to be confused with:

Mami: Spanish for mommy. Term is also used affectionately in romantic relationships or not so affectionately by that guy who follows you down the street while making catcalling sounds even though you already pointed to your headphones and told him to fuck off.


Mother Fucker: a disparaging term for a nemesis that doesn’t actually seem like an insult when you spell it out because, like, congrats you have sex with moms and that is just normal life.

Not to be confused with:

Badass Mother Fucker: affectionate term for someone who is tough, even though they are still having sex with moms which seems to be the disparaging part? I don’t understand.

Not to be confused with:

Tough Mudder: a track of muddy obstacles for insane people with a masochistic streak and too much time and money.


Mom: a term used by children to address their mothers. Term is also used by youths on social media in order to shower praise on a celebrity.

Example:

Me: Will you be my mom, Beyonce?

Beyonce: No.

Not to be confused with:

Mommie Dearest: the term that actress Joan Crawford demanded her children call her.

Term was also used as the title of the tell-all book by Crawford’s daughter and a film in which Crawford is portrayed as a lunatic. Probably just a coincidence though, since this seems like a totally normal thing to make your children call you.


Motherboard: a circuit board inside your computer. Often referenced in early 1990’s hacker movies or by nerds in the office.

Not to be confused with:

Motherboy: An annual mother-son contest and dinner-dance attended by Lucille Bluth and Buster Bluth on “Arrested Development.” (Motherboy was also a heavy metal band that used to rock pretty hard in the 70s. We are legally obligated to make the distinction.)


Mama Mia!: a term that can be used while you are going undercover as an Italian chef and you have to exclaim excitedly about something.

Example:

Me: “Mama Mia! This sauce is delicious! Mangia!”

Actual Italian person: “Shut up.”

Not to be confused with:

Mamma Mia!: a musical based on the songs of ABBA that tells the story of a young woman seeking to find her father before she gets married. In retrospect it seems like a missed opportunity to not call this Papa Mia.


Mama: a term used to reference a mother. Often used lovingly between female friends or in bad insult jokes. Also used in that Black Eyed Peas song “Hey Mama” that was inescapable in 2003.

Not to be confused with:

MoMA: The Museum of Modern Art. It’s great you should take your mom.


Mother’s Milk: Milk produced in the breasts of females who have recently given birth. This substance is free, natural and nutritious and feeds newborns and infants.

Not to be confused with:

Mother’s Milk Stout: a dark and creamy beer made by Keegans. This substance is not free, natural or nutritious but has hints of oatmeal and chocolate and can get your Saturday night buzz going.

Let’s Have a Realistic Sex Talk

A fictional “birds and bees” talk from an extremely honest parent.

By Gabrielle Sierra

Hello daughter,

Yep, it is me, your parent. Here I am, perched on the side of your bed. You look angry and mildly uncomfortable and I totally understand. It is because you know what is coming.

Don’t be disappointed in yourself, you put up a valiant effort to avoid me all week, knowing this conversation was bound to happen. But I got you good. Because I when I knocked I said I had your laundry and you still refuse to do your own laundry so you had no choice. A lesson learned for the future, perhaps?

Anyway, here we are, me holding your laundry hostage, and you staring out of your window wondering how easily you could toss yourself through it. (Not easily, your sister tried the whole defenestration thing years ago and I am lightning quick, so don’t bother.)

It is time we had THE TALK. You know the one, the talk about sex. S-E-X.

“Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex.”

I know you like to whine and complain that you already know all about this stuff, that your friends talk about it or you read it in a magazine or had a class at school. But I just wanted to make sure you had the truth down pat from an expert. A sexpert if you will. Get it?! Why are you covering your face with your hands?

Now, when two people love one another very much they have probably already had a lot of sex. With each other and with other people. Sometimes in groups or in a public bathroom or in a car while waiting for their kid’s indoor soccer game to end. This also goes for most people getting married, unless it is against their beliefs or religion. Personally, I had a ton of sex before I met the love of my life, Mitch. Yes, I know your father’s name is Bill. I meant to say Bill.

Anyway, you can wait until you are in college to have sex if you want to, but I would get it over with on the earlier side. Mid-way through high school is a good time, but, of course, you do what makes you comfortable.

Pick someone you trust or like or even love for your first time just so you can be open and honest about how awkward it is. Avoid cars or couches or waterbeds; the first time is hard enough without worrying about space issues or making waves or deflating cushions. Spoiler alert: men will orgasm, women won’t.

“Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty.”

There is really no way to know if there will be any blood, but it won’t be a river, so don’t really worry about that. Why do you look grossed out? Sex is great, but it isn’t always pretty, my child.

Once you get through your first time you will feel better. The pressure will be off, and hopefully you will have a funny story to tell. Don’t worry, you will most likely have a lot more sex with a lot of people and have a lot more stories. And anyway, funny sex stories are the best ones to tell at parties.

College is a good time to experiment, and, as a woman, you will learn how to use sex as a weapon. This will be fun.

Sometimes someone may seem like a great person before sex and then be a jerk after. This does not reflect poorly on you, in fact it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Anyone who ever calls you a slut or a tease isn’t a human you should care about. Also if you give me their name and address I can go egg their house.

No always means no. And never, ever, even for one second, be afraid to be honest about this.

“Foreplay is important.”

Casual sex is great and you should have it as often as you want. Be honest about your level of interest and commitment. Use protection and don’t be shy about discussing your sexual past. This isn’t something to be ashamed of, so if anyone ever gives you a hard time about it just tell them to fuck off. Or just give me their address and… well you know.

Foreplay is important. Why are you rolling your eyes? Also you should get some sort of vibrator, you can order one on Amazon. You could also just go to a sex shop in the city but why pay up when we have Prime?

If someone tells you you are “really good” at something sexual, it means they just want you to do it again. Avoid sex when you are really full or have to pee. Sometimes quickies are not that quick and someone will be late for work. Oral stimulation doesn’t always work for everyone, but sometimes it is the only thing that works for someone. Learn what works for you and be honest about it. Pets will watch you have sex, they just do. Don’t worry about it.

Well, I guess that is it. I hope you learned from this and that you will someday crawl out from under your desk and thank me for sharing my wisdom. Don’t forget we love you no matter who you choose to love, and anyone who doesn’t isn’t worth a moment of your anger or sadness.

And remember that the most important thing in the whole world is to love yourself for who you are.

Here are your clean clothes. Alright, I’m going I’m going.

Oh! I forgot to mention it, but most people you meet already have HPV.

See you at dinner.

The Bonds of Motherhood

An adopted woman’s journey into adulthood, and whether she wants to meet her birth mom.

By Sara Afzal

 

It was taco night at the Angulo family’s home, and my best friend Tessa, 14, and her mother, Teresa, were gathered around the kitchen island. They had the same soft features that fell easily into glowing smiles and laughter. The two of them looked so much alike. I was shocked when I first found out Tessa was adopted. “We get that all the time. No one ever believed me when I would say I was adopted,” Tessa Gardner, née Angulo, said.

One night during one of our many sleepovers, Tessa showed me a stuffed teddy bear. She pressed a button on its stomach, and the jovial sing-song voices of two small girls rang out “Happy Birthday Tessa!” She told me they were her two half sisters from her birth mother, Cindy, who had remarried and started a new family. Although Tessa received gifts and letters from Cindy, she has never met her.

Over the years, their correspondence was sporadic, and Tessa’s mom tended to correspond directly with Cindy more often than Tessa did. After a lapse in communication, Cindy wrote a letter to Teresa in 2009 implying the possibility of a meeting. “As Tessa neared 18; I was nervous that she would be interested in meeting me and on the other hand nervous she wouldn’t. I didn’t want to be torn on your side or hers if I kept in contact. If anything should have transpired; I wanted it to be a decision she made,” Cindy wrote.

Tessa chose not to pursue a meeting at that time.

“Growing up I always wondered what it would be like to meet her. I kind of went back and forth with it, but I just wasn’t ready. It’s a big thing… to meet your biological mom. You never know what could happen,” Tessa said later.

Tessa’s parents, Teresa and Tim, pursued adopting children after it became apparent that Teresa couldn’t become pregnant easily. “They didn’t really have a diagnosis,” she said after going through fertility testing. In her early 30s, she considered trying the in vitro process, but she decided against it. Teresa turned her focus on going back to school and furthering her career as a nurse, but realized at age 36 that she had to be a mother. “It wasn’t so important that I have a birth child. I just wanted to raise a child, so that’s when we started looking at adoption.”

Tessa was their first child. She was born premature after 16-year-old Cindy unexpectedly went into labor six weeks early. Tessa had a breathing tube when she was first born, and only weighed about four pounds. She spent 10 days in the hospital before going home. As a nurse, Teresa persuaded the hospital to let her take the baby home, where she fed her every two hours. “For me, from the moment I saw and held Tess, I was in love with her. My bond to her was instant and complete and I still feel that bond,” Teresa said.

Teresa and Tim decided from the beginning to have an open adoption with full communication and identifying information from the birth mother. Although Tessa decided not to initiate a meeting with Cindy, letters went back and forth throughout her life. About 55 percent of families initiate open adoptions and 40 percent are semi-open adoptions with mediators, according to a Donaldson Adoption Institute survey of 100 adoption agencies. The survey also found that 95 percent of agencies offer open adoptions. 

Tessa’s adopted sister Tori decided to meet her own biological mom, who had Tori at 17. Tori came out of the experience realizing how different her childhood would have been with her birth family, and grateful for her current circumstances. Tessa said Tori came home, gave their mom a big hug, and immediately thanked their adopted parents for the life they had given her.

According to psychology professor Abbie Goldberg, whose research focuses on adopted families, “Adopted individuals are not confused by contact with their birth parents. They benefit from the increased understanding that their birth parents gave them life but their ‘forever families’ take care of and nurture them.”

The Angulo family maintained open communication with their children’s biological parents, but also allowed Tessa and Tori to make their own decision with meeting them. “I wanted our kids to know their birth parents. What a huge hole in your life if you had no information. I know Tessa has never met her birth parents, but she got all of their information, she’s gotten letters from them, she knows of them, where they are, what they do, what they look like…I think that’s important,” Teresa said.

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Tessa and Teresa

Teresa said she would constantly tell Tessa about her birth mother as a baby, and read her bedtime stories about adopted families. Tessa remembers knowing from a very early age that she was adopted, but despite the open communication throughout her life with her birth mother–she didn’t feel ready to meet her.

“I really didn’t think about being adopted too often unless it came up in conversation or I got a letter from my birth mother. I felt so comfortable with my family. They just never made me question anything. My mom and dad were super supportive,” Tessa said. “I see a lot of people not having a close relationship with their parents and it’s really sad to me. My mom and I have always been really really close. She’s my go to person and always has been,” Tessa said.

At 29, Tessa is now married and a mother to a two-year-old daughter named Ava. They live in Santa Barbara near her parents, who are active in their granddaughter’s life. To Ava, Teresa is known as Nan (short for Nana), the one that takes her to the library for story time, picks flowers with her, or helps her feed the koi fish in their small front pond. “I love being part of Ava’s life. I’m thankful Tessa is here. You connect with your child when they have a child of their own,” Teresa said.

Tessa says she is fascinated by discovering her own biological traits in her daughter. Whether making the same “hangry face” or getting a spell of the giggles. “Her mannerisms are similar. Certain faces she makes my mom says she looks just like me,” Tessa said.

Recently, Tessa discovered that her birth mom, Cindy, named one of her daughters Ava as well, a coincidence that immediately gave Tessa goosebumps. Cindy was just 16 years old when she had Tessa. A high school cheerleader, was dating a football player, Ernie, when she became pregnant. According to Teresa, he was never involved in the pregnancy or adoption process.

“I honestly can’t believe what my birth mother went through. When you are pregnant you have this bond with your baby and go through this whole pregnancy journey,” Tessa said.

“I think now that I’m older, I would totally would love to meet her. I think my mindset is different, and I can handle the situation better,” Tessa said. “I feel like I owe her. She did such a selfless thing. I would like to just hug her and tell her thank you.”