Read an Excerpt
When a former client remarked to me after completing his adoption, 'You know, there is a book to be written here,' I thought, Yeah, that's an understatement! Although I kept my response to myself, my reaction was due mostly to the fact that I had already been writing about this subject, almost constantly in some way, shape, or form, for nearly twenty years. Beginning with my own journal that I kept during my pregnancy and days following my son's adoption process right up to that very week of receiving his comment, I had gotten into the habit of writing down my many thoughts and feelings about adoption before they flew out of my brain, never to be seen again! What I had was not even close to a book, but a mishmash of often-ineloquent hyperbole.
Narrowing down which things 'needed to be said' was in many ways much harder than saying them. I have tried to gather all the things that, over the years, have been so obvious to me, but were always huge aha moments for all the clients I've worked with. Being both a birthmother and a social worker has enabled me to have a unique view of the adoption process that few others can see. Having helped so many courageous women (and men) go through the adoption process, and having been there myself, has taught me that this process never ever becomes routine and can never be treated as such. Every seemingly insignificant action causes a wave of reaction that extends far beyond the people on the front lines.
As you read the book, you'll probably realize that there are some things related to this topic that I don't talk about very much. For one, I don't discuss birthfathers specifically. This isn't because I don't think they are valuable and that there isn't a great deal that should be said about birthfathers, but honestly, that is the exact reason I chose to not dissect that topic in detail. There is too much that needs to be said, and to cover birthfathers too briefly would only do them a disservice.
I use the word 'birthmother' or 'birthparent' interchangeably in this book but occasionally have felt the need to add 'birthfather' to the list as well. Please don't take this as meaning birthfathers are only important in those instances or shouldn't be included in every other mention; I just didn't feel I could tackle that subject and do it justice.
I also refer to the people who adopt children as 'prospective adoptive families,' 'adoptive families,' or sometimes just 'families.' Where I feel it is important to refer to women who are still pregnant as 'expectant mothers' because they are not yet 'birthmothers,' I did not feel the same strong pull to differentiate between people who had not yet adopted and those who had, I guess partially because writing 'prospective adoptive parents' every time I referred to you would have quickly become maddening (both to write and to read!). I apologize to anyone who finds this discriminatory, as this was certainly not my intention.
Every story in this book is true. Most names have been changed and some periphery details of stories have been altered to make them less recognizable when appropriate, but all the major themes and lessons learned come from actual experiences I've had while working in the field of adoption or from the people I know personally.
Research has now proven that both birth and adoptive families benefit from sharing information and maintaining a personal connection throughout an adopted child's life. Most people in the adoption community see this approach as a welcome change. Less secrecy and more openness is always good, if you ask me. It must have been a wise person who first said, 'We are only as sick as our secrets'! If the goal is for adoption to be a decision that birthmothers can be proud of, and adoptive families can be completely at ease with, then I think we are moving in the right direction.
I am confident the steps I've outlined here will help you adopt more quickly and with less anxiety. I have a unique and advantageous perspective because I approach every step with both my professional training and education (in order to 'know better'), as well as relying on my personal experience as a birthmother (which certainly helps me to 'do better'). I have spent as much time in the delivery room as I have in the courtroom. I've become a pro at building a great 'Dear Birthmother' letter, primarily after empathizing with hundreds of expectant mothers agonizing over who should raise their baby. My hope is that by sharing these insights, you too will not only experience the adoption process without the usual anxiety and fear, but also gain the confidence you need to be an intelligent ambassador of adoption for your child.
Please don't consider my book to be the complete resource on adoption by any means, but rather just one 'specialty store' among a long list of others that you should visit. I would love to tell you that my book is the one and only 'magic bullet' you'll need to adopt and raise the perfect adopted child, but that may be a little pompous, even for me! I have many amazing colleagues in this field who I respect and admire, and it would be ridiculous for me to say that their work isn't valuable too. Although, without my book, your adoption journey will absolutely lack the efficiency and understanding it could otherwise have. Through reading this, you will learn that laughing and crying, often at the same time, is not only normal in adoption, it is also expected! I do hope that this book will help you experience more of the joys and less of the tears along your journey, wherever that journey may lead.