Wednesday, March 3, 2010
"Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother"
I finished "Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother" during my vacation and wanted to review it here. On Amazon, it has some quite polarized reviews. People seem to either love it or hate it. I loved it. Despite a few sentiments I COMPLETELY disagreed with. Some agencies are recommending it for pre-adoption study.
The opening premise:
"The process of adopting a child pushes your personal envelope as a woman, as a mother, and ultimately, as a human being. It takes more courage than you think you have, offers more self-knowledge than you think you want, and reassembles your characteristics into something familiar but changed. It took me a lot longer to become a mother than it did to adopt a baby."
That last sentence rings so true. All of it does really.
I went through this book highlighting passages that struck me as insightful, honest, or funny. Despite the seriousness of the topic, Wolff is able to handle some issues with humor. The second chapter is sub-titled "What If We Get A Dud?" and addresses the (I believe universal) fear that one won't like the looks/personality/spirit of the child referred to you. As she puts it: "Meeting your adoptive baby is like being set up on a blind date with someone who will consume your next eighteen years." Scary stuff. Terrifying.
Yet we do it. Some of us.
When I think about all the things that could have gone wrong, from the process and paperwork and country laws, to the child's health or personality... well, it's overwhelming. I must have been INSANE. What was I thinking??? That I could trust an agency to pick out a child across the world that would be a good fit for me and my family???? That's insane! They don't even pick according to temperament (like you might when adopting a pet)... it's just whoever is the right age and next in line. INSANE.
Then she writes a... strong?....horrible?.... honest? letter to her son's birth mother. It includes sentences like:"I know I should be really grateful to you, but I don't feel very grateful about having to beg a complete stranger for her baby when I really want my own." Woah. That I don't agree with. Adoption was my first choice though, I guess it wasn't her first choice and it shows throughout the book unfortunately. The letter continues: "If you don't feel qualified to be a parent yourself, how are you going to decide whether we are qualified? What kind of person would get herself knocked up by a guy who runs away when he hears the news? Haven't you heard of birth control? Of AIDS? Of abortion?... I don't want my kid to be someone's mistake." Yowzaa.... HARSH!
Some of her secret thoughts are more like wishes: "I..secretly wished to be treated with the kindness and special attention bestowed on many pregnant women."
I, too, wished for that. I remember being trounced by a particularly rule-abiding citizen on a online forum. I had written in a celebratory tone that I had used the "Expectant Mother" parking spot in a near empty parking lot in front of Babies 'R Us. She blasted me for that. I remember thinking: "She has no idea what this is like... because if she did, she would have a smidge of compassion and rejoice with me." That there are no physical signs that motherhood was around the corner. As Wolff puts it: "Motherhood was both imminent and elusive... It was very strange and disconcerting to be an instantaneous parent. I may have had a lot of emotional catching up to do, but I had no free time in which to do it." (And I'll add no free energy with which to do it, either.)
One sentence that struck me like a slap across the face was about how adoption "is no one's first choice". It was mine. I can see how if you are struggling with infertility, it might not be your first choice, but using words like "no one" 'never' "always" sets you up to be very wrong, and to offend people in the process. I get what she was saying, but it's not true. I know one adoptee at work, who is glad she was taken away fro her birth mother. it was an abusive situation. So she might also say that adoption was her first choice. There are too many different situations to make sweeping statements like that. but I'm not going to let one sentence put me off a whole book, so I kept reading and I'm glad I did.
The chapters are only a couple of pages and it's a quick read. Even so, there is plenty packed in there to keep you thinking, and learning. Each chapter had me gasping, thinking, laughing, or relating. I recommend the book.