If adoption is a part of your life in any way: birth parent, adoptive parent, hopeful adoptive parent, adoption advocate or professional and would like your blog or website added to my list of links please email me your name and URL. adoptionfyi at gmail dot com

Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Review: Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother


Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff

Let me preface this review by giving a little background on my own place in the world of adoption. I am a mother. I have a son who is 19 months old. He was not adopted, and so I am in the somewhat unusual situation of being both a mother and a hopeful adoptive mother, but not yet both a mother and an adoptive mother. If you want to know more about how I became both a mother and a hopeful adoptive mother at the same time, you may read here.

I really wanted to like this book. When I saw the title, I hoped that inside it I would find someone who has walked where I am walking. I hoped that I would find treasures of comfort and hope and connection. Those gems were not written into this book. What I found instead was permission, permission to acknowledge any feelings about adoption that I have. I did not however, find joy. If you are searching for a book relating both the difficulties and joys of becoming and being an adoptive mother, this is not the book for you.

If you are struggling with accepting your role as an adoptive mother, if you worry that your thoughts and feelings are not normal, and if you find reassurance in knowing that someone else has thought and felt those same disconcerting things, then you may readily connect with Jana.

This book is a memoir of one woman’s unique adoption journey. She did not find it a pleasant journey. It was fearful and mournful and draining. In each chapter she writes about the most haunting questions and trials of adoption, rarely pausing to revel in the miracle and the joy. I found her account depressing and agitating. She reveals in her author’s note at the end of the book “I have come to understand that many of my feelings -- especially toward birth parents -- stemmed from my own insecurities.” (p 165) I felt her insecurity throughout the book.

My situation and Jana’s situation are very different and perhaps that is why her book did not speak to me. It may be that this is just what other adoptive mothers need to read (and I would love to hear from some of you if you decide to read it.) You see, I will never face mourning my own infertility. Yes, I have had moments of sadness over the fact that we will never experience pregnancy and birth again, but then, the first time was horrible, so those moments are short lived. No, I will never have to wonder if the strange and silly things my adopted children do are a result of some primal pain they are suffering from, I’ve seen those behaviors in my son and his playmates. (By-the-way, Jana if you ever read this, my toddler eats like that too- like he’s never been fed in his life.) True, I have not yet gone through the joy and agony of placement, but I am conscious of it and trying to prepare for it (as best you can for something of such magnitude.) I’m sure my naivety in this area serves me well for the time being.

For me, it isn’t helpful to dwell on the negative aspects of adoption. Yes, I fully understand that adoption is a miracle born of pain and sorrow. I respect that, but I would prefer to learn how to facilitate healing. Yes, it is true that in a perfect world adoption would not exist, but we don’t live in a perfect world and thoughts like that are not useful to me. And yes, there will always be people who will use yours and your children’s adoption background to try to hurt you and to hurt them, but we all have challenges to face and differences to come to terms with. Instead of retaining and remembering that pain, I prefer to celebrate our differences and help others to do the same. Again, perhaps my naivety blinds me, only time will tell.

So, while this book was not for me, those adoptive mothers and hopeful adoptive mothers who struggle with their own thoughts and feelings toward adoption may relate well to this book. However, it does little to offer help toward resolution of those feelings or to uplift those who read it.


  1. Very interesting. I loved this book and own it. For me, it was just what I needed to hear. It validated so much for me and made me feel normal when in my world of fertile women I often felt completely and totally abnormal. I would and have recommened this book to others who are pursuing adoption after infertility. I did not find it negative myself. I have adopted (hope to be able to again) after struggling with infertility and that adoption was what I call a fairytale adoption. Everything about it was perfect. It's been a few years since I have read this book and now you have me curious to see if my own perspective has changed.

    Great blog! I found your blog through Desha's adoption facebook group.


  2. Linda,

    Thanks for visiting and thanks for taking time comment. I really appreciate hearing other point-of-views.

    May I add your blog to my list of adoptive parents and hoping to adopt?