Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Adoption Book Reviews Part I

When we were leaving the hospital in Buffalo from our HSG that, while not entirely clear, was clear enough to proceed with our next cycle, I showed my awesome doctor the book that was stashed in my purse. Yes, I stash books in my purse. A requirement for a purse before I will purchase it is that it be large enough to stow a paperback, if not a hardcover. A fashionista I am not, although some of those big fancypants bags could carry a veritable library of books. I like to have a book with me at all times. Who knows when you might have a moment where you are stuck and stagnant and could get some surprise reading time in? Especially when you are CONSTANTLY in a doctor's office? We had been talking about the upcoming cycle, and I felt it was important to let Dr. Fabulous know that we were also beginning to open the door on domestic infant adoption. That it wasn't some amorphous "someday, if we need to" situation anymore, but that we have reached that point where we feel so little hope in our medical path to parenthood that we need to start moving down a path that, while also very difficult for different reasons, feels far more full of hope than what we've been doing. We're not hopeLESS, per se. We just feel drained and a little disenchanted since every great "new thing" that comes down the medical pike just hasn't panned out for us for whatever dastardly reason.

So I felt it necessary to inform our doctor that I had switched my reading habits, and brought out one of the two adoption books I have read at this point. He kind of looked a little sad, possibly because he is really hoping to clinch this for us (or possibly because that's what we WANT to see), but also was very supportive -- "Yes, of course it makes sense to look into other options." I felt a little guilty, but that's all on me. Of course he wants to solve this puzzle. We're just running out of stamina to keep going down this well-worn path.

This post is titled "Part I" because the books I am going to share with you are two of what I suspect are many books about adoption that I will be reading over the next few months. I have a third sitting on my coffee table, but I needed a little break as parallel reading two very useful and informative books on adoption kind of saturated me for the moment. But, since I have been very disappointed and appalled at Barnes and Noble's lack of adoption books in physical stores, and the internet is fairly overwhelming, I thought it might be helpful to share the two books I ultimately bought and have felt are incredibly helpful to someone starting out on the decision-making process. The fact that I finished the two books so quickly was a sign to me that this is a pathway that I can become passionate about. My shelf next to my bed is full of infertility books, and when starting out on this insane journey I just consumed books that would share different perspectives and paths and experiences with infertility, whether global, highly personal, medically informational, and/or emotionally speaking. I'm finding the same categories apply to adoption books. These two are my personal favorites so far. These are my personal thoughts on the books, I'm sure you could find a zillion other reviews online, but these are mine, from the perspective of someone who wants information and wants to feel hope and is completely exhausted by medical infertility treatments but not yet resolved to let that path go. I hope they're helpful.

You Can Adopt: An AdoptiveFamilies Guide by Susan Caughman and Isolde Motley
This book appealed to me because it was written by staff members of Adoptive Families magazine, which held some clout for me. Also, the format was very appealing. It is broken into three parts: Part I is Thinking About Adopting; Part II is Working on Adoption; and Part III is Parenting Your Adopted Child. In addition, there were blue sidebars peppered throughout the book that featured real-person stories from AdoptiveFamilies readers on various parts of the adoption process, from deciding to adopt to parenting. They were honest, and real, and not always wholly complimentary to the person sharing--but I love knowing that other people have thoughts and worries that aren't necessarily PC but in sharing, reassure the reader that thinking this way (even briefly) is normal. Also, every chapter in every part featured full-length essays written by adoptive parents on their experiences with various stages of the adoption process. The book was informative, broken out into chunks that weren't overwhelming, and covered all possible adoption pathways. It covered international, domestic, and foster adoption. We are really only interested in domestic infant adoption, so I could skim some of the other pieces but also learn a bit about those other pathways. International Adoption is not among our choices because, quite frankly, we want to start parenting as early as possible and often, with international adoption, you are welcoming a toddler home. There are often country requirements as well that are more restrictive. There are travel considerations. It is not the path for us. Foster adoption is incredible and I so admire the people who follow this path. Given the loss we have sustained from infertility, I just don't think we have the ability to go this route that is rife with loss and potential loss. It would not go well. Reading about these other options was helpful in solidifying our decisions that domestic infant adoption is really the way we want to go. There were surprising things in the book -- I discovered that some people feel that when adopting domestically they should be able to specify a sex as a compensatory benefit to having gone through infertility. That was actually shocking to me, and while I think I can see where those people are coming from, it was bizarre to me. You don't get to pick any other way -- it just seemed like a prospect that hadn't ever entered our minds and was a little off-putting. To each their own though, although for us this was a little on the crazy-pants side. Other pieces were very reassuring -- stories of partners not quite in sync on the decision making process but who came together eventually; stories of nervous adoptive parents-to-be prepping the house for a homestudy ("Should I bake cookies or bread to make the house smell welcoming and domestic?" one woman wondered aloud to her husband); reassuring tales of initial fears that proved unfounded; sad stories of failed adoptions and losses but that ended in a successful adoption afterwards. It's not all Pollyanna, but it's not all doom and gloom, either. There are helpful exercises-- the homestudy chapter explains in detail what could be required (but that it varies by agency or state), but includes helpful questions for you and your partner to explore and discuss beforehand that will likely be included in the social worker's homestudy process. They recommend that you answer them separately and then compare notes, to see where you land before discussing, so that you can figure out where there may be conflicts or just pieces to discuss further about your families of origin, your parenting philosophy, your background, your thoughts on adoption and open adoption. That was a really helpful section, as the homestudy is, to be honest, incredibly intimidating. From where we stand in the process, anyway. I'm sure it will change. The book seems like one that will become a well-worn reference, and a book you could turn to for advice or reassurance during various points in the process. It is a nuts-to-bolts, comprehensive guide with a personal touch.

Secrets to Your Successful Domestic Adoption: Insider Advice to Create Your Forever Family Faster by Jennifer Joyce Pedley
This book appealed to me because the author is both a social worker who helps both birthmothers and adoptive families through the process, and is also a birthmother herself. She gives a very interesting and comprehensive perspective on the birthmother's view of adoption. As an adoption newbie, before getting any information, birthmothers seem a bit...scary. I repeat, this is from our uninformed viewpoint. This book was incredible for providing a dual perspective but always keeping birthmother/expectant mother thoughts on the process close to heart. I appreciated the author's honesty and her detailed information on all parts of the process, especially if you choose to go a more independent, attorney-driven, private route. It was a bit overwhelming at times, but it was also well-organized into five parts. I was incredibly nervous when I cracked the book open and saw that the first part is titled, "Second Choice/Second Best." I felt it was judgy, and I was about to be judged for not choosing adoption first, for wanting to experience pregnancy myself, for pouring energy and money into infertility treatments. I WAS SO WRONG. It was an incredible chapter grouping that brought me to tears, frequently. It was about how adoption is not the birthmother's first choice, either. That very few people grow up and are like, "I want to build my family through adoption!," but also very few people say, "I want to get pregnant at a time that is awful for me and place my baby for adoption!" She has a very eye-opening chart that shows the parallels between the birthmother's feelings and the adoptive mother's feelings -- there are a LOT! Examples: Both feel that their reproductive systems have betrayed them, but oppositely. Both are likely to be uncomfortable around pregnant people and newborns. Both have worries that their child will hate them. I found this book incredibly helpful for exploring my fears of open adoption (that have been broken up pretty significantly) and my picture of birthmothers. It was highly educational. I have to give a caveat, though. The author made me incredibly angry at the end, when she related a story that she thought was funny and yet was in incredibly poor taste. She talks about her son's adoptive parents, and that they had a very odd circumstance. Each were identical twins, and then their identical twins actually married each other, too. So they had identical DNA, and somehow their sibling/inlaws were able to conceive but they weren't. So they had bizarro children in the family that could really be their children in terms of looks and whatnot. Strange, right? And so far an okay story. But it goes horribly wrong when she jokingly says to Sybil, the adoptive mother, that she doesn't understand why she didn't just sleep with her brother-in-law, because no one would ever find out from DNA tests. Ha HA ha ha. And then she says the adoptive father, Ron, laughed a bit but that Sybil didn't seem to find it funny. NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. That's so not funny I can't even believe an editor approved putting that little anecdote in the final chapters. It made me so angry I was almost ready to write the whole book off, but it's such a small piece to what is otherwise a very helpful book from a perspective most adoption books aren't coming from, that I forgave her the anecdote transgression and continue to recommend the book. Just be warned that that piece is in there at the end of the book and it will probably make your blood boil if you are coming to adoption after any kind of infertility struggle.

Both books were incredibly helpful to making me feel far more comfortable and more informed about the adoption process. I am nowhere near done with research, as research is how I come to grips with situations I never thought I'd be in but yet must come to peace with, for they are my new reality. Infertility was definitely one of those experiences, and now the process of adoption is another one. There is much hope in the process though, because if we can survive IVF in its many iterations and come out all in one piece (if worn very, very thin in places), we can survive all the emotional trials that adoption holds. Because both books were clear-- this is not easy. You will end with a baby in your arms if you stick it out, and both were clear that you should expect at least one false start or mismatch. Both made me feel really, really confident that our agency is a good choice, as they are very adamant that birthmother counseling is key, and that is emphasized bigtime by the agency we've identified. I am confident that this could be a pathway that leads us to the family we've dreamed of, should our last efforts fail us as all the other cycles have, already. It's possible we could find success before we commit to the process, but it is so comforting to have this information at my fingertips, to feel more informed, to try to feel hope again in an unfamiliar process that is slowly materializing on our horizon.


  1. These books sound really helpful and informative. I'm still impressed that you're doing so much reading on this--but I never read anything but blogs to inform myself about ART. However, I think it's so interesting/unexplainable why one of two identical twin couples couldn't get pregnant. I always thought genetics played a large part in the explanation. The end of the story is horrifying, but the set up was very interesting. Of course I'm hoping that you won't need the adoption books and it will all have been an interesting intellectual exercise.

    1. Isn't that fascinating? I feel like this is another area for twin studies to see genetics vs environmental factors. Thanks for your thoughts--I like a combination of books and blogs, because books need to be vetted by an editor and publisher while blogs are not, although they can be endorsed by organizations, same as books. Lots of info and perspectives help me feel educated. Thanks for your hopes, we shall see!

  2. Get a Kindle app on your phone and you can have multiple book with you at all times!!
    I adopted two girls from China. Sometimes I think people over think it. It really isn't that hard, I don't care that I didn't give birth to them, I don't care that they don't look like us, they are two girls who God brought here for me!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Lydia, and congrats on your daughters! I am glad this decision wasn't that hard for you and went apparently very smoothly--I appreciate your perspective. Respectfully I also feel that everyone's decision making process is different and we all come to our decisions from different places, so thinking through all the options and learning about the process can be very helpful and empowering. There is hope in knowledge. I wish you the best with your beautiful family and the decisions that brought you together!

  3. Glad to hear you're feeling comforted and hopeful with the possibility of adoption. One way or another you will hold your baby/babies in your arms someday and it will be incredible. You will make an excellent mother!

  4. Thanks, Kelsey! I appreciate your thoughts, confidence that this will all work out, and ongoing encouragement so much. :-)