Saturday, November 05, 2005

Book Review - Adopting After Infertility

Part of our homestudy process is reading 3 adoption-related books each. I finished my first one yesterday. I thought I'd do a book review, especially since there are 1/2 a dozen other things I should be doing right now.

I purchased this book for obvious reasons. After 31 months of TTC I think we qualify for the title! I was really looking forward to a perspective on how to get past infertility and shift gears into the adoption process. I'm not sure I found what I was expecting in this book, but I learned some new things regardless.

The book is neatly broken down in to three sections: dealing with infertility, committing to adoption, and then adoption needs and issues (we all have needs and issues!) The first section of the book, called "The Challenge of Infertility," uses metaphor of a dragon representing infertility, and the prince and princess making a battle plan to defeat the dragon. The first thing Johnston suggests is to assess the losses that permanent infertility involves. These are the loss of:

a) Control over many aspects of life.
b) Individual genetic continuity linking past and future.
c) The joint conception of a child with one's life partner.
d) The physical satisfactions of pregnancy and birth.
e) The emotional gratifications of pregnancy and birth.
f) The opportunity to parent.

Think about these things. Especially if you have biological children (duh, we're all biological but you know what I mean!) and are struggling to understand what it means to be infertile/subfertile.

Johnston then gives "assignments" for the couple to complete individually and then meet to discuss the results. We did not follow this process exactly, but the main point was to be sure to communicate your feelings about this to each other. If you are a couple who likes a highly structured routine of decision making, this section of this book will be immensely helpful.

Parts of this book were quite dry, but there are also some very interesting observations. Topics include society's reactions to adoption, the entitlement process (bonding with your child and feeling a mutual sense of belonging), different methods of adoption like private, agency, and consultant, deciding on child's gender, race or special needs adoption, etc., getting through the homestudy (or parent preparation process), and the special issues that may come up as an adoptive family.

My favorite part of the book, and when I finally really got into it, was the 3rd section, "Adoption through a lifetime." Johnston states, "We are, and will always be, more like families built by birth than we are unlike them" (p. 206). There are obviously special issues that happen in an adoptive family, but this stuff happens in non-adoptive families, too. One of my favorites is the fear that, in adolescence, the child will say, "You're not my real mother!!" Guess what? This will likely happen. But, the truth is, this is the same thing as a child saying, "I hate you!" to his parents. Hey, that happens, too (did I do that, Mom?). My brother Kirk used to say, "I'm not going to invite you to my birthday party!" Children, in asserting their independence, will at one time or another wish their parents were not their parents.

Johnston states, "It is in these moments, common to all parents, that reaffirm that being parents is more important than becoming parents and cause the differences in adoptive parenting to recede to insignificance" (p. 270).

Pros for this book:

Includes Positive Adoption Language (making an adoption plan vs. "giving up child for adoption"; placing the child for adoption vs. putting the child up for adoption; parent preparation process vs. homestudy; biological parent vs. real parent or natural parent (ouch).
Touches thoroughly on deciding what type of child you will be able to parent, and then what to do after you've adopted.
Lots of anecdotes and personal stories from individuals. This breaks up the dry parts immensely.
Many references to other books, including ones for children, fiction, etc. and references to adoption magazines and support organizations.

Cons for this book:

This book was written in 1992, and adoption has changed a lot since then. In the past decade open adoption has become more prevalent. Buckner Adoption Agency only does open adoptions. In an open arrangement, the adoptive family and birth family share full disclosure of information - phone numbers, address, etc. This is not co-parenting! The adoptive parents are the parents. But, open adoption allows for everyone's emotional well-being. The most important person in adoption - the child - will not wonder, "Who do I look like?" The birthparents will never walk around the mall thinking, "Is that my child?" The adoptive parents will not agonize, "My child is sick. Is this an inherited disease? Does cancer run in their family?" Also, in the aforementioned scenario "You're not my real mother," you can then verify with the birthmother that she wouldn't allow what you said "No" to either. Sweet.

For me personally, the lack of a spiritual element to this book leaves me a little empty. I want to know what God has to say about adoption, and how scripture addresses these issues. I want to read about Joseph accepting Jesus as his own child, about Samuel, Hannah's beloved son, being raised by Eli, and Moses being adopted by Pharoah's daughter. I know I can find this information elsewhere, but for me spirituality is a huge part of adoption and this book was definitely about the nitty-gritty (what on earth does that mean?) of adoption. That's fine.

Lastly, this book was written at a time where it took several years to adopt a child. In Texas in 2005 the average waiting time is one year. This may or may not be true in other parts of the country. There were several times in this book that my heart started to race thinking about how many waiting couples there were in 1992 for babies, etc., and how long it might take. This is where I could have used some comforting references about God's timing! Just FYI, at Buckner they only accept 25 couples per year and typically are working with 20 birth families. Those odds do not look that bad.

So, check this book out from the library and just read the parts that are applicable and intereting to you. So far I don't really have any other books to compare it to, so I can't rank it in order of usefulness or anything.

This was fun. Oh, cr%p, now I have to do my work.

Johnston, P. (1992). Adopting after infertility. Indianapolis: Perspectives Press. ISBN: 0-944934-10-2

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