In the book “Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother” Jana Wolff bravely describes her journey of adopting an interracial infant. Jana describes her emotions, and “secret thoughts” that come up along the journey of finding out she would not be able to carry a child of her “own” to life with a three year-old African American/Hispanic/Caucasian Jewish boy being raised by Caucasian parents. This book is written in a reflective, brutally honest, very real tone that is humorous and serious at the same time.
The book consists of 26 short chapters, a prologue, epilogue and a note from the author all within 167 pages. Some of the topics that are discussed are:
- Infertility: The feelings and the reality of it on your life
- The Adoption Application Process: Being given the option to choose things such as health, gender, race etc. of your baby and how strange and guilt invoking that can be.
- Meeting the Birth Mom: Feelings of resentment and gratitude, how it feels like the biggest interview of your life.
- The Baby is Here: Feelings that are brought up in the adopting mom, feelings for the birth mom, the gravity of the situation that involves three, soon to be four people that hardly know each other, and your family’s reaction.
- Bonding: The fear in bonding with a baby that is not yours. The reality of the time it takes to bond.
- The Real Mother: Feeling like the “real mother,” but wondering where the “real mother,” the only other woman in the world that may love your baby as much as you do, is and what she is feeling.
- Family Roots and Racism: With an interracial baby, what kinds of thoughts are brought up by other family members, people on the street, and even you as parents? What types of racism exist around you that you thought was never really there, or would impact your life.
- Ongoing Emotions: Guilt for the birth mothers emotions and life, feeling like the “real mother,” dealing with “comments and questions” from people around you that are not as familiar with adoption, fear, security, love, anger for the birth mother and father.
Overall I think this book is a great book for women who are starting down the path of adoption. There were points were I thought that some of her emotions were a bit “negative.” I then quickly remembered how dark I have felt in previous stages of this process, and that in general, adoption is a scary thing, especially when just starting out. My fear with this is that others starting the process will only see the negativity, not finish the book, and halt the adoption process, which is a very beautiful and exciting journey, but one also filled with moments that Jana describes.
Jana wrote in her epilogue that she realized many of her emotions stemmed from her own insecurities and that she does not feel completely the same any longer. I think this is important to read before reading the book. Many of the scary, awful, shameful feelings felt in this process are not permanent feelings. They come, they are felt, they are grieved or they evolve, and they pass. This entire process is a lifelong journey, not a destination, and with that in mind, I think this book does an excellent job explaining real thoughts that women have during this very personal and emotional journey.
Some of my (adopting) friends have put this book down before they finished it because it was bringing up worries and fears they did not have. I think that it is very important to read the book to the end to see the journey and emotions come full circle. Not all of the feelings are going to relate to everyone, but many of the feelings are common. This book also is great for friends and family members to read who want insight on what their loved ones are dealing with so that they can be supportive during this process.
Much focus of this book is given to interracial adoptions. If you are considering an interracial adoption, or are in the process of one, I especially recommend reading the insight that comes from this book. I have not adopted an interracial child, so I cannot comment on how relatable her feelings and experiences are. I can say that her fears and thoughts seem like they would hit close to home for any person raising a child of a race and/or culture other than his or her own.
I borrowed this book from a friend and had to keep putting off reading it. I finally sat down one Sunday and read it cover-to-cover in less than three hours. As heavy as the topic is, it is written in a way that is easy to read and keeps the reader interested in turning the next page, quickly. I recommend this book with an even stronger recommendation to finish it, even if it seems undesirable to do so.
Have you read the book? I would love to hear your thoughts! This journey is such a unique one, it is interesting to hear how others feel about it, and also how they relate to what Jana has written.