Desperately Seeking Baby...Babies Found

My thoughts on raising twins and a singleton after infertility.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Book Club Time!

This month’s book club pick was The Mistress’s Daughter by A.M. Homes. Having not had any experience with adoption, it was a very interesting book to read. It was from an aspect of adoption that I don't hear very often. The words she used to express her feelings and to share this part of her life were wonderful. Thank you for writing this book - I can't imagine that it was easy.

And now onto the questions - I’m having a hard time writing good, coherent answers to these questions, so bear with me! I hope that my answers are o.k.!

1. Why do you think the author's biological father went through the DNA testing if he was still going to go along pretending she didn't exist? How did you react to that emotionally as the reader?

I’m not sure anyone can really answer that question other than the man himself. Part of me thinks it might be because of his wife, but there might have been something else there. As for my reaction, it was amazement. While I understand those who give up a child for adoption as something they think is in the child’s best interest, I don’t understand just cutting off all ties like that especially after he had spent some time with her. Of course, I don’t understand a lot of what people do to each other.

2. Genealogy -- the quest to learn more about her birth family's history -- forms a large part of the latter half of the book. On page 152, the author notes, "I remind myself that the quest to answer the question Who am I? is not unique to the adoptee." How much do you know about your own family history? Is it something that interests you? How has it influenced your decisions related to infertility treatment (if at all)?

A while back, my mother’s side of my family had a reunion and my mom put together a notebook showing who our ancestors are. She got some information, but I really wanted to find out more so I looked into it a bit further and a friend of mine is also helping with this. I just think it is so interesting knowing where your ancestors came from and how they got where they are and what their lives were like (as much as you can know on that last part). I’m a big fan of history so all of this is very interesting to me.
As far as whether it influenced my decisions to infertility treatments, I don’t think it has. My desire to have children was not to continue with any family line (though I certainly thought about how I’d like to give my parents more grandchildren or my nieces and nephews cousins on my side of the family); it was mainly about just my desire to be someone’s mom.

3. On page 150, the author says, "The desire to know oneself and one's history is not always equal to the pain the new information causes." Reading about her sometimes rocky relationship with her birth parents, I scribbled on a sticky note, "Be careful what you wish for." Whatever your views or background regarding adoption, how do you feel about disclosure in cases of adoptions that took place some years ago, when secrecy was the norm? How much openness would you personally be comfortable with in an adoption situation today?

Not having adopted or been adopted, I know I’m not the best person to answer this question. My mother-in-law is an adoptee and one of her daughters is adopted. My sister-in-law knows who her biological parents are, but my mother-in-law doesn’t. I do wonder if my mother-in-law ever had or has the desire to know who her biological parents are. Would she want her biological mother or father (if they are still alive) to come looking for her? I guess my desire to know would be so strong, but again, I’ve never been in this situation. If I had adopted a child, I would think I would want to have an open adoption so my child knows who her biological parents are and would know where they came from, but I know that I would be nervous about that openness just because I’d be afraid my child would find the biological parents better and wish the adoption had never happened. I’m sure that’s irrational thinking, but I know I would have that fear. And that may have been why my first research into adoption was international adoption where the chance of an open adoption is a lot slimmer than a domestic one.

4. Our community often speaks of the injustice of the homestudy process. From our parent-in-waiting eyes, is seems incredibly unfair that some can become parents at the drop of a trou, while infertiles to have to go through the judgments by a third party of their innermost selves to prove themselves worthy. Homes' book, however, shows not the parent perspective but the adopted child's. She talks about the effects of coming into her parents' home just months after their son died, about the burden she felt to heal her family. "I grew up doused in grief." She wonders (a few times) why an agency would give her parents an infant so soon after a child had died. Does reading from the adoptee perspective change your opinion on the homestudy process? Who is responsible for making sure hopeful parents are ready to parent a child borne to others? To what degree should hopeful parents be cleared of their grief, and who should determine this? How should it be determined? Should people stuck in grief NOT pass a homestudy? How should the desires of the hopeful parents be balanced with the rights and needs of the child?

This is so hard to answer. Of course, we shouldn’t just place a child into any home that expresses an interest in raising a child, but it just seems so unfair that so many couples are able to get pregnant at a drop of a hat and go on to abuse or neglect the child while others who can’t get pregnant have to go through so much to get into a position to be a parent. However, the homestudy process is definitely something that needs to be done in order to make sure that the best interests of the child are met. I just don’t know to set the criteria on what is a “good home” and what makes “good” parents. I certainly wouldn’t want the job of making that decision. I did wonder myself why her parents were given an infant so soon after the death of their child, but it would be hard to determine when a good time is to say, “o.k. they’ve grieved enough.” I just don’t even know how that would be determined – each person is so completely different. I wish I could think of a more thoughtful answer to this question, but my words are failing me today.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (with author participation!)



  • At 5:29 AM , Blogger loribeth said...

    Thanks for your answers! I wondered about the wife's influence too -- she didn't seem too thrilled by the whole thing when the author met her, although I guess that's understandable.

  • At 5:41 AM , Anonymous Ellen K. said...

    Good answers/review. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who is an adoptive mom (not after IF), and we discussed the hard question of adoption readiness after infertility grief and pregnancy loss. I do think something in the process of IF can strain the transition to adoptive parenting.

    I'll be coming back frequently to look at your twin pics and pick up some tips. ; )

  • At 12:06 PM , Blogger Deb said...

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I didn't get the reaction of the biological father either. I am sure that some of his actions were motivated by shame but I also think that there was more to his relationship with his wife that the author just didn't know about.

  • At 2:44 PM , Blogger Lori said...

    "I would be nervous about that openness just because I’d be afraid my child would find the biological parents better and wish the adoption had never happened."

    I thought this, too.

    But now I see that even bio kids (like me!) sometimes wish they had different parents.

    I think that, actually, open adoption takes away the mystery of the birthparent (whom the child can turn into Fantasy Mom) and makes it less alluring.

    But check with me in another 10 years. Right now I really don't know anything.

    Thanks for your thoughtful answers.

  • At 7:09 PM , Blogger The Town Criers said...

    I came to the same place with that third question--how does one know unless they have intimate access to the person's thoughts to know when they're ready?

  • At 9:08 PM , Blogger Alli said...

    I am on the wait list at the library for Water for Elephants!!

  • At 8:15 AM , Blogger JuliaS said...

    My thoughts when considering why AM was placed with the family so soon after the death of their son was much of the catalyst behind the question I submitted for the tour. This generation and those prior, were very big on the hush-hush, replace theory. Women who gave birth to stillborn babies were told to forget, get pregnant again right away - as if having another baby was a panacea to all their woes. I am not surprised that the timing was rather quick.


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