Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Love Like No Other: Life Stories

A LOVE LIKE NO OTHER, STORIES FROM ADOPTIVE PARENTS is a collection of first-person essays, all penned by professional writers who are also adoptive parents, edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill Smolowe. It is a delicate but powerful blend… different flavors that come together to create a memorable portrait of modern adoption. Admirable in it’s diversity -- adoptive father, mothers, gay couples, lesbian couples, single mothers and divorced couples all weigh in -- and lack of sentimentality, the hardest truths prove to be the most captivating.

The book is divided up into themed chapters. I thought I'd take each theme as a jumping off point for a post.

In the first section, "Reflections on Birth Parents" offers the following essays:

SHE IS AMONG US by Christina Frank is a meditation on a birthmother from Vietnam, who, due to laws and customs, will never be known.

TO SEARCH OR NOT TO SEARCH by Pamela Kruger (one of the book's editors) details her decision and process of finding the first family of her child, adopted from Kazakhstan. The interesting thing about this essay is it ends with Pamela having found out the information, but refuses to tell her reader, insisting, "The rest of the story is for Annie, and only Annie, to know, when she is ready."

LIVING WITH A VERY OPEN ADOPTION by Dan Savage, was a favorite. It details a couple doing everything in their power to encourage an open adoption, but find the inclusion of the "first family", an alcoholic woman who is homeless by choice, increasingly troubling and painful. In an age of open adoptions and a feeling of responsibility to the child's sense of identity, it shows the lengths we may be asked to go to honor those commitments, in clear-eyed fashion. The other thing I love about it is that it is about a gay couple... but isn't about the fact that they are a gay couple.


TWO DAUGHTERS, TWO DESTINIES by Laura Shaine Cunningham portrays a mother of two girls… a daughter from Kazakhstan and a daughter from China facing a difficult crisis in developing "their stories". She laments the inequality between her daughters’ histories. She knows her daughter from Kazakhstan’s first family, while for her daughter from China, all she can offer is a street where she was found. Ironically, neither seem at all interested in their heritage. She is so worried about how they may feel about their cultural identity later in life that she practically forces a trip to their birth countries down their throat (when both are clearly more interested in going to the mall).

These essays, along with a confluence of other events, including posting on message boards and our own family discussion, has lead to a discussion of first families and what role they will play in our life and our child's life.


  • Is it presumptuous to search for your child?
  • What part of your child's story is okay to share with family, friends or the general public, and what part should be reserved for them?
  • How much information about or interaction with the first family is crucial to fostering a positive self-image?
  • What is the research on this issue?
  • How do adoptees cope with the "what could've been?" questions about their first family?
  • How adoptive families cope with being the "second" family, as a child's curiosity about their first family increases?
  • No matter how much you know, how are first families handled in lifebooks?


I'd be disingenuous to say I know the answers to ANY of these questions.

Who of you out there has asked the same questions and would you care to share your insights?

2 comments:

Homosexual Christmas tin soldier said...

Slip into the velvet glove
Parted lips so filled with love

French kissin' in the USA
French kissin' in the USA
Hey French kissin'

Jenna said...

# Is it presumptuous to search for your child?

I don't know if you're referring to the adoptive family searching for the child's first family or the first family searching for the child. Either way, each family is unique and has to understand the consequences of those actions and accept any fall-out.

# What part of your child's story is okay to share with family, friends or the general public, and what part should be reserved for them?

Very personal information, such as how the child was conceived, should be reserved for only those who "need" to know. Others are on a case by case basis.

# How much information about or interaction with the first family is crucial to fostering a positive self-image?

This will vary. Some families find it extremely crucial. Others think that the first family is useless. A happy medium can create a well-rounded child.

# What is the research on this issue?

The Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute just did a report on birth parents rights that shows that most parents who voluntarily place their children for adoption are positive role models. Another report by another agency was just released showing that most adolescent adoptees want more interaction with their birth families.

# How do adoptees cope with the "what could've been?" questions about their first family?

Hopefully they have a supportive adoptive family and a supportive birth family that can help them field those questions without worry of offending one side or the other.

# How adoptive families cope with being the "second" family, as a child's curiosity about their first family increases?

You have to be secure in your role as a parent. It's that simple.

# No matter how much you know, how are first families handled in lifebooks?

Again, I've seen it vary. Some families know absolutely nothing and include absolutely nothing. Some know everything and include everything. Some know everything and include what they find pertinent. It's a personal choice but all information should be at least kept for the child to view at a later date.