I belong to a bunch of adoption support groups on Facebook and it’s not rare for discussions to arise about how to educate our children about adoption. At least once every couple of months, I can count on someone asking if there are any children’s books the group would recommend as tried-and-true nighttime stories to help their children ease into a better understanding of adoption.
A couple of months ago, “The Tummy Mummy” came up a few times as a household favorite. Though I am not personally in love with the terms “tummy mummy” or “tummy mommy” to describe a child’s first mother, I do understand how it resonates with some. I am always on the lookout for a great children’s adoption book, and have found the space to be pretty empty when it comes to stories I feel are actually broad enough, yet inclusive enough, to fulfill my child’s curiosity.
When I received “The Tummy Mummy,” I was excited to read it to my son, who’s about to turn 5. He is extremely bright and is very comfortable with his adoption story, and has an intense love for birth families, though his brain still has some trouble connecting all the dots. In the past, when I’ve read adoption books to him, I’ve found myself stumbling through the words, often changing some things as I read aloud. We have immense respect for our kids’ first families, and deal in concrete facts, because we have the luxury of doing that for the most part; their families are present in our lives, and we don’t have to be abstract as we discuss adoption.
That said, “The Tummy Mummy” is extremely abstract. There is a magical owl and a lake that exists between an expectant mother and a hopeful adoptive family that is distraught over their empty crib. As I read the story aloud to my son, I could almost hear the questions forming a queue in his brain, because the story differed so drastically from his own. We don’t deal much with abstract thoughts in adoption because there is already so much room for confusion, but he didn’t seem confused by the same elements that stumped me. I couldn’t understand the magical owl, but he just thought the owl was cute and didn’t get too hung up on the “why” of everything. He also made comments like, “She’s pretty” when he saw the birth mom, and said “Awww, they really wanted a baby” when we read the page about the hopeful adoptive parents. He connected the dots with what was happening pretty well. My favorite part was the Q & A we had when the book as over, and it sparked a great dialogue about how all adoptions look different.
Because our adoptions are so open, my son couldn’t understand why the birth mother watched her child grow up from across the lake. “Why don’t they just get together for lunch or something?” is what he asked at the end of the book, when the child was happy with the new family and the birth mother found comfort watching her child grow up from afar. “That birth mom is part of their family now, and that baby probably wants to see her, right?” is what followed. Then, “Why couldn’t that mom keep her baby if she loved it so much?” So, the best thing about this book to me was that it opened up some valuable dialogue with my son about everything from levels of openness to the intense love mothers feel, forever and always.
Depending on what your adoption looks like, this book might or might not be a good fit for you. Our adoptions are much more open than this, so the lack of cohesiveness between families didn’t resonate with us. I wish the birth mom had been welcomed as family, and that my child could see a story where the child’s family of origin was valued and included versus looking in from the outside.
My overall takeaway is that this book will be especially beneficial to those who have semi-open adoptions, as it shows how a birth mother can love from afar and can enjoy watching the child grow up without having a direct presence in the adoptive family’s life. Even for families who have children with closed adoptions, the concept of a birth mother’s love is clearly portrayed, along with the intense desire adoptive parents had to become parents. For families with more open adoptions, the biggest plus to this book was the opening of some discussion about how not all adoptions look the same.
You can find out more about The Tummy Mummy or order it here.