When we started our adoption journey over ten years ago, I read a lot of books. These books seemed to be divided into two types… the happily ever after variety and the scary, I-don’t-think-I-can-really-do-this variety. To read them it seemed that most adoptions were either rainbows and happy trees (after a brief transition period) or nightmares that went horribly, horribly wrong. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground. I also read a lot of books about attachment. That would be the child’s attachment to the parent. There wasn’t really anything I found that dealt with the adult’s attachment to the child. I didn’t understand this lack of coverage when I was preparing for our first adoption and thus thought I had all the bases covered. My own adoption fantasy went something along the lines of: my son will grieve and not want to attach to us right away, but we will be consistent, loving, and dutiful parents, starting as we mean to go on, and after a few months it will be as though our son has always been a part of our forever family.
Yes, go right ahead and laugh at my naiveté. I do. Usually.
What was missing in all that preparation I did was a balanced account of what the adoption experience looks like. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s easy with a rough start. Sometimes it’s hard and you wonder if you and your child will make it. I also needed someone to tell me that attachment had a lot more to do with me as the adult than with my child. I needed to be warned that I would have to grow and change as much as I was asking my child to. And through all this, I would want to have the promise of hope held out to me that while it seemed hard, it was worth it and doable. That’s a tall order for a book.
Yet this is exactly what I believe Mary Ostyn has accomplished with her just released new book, Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting. Mary is the mother of ten children, six of whom were adopted and she speaks from a wealth of experience. To read her book is like sitting down with a good friend and listening to her share what she’s learned over the years.
As everyone knows, no two adoptions are alike and this is certainly true for the personal stories Mary transparently shares. Some of her children blended into her family seamlessly, while others stretched Mary and her family in unexpected ways. Along with her personal story, she interweaves stories from other adoptive parents as well as the most recent brain science in regards to how trauma affects the brain and, consequently, behavior. It is personal as well as practical. The topics she covers range from choosing an adoption agency to sleeping and what to do when you’re at the end of your rope. While it would be great to give to a person who is thinking about adoption, it is also a great resource for all adoptive parents. Like Mary, I too have ten children with a wide range of ways and ages at which they joined my family, yet it was good to be reminded of some of the things I might have forgotten.
The most important thing that Mary brings to adoptive parents through her book is hope. Hope that if things are not going as you had hoped with your child, there is always the potential for change. There were some days with my son that I would cling to even the smallest shred of hope to get me through. A little hope goes a long, long way and I believe Mary offers a heaping dose of it. Through sharing her struggles with her newly adopted teenage daughters, we get front-row seats on the amazing power of sacrificial love. I think Mary would be the first to say that she does this imperfectly, but it is there nonetheless.
I highly recommend Forever Mom as a resource for a parent at any point along the adoption journey. It’s a good story, full of practical advice, and a lot of hope.
Now for the disclaimers. First, this book is written from a distinctly Christian point of view. Even if you are not Christian, the advice is sound, but be forewarned of the worldview ahead of time. Second, while I was given an advance review copy and I am briefly quoted in the book, the opinions stated are entirely my own.