According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of a river “is a natural stream of water of usually considerable volume.” The river can carry different characteristics while flowing into a more extensive body of water. Some attributes of rivers are their V-shaped valleys, interlocking spurs, and river beds with large rocks and stones, gorges, fast-flowing rapids, and waterfalls. Depending on the characteristic of the river, there can be a flow of water that is calm or a flow that is rapid. The flow of a river is never consistent. The only thing that remains consistent with rivers is that they all empty into a more extensive body of water. This describes a perfect picture of life. We are carried along through life’s ebbs and flows, not knowing but understanding that we will get to where we belong. This was the thought that stayed with me while reading the memoir of Katherine Woods, River Children.
Woods shares her journey through life, ultimately not going as she planned. She marries, has two children, divorces, and finds love again, only to become pregnant and face the tough decision to place a child for adoption. While her life does not go as planned, she can find her sense of purpose and faith in God to carry her forward.
While I am an adoptive mother, I was able to look at Wood’s reflection on her story and find many times in my life that I’ve had my life not go as planned and that I’ve placed many dreams and hopes in the river waiting on them with faith.
Background of the Author
Katherine Woods is a mother and author from the midwest. By trade, she works as a Surgical Technician. A new empty-nester, she wanted to dive into writing after sharing her story with the adoption community. She enjoys spending most of her time outdoors and exploring new places. She shared that if she is not at work or in her kitchen cooking, she spends her time outdoors hiking, biking, and snowshoeing. Woods is a Christian and passionate about using her testimony to bring hope and encouragement to others. River Children is her first book.
Synopsis of River Children
River Children is the story of Wood’s journey through the different stages of being a mother. She shares how she met her then-husband, and they had two children. While she was married, her husband had a mental illness and would leave her alone with the children for several periods. Her husband struggled to navigate his mental illness and was not there for his wife and children. Woods makes the tough decision to leave her husband.
With the support of God and her church family, she works her way through adjusting as a single parent before she meets someone she thinks will be the person of her dreams. In this relationship, she finds herself pregnant and her fiance’ at the time has no desire to parent the child. Through a conversation with Woods, he shares his desire to place the child for adoption. While very open and transparent about placing the child for adoption, the couple works with an agency to find a family for the child.
Throughout the story, there are points of reflection in which the reader is invited to reflect with Woods. She brings her thoughts on the situation as an older and healed woman. It is as if she is reflecting on her life and sharing the lessons of life and herself that she learned through this period.
After placing her child for adoption and finding peace and strength in her faith, she uses her story to share with other people in the adoption circle to give her perspective as a birth parent. Eventually, she ends this because she wants to use the time to walk in healing herself.
Reason for the Title
The book of Exodus is one of my favorite books in the bible. There is drama, trauma, suspense, hope, and nuggets of truth for the reader. In the second chapter of Exodus, we find a mother named Jochebed in a desperate place. The first few verses of the second chapter share some of the story of Jochebed.
“…and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket[a] for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.” (Exodus 2: 2-4 (NIV))
Faith is one reason why many birth mothers decide to place their children for adoption. Just as Jochebed had faith and put her son, Moses, in the river, Woods said she was in the same place. She sent her child off to the “unknown, knowing that it was prayerfully done and that she cast her care about that to him.”
Fast-forward to thousands of years later, Woods is on a kayak in the river on a beautiful day; her peaceful thoughts are interrupted by a child crying. It bought back a memory of her daughter being upset and her guilt as a parent with her two children and placing another for adoption. She describes the nudges she had at the time to write her story. She was reminded how her story was not just to encourage people in the adoption community but was for any parent or anyone with a dream. She says, “I hope this book could be for any reader, not just those affected by the currents of adoption.”
Reflection: Filled with Hope
I will never forget the September day I learned we were matched with a little boy in South Africa. Being a lover of stories, my mind quickly wondered what his story was. As I sat down that September evening, I read through the pages of his referral and saw the information about his birth parent. There were so many questions. One central question was that I wondered if she thought that when she placed this sweet boy for adoption if he would end up thousands of miles away in the United States, outside of Washington, D.C.
I thought that Wood’s journey was not only an honest and transparent look into her experience as a birthmother but her reflection back on herself as a different person. For the reader, the person described in the story seems completely different from the person reflecting, when in reality, they are the same person. I was interested in how she was able to write her memoir in this format.
Woods explains, “my editor told me after I had sent my original manuscript to her, that only included my story, that my book was not quite yet ready for editing. She then posed questions that asked me, such as, what am I trying to accomplish through my story, and what was my purpose for writing it?” Woods further explains that “it wasn’t long into my thinking that I remembered several times during the process of writing my story that I remembered that I had internal promptings, to interject something throughout the story.” I thought that this was an excellent strategy for thought and reflection. In addition, Woods places her reflection in odd chapters of the story and leaves the even chapters to share her story. She said the reflections piece was a “spirit-led pull that brought these to paper”.
For Woods, she hopes her story can inspire others inside and outside the adoption community. “For any reader that has experienced pain, disappointment, and brokenness I hope that this book will transpire a hope and encouragement for healing”, says Woods.