Sunday, November 3, 2013

THE book review - Born From the Heart

I was sent an adoption themed children's book in exchange for a review on this blog.   I kindly let the publicist, who first contacted me, know my thoughts and drawbacks to the book. She replied that she understood my point of view and rather kindly asked me to not write a review.  Which makes me a little more uncomfortable.

I wonder how many others recipients of the book are not being honest about their feelings on the book, just because they are only interested in positive reviews. After doing a little google search, there are a couple of pages worth of bloggers that are singing the praises of the book; many that I know personally.  Which makes me a little nervous to write this, but after two weeks of thinking about it, I am awake an hour earlier on time change Sunday while the rest of my house is sleeping and writing big run-on sentences because I can't type my thoughts fast enough to think about proper sentence structure.

Without further ado, here is the book title, Born from the heart. The book was written by an adoptive mother, Berta Serrano, and was illustrated by her brother, Alfonso Serrano.   Berta is from Spain originally, but lives in NYC, with her husband and son.  Their son was adopted internationally from an orphanage at the age of 3.5.

My own photo of the book

While our adoption scenarios are inherently different (domestic infant adoptive mom compared to international adoption), I had a difficult time comprehending how some parts of this book explain adoption away.

The book starts out sweetly with a couple by the name of Rose and Charlie. "Rose" always knows that she wanted to be a mom and is dreaming of having a family of her own. I can relate to that.  This next part is the area where began to be uncomfortable.  Rose and her husband go to the doctor "to learn how they might get started".  The doctor then give them a magic recipe for how to become parents, complete with drawings of a doctor's examination:

  • 1 pound of love
  • 2 cups of enthusiasm
  • 11/2 tablespoons of patience
Then they go home "to give it their best try".  Complete with Rose standing on her head in awkward yoga poses and dances.   It goes on to tell how they prepared the magic recipe and the effect was almost instantaneous. "She felt something new beating in her chest". She then goes back to the doctor and goes through an MRI looking machine to discover indeed "I believe you are going to have a child. I can see something gleaming in your heart!"  Rose also has a big heart beating out of her chest in the illustrations.  

We haven't had the birds and the bees talk with my son at the ripe age of four yet, but this is definitely not how we will be having it with him.  In adoption, there is nothing I could do, physically, to create and carry my children.  I would never want to take that portion of the experience from their birth moms.  We happen to have a pretty amazing relationship with B's birth mom and I know not everyone has that.

Maybe you will never have any idea who your child's birth parents are so you can relate to wanting their origins to be only about your family.  Maybe there is pain in your child's back story.  Isn't there pain and heartache in every child who is placed for adoption?  There are hard parts to our children's stories, yes, and we will have to wait until age-appropriate times to share information.  But you need to understand that we will be sharing as much information as we know.  Why?  Because it is their story.  Sugarcoating, glossing over, concealing information will only make our children think that because there are secrets that somehow something is bad about them and they way they came to be or now exist.  
There are parts of this book that are endearing, like preparing a room for the baby and how "Rose dreamed of her baby every night.  She imagined a sweet little face and a loving smile. She couldn't wait to share hugs and giggles".  I can relate to that.  Then the story hops right back to how her clothes stopped fitting and how her heart continues to grow bigger.  They then received a call and they traveled overseas and that part again is pretty and relatable .

The next part is a little unbelievable.  When she greets her child for the first time, the illustration shows her laying on her back on the ground with her knees up and spread apart in a pseudo-birthing position. "This is how Rose's baby was born--from her heart".   THE END

In reading it again, I am still shocked at the way this book ended.

I have a few main points of discomfort with this book:

1. The adult focus of the writer.  I know, from watching her youtube video and reading her author's note, she had wonderful intentions and loves her son just as much as a mother that gives birth to a child. I see this as an emotional work of art for the author herself.  There are numerous ways of expressing to a child how they were loved and wanted.

2. The absence of the child's past, the birth family's part, in the creating of the child.  As painful as this may be for so many families, especially with foster care and abusive situations, I do not believe that we should give our children misinformation about sex. The book is a fantasy-type book and is written in fairytale language, but I think this could very well lead a child to believe that this is the way they are created.  That this is fact, not a magical work of fiction.

3. All of the above aside, the absence of the adoptive father's part in the "creation" of the child was concerning.

4. One other area that I always struggle with in adoption related children's books, not exclusive to this book, is that so many books want the children to know all the parents went through to become their parents.  Some books cover infertility, the waiting process, the praying process, etc.  While a small part of that is appropriate so the child knows that they were dreamed of and wanted, I think placing too much emphasis on this, can be attributed to a majority of "adoptee guilt and shame".  I do not want our emotional baggage in our path to parenthood and adoption to become any part of my son's baggage.

I want you to know that I had a difficult time writing this post.  It did not bring me joy to pick this book apart.  I wrote it because so many of you asked me to share more about my thoughts and I felt it was important to share. I didn't write this to start a war against a fellow adoptive mother. I hope for the best for her and her family. Maybe you will all take a minute to hear what an adoptee, Carissa Woodwyck, expresses about how we should listen to our children.  I believe she has a good heart, but sadly, missed the mark.

I would love to hear your thoughts, the good, the bad, the ugly, but I do ask that you are kind and considerate in your comments.

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