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One of my five adoption goals was to read Theo books about adoption. He still has only the foggiest grasp on what adoption means but all of the books I’ve read have been hits including I’m Adopted, The Family Book, and most recently, Jamie Lee Curtis’s Tell Me Again About The Night I was Born. Tell Me Again is a well-known adoption book for children published in 1996. You might think it’s popular due to Jamie Lee Curtis’s celebrity status but it holds its own as truly wonderful book.

The story is both funny and poignant, and impossible to get through with tearing up ((shakes fist!)). It features a little girl who asks her parents to tell her about the night she was born but the story is really about how they became a family. The little girl never tires of hearing how her parents were curled up like spoons when the phone rang in the middle of the night and they jumped on a plane to meet her at the hospital.

I always worry about adoption books that go from “We yearned for a child and then we went to the hospital / orphanage and then we became a family” with no mention of birthparents or what came before. I think even authors are afraid to mention their existence or worry that parents want to brush that one aside “for now.” But Curtis references her child’s birthmother and includes her and the birthdad in a family tree.

Birthparents are included in the family tree.

Quite a few pages had my voice cracking such as the ones where the parents hold hands through the hospital lobby where they “both got very quiet and felt very small.” I’ll never forget going to the hospital to meet Theo and his birthfamily. Mark and I  felt lost. We were sweating, carrying flowers and presents. Our hearts pounded. We were dazed.

Feeling quiet and small at the hospital.

I also loved the image of the newly minted parents in the airport carrying their daughter like a china doll glaring at anyone who sneezed. I remember loading Theo into his car seat terrified that we’d hit a traffic jam or get into an accident or that he’d poo or scream or need to be fed. I wanted a huge sign that said “STAY OUT OF OUR WAY! NEW BABY ONBOARD!”

Stay away! New baby!

The book also reminded me of our first night together where we moved a futon into the living room due the extreme heat while Theo took turns lying on me or Mark wide awake for most of the night. We felt clueless, exhausted and amazed.

The book’s illustrations by Laura Cornell are whimsical, child-like and funny. The hospital section shows a mother of octuplets being stalked by the paparazzi while the nervous adoptive parents to-be make their way up to meet their baby. The family home looks like a hurricane hit it after baby comes home with bottles, diapers and half-read parenting books all over the place.

Like most books on adoption, the story does not exactly reflect our story, which no book can, so when I read it, I insert bits about our own journey, and polish ideas in the telling for a book that will tell story of the Day We Met.

The day we met.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

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One of my summer adoption goals is to read more adoption-focussed books to Theo so I can introduce him to some basic language and concepts. I don’t expect him to really “get it” for some time but I want to lay the groundwork so we can build towards a general understanding.

My latest book I picked up is called “I’m Adopted” (by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M Kelly), and for reasons unknown to me, Theo loves this book and wants me to read it to him every night. The book contains photographs of adoptive families and children with accompanying text that explains and represents the most common adoption scenarios including same-sex parents, single parents, same-race adoptions, local and international adoptions and of course, multiracial families.

The authors explain adoption in a refreshingly straightforward, unromantic way. While many of the photos of adoptive families and children are full of joy and love, the author does not shy away from the sadness that accompanies adoption. Theo is moved by these photos and always asks “sad?”  The authors also tackle reasons a birthmother might place a baby for adoption and how a child might feel about his or her birthmother.

Admittedly, I cringed at some of the explanations (below) for why a birthmother would place a child for adoption including poverty and age. While I recognize that these are possible reasons, the actual reasons to placement are varied and complex and giving your child one reason such as “she was too poor,” opens up a huge can of worms including the obvious: Why can’t poor or young people keep their children?

The book also reference “Adoption Day,” as a day of celebration. I know that many families celebrate “Gotcha Day” but for me the day we met Theo was such an emotionally painful day, I don’t think I could ever celebrate it. I prefer to honour his birthday.

At the same time, in the realm of adoption where many agencies and parents still try to deny that their child came from someone else, it’s brave of the authors to include references to birthparents at all. And so I applaud them for that.

As with most adoption books, a family situation like ours is rarely if ever represented — an open adoption where the birthfather is actively involved and where the parents (us) are not the same race. This is not a failing so much as an observation. It’s impossible to cover all the permutations and combinations of adoption in a short children’s book!

I’m not sure why Theo loves this book so much. It may simply be the photos of the children. When I leaf through the book with him, I review the names of his friends who are adopted. Later, I’ll ask him “who is adopted?” and he’ll mention his friends and then he’ll start listing everyone else including mommy and daddy.

We have a long way to go but it’s a start!

What books do you read to your kids about adoption?

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