I happened upon a small (very small) stash of adoption-related books in the nonfiction section of the library a few weeks ago. Nonfiction is something I associated with school and never read leisurely until a few years ago (probably around the time I actually finished school), and so I'm relatively new to the genre. This little section of books was something I wanted to spend more time perusing, but with my two sweet littles anxious to get to the kid's corner of the library, I just grabbed the first books I saw that looked promising. (I'm not naive--I know there are plenty of anti-adoption books out there, and I wasn't interested in reading those now, so I did make sure to pick things that didn't look like huge downers. The subtitle of this book says "In Praise of Adoption," so it seemed like a safe choice.)
"Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other" was written by Scott Simon, who I'd never heard of before. Apparently he's pretty big on NPR, PBS, sometimes the BBC, and has written other books too, but this was my first introduction to him. Simon is the father of two little girls who he and his wife adopted from China. He shares experiences that led his wife and him to adopt, as well as the stories of when their daughters were placed in their arms. He also summarizes adoption stories from friends of his, I presume to give a more rounded view of adoption. There's a lot of love about this book. There's also a few things I didn't love, but first I'll share what I loved.
I can't deny that Simon is a pretty good writer. He has a strong voice that I could hear as I read this book. Despite not ever actually hearing it on the radio etc. I felt like I knew who was sharing their story with me. I love the first "chapter" (although there aren't actual chapters in the book, so to clarify, the first 10 pages). It hooked me quickly, with relatable descriptions of the awkward questions and comments that come with infertility as well as adoption, followed by the raw and sweet story of Simon and his wife traveling to China to pick up their first daughter, Elise. When she was brought into the room, their hurts surged with love. Baby Elise cried hysterically as she was placed in their arms. She peed through her clothes all over her new mother. After returning to their hotel room, Elise was still inconsolable. After a day or two, she warmed up to her new parents. As Simon puts it, their hearts were completely hers from the moment they saw her. They knew she was their daughter, and the love was strong and immediate on their part. At the same time, there were conflicting emotions--guilt being one of the dominant ones. It was all so relatable to me--the instant and strong love that's hard to explain, knowing you'd do whatever you could to make your new child happy, and at the same time worrying that what if you yourself aren't what's best for him or her? Over time these feelings disappeared for Simon, and in my own experience there were moments where I couldn't deny that I knew God had sent my kids to me (albeit in a less traditional way) and that despite my many imperfections, me being their mom was no mistake at all.
The thing I least liked about this book was that it was almost completely devoid of birth parent stories. While Simon expresses love and gratitude for birth parents, I felt like the vital role they play in adoption was downplayed and sometimes ignored. It was frustrating to see so many stories of closed adoptions being told, with little thought for the biological families and the possibility of opening relationships in these situations. As an adoptive mother, I certainly believe that my kids were meant to join Shaun's and my family. As the title declares, I know that we are meant for each other. But this does not mean that they weren't meant for their birth families as well. In open adoption, an adopted child is able to continue meaningful relationships with his or her biological roots; with the family that shares their DNA. It's a really awesome thing. I realize that this is not always possible in every adoption. However, there were only two or three paltry pages about open adoption in this entire book filled with stories from many people. I wish that the stories had been less sugarcoated, more well-rounded, and involved all sides of the adoption triad (adoptive AND birth families, as well as individuals who were adopted).
Overall this book was an enjoyable read. It was fluffy and mostly upbeat, though it felt very one-sided. I would recommend it to adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents, particularly those considering international adoption.