Jana answers questions from Adoption STAR Book Club (part 2 of 2)

“Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother” was chosen as the first selection of the Adoption STAR Book Club. Here are Jana’s answers to

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readers’ questions (part 2): Q: Has your son read this book? How was it introduced to him? Did he struggle with some of the things you shared in the book? JW: As I explained to Ari before he read it, the book is about me, not him; it’s about my insecurities before adoption and my growth after. Ari can understand that, before I met him, I worried about whether I could fall in love with a non-biological child. He also understands that I/we did fall in love; crazy in love. These are two truths. That duality gets repeated in an adopted person’s life. (For example, your birth parents loved you and gave you to another set of parents to bring you up.) It sounds contradictory and confusing for adopted kids but they get it. Having said that, there have been times over the years where I’ve wondered if any of the challenges Ari has had growing up had to do with what I wrote. (Mothers are so quick to blame themselves!) I actually texted

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my son Ari yesterday with this question and he said, “No I didn’t struggle with it; why do people keep asking?” Q: You went into great detail about filling out the race section of the adoption application. What advice would you give to prospective adoptive parents who are struggling with what they will or won’t accept

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match? JW: I think that some adopting parents answer what they think is “right,” and not what is right for them … and that’s a huge disservice to your future child. Transracial adoption requires a big stretch out of your comfort zone — and you’re the only one who knows if that stretch is within the realm of imaginable for you. I didn’t know anyone who had adopted transracially before we did. But I’d suggest you go hang out with some families that

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Jana answers questions from Adoption STAR Book Club (part 1 of 2)

“Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother” was chosen as the first selection of the Adoption STAR Book Club. Here are Jana’s answers to readers’ questions (part 1): Q: Do you still agree with everything that you wrote in the book? JW: Because it started as a diary, I wrote with brutal honesty—without the constraints of thinking that I had to be politically

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correct or act like an authority on adoption. I’m not sure whether it was naïveté or courage that allowed me to be so revealing … but it seemed to validate the feelings of many other adoptive parents. I do not agree with everything I wrote in the book (see next question), but I still think it accurately captures the anxiety and ambivalence that are commonly felt early on in the adoption process. Q: Was there any part of the book, such as your version of the birth mother letter, which you thought of leaving out? JW: That unsent version of the birth mother’s letter, which I wince at now, came from feeling utterly powerless and also indignant that we couldn’t have a family in the “normal” way. That letter—with its gross generalizations about birth mothers—is a much more scathing

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hope that the insensitivity I let readers see at the beginning of the book with the imagined letter is moderated by the dawning enlightenment I show once I’ve had the chance to get to know and like a real live birth mother (namely, my son’s). I’ve been slammed for that letter, but it underscored the strong ambivalence I felt at the time. Leaving it out would make me look better, but then I wouldn’t be sharing secret thoughts, I’d be sharing sugar-coated ones. Bottom line, I would not have allowed the book to be published without the blessing of my son’s birth mother, who felt it was a hard but important and honest story to tell. Read the rest of this entry

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Genetic Inheritance

The genes we’re born with are the genes we die with; but, in between, the relationship we have to

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our own DNA seems to change.

Most of us, long before adoption is on our radar, assume we’ll be able to make babies. Parents think about their children as a biological mashup of their genes.

When it becomes clear that we can’t conceive, adoption enters the scene … starting as a foreign, maybe even distasteful, concept: How could anyone else’s genes be as good as ours? The very genes we once took for granted now seem like prized possessions. Some would-be parents put such a high premium on their own genes, they choose not to adopt. Read the rest of this entry

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I Love You Phillip Morris (but my birth mom didn’t love me)

In the movie, “I Love You Phillip Morris,” Jim Carrey plays a con artist with an incurable crush on Ewan McGregor, whom he meets in prison. Far fetched as it seems—with cons that escalate from insurance fraud to embezzlement to faking AIDS—the movie is loosely based on a true story.

The adoption connection appears early on in a scene that shows Steven’s (Jim Carrey) birth mother rejecting him, suggesting that all of his problems emanate from there and give the man without an identity full license to be whomever he desires.

Where once I might have felt offended by the insinuation that adoption is to blame for bad behavior, this time I saw it as nothing more than a convenient device for the screenwriters. Over-the-top stereotypes of gays, cops, bankers, prisoners, Southerners, etc., make the film an equal opportunity offender

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But I think the real reason that the adoption reference didn’t sting like it used to is that, when you’ve been an adoptive family for nearly 20 years, you don’t take things as personally or as seriously as you did when your

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better and from those who may actually feel threatened themselves by some aspect of adoption.

Members of adoptive and birth families mellow over the years; we pick our battles when the offense is worth the fight.


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On not following in our footsteps

Check out this article in the New York Times called, “A Father’s Acceptance: His Son Won’t Follow His Ivy Footsteps.”

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What rings true to me is that we can’t live through our kids. It’s OK to spend years as parents enriching our children, but it’s not OK to have particular expectations for them. I’m working on getting OK with that.

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adoptive dad. Perhaps the editor felt that the article would resonate with a wider audience if the author didn’t point out that his son was adopted. Read the rest of this entry

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Kids handling questions about adoption: Let’s get real

Granted, it’s been a long time since my child was in first grade and was asked by his classmates about being adopted. But I still know what real kids sound like; and they don’t answer questions like kids are advised to in a recent magazine article entitled, “Adoption and

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Schools.” Not even close.


Q: Where are you from?

Magazine A: “Are you asking where I was born or where I live?”

Real Kid A: “Here.”


Q: “Is that your real mom?

Magazine A: “Do you mean my birthmother? I don’t live with my birthmother.”

Real Kid A: “Yeah.”


Q: “Why

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Magazine A: “Are you asking why I was placed for adoption?” or “My birthmother couldn’t take care of any new child.”

Real Kid A: “I dunno. Let’s chase Sara.”


Q: “Is that your real sister? You look different.”

Magazine A: “We have different birthparents, but are part of the same family.”

Real Kid A: “Yup.”


It’s not that the recommended answers are wrong. The spirit of them—I’m proud of who I am; let me educate you because you obviously don’t get it; I’ll tell you some things but not everything—is right on. My son got the same advice 15 years ago. He could even parrot some of the answers, some of the time. Read the rest of this entry

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How have you evolved as an adoptive mother?

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tell our whole story to anyone who asked. I reminded myself that my son’s birthmother chose us to be his parents; even if I wasn’t always confident, she had been. I dropped the mantle of ADOPTIVE mom to feel just like MOM … though with a transracial adoption, reminders of adoption are never far away. Read the rest of this entry

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Nature/Nurture/Nature

I love words.

Here’s one I just learned: Ultracrepidarian. It means having an opinion that goes beyond one’s actual knowledge. I doubt I’ll be able to remember the word or ever use it in a conversation, but it seems relevant as I embark on my first blog. I find that the more I know about adoption, the less of a know-it-all I become. Frankly, I have no idea how big a part adoption plays in shaping my son’s character, 19 years into the experience.

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On that infamous nature/nurture continuum, I’ve moved from presuming (as lots of new adoptive parents do) that nurture trumps nature, to concluding (as many experienced adoptive parents do) that nature is a more powerful influence. Read the rest of this entry

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