Based on her thank you page, Elizabeth Swire Falker seemed to write a portion of the book at her local Starbucks. Therefore, it seemed a fitting place to curl up with her book and a white chocolate mocha and have a friend introduce me to the world of adoption. Because that's what it felt like reading the book. Like we scored those squashy armchairs in the back of the store (you know the ones I'm talking about--the ones by the towering shelves of extremely expensive espresso makers) and we were having a cup of coffee while we talked.
"Liz," I said to the book as I sat down. "Is it really pushy of me to ask you about your experience with adoption? I don't even know where to begin separating the myths of adoption from the reality of adoption."
"Sweetie," the book answered, "I totally don't mind talking about adopting David--you're not being pushy at all. If anything I know can help you on your journey, you're welcome to it."
Mixing personal experience with her background as a lawyer specializing in fertility and adoption related situations (donor egg/insemination, surrogacy, adoption), the book runs through choosing which type of adoption fits you best to caring for your child in a Beijing hotel room.
The book leans heavily on domestic adoption--not only is the section almost double the size of the international adoption section--but the majority of the appendixes in the back of the book focus on state laws concerning adoption. I chalked this up to the fact that there are (1) fewer coachable variables to deal with in international adoption vs. domestic adoption (one doesn't need the same type of coaching on speaking with agency contacts as they do on speaking with a birth mother), (2) only general information is presented because going into the fine details of what differentiates Guatemala's program from Ethiopia's program would take too much space, and (3) laws and details change at a faster rate for international adoption vs. domestical adoption (while state laws may change, the overall process remains mostly the same). That said, I wouldn't write off this book even if you have your heart set on international adoption because it still contains an enormous amount of information concerning transnational adoption.
I went into the book feeling fairly set on the idea that if we choose adoption, it would be international adoption. For a long time, we had been interested in China, believing that particular program and the logistics of adopting from China fit our life. I could envision that child as part of our family. China's adoption policy changed during the time that I read this book and I have to admit, Falker's information started me down a path to examining domestic adoption--specifically an older child adoption.
Based on what I had read and heard up until this point, I believed domestic adoption was more expensive (it's not). I had misinformation on the structure of open adoption. I didn't truly understand the logistics of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit or how it could make adoption more "do-able" financially. Falker's book disspelled many of the myths that were bouncing around inside my head.
The MFA in me liked the fact that Falker clearly has chosen an audience and writes to that audience. This book is not for someone who is already deep on the path to adoption. Not that they couldn't read it, but too much of the information is there for making choices. For discovering which path is best for building your family. This book is not for birthmothers. While Falker is certainly sensitive to birthmothers (and I love her advice on p. 125 on asking the birthmother about herself--establishing that "you genuinely care about her, not just her baby." I think too many times we treat pregnant women like walking uteruses), the book can't be everything for every person. Falker has chosen adoptive mothers as her audience and the book is aimed solely at them.
To be honest, I think that striking any sort of balance is hard to navigate because adoption (just like all emotional experiences) tends to bring out passionate responses. It's an emotional, hot-button topic and I think it's impossible to create a single book that will speak to all parties. She is in her element when she is discussing aspects of adoption that are part of her adoption experience--for instance, breastfeeding (again, a hot-button topic. Those who are pro-breastfeeding are going to be happy it's included. Those who are against the idea of breastfeeding are going to be upset that it's included. Those who are extremely passionate about the idea are probably going to think she didn't include enough information. Those against it are going to be upset that there is any mention within the pages).
She touches upon topics such as post-adoption depression, but she doesn't delve deeply into these areas because, again, this book is aimed solely at people still making the decision. There are wonderful books out there about what comes next--post-adoption blues, speaking to your children about adoption, deciding to adopt again--but Falker aims to focus intensely on the information one needs in order to make a sound decision regarding adoption.
The tight focus is beneficial because it creates a quick read--I finished the book in two sittings--and provides details on the same type of information (the kind you would need in order to make a decision or get on the path). I'm not sure if other readers are going to be bothered by that intense focus, but I appreciated it.
Returning to that scene in Starbucks, I imagine Liz (the book) setting down the drink she mentions in her thank you section that has a ridiculously long name as I repack my bookbag.
"Thank you so much," I tell her, "for giving me all of this information. It's such a good, broad stepping stone to jump from as I gather more details. I feel like I understand a little more about the logistics of adoption and you've given me a lot to think about in regards to my own journey. A last thank you though--I love how you included personal information about yourself. Admitting to your foibles just made me love your writing even more. No one is perfect and I think we sometimes become scared of what we believe others will consider our shortcomings in regards to the 'judgement' that comes with adoption. The homestudy. The choice of the birthmother. But you made me feel like perfection isn't the goal. I liked knowing that you were scared too. That you had your own fears when it came to the homestudy. It made me feel like I could get through it too."
"You're welcome," Liz the book said, giving me a hug as we both stand up. "Really, isn't that what the sisterhood is about? You have this information and you can choose to pass it along to others. I hope someone else is helped by whatever information I can pass along."
At least, that's what Liz the book said to me...