Book Review · parenting books

Book Review: Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother

Because we have been matched, my desire to research has kicked into overdrive. Two weeks ago I ordered four books; two are children’s books and two are for adoptive parents. I realize that not everyone may care for my opinions, but I have found such reviews on other blogs helpful, so I thought I’d pitch in my two cents worth!

I read “Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother” by Jana Wolff in a matter of hours. It is simply written – much like a series of journal or blog entries. Apparently this is the updated version, because in the world of transracial adoption, her first version was not entirely well received, according to another book I am reading. However, this updated version (in paperback) contains a prologue that addresses some of the concerns brought up in the earlier edition.

Mrs. Wolff really does lay out her secret thoughts: What if I don’t like the baby? How dark is too dark for a transracial child? Why am I not overwhelmed with joy? How do I manage the relationship with my child’s birth mother? What if the birth mother doesn’t like me? Where will I wait in the hospital?

In a series of short chapters, many of which start with questions, Mrs. Wolff honestly examines her life as the white (and Jewish) adoptive mother of an African-American son. She is unfliching in her honesty – something that I very much appreciate. I don’t want to hear things all wrapped up in a pretty bow; I want someone to be honest with me. Otherwise, when I have these similar secret thoughts, I wonder if deep down I’m a rotten person.

Perhaps my favorite chapter (for now, anyway) is the chapter on being pregnant – but not really. She titles this chapter “Expecting Without Pregnancy: Buy the crib, but hang on to the receipt.” Since that is the pool in which I am currently swimming, I found this chapter helpful and affirming. She talks about the joy of accumulating baby supplies and how that makes you feel expectant. But she also talks about not being pregnant in the eyes of the world, and how lonely and difficult that can be. She recounts a story of shopping for crib mattresses and the sales lady assumes she’s buying a gift. And at that point, how much education do you really want to do compared to how much you just want to get whatever baby item it is you are buying and escape to the safety of your own car-home-couch-nursery?

I can see that this book will be one I come back to over and over again. As I grow through these different stages of being an adoptive mother, I know that I can return to Mrs. Wolff’s book and find the chapter that will speak to me. My only wish is that she writes another one; this one stops shortly after her son turns three. What happened then? What is happening now? I think a sequel would be great!

All in all, I would highly recommend this book to any adoptive mother, and especially one who is involved in a transracial adoption. It’s funny, it’s real, it’s practical, and I guarantee you’ll find yourself somewhere among the pages.

Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother
Jana Wolff
Honolulu: Vista Communications, 1997, 2000

I bought mine from Borders – online!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother

  1. if you do a little poking around, you might be able to find some articles that she's written about her life after the book. I know I've read at least one article of hers in Adoptive Families magazine.


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