April 10, 2007

"Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born"

"Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born" is one of the better known children's adoption books. It was written by actress Jamie Lee Curtis, an adoptive mother of two children (I believe through domestic adoption).

A little girl asks her parents to tell her once again about the night they became a family. It is clearly a story she delights to hear, and she knows every detail of her parents getting the phone call, journeying to the hospital, and lovingly bringing her home. There are many personal touches, from the mother singing the same lullaby her mother sang to her to the parents glaring at anyone who sneezes near the baby. The watercolor illustrations are full of whimsical details which reward parents reading through the book for the 163rd time. It's a sweet little book, and I can see why it is popular among adoptive families.

There is one page, however, which made me pause. The girl asks, "Tell me again how you couldn't grow a baby in your tummy, so another woman who was too young to take care of me was growing me and she would be my birth mother, and you would adopt me and be my parents." I haven't been able to put my finger on precisely why it doesn't sit right with me, but I think it has to do with the context:
  • Although they are in the hospital where, presumably, the child's first mom is recovering from childbirth, this is the only inclusion of her in the story. There is no mention of meeting her or interacting with her. The adoptive parents meet the baby in a nursery.
  • The illustration shows the girl's birth parents grafted on to her adoptive family tree, instead of showing that adopted children have two family trees.
  • The wording unintentionally makes a direct connection between the adoptive mom's infertility and the other mother's pregnancy. Drop the phrase about the first mom being young, and it's almost a description of gestational surrogacy.

It may just be me being nit-picky, but this brief mention of the girl's birth mother brings up more issues than it solves for me. It's not enough for me to put it on a "not recommended" list, but it wouldn't be my first choice of gifts for an adoptive family.

The age range is 4-8 years, although I think kids younger than 4 could enjoy it. The child and adoptive parents are all Caucasian.

(written by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperTrophy, 1996)


Anonymous said...

I ahve had the exact same thoughts aobut the sentence speaking about the birthmother--it makes it sound like SINCE I CAN'T have a baby, she had one FOR me...Otherwise, it took a good few months of reading it to my little one before I could do it without getting misty.

Heather said...

I'm glad I wasn't the only one with that thought. The rest of the book really is so sweet.

Anonymous said...

I love that this book conveys to my daughter that her adoption story is special and something to be excited about. However, I find the same language offensive as the other readers (about not being able to have a baby..another woman too young to take care of you..). At this point, I simply change the words when I read it to my daughter (she is only 4). I would probably do away with the book altogether when she is able to read on her own.

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