November 07, 2008

Review: "Did My First Mother Love Me?"

"Did My First Mother Love Me?: A Story for an Adopted Child" is written as a letter from a first mom to her daughter.

When little Morgan asks her adoptive mother the book's titular question, her mom pulls out a well-read letter from Morgan's first mom. (The book implies they're in a semi-closed adoption.) In the letter, Morgan's first mom lovingly describes how she bonded with, thought about, and talked to Morgan during her pregnancy. She explains her decision to plan an adoption as a wish for a better life for Morgan, citing her desire for such things as a two-parent household, house with a yard, and a family who could provide love and attention.
For me, I wished to be the one to give you all these wonderful things. Sadly, I knew this one wish would not come true. My dearest child, to your parents I have given the precious gift of you. And in my heart I know all my wishes for you have now come true.
The love Morgan's first mom has for her daughter is apparent throughout. The book closes with Morgan secure in the knowledge that both her moms care for her and that each validates the love of the other.
Morgan smiled as she snuggled in her mom's arms. "I'm glad my first mother loves me too," she said.
The book's simple language will be easily understood by young children. I appreciated the change from the ubiquitous "birth mother" in adoption literature. Morgan's first mom is sometimes called "her other mother" and Morgan calls her "my first mother." (We do use "birth mom" in our home, but also other terms.) I also liked finding a book written from a first mom's point of view and by a real-life first mom.

Two things give me pause, however. First, the description of the adopted child as a gift from the first mother to the adoptive family makes me uncomfortable, and is one we try to avoid in our family. Second, the first mom's experience and reasons for placing are very specific and, in many ways, represent an idealized placement experience. It plays into the common assumption that being single and a little less financially secure than the adoptive family are sufficient reasons to place in and of themselves. Particularly in a situations in which little or nothing is known about a child's placement/abandonment or which are more complicated, this book may not be appropriate.

Even in our family's situation, in which we know quite a bit about the reasons for our childrens' placements, I'd hesitate to add this book to our library. If one of their first parents gave it to us, I might feel differently. But it feels presumptuous for me, as an adoptive parent, to frame placement in such a detailed, glossy way.

Ages 4-8. The illustrations are done in black and white, but the characters all appear Caucasian. There is a short guide for adoptive parents on "Talking with Your Child About Adoption" in the back of the book.

(written by Kathryn Ann Miller, illustrated by Jami Moffet, Morning Glory Press, 1994)


Andy said...

Thank you for the review. It's so hard to find adoption books that cover all the things that we need them too. This sounds like a good first step, with maybe some room for adlibing during the reading so that the story fits each family a bit better

Momo Fali said...

I think using "first mom" instead of "birth mom" is brilliant! It just sounds right.

I think you have the healthiest, most beautiful way of dealing with what can sometimes be a difficult situation. Your kids are very lucky to have you.

luna said...

thanks for the review and critique.

I've seen the word "gift" used a lot, often accompanied by gratitude. seems like "sacrifice" might be more appropriate. what language do you use?

SassyCupcakes said...

Thanks for the review, it's great. Not knowing how open our potential adoption could be makes me nervous about buying books like this that seem to put words into first mothers mouths. I'd hate for our child to pick up on something that wasn't true in their situation.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your discomfort about some of the language in the book. We have a fully open adoption, and I hope my daughter knows her birthmom loves her, but of course there are always questions as kids come to understand their story.

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