Book Review: Making Sense of Adoption by Lois Ruskai Melina

Lois Melina’s Making Sense of Adoption is unique in that it deals with questions asked not only by adoptees from traditional adoptions, but by children and young people conceived using assisted reproduction techniques such as egg or sperm donation or surrogacy. These persons also, whether a legal adoption proceeding took place or not, must deal with knowing that they either have genetic parents who are not the parents raising them, or that they were born to someone other than their birthmothers.

Melina, an adoptive parent of two, is the author of Raising Adopted Children and has been a frequent writer for adoption magazines and speaker on adoption issues for many years.

The strength of this book, relatively compact given its subject matter, is its sample questions, responses and dialogues. These help parents begin thinking about how they will address these issues with their children. Melina helps parents consider their own feelings about difficult issues, such as infertility and needing help to have children. She also considers adoptive parents’ and adoptees’ feelings about birthparent issues such as prostitution, abuse, and abandonment. Adoptive parents must come to grips with their own feelings about these issues in order to present them to their children in a way that is compassionate and free of shame.

One dialogue in the book is from a father whose daughter was conceived by donor insemination and says in essence, “We were sad that Daddy’s body wasn’t working right to make a baby, but glad that you could still come from Mommy and that I get to be your Dad.”

The book has plenty of material for adoptive parents in traditional adoptions, whether domestic, international, or through the foster care system. Examples of questions, responses and conversations are included for all of these types of adoption.

One dialogue has a parent using her experience of miscarriages to relate to her child’s contradictory feelings of wishing he hadn’t been separated from his birthparents, but knowing that would mean he wouldn’t have his beloved adoptive parents.

Another unique aspect of Melina’s book is that, although she strongly believes the current wisdom that children should be told from a very young age that they were adopted, she nevertheless includes a chapter on “How to Tell Now if You Haven’t Before”.

In my experience, reading how other families have talked about these issues, whether I agree with their responses or not, helps me to prepare for issues that come up in my own family. I appreciated the concrete suggestions in this book, as well as the window into experiences that are different from my own.

Please see these related blogs:

What is Artificial Insemination?

What To Expect: Artificial Insemination

Embryo Adoption

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About Pam Connell

Pam Connell is a mother of three by both birth and adoption. She has worked in education, child care, social services, ministry and journalism. She resides near Seattle with her husband Charles and their three children. Pam is currently primarily a Stay-at-Home-Mom to Patrick, age 8, who was born to her; Meg, age 6, and Regina, age 3, who are biological half-sisters adopted from Korea. She also teaches preschoolers twice a week and does some writing. Her activities include volunteer work at school, church, Cub Scouts and a local Birth to Three Early Intervention Program. Her hobbies include reading, writing, travel, camping, walking in the woods, swimming and scrapbooking. Pam is a graduate of Seattle University and Gonzaga University. Her fields of study included journalism, religious education/pastoral ministry, political science and management. She served as a writer and editor of the college weekly newspaper and has been Program Coordinator of a Family Resource Center and Family Literacy Program, Volunteer Coordinator at a church, Religion Teacher, Preschool Teacher, Youth Ministry Coordinator, Camp Counselor and Nanny. Pam is an avid reader and continuing student in the areas of education, child development, adoption and public policy. She is eager to share her experiences as a mother by birth and by international adoption, as a mother of three kids of different learning styles and personalities, as a mother of kids of different races, and most of all as a mom of three wonderful kids!

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