Posts Tagged ‘birth mother search’

30 Adoption Portraits essay

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

I’m thrilled that my essay is included in the sixth annual “30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days,” a November series that features posts by people who are adopted, birth parents, adoptive parents, waiting adoptive parents, and foster parents-turned-adoptive parents.

My first sentence: “The Guatemalan searcher I hired to find my daughter’s birth mother, Ana, told us to meet in Panajachel, the town guidebooks refer to as Gringotenango. ‘In the village where Ana lives, San Luis, they don’t see a lot of white people,’ the searcher explained, referring to me, the white adoptive mother. ‘Better to meet someplace else.’”

Thank you for reading!



Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

Feeling blessed on Mother’s Day and thinking of my children’s mothers in Guatemala. I’m happy we know both women, and are able to cultivate relationships that my children may (or may not) continue as adults. The way the relationships ultimately unfold will be my kids’ and their mothers’ decision to make, but I’m grateful the foundation has been laid.

Also: When my friend Jennifer Grant was asked by the editor of the spiritual website, Aleteia, to compile a list of five books about parenting, she suggested the list include a book about families formed by adoption. Thank you, Jennifer, thank you! (And for including Mamalita). Jennifer is a writer, speaker, and editor in the Chicago area. Among her many books, Jennifer authored a terrific one about her own adoption experience, Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter.

Happy Mother’s Day!


An adoptive mom who is adopted reviews Mamalita and writes about searching

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I encounter many people involved in adoption, but rarely do I meet an adoptive mother who is herself adopted. Meika Rouda writes from that unique perspective. Her review of Mamalita appeared this week on Here’s a short excerpt:

I usually don’t relate to adoption books because the narrators come off as whiny or like victims or the point of view is from some doctor or professor who studies adoption but has no first-hand experience. I rarely find someone I am rooting for. But I am happy to say Jessica’s book is of a different breed. The book is moving and smart and reads more like a thriller than a memoir.

Meika loved the book, and I’m grateful for the review. But I’m also posting the link because I enjoy Meika’s incredibly engaging writing style, and think you will, too.

Scroll through all of Meika’s postings for insight into her experience as an adoptive mom and adoptee. My favorite is dated May 31, 2011, where she discusses finding her birth mother through Google. As Meika writes, the process of searching for birth family has become simple, but the emotional impact of reunion remains.

I found my birthmom on Google the other day. It was not the first time I had Googled her but it was the first time anything came up. It was her wedding announcement published in a Pittsburgh paper 35 years ago, a few years after I had been born and given up for adoption.

The more I looked the more I discovered, including the names of her four children – my half siblings. So I Googled them and found their profiles on Facebook, their smiling faces posing with friends, their eyes the same as mine. I realized I could “friend” them and wondered what it would feel like to get an invitation from someone you don’t know but who looks like you. I was pretty sure I was a secret to them.


I had just exposed the majority of her life in one 10-minute Google binge. It was the first time in my life that she became a very real person with a job, a family, a home –and not some romantic character whose narrative I had composed in my mind. She became someone I could know.

Read the entire post to discover Meika’s response to her discovery. It may surprise you.


Mamalita reviewed on “Open Adoption Examiner”

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

To continue the recent theme of open adoption, here is a review of Mamalita on Lori Holden’s’s Open Adoption column. Guest reviewer Laura-Lynne Powell is a California journalist, and, like Lori and me, a mother through adoption. I’m grateful to both women for recognizing Mamalita and highlighting the subject of openness. Read an excerpt below:

As O’Dwyer’s heart opens to Guatemala and its people, she courageously faces the option of openness in foreign adoption. Guatemala is one of the rare countries that provides biographical information on birth parents, thus allowing for the possibility of contact.

In some of the most poignant passages of the book, O’Dwyer embarks on a second, equally dangerous journey, to connect to the very woman who brought her daughter into the world.

Mamalita is a suspenseful page-turner, a poetic tribute to all the tribulations that brought her daughter into her life, and an exploration on the impact of openness even in foreign adoption.

Continue reading on AdoptLit: Mamalita by Jessica O’Dwyer – National open adoption |


Adoptive Families magazine publishes “Mateo’s Family Tree”

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about an experience I had while in Mateo’s kindergarten classroom. The post resonated for many readers, who encouraged me to expand the short blog into a longer essay and submit it for publication. I did, and am delighted that Adoptive Families magazine accepted the piece. Click here to read Mateo’s Family Tree in the September issue.

The essay speaks to my belief that many children who are adopted need and crave information about themselves and their beginnings. And not only children. Adults do, too.

Here are the first three paragraphs, which I hope will entice you to read the whole thing:

Most days, my six-year-old son, Mateo, takes the bus to his suburban California kindergarten, but sometimes we drive, so we can read together in the classroom before school begins. I’ll chat with the other mothers on the playground as we watch our kids jump and run, their bodies radiating energy and happiness.

In a sea of mostly blond heads and peach arms and legs, Mateo’s black hair and light brown Latino skin stand out. I’m white, and so is my husband, but in our home, the contrast in color doesn’t seem so pronounced. It’s out here in the world, at school, even in diverse California, that Mateo and his sister say they often feel different.

On a recent morning, the excitement among the children was especially high. The teacher’s oldest daughter was pregnant, due to deliver any minute. I knew this because all week Mateo had been telling me, “Mrs. Spindler is about to become a grandma!” Our conversations on the subject provided me the opportunity to review the details of his family tree: He was born in another mommy’s tummy, in Guatemala, and my husband and I adopted him when he was six months old. And, according to the social worker’s report we received with his adoption file, Mateo’s birthmother lives with his biological grandma in a town three hours east of Guatemala City. But even that information is suspect. A few months ago, I hired a Guatemalan searcher to find Mateo’s birthmom. The lady who answered the door when the searcher knocked said no one lived there who had that name.



Monday, March 29th, 2010

I belong to several online adoption groups, and one of the topics most often discussed is contact with birth families. The collective wisdom among list members—at least those who post—is that contact with birth families is good, and the sooner contact is made, the better. This isn’t always possible. In Guatemala, for example, if a child was abandoned at an orphanage, information to identify and thus find a birth mother isn’t available. If a child was relinquished by his or her birth mother to an attorney, however, identifying information is available. With some effort, adoptive parents can access this information and conduct a “search” for their children’s birth mother, usually with the assistance of someone in-country. (Please note: Adoptions from Guatemala closed two years ago; these examples illustrate the system previously in place.)

Books have been written by people who have been adopted and gone on a quest to search for their biological roots. Some I have read are Lucky Girl: A Memoir by Mei-Ling Hopgood; The Mistress’s Daughter by A.M. Homes; Wuhu Diary: On Taking My Adopted Daughter Back to Her Hometown in China by Emily Prager; and China Ghosts: My Daughter’s Journey to America, My Passage to Fatherhood by Jeff Gammage. The first two are written by adoptees who make contact with their biological families; the third and fourth are written by adoptive parents with children from China who return there to discover what they can about their children’s heritage.

After reading each of these books, I felt renewed responsibility to my children to discover as much information about their birth families as I could. Not to do so would be to deprive them of a crucial part of their identity. I didn’t have that right. (more…)