Posts Tagged ‘Melissa Fay Greene’

Adoption Today reviews Mamalita

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

A friend sent me an email saying “You must be tired of hearing this, but I loved Mamalita.”

I responded:  ”Are you kidding? Never!” Not because I wrote the book, but because I believe our story is so important to share. My hope is that it sheds light on the adoption process and what that feels like, at the same time it addresses the universal themes of  love, loss, and what defines a family. In my opinion, those themes are ones that matter.

In the February edition of Adoption Today, editor Richard Fischer gave Mamalita a terrific review. He concludes:

O’Dwyer writes with great clarity and conviction as she escorts the reader through this story of a mother’s love and compassion for her daughter Olivia, and the mother and culture of her daughter’s birth. She also reminds us that there are no slam-dunks in adoption, and positive outcomes are the result of positive actions and a “never quit” attitude in striving to reach our goals.

While writing the book, I considered giving it the title “Any Mother Would.” The reason is that during our process I observed so many other mothers (and fathers) as passionate about their children as I am. As parents, we continue to hang in there, doing our best. I’m thrilled and honored that Adoption Today reviewed my book, helping to spread the word to a wider audience. If you don’t know the magazine, consider subscribing. This month’s issue includes articles pertinent to the lives of many of us, including  “Facing Facebook” by Joyce Maguire Pavao; “Why Birthdays are Bittersweet,” by Amy Shore;  “Today’s Technology and Your Teenager,” by Carlee Bell; and “Sensory Attachment Activities for the Young Adopted Child,” by Lydia Foasco and Lucy Armistead.

On a related note: A reader pointed out that Melissa Fay Greene, whom I cited in the February 1 blog about the Good Housekeeping article,  is the author of  the award-winning book, There Is No Me Without You. I regret the oversight because There Is No Me Without You is one of my favorite books. It tells the story of Haregewoin Teferra, a middle-class Ethiopian widow who takes in and cares for hundreds of AIDS orphans. Melissa Fay Greene is herself the mother to nine children, one adopted from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia. Her next book will be published in April.

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Melissa Fay Greene article in February 2011 Good Housekeeping

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

This month’s February issue of Good Housekeeping includes an article by Melissa Fay Greene that left me almost gasping. Never before have I read an article in a mainstream publication that addresses so honestly the challenges faced by some adoptive families.  Greene wrote ”Love Medicine” in response to the case of the Russian boy who was “sent back” to Moscow by his overwhelmed adoptive mother, Torry Hansen.  In the article, Greene profiles two sets of adoptive parents whose children exhibited similar attachment issues and violence. But the adoptive parents in Greene’s article sought help and fought through to better outcomes. Their families remain intact.

Greene begins “Love Medicine” by explaining:

In the universal condemnation of [adoptive mother Torry] Hansen, one population remained mostly quiet. Adoptive and foster parents of neglected, abused, or traumatized children …

Greene goes on to say:

Adoption literature brims with upbeat slogans… Roughly two million adopted children living in American households prove there’s truth in those phrases. But “A Match Made in Heaven” fails to capture the commitment and resilience demanded of adoptive parents, and the courage traumatized children need to attach to new caregivers.

Here I will add that Guatemala was often held up as the gold standard of foster care, but those of us who adopted from Guatemala know that foster and orphanage situations varied widely. Greene writes:

For infants, there really are only two continents: the land of well-being, and the land of lack.

***

[W]hat if, on top of physical or neurological damage, love, kindess, and delight don’t envelop the baby? If she is fed from a bottle that is propped against the bars of a crib, or lies in soiled diapers for long hours; if no one burbles baby talk to her and no one rejoices when she rolls over and no one comes when she cries, the baby stops reaching out. As the infant withdraws and shuts down, her brain fails to develop key pathways, the elemental approaches to love. Love is a duet, not a solo.

Greene outlines ways in which the two adoptive families in “Love Medicine” coped. “Theraplay’ saved one family whose children from Ethiopia struggled. The other family, with a daughter from China, reached out to fellow adoptive parents and their own parenting abilities (the father is a mental health clinician). As the article stresses, there is hope for families who are struggling, and for parents who wonder if they can get through another day. Imagine what life is like for your child: new faces, new food, new smells, new clothes, new language. Even for children who haven’t suffered neglect, everything familiar has disappeared. As the families in Greene’s profile demonstrate, the key is love and commitment. Get help. Don’t give up.

Greene concludes:

[E]very year, a fraction of adoptive parents will be unnerved by a new child’s issues. Finding a way to love a traumatized child, and helping that child learn to love, takes years, say battle-weary parents. Those parents who survive and thrive often say that it was the hardest and most satisfying work of their lifetimes, and that it unlocked the door to their greatest treasures: their own beloved children.

In my opinion, this article should be required reading for every adoptive parent and every person who is considering adoption. But you’ll have to buy it on the newsstand; I couldn’t find a link on the Good Housekeeping website. Sorry~!

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