Carried in Our Hearts by Dr. Jane Aronson; published 2013 by Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
Topic: International Adoption
This is a collection of stories written by notable figures—actors, screenwriters, lawyers, musicians—who have two things in common: first, they adopted internationally; and second, they know Dr. Jane Aronson. Aronson is a well known pediatrician specializing in adoption medicine, meaning she helps adoptive parents understand the medical jargon they receive about their soon-to-be child and prepare for the possibility of disease/deformity/distress, and she helps children who have been adopted recover from neglect, malnutrition, and illnesses they received in an orphanage. In addition, Aronson and her partner have adopted internationally themselves, and they share their trials and joys in that journey.
The title “Carried in Our Hearts” comes from the oft-repeated saying that for adoptive parents, our children don’t grow in our tummies; they grow in our hearts.
As a future adoptive parent, of course I was interested in reading this book. I greatly appreciated it because it forced me to think about the reality that my child might come from a truly miserable place. I’m not even a parent yet, and I don’t like to think of my kids suffering, especially when I’m not there to comfort and love them. At the same time, hearing the stories of children who were condemned to certain diseases by doctors in their country making full recoveries when their parents fetch them is truly inspiring. Aronson often told parents not to be afraid to take the child they were referred because of a diagnosis—you never know what the true state of it is until you get there, and often the children recovered just fine.
These stories really run the gamut of parents who had wonderfully, miraculously easy adoptions to those who struggled through every inch of the paperwork pile and jumped through every hoop. Some stories also addressed an issue I personally worry about: attachment. What happens if my child and I just don’t like each other? What if we drive each other crazy? What if I don’t know what to say? How does an introvert like me cross the bridge from stranger to family? I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has these fears. And sometimes that happens, but it is possible to love each other despite attachment issues.
My favorite story is by author Melissa Fay Greene, who wrote about her teenage son adopted from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to whom happiness was such a foreign concept that the sound of his new sister laughing disturbed him greatly. Greene encouraged her son to do research on the topic of happiness for a school project, and it so impacted him that he decided to become a counselor and psychologist. Talk about inspiring.
If you are at all thinking about adopting internationally, you definitely should read this book. The stories are not only sweet and moving, but informative. I thought I already knew a lot about the adoption process, but after reading this book, I know more and am even more excited about meeting my son or daughter someday.