The not-so secret thoughts of an adoptive mother

Book Review: Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff

Jana Wolff adopted her son as an infant and writes about her experience in “Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother.” Jana attempts to be provocative, but in my opinion, many of her thoughts are actually widely accepted. Because much of the book focuses on Jana and her husband’s wait for a baby and their early years with a newborn/infant, this book may be a better resource for those who have experienced an infant adoption. However, I have a feeling that Jana’s revelations won’t be surprising, even for those parents. The last few chapters were the most useful to me, because they deal with her son’s preschool years.

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of biology, and Jana expresses this same sentiment very well. She writes, “Like it or not, I know where I came from. I never thought of that knowledge as a privilege until I realized that my son doesn’t have it … My son has the right to know that he matches someone too … Every child, every person, has the right to know where she came from and how she came to be.”

I really related to the section where she described her son’s behavior and her struggle with how to handle it. She explains, “Our two-year-old is acting like a monster. He can’t get two Legos to fit together, so he spills the whole bucket and kicks all of the pieces in every direction.  ‘You must feel frustrated.’ I say, trying to do the damn ‘right’ thing by identifying his emotion. I bring him the juice he has asked for, but it’s in a cup instead of one of those juice boxes; he screams in anger and swipes the table violently … There comes a time when a mother doesn’t give a shit about the development rationale for such behavior and just feels what it’s like to be impotent, guilty, and confused. I can hear it now: ‘You’re  his closest love object … He feels safe in letting go with you.’ Oh, great … If our son is acting out now, what are we in for when he realizes what’s really happened to him.”

Overall, “Secret Thoughts” has a few relatable moments, but readers who are looking for new insight, should try a different book.


6 thoughts on “The not-so secret thoughts of an adoptive mother

    1. I think the author was saying that she wasn’t sure what the reason was – it could have been adoption-related or something else. Personally, I’m not really sure why he acted like that. There are so many factors that make us who we are, it’s really impossible to tell. What’s your opinion?

  1. Hi Shannon,

    Jana Wolff here, author of Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother.

    In response to the question Campbell raised, the issue for me was not pinning a particular behavior of my son to adoption, but describing the extra layers of thought that adoptive moms tend to go through as new parents: Am I a good enough mom? Will my child be OK? Do bio parents feel as clueless as I sometimes do?

    There are lots of reasons kids act out; most have nothing to do with adoption.Still, it’s pretty common for adoption to flash through an adoptive parent’s mind … even after our sons and daughter’s grow up.

    Ari is now 20 (and absolutely fine).

  2. Thanks Jana. That makes perfect sense. It’s my hope that a perfectly acceptable parenting philosophy or approach that an ap is taking would not be altered or affected by those flashes of adoption thoughts. I worry about people seeing problems where there aren’t any or resisting looking at themselves as parents because their kids are adopted, choosing to always think of the adoption being the root of an issue.

    Great that Ari is absolutely fine! Yayy : )

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