Adoption STAR Book Club: Born In Our Hearts

This month’s book club book was “Born In Our Hearts” by Filis Casey and Marisa Catalina Casey. The book compiles stories from birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees, attempting to share as many adoption experiences as possible.

The story that touched me the most was “The Intertwining of Lives: An Adoption Story of Memory, Journey and Acceptance” by Ann Cohen, Donna Severy Laffan and Debbi R. Swanstrom. Most of the short stories are no more then seven pages, however this story is 13 pages and shares the story of a birth mother (Donna) reuniting with her daughter (Debbi) and her daughters mother (Ann).

Donna begins the story by telling of her pregnancy at 19 years old in the 1960’s. Her parents shipped her away to have her child and make an adoption plan. She shares that at the hospital she dealt with rude nurses and was never given the opportunity to see her daughter, nor did any of her family members visit her in the hospital.

The story then shifts to Debbi, who writes about making “the toughest decision (she) ever made, and also the best decision (she) ever made,” by beginning the search for her birth mother. Debbi writes about how her parents had always been supportive of her searching for her birth mother, but she wasn’t ready until she turned 24. Debbi describes the process that she went through, as she wrote a letter to her adoption agency requesting background information in 1993, but “didn’t muster the courage to mail it until June 1994.” She received this background information in November of the same year but again waited eight months to make the next step of filling out the search application. Finally in November of 1995, the agency contacted Debbi that they found her birth mother.

The story then shifts back to Donna who talks about putting her life back together after she gave birth. She went back to college and married “a wonderful man,” who she was honest with about her adoption plan. Donna mentions that having children with her husband brought back many emotions and questions about Debbi. Finally 26 years after making an adoption plan, she said her brother received a call from the adoption agency looking for her. She wondered, “If she is looking for me, what does she want? Is she broke and in need of money? Is she a drug addict? Is she looking for something I can’t give or don’t have?” Finally she decided to make the call to the agency.

As Debbie and Donna were forming their relationship over the phone, Donna writes that she realized that she would finally have to tell her two children that they had a stepsister. Both of Donna’s children were teenagers at the time and Donna writes that they both accepted the situation and were excited have another sister.

Debbi picks up the story here and writes about her first visit with her birth mother. She was to fly into Boston and then jump on a connecting flight to Vermont, Donna’s home. However a huge snowstorm hit the east coast this weekend and Debbi writes that she thought she would be stranded in Boston.  After hearing this, Donna jumped in a car with her friend and drove through the storm to meet Debbi in Boston.

Debbi’s mother Ann also adds her perspective to the story, saying “We saw our relationship with our daughter as strong and enduring, and nothing could diminish our closeness.” She and her husband, Bob, encouraged Debbi to search for her birth parents to learn about her background and possibly learn more about her family’s medical history.

As I said, this story affected me because it was so heartwarming to see everyone involved in the adoption journey be so comfortable in their relationships and be open to all of these new relationships. In fact Ann and Bob even traveled with Debbi and her husband to Boston for a visit with Donna and her family.

I would encourage everyone involved in the adoption journey to read “Born In Our Hearts.” Because the stories are written from so many different perspectives, there is sure to be a story that you can relate to. If you have read the book, what are your thoughts? What story most affected you?