Canadian Council of Natural Mothers' Library

Adoption Healing

a path to recovery for mothers who lost children to adoption

by Joe Soll and Karen Wilson Buterbaugh

Joe Soll is an adoptee and a therapist who has worked extensively with adopted individuals and others involved in adoption. Karen Wilson Buterbaugh is a mother who lost her first daughter to adoption. She was reunited with her daughter in 1997.

This book draws together information from many sources and the authors' extensive experiences, both their own and those of people they have talked with and worked with in adoption. It follows the same plan as Joe Soll's earlier book for adoptees, also called Adoption Healing, but with the subtitle a path to recovery. In addition, there is a considerable amount of information in common between the two books. In the book for mothers, there is a real authenticity in honouring the voice and experiences of mothers who have lost children to adoption: Karen Wilson Buterbaugh has drawn deeply on her own experiences and those of the many mothers with whom she is in contact.

The book balances between the difficulties faced by mothers who have lost their children to adoption and methods to help them heal. Each chapter includes

brief statements of myths and corresponding facts about the chapter topic
an explanation
a summary
an exercise or visualization to help mothers heal
a sensitive response to how one might feel having read and thought through the chapter.

This structure allows one to quickly find the parts that are relevant, or to spiral through the topics for a more thorough understanding. There is more than a little repetition in the book, and this means that one can delve into it at many points, and still run into all the information that the authors consider essential. The appendices give information that some will have seen previously circulated among support groups on the Internet. Their inclusion here makes them a useful reference.

I personally would have chosen a different font to make for easier reading. Hopefully a second edition will correct this and some minor editing inconsistencies. On the other hand, the way that the chapters are broken into readable sections makes the book easy to read, even for mothers who will find its content brings up difficult emotions. There are many cautions expressed for finding good counseling or support groups to assist in healing.

The book is particularly useful to mothers, because it validates the pain of their experiences. The quotes from many sources give an excellent understanding that the information is not the sole opinion of the authors, but is shared by others as well. Statements are often expressed very strongly in the book, such as that mothers who have lost a child to adoption "were never not a mother." There will be people who object that none of us was a mother before our first pregnancy, of course, but clearly what is meant is that once we've given birth, we are always that child's mother. The strength of the statements in this book may help mothers to reclaim their identity as mothers, and to assert their own experiences in the face of a society that denies them.

For those adopted or those contemplating adoption of someone else's child, a sensitive reading of this book can help to have empathy for the trauma caused by separating mother and child. It is impossible for a sensitive person to read the book and not be affected by the pain of mothers who lose their children. The lists of myths about adoption loss and the actual facts should help others to understand why separating mothers and their children is so wrong.

Reviewer: Sandra Falconer Pace

(2003). Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press.

© The Canadian Council of Natural Mothers