Julie's Genealogy & History Hub

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Book Review – The Other Mother: A Woman’s Love for the Child She Gave Up for Adoption

Title:  The Other Mother: A Woman’s Love for the Child She Gave Up for Adoption

Author:  Carol Schaefer

Format:  Paperback, Kindle

Published: 1991; reprint, 2013

Synopsis:  (from Amazon) In 1965, Carol Schaefer was 19, a freshman in college and deeply in love. She was also pregnant. When her boyfriend’s family opposed their marrying, her parents sequestered her in a Catholic home for unwed mothers a state away, where she was isolated and where secrecy prevailed. She had only to give up her baby for her sin to be forgiven and then all would soon be forgotten she was told. The child, in turn, would be placed with a “good” family, instead of having his life ruined by the stigma of illegitimacy. Carol tried to find the strength to oppose this dogma but her shame had become too deep. “The first time I looked deep into my son’s eyes, I felt like a criminal. As I unwrapped his hospital blanket and took in the heady fragrance of a newborn, I feared the nurses or the sisters would come in and slap me for contaminating my own son.” Finding no way out, she signed the fateful papers leaving her son in the hands of strangers, but with a vow to her baby she would find him one day. For years, Carol struggled to forget and live the “normal” life promised, not understanding the consequences of the trauma she’d endured. On his eighteenth birthday, she set out to find him, although the law denied access to records. Her search became a spiritual quest to reclaim her own lost self, as she came to understand the emotional and psychological wounds she and other mothers like her had endured. Against all odds she succeeded in finding him and discovered that in many ways they had never really been apart. With her son’s encouragement and his adoptive mother’s cooperation, she tells their story.

My Rating: 

I have done some adoption research for a few people, which were all successful, and I am currently working on an adoption case using DNA.  I’ve contemplated if this is an area I’d like to specialize in, but I feel that I need to really understand all of the implications of conducting such research before I go any further down this path.  There are several books I want to read to gain more insight, but this one called to me, begging to be read first.  I’m glad it did.

While I have the skills and experience to find the people involved in adoption cases, I lack the emotional impact such discoveries can have on all parties.  I also lack to knowledge of the details of the adoption process at varying times in different places.  While the basics of the process are typically similar, the experiences of the birth mother/father/family are very different, depending mainly on a variety of circumstances.  And, of course, the stories are all different for the adoptee and the adoptive parents.  The author, a birth mother,shares not only her experience (along with that of the birth father and her own family), but other stories were interwoven, exposing the reader to a variety of situations and experiences, for not only the birth mother/father/family, but the adoptive family and the adoptee as well.

Again, the main focus of the book is the experience of the author, who found herself pregnant at the age of 19 in the 1960s.  She chronicles everything she went through, from the pregnancy, the circumstances that led to her living in a “home for unwed mothers,” the birth, letting go (or not), and how her decision impacted her life until she searched for her son beginning on his 18th birthday, and ultimately reunited with him.  It’s a powerful story and it provides so much insight for those who have never experienced such a situation.  For those who have been a party to an adoption, I’m guessing the book would provide additional insight, as well as a means to understand their own situation, probably in a therapeutic way.

The book is extremely well-written.  I found myself hanging on the author’s every word, sharing in her pain, and later, her joy.  I appreciate her inclusion of others’ stories, including those that she met at the “home for unwed mothers” and those she met through support groups.  You really get to see a variety of circumstances that led to adoption (both for the birth mother and the adoptive parent), reasons for searching (or not), and outcomes of the search.

I commend the author for telling her story.  I can’t wait to dive into the sequel, Searching…, which was released in 2014.


Purchase The Other Mother on Amazon: paperback or Kindle (free for Unlimited subscribers).

  • Jo Henn says:

    You definitely made me want to read it. I’ll be tracking it down. Thanks for the review.

    February 28, 2015 at 1:29 am
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      It really is a great book, and the follow-up, Searching, is also good (about halfway through and it’s hard to put it down).

      February 28, 2015 at 9:06 pm

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