Monday, November 17, 2008

Lifebook: Birth Parent Pages

I've mentioned before that I'm a huge fan of lifebooks -- essentially a scrapbook that covers the time before your child joined your family, including birth and birth parents, reasons for leaving the birth family, caretakers, and joining the new family. I thought I'd share some of the pages from Zoe's lifebook (I'm a terrible mother -- Maya doesn't have one yet!).

I have to say that putting together Zoe's lifebook was one of the hardest writing projects/scrapbooks I've ever done -- the adoptive moms I scrapbooked with can attest to the fact that I was a grouchy witch the whole time I was working on it! It was hard because it really was my process of trying to explain as best I could in language Zoe as a child could understand all about her birth parents, the one child policy, her abandonment, orphanage care -- all the hard stuff!
Beth O'Malley's book and website were hugely helpful, as was Kids Like Me in China. The Beth O'Malley stuff has step-by-step advice for what to include in a lifebook, including sample language -- a great comfort! Kids Like Me in China, by Ying Ying Fry, a young adoptee, had great kid-appropriate language.

The page above starts out stating the obvious -- you were born. O'Malley advocates very direct language, and covering the basics. Don't leave it to chance that the child will figure out that her life began before she met her adoptive parents, tell her directly that she's just like other kids in that she was born! The page also talks a little about how babies are made -- but just the "it takes a man and a woman" part. I also say that Zoe grew in a special place inside her birth mother. And the birth father is introduced, too,
O'Malley cautions against using generic photos if you don't have any actual photos of the birth parents. Even life-like drawings of generic people can confuse kids -- the photos will get imprinted in their brains as "pictures of my birth parents" even if you say they're not. So that's why I used silhouettes.
Of course, you don't have to do any scrapbooky stuff in a lifebook, but I tried to put something graphic on each page just to keep Zoe's attention.
The next page reminds Zoe that we don't have any specific information about her birth parents, but that they gave Zoe her birthday, her looks and her talents. I embellished the page with little mirrors (that's what those six circles are), and Zoe likes to look into them when we get to this page and imagine what her birth parents might look like.
So there you go, the first installment of "Lifebooks: the Series!" If you have any specific questions or if there are particular parts you're interested in seeing, just let me know.


Joanne said...

I have been meaning to start Mia's lifebook (of course, YOU will be in it :) - this is very helpful info - thanks soooo much!

Lisa said...

Nice book, Malinda. Perhaps I should look into a second book with more information. Sydney and I did hers together and at the time she didn't really want to know much about her birth mom. You know, the old "eyes glaze over thing." I still don't know what to say, because so much is speculative. But you have given some good ideas. Which reminds me - we touched on this before, do any of you think that we just maybe (might) get some info on birth parents at some point? I see advances in DNA Testing in the upcoming decade as a possibility.... you'd need cooperation on the other birth parent's / birth country's side for that.