Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. Regardless, all opinions are my own.
Ever read a book that changes your life? Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go by Carrie O’Toole is a book that changed my perspective on adoption and foster care. The author, Carrie O’Toole mentioned this book on a Christian Facebook group. I checked it out and discovered she was a Liberty University graduate like myself. I requested a copy for review purposes, thinking it would be like most of the stories my foster mom told. This story was different as I think I am a lot like the author personality wise and I share in her initial infertility struggle.
The beginning of the book told her love story. Then Carrie explains her infertility battle. I can relate to that a lot, as I have eight years under my belt in regards to infertility. She spent thousands of dollars on treatments that failed. She had the longing many women of infertility face, just wanting to be a mom. She did experience one miscarriage. After her insurance money for fertility treatments was drained they ventured into adoption. The first adoption attempt was a domestic adoption that looked promising yet, went south. She was devastated. I cried along with her as she had another possibility of being a mom blown out of her hands.
Her story then begins to get happier as she does get to adopt a baby boy and take it home shortly after its’ birth. She is loving motherhood and then she becomes the old cliche. She gets pregnant with her daughter and delivers a beautiful baby girl. Life is good and she is loving being a mom. After the kids are a bit older they want an “instant” playmate brother or sister, so Carrie looks into international adoption. They decide on on Vietnam and begin the process.
At this point the story starts getting very sad and honestly for a few days after reading the book, made me scared regarding international adoption. The adoption agency didn’t like all her questions regarding the health and care of the children in Vietnam. The agency tried to make her feel like she wanted a mail order kid rather than just wanting to adopt a child that would be saved from the life over in Vietnam. After their, first traumatic visit meeting Sam their Vietnamese son who shows severe signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). She feels worry and asks the agency if maybe she can choose another child. If she wanted to do that she would have to start the long painful process all over again so she continues to make it work with Sam. She goes home and starts learning all she can about RAD so she can be more up to the task of raising Sam. RAD occurs when attachment between a young child and his or her primary caregiver does not occur or is interrupted due to grossly negligent care.
I like the realization she comes to about RAD.
I believe we all have Reactive Attachment Disorder to some degree. I go through phases where I’m stoic and just stare straight ahead and act like God isn’t there, I ignore Him, and just live my life as if He didn’t exist. When I get my energy back, I fight to have my own way again. I get angry at God and yell at HIm…Sometimes I just want Him to leave me alone. If life gets too hard, I scream, “Stop it, you’re hurting me!”
He continues to love me and hold me close. Finally, I break. I cuddle in close and start to talk to Him, hearing what he wants to say to me. He continues to love me, and finally I say, “I love you, Daddy.” Then I want to stay close to him.
As I trust Him more and more, I am able to take in the love He has offered me all long.
Once she brings Sam home, taking care of him and trying to love him proves to be more than Carrie or her family could handle. I can’t even imagine. Trying so hard to love a little one that wants no part of it. Trying to correct RAD behaviors that are so severe was so stressing to Carrie and many times she broke. I think though that her brokenness is what made her grow stronger in Christ as she tried reaching out to her family and church who could not help her as they had no clue. I felt so much emotion as the author describes her struggle to love on this little boy while she is also trying to maintain relationships with her other children and her husband. Daily life, family vacations, and even work are turned upside down by a little boy.
In the end, the struggle was too much. Almost a decade passes as she tries to love on Sam. Her physical and mental health, her marriage, and her relationship with her other kids were in turmoil, so they made the hardest decision ever. They gave Sam to another family. From what I learned from Carrie’s story is that the first mother figure to a RAD child is always perceived as an enemy. Sam got along fine with the new family. That is confusing to me, even though the author explains it rather well. I think my heart can’t understand it.
As a former foster child, who knew many other foster children of varying ages, I know RAD is not only for orphanages in foreign countries. It is such a sad situation. During my time at Liberty University, I did a few research papers on RAD and learned a lot. RAD breaks me heart. Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go is a book I highly recommend to any foster child, foster parent, adoptive parent, and potential adoptive parent. Carrie’s story lets you know you are not alone, you are not a failure if you need to relinquish your rights as a parent to a foster or adopted child. My foster mom, who I think is awesome, had several kids she couldn’t help in her home. She always passed them on to someone that could give that child what he needs for their best hope to make it in this complicated world.
Check out Carrie O’ Toole’s Website HERE.
Purchase Relinquished: When Love Means Letting Go on Amazon.