What is it like for a high school student in the 1970’s to discover she is pregnant as a result of unprotected sex with her sweetheart who then hides the truth from her family and friends until it is too late to deny it? Compound that reality with a series of untruths in an effort to quell shame and protect others, including the father, until many years later? Add to it, her success in reconnecting 18 years later, with the daughter she gave up for adoption, only to discover that there isn’t always a nice, neat, fairy tale flower petal strewn path to reunion. Smythe opens the door to her heart and allows the reader to peek inside.
That is the storyline encapsulated in Kimberly Smythe’s fledgling book entitled: Letting Go Again: A Birth Mother’s Tale of Adoption, Reunion, Separation and Growth. Smythe introduces herself to the reader as the natural mother of a baby girl she refers to as ‘Kelcey’. She then shares that the more current PC title of ‘birth mother,’ by which she was later referred, felt like a demotion of sorts and way of distancing her from the intimacy of having carried this child for nine months, only to lose her while in a home for unwed mothers. As an adoptive mother and former foster parent, I appreciated hearing the perspective of a natural mother.
As a result of having been raised as an ‘army brat,’ Smythe was accustomed to moving often and never quite felt like she fit in, which is common among ‘third culture kids’. Throughout the book, she is honest about the deep desire to feel loved and accepted, which led to decisions that brought with them, pain and challenge, as well as overcoming resistance and finally revelation and reconciliation with her own lonely inner child.
One thing that became abundantly clear throughout the pages is that had Smythe felt more comfortable with speaking her truth, before Kelcey’s birth, after the adoption and following their meeting and on again-off again relationship, rather than tiptoeing around it and making assumptions about others’ feelings and perceptions, much of the pain she experienced might have been avoided. Hers was not an unusual journey for its time, nor were her behaviors unexpected given her mindset. She seems to have felt that not only were her actions shameful, but indeed, she, herself was as well.
Smythe spends much of her time with Kelcey as an adult, attempting to overcompensate for that belief. Blessedly, she seeks and finds supports, sets appropriate boundaries, and with great courage, steps away from the destructive patterns that threatened to pull her under.
Having spent much of her life in Hawaii, Smythe speaks with reverence about the Hawaiian concept of Hanai which refers to the idea that it is a privilege to take the child of another into one’s home and heart. She views the adoption of Kelcey by her new parents to be such an opportunity and as such, offers proceeds from the book to the Hanai Foundation 501c3 non-profit organization.
The Hanai Foundation’s Mission statement is: “To honor nurturers and their families by supporting people and organizations that focus on individual wellbeing.”
Smythe honors her relationships with her first child, the three who follow, her husband, siblings and parents, as well as all of the women who give birth and those who adopt these children, since they are all companions on her journey of love and loss.
Melanie Cutietta – Portland Book Review
Letting Go Again is an honest and real story depicting the emotional and physical consequences of giving a child up for adoption. Kim was only seventeen – a junior in high school – when she gave birth to her daughter. The self-perceived shame of her position in life led Kim to begin to distance herself from those most important to her.
The one seemingly simple decision to allow another to raise her child helps shape the rest of her life, coloring her relationship with every person with whom she comes into contact. Her life changes drastically when she decides to seek out her long-lost daughter. When the results of the meeting are not what she dreamed they would be, Kim’s true healing and self-exploration begins.
Throughout the story, Kimberly Smythe is direct in her honesty and is able to confess some large mistakes she made in her life. She represents a population of women – birth mothers – who are often silent about their personal plight, afraid of being judged too harshly in our society. Her bravery in telling her story – one filled with beauty, pain, love, and mistakes – allows readers, perhaps for the first time, to truly reflect on the journey of birth mothers.
Kimberly writes with true intent and purpose. Her story is important to hear and sometimes difficult to read. It shows that, sometimes, good intent is not enough to create a storybook ending. This short text covers the long span of an individual’s life, and because of this, there is never much detail about any particular point. This compounded with the fact that some of the people in this story wish to remain completely anonymous leads this story to have a slightly impersonal touch. However, Kimberly’s story is intriguing, and the genuine curiosity of the reader will surely make this an insightful and engaging reading experience.
Kimberly writes like one who has been able to deeply ponder the good and bad choices of her life. She is able to explain and contextualize difficult situations that allow readers who have not experienced similar experiences to feel empathy for all involved. She writes with the patience of a mother. She seemingly represents herself accurately in this book, conveying her acknowledgement of past misdeeds while also demonstrating the importance of forgiving yourself. Letting Go Again is a real and authentic tale that has the potential to start a conversation about tolerance toward a portion of our population whom we, perhaps, judge too harshly.
Diane Donavan – Midwest Books and California Book Watch
Letting Go Again: A Birth Mother’s Tale of Adoption, Reunion, Separation and Growth provides a birth mother’s story of how she gave up her baby daughter for adoption, only to face the new challenges of a reunion and a troubled relationship two decades later. It’s a fine recommendation for any reader of adoption stories looking for something different.
When teen Kimberly first gave up her daughter, her life changed. Her relationships with her parents, the child’s birth father, and her husband changed and when she reunited with her daughter, it wasn’t the happy ending so commonly depicted in the movies, but unleashed a storm of contention.
This moving story documents the efforts Kimberly went through to gain a relationship with the child she gave up, and how the years of separation lead to wounds and emotional damage that it seemed nothing could heal. Part of the struggles came in redefining a relationship that fluctuated between friendship, distant acquaintance, and a mother/child connection. Part of them accompanied the growth mother and daughter experienced both together and separately.
The result is an emotional roller coaster exploring a stormy mother/daughter relationship and the lasting effects of adoption and reunion from the eyes of the birth mother, and is recommended for any reader interested in adoption’s long-range impact on everyone involved.