The Baby Wait
The Baby Wait is the story of a married couple who, having experienced years of infertility, decide to adopt a baby from China. Since I could relate to a good deal of this scenario, I was eager to read how Reese would address the many issues relating to adoption.
Sara Tennyson and her husband, Joe, have waited for a baby for a long, long time. Though she survived cancer, Sara’s fertility didn’t make it along with her. She went through infertility treatments unsuccessfully, and she and Joe endured the failed foster placement of a boy who was eventually returned to his mother. When the story opens, they are both pretty beaten down by their seemingly impossible struggle to make a family for themselves. Sara has hope that trying to adopt a baby from China will be successful. Joe goes along with the plan, but Sara wonders and secretly fears that his heart is no longer in it. Has the long baby wait killed his desire to be a father?
The book is written in the first-person point of view, so the reader isn’t privy to Joe’s private thoughts, only Sara’s. Readers looking for romance may be disappointed. Sara and Joe have long since settled into marriage, and romance is the last thing on their minds these days. The book also has no strong central conflict; it is mainly about the process of adopting and the myriad problems that crop up along the way for Sara. The tension between Sara and Joe is the most important of these, but the story also deals with paperwork revisions, pokey social workers, and several problem relatives. Sara dodges one difficulty after another, all the while praying for the referral of her little girl to come through.
Many people envision international adoption as a romantic thing, with parents and babies being brought together; time, space and suffering being vanquished in one fell swoop. In reality, it’s a frequently dull, frequently stressful process that is all about hurrying up so you can wait some more. Adoptive parents have to be both hopeful and careful. There are many pitfalls, and issues like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, infant attachment and bonding, and developmental delay are always worries. Reese deals with a number of these aspects accurately and well, but series romance is not really the format for a long discussion of serious medical and development problems in adopted children. Also, no mention is made of how Sara plans to deal with the difficulties of trans-racial adoption. Eventually her child will want to know about her heritage, will need to confront and make peace with how she is different from her parents and her community, and Sara seems barely interested in China or Chinese culture.
The book ends before the most interesting part of the story – Sara and her baby learning to know each other – begins. Instead a great deal of the novel deals with Sara’s problems with her mother and her sister-in-law, Cherie, both of whom are grossly immature and need parenting and caretaking from Sara and Joe. The conflict Sara has with her mother is essentially the same as that she has with Cherie, which means a vast number of pages are wasted on redundant conflict.
The Baby Wait frustrated me. In some ways, I want to recommend it because Reese does illuminate the international adoption experience in an accurate way, and there are a number of touching moments, some of which flashed me back to my own adoption. But so much page space is wasted on Sara’s Ma and on Cherie, not much of it interesting, and the book ends before the good stuff really begins. If you are curious about international adoption because someone you know adopted, this book would be a good place to start. But it’s far from the whole story.