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Second-Chance Mother: A Memoir of Adoption, Loss and Reunion [Paperback]

Denise Roessle
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Jan 2012
When Denise Roessle became a mother at 45, her long-held dream came true. She felt as if she were 19 again, the age at which she got pregnant out of wedlock and relinquished her newborn son for adoption. Suddenly, he was back — this stranger she had given birth to — and he wasn’t just searching for his roots. Joshua was looking for a mom. Eager to embrace the second chance she had been granted, Denise leapt wholeheartedly into the role. “It’s a BIG boy,” she announced to her family and friends, setting free her twenty-six-year secret. But Joshua was not a boy. He was a grown man, with a history that fell far short of what she had envisioned for him when she’d been assured he would be “better off” without her. His adoptive parents had essentially given up on him at age thirteen, sending him away with only an eighth-grade education. He drifted through a series of institutions and group homes, and ultimately onto the New York City streets, where he fell into drugs and crime. When an early marriage failed, he and his young wife surrendered an infant and toddler to adoption. By the time Denise and her son reunited, he was in his second marriage to a teenaged runaway who was six months pregnant with their first child. Despite her disappointment and his obvious problems, Denise was determined to restore their severed bond and give him the unconditional love that had been lacking in her own childhood. At the same time, she struggled with her parents’ adverse reaction to her reunion and their refusal to acknowledge their grandson’s existence. The shameful event that they had worked so vigorously to bury was back to haunt them. They could not accept their daughter’s happiness at having found her lost child. Still reeling in the overwhelming mix of joy and grief, gratitude and guilt triggered by reunion with her son, Denise received a letter from an aunt she never knew existed. Aunt Mabel revealed some startling information about Denise’s mother, who had claimed to be an only child raised by a kindly couple after both her parents passed away. In truth, she was one of nine siblings tossed to the winds by their mother after the death of their father in 1929. As she got to know her new-found aunts, uncles and cousins, Denise became obsessed with understanding how her grandmother could desert her children and how her mother, who so clearly bore the scars of abandonment, could then force her own daughter to give up a child. A year into their reunion, after Josh’s wife left him with their ten-month-old daughter, the rage that he had initially denied surfaced. Denise went from feeling like a new mom to the frustrated parent of an out-of-control teenager. In the face of his angry outbursts and threats to cut her off, she remained intent on “fixing” him, believing that, in time, she could heal his wounds. Once more, she put her own pain aside and stood by him as he married twice more and fathered another child. Only when Josh and Denise reached an impasse in year five, did she recognize how emotionally shutdown she had been since relinquishing her son — and how she had let her fear of losing him again hold her hostage. In the silence of their estrangement, she began the hard work that ultimately allowed her to resolve her own issues, reclaim the young woman she had left behind after surrendering what turned out to be her only child, and make peace with the past. She found acceptance and forgiveness for her mother, her son, and ultimately herself.

Product details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Red Willow Publishing (9 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936539683
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936539680
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,302,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

When Denise Roessle became pregnant out of wedlock in 1969, she inadvertently joined the ranks of the million-plus young women who fell prey to the Baby Scoop Era — a time when relinquishing their newborns for adoption was the socially-accepted solution to erasing their sins and filling an increasing demand for adoptable infants. She was told to move on with her life, assured that she would forget and have other children she could keep. She finished college, married, and became a professional copywriter and graphic designer. But she never had more children. And she did not forget. After reuniting with her grown son in 1996, Denise began writing on this more personal topic. Her articles have appeared in national adoption magazines and newsletters, and she continues to be active in the post-adoption, adoption reform, and birthmother support arenas.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and honest book 21 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a warts and all book. If you like watching Long Lost Family and enjoy a warm fuzzy feeling when the people are re-united then this may not be the book for you!

This is the story of a mother forced to give up her child and then eventually re-united with her son after many years. It examines thoughts and feelings long buried and some of the hopes and aspirations that can be placed on each other after such a separation. It details how the writer came to review long buried feelings and ways of thinking that were continuing and affecting her new found relationship with her son.

Worth reading but be prepared for the long haul .... Some of it isn't easy reading at all but you will not be unmoved by this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and raw 14 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am fascinated by the nature versus nurture debate and accounts of adoption can help us understand this argument further. This was a fabulously told story of a young women 'forced' to give up her baby at 19. An action she bitterly regretted. She registered her details with an adoption agency and was delighted to get back in contact with her son. Far from the myth that adoption is always a 'better' option for the child, her son was one of the unfortunate adopted kids, he did not thrive with his adopted family and this resulted in him having many 'issues'.
After an initial honeymoon period the mother and son started to see each other as they really were. The mother wanted the 'all American boy' not someone who she perceived as a rough red neck, the son wanted his mother to accept him for the flawed man he was, and harboured secret resentments towards her. It really is a raw and honest book, and bravely moves away from the sanitized adoptions stories of happy reunions we hear. As for the nature/ nurture debate, I think one of the clashes between the mother and the son was they were so similar without realizing it, and that could have led to some of their problems, or maybe guilt and hurt are too strong and cannot be overcome by familial love alone.
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3.0 out of 5 stars True Story 11 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
True story of a Mother whose child was adopted at birth and found later in life. Quite a decent read, but not as compelling as I expected.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a compelling read 1 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Heartfelt and personal - held me to the end
I was completely absorbed in this moving and challenging story throughout
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  68 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about acceptance and families 30 Nov 2011
By Sandra Young - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Perhaps because Denise and I lost children to adoption during the same time period, the Baby Scoop Era, and both lost sons, her book resonated with, perhaps more so than any other adoption book I have ever read. So many of the experiences she describes are mirrored in my own life, and in my reunion.

While her experience with her son was fascinating, and she described so well the up/down, push/pull that is many women's experience of reunion, I was even more fascinated with her experience with her own mother and father. My parents are deceased and have been since years before my own reunion, and so many of the questions and feelings she describes are ever so similar to my own. I admit to ambivalence in my own feelings about my parents, and I found Denise's descriptions of her feelings were my own as well.

I admit that when I saw that she had written a book about her own reunion experience, I thought "Oh, Goody, another adoption book". However, I was wrong. This was a smart, insightful and well written memoir which I would heartily recommend for any mother who is reunited, thinking about reunion, struggling with reunion, or past reunion. I am sure that this was a painful book to write, and it was sometimes painful to read, but it was well worth it.

I would like to thank Denise for writing this excellent contribution to Adoption related literature. And, thank her for describing MY experience of loss and reunion so adeptly. Well done, Denise!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tangled Web of Adoption 29 Nov 2011
By Marilyn A. Pate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Now and then a book comes along that reaches deep into the reader's soul and opens the door to new perspectives on life. SECOND CHANCE MOTHER is one of those rare stories that will capture and change your life. The author, Denise Roessle, has woven an exquisite, seamless tapestry of love, regret, hope, rejection and finally acceptance of what was and is. Her blending of past and present is written smoothly and the transitions add to the power of the book. The adoption community is fortunate to have this new voice to help parents, children and friends sort out the tangled web that is adoption.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, with Unmatched Honesty 17 Dec 2011
By JoAnn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wow. This book is one you will long remember. Denise's account of loss, love and her continuing efforts toward redemption reads like a novel--except it's heartbreakingly real. You do not have to have given up a child, or adopted a child, or even be a mother to appreciate the power of this story. Well written and fast-paced, I found this book to be a compelling read. If you're reading on an e-reader, sample this book and I guarantee you will want to read all of it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, honest, well written story 16 Dec 2012
By Sophie Shopper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There aren't that many "birthmother" books out there. I've read a few this past year and just finished reading Denise's book last night. In fact I stayed up to 3 AM to finish it. This is not something I routinely do.

If you are in any way connected to adoption...either as a birth parent, adoptee, or adopted parent or grandparent or sibling. If you have a friend that was adopted or one who gave up a child...then you MUST read this book.

For me as an adoptee that found my birth family 36 yrs. ago at the age of 22 - this topic is still part of my every day life. I'm still working on my issues. I'll probably be working on them until my last day on this earth. That's just how it is.

I wish my birthmother could have told me things about herself and that we could have had a better relationship after our initial reunion. Things were good at first but time and distance made having a relationship very difficult. I didn't try hard enough I guess and neither did she. It takes 2. Whether it's between a parent & child or between siblings or spouses. You have to value the relationship enough to make it a success.

I have no idea what kind of pain my BM had during or after her pregnancy and my birth. Denise's son is lucky that he has the opportunity to ask questions and get honest answers. He's lucky that Denise made every effort to be a mother from the very start (which is what he said he wanted and needed). She had to jump in with both feet and deal with somebody who was already an adult. A person that somebody else had already tried to raise. That is beyond hard, if not impossible.

I was in awe of her generous and courageous attitude towards everybody and everything through-out the story. Really. She seems like a Saint to me.

In reading this book I could tell that she had worked on it for a long time - had gone back and made revisions and corrections. I was impressed not to find typo's and poor editing. Why? Because so many of the adoption related books I've read lately are in great need of an editor. Especially the self published ones. This book had a polished and professional feel to it. To a reader...this means everything. There is a flow and a cohesiveness in how she writes. Plus she doesn't try to water it down or sugar coat it. Her dialogue techniques make you feel like you are right there listening to the conversations with your own ears. Not every writer can accomplish this.

My personal feelings about the characters in the book are strong because they were well written. All during the book I felt as if something was medically wrong with Josh. Not that he was a bad person - but that he was Bi-polar or had some disorder that was affecting his behavior. I'm praying that he has been diagnosed & is able to take meds or have some treatment to assist him. It's important...so he can have a better life.

Josh's radical ups & downs didn't seem typical of just an ordinary adoptee with adoptee issues. We all don't act like that. His behavior seems indicative of a much more serious problem that requires an M.D.'s attention. And this is NOT his fault, it's just like having Diabetes or Lupus. You find out you have it and you go get help for it.

Yet, I wanted to like him and I rooted for him that he would figure things out and have a happy ending. The good thing is that this is still an ongoing saga of a family working like other families to be healthy and whole. It's not over yet.

One thing Denise did not address was hereditary health problems. Adoptees have to worry about this if they do not find out who their parents were. There are over 800 diseases or disorders that are handed down through genetics. Possibly if Josh were to locate his father - he might be surprised to find out that his father either has a similar disorder or somebody in that family has it and that's how he ended up with it. He should know his "entire" medical history on both sides at the very least.

I have never been a birthmother but I was aligned with Denise from the start of her story. I'm not sure why...perhaps because I was bullied by a mother in my teens into doing things that were not necessarily good for me. It was what she wanted. She didn't care what I wanted. So I know what that feels like...to believe you are powerless and to not trust yourself enough to be strong and follow your own heart.

Thank you Denise for being so honest and open about yourself, your family....everything. The truth may hurt at times; but it can lead to great things. Lies and cover ups may seem to be pain free initially; however they lead to nothing beneficial or good for anybody in the end. Thank you for talking about anger and other behavioral weaknesses. They are human issues we all face. But only a person who is brave and strong will attempt to tackle this head on. That's because it can be embarassing and humiliating to admit it to yourself much less strangers out in the world.

I haven't read any of the other reviews for this book. I don't need to. Nothing will change how I feel about it. All I know is that I'm grateful Denise wrote it and persevered in getting it published.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Touched My Heart 29 Jun 2012
By Susan Dawson Cook - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Denise is forced by her parents to give her baby boy up for adoption. When she's reunited with him as an adult, Josh has become an imbalanced, angry, needy individual. The conflict in the relationship shows the difficulties many parents endure when dealing with difficult offspring. The author struggles to bring her newly found son into her life without completely overturning the life she's established, which isn't easy when Josh is constantly making demands and venting on her. And whenever she sets boundaries, he makes ultimatums, which makes her fearful he'll be gone from her life forever. The author strives to establish a manageable relationship with her son and grandchildren, expand her connections to newly found family members, find peace with her relationship with her own mother, and overcome the trauma and guilt associated with having to give up her baby as a youth. The book is so honestly written and touching, I don't see how any mother can read this without creating a tear puddle you could drown in.
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