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  • Leah Outten

{BOOK REVIEW} Before I Saw You

These days, I don’t often get (or– make?) time to read a book with paper pages to highlight and turn with my fingertips, but I still love them. I was delighted to discover author Amy K. Sorrrells on Instagram. Her latest book, Before I Saw You, is one I was drawn to because of the adoption theme and I was honored she asked me to review it when she sent me a copy. I assure you, all opinions are my own. This book particularly is insightful because she dives into the world and the emotions of an unplanned pregnancy and ultimately a birth mother. As a birth mother myself, I wanted to see how accurate it was for a birth mother experience.

The premise of the story follows a young woman who surrounded with heartache.

Her world and her town are faced with a lot of tough situations involving drug use, physical violence, and death. It may be triggering for some readers who have faced traumas such as this, but for myself, it was an avenue to learn more about those who live in areas like this and the choices made.

The main character, Jaycee, is one I could relate on some levels as we both faced young unplanned and felt the need to grow up and mature sooner than others. She has a lot of responsibility on her young plate and has witnessed many tragic events around her. She is lost. She doubts herself. She is lonely. She is desperate for love and looks in the wrong places. She is plagued with regrets. Yet, God places some beautiful people in her life to speak the truth and lead her to Jesus.

Jaycee’s closest friends are godly examples and encouragement to her, and I loved their wisdom.

“There’s always letting go to do here on earth, Jaycee. But the Lord, He never lets go. And because of him, we never have to either.”
“Listen for the Lord. Listen and you’ll know what to do when the time comes.”
“While not everything that happens is good, the Lord can take the things that happen to us and work them into something good down the road.”

A few qualms I have with this book surround adoption itself.

Overall, it was a beautiful example of having to make the choice of adoption for our baby– the heartache, the struggle, the grief, the confirmations that can come when it is right for us and brings peace– yet I felt the adoption language could have been better. Throughout the book the typical negative phrases like,

  • Give your baby up for adoption

  • Give him away

  • Keep the baby

  • “What kind of mother gives up her own child?”

The negative wording so common in our society suggests that birth mothers are irresponsible, doesn’t care about or love their baby, and that the baby is a commodity– and item simply to “keep or give.” Not true. The adoption community is trying so hard to change the language from negative phrases like these to positive ones. Because of this, I wished that this book was infiltrated with positive surround adoption so that it could have been a spark of change in how readers think about adoption. Phrases like these:

  • Place your baby in an adoption plan

  • Choose adoption

  • Parent your baby

  • What kind of mother loves her child enough to let her baby go?

These positive associations of adoption twist the negative into deeper truths of what adoption is really about. Choice and love.

I can tell you from personal experience as I made my adoption plan over 14 years ago, my decision was not made lightly. It was with months of deep research, collecting insight, begging God for guidance, and ultimately laying down my heart’s desire of being a mom for her best. I sacrificed my heart for her best in life. “Giving away” was not what I did when she left the hospital. I chose her parents with the utmost care and then placed her in her adoptive momma’s arms myself. It was a choice. It was an act of love. 

I also felt that this book could have been set apart by showing an open adoption.

It could have been a perspective changer for the readers who think open adoption is scary or “confusing.” Instead, it continues with the social norm and misconceptions. Open adoption is proving to be a better option for all parties of the adoption triad— I wished this book had been an example of that. Instead, Jaycee and the parents decided on closed adoption “for all our sakes,” which to me says she nor her the adoptive couple were educated on open adoption and why it is beneficial. “For all our sakes” is a lie, except in very rare harmful situations. This situation in the book was not one of them, in my opinion, and shows a lack of education. Jaycee, while poor, was a healthy and emotionally stable young woman with a good head on her shoulders. She wanted her best for her child and honestly would have been a great mother had she chosen to parent. It could have been a chance to change the adoption narrative and reflect on ways adoption is changing for the better– with the beauty of two families colliding in love over a child– which leaves the adoptee feeling more whole.

Despite the disappointments I had with the language, I still would recommend this book to have a peek into the heart of a birth mom and those supporting an expectant mom deciding on what to do. It has beautiful sentiments on the heart of adoption and I could relate well with. There are a few places that better set the positive truth of what adoption is, I just wish those were more consistent throughout.

“But I know if you decide on adoption, you’ll be doing it out of the deepest kind of love. The love of a mother for her child. The kind of love that trusts theLord with her child. The kind of love I didn’t know existed before I saw you, and that nearly lost forever.”
“I don’t know how a heart can be empty and full at the same time, but that’s what mine feels like as I give the signed paperback to Walter. Empty because there’s nothing left to stop what I know I have to do. Full because I know it is good and right and God is in it.”
“One look at his inky-blue eyes, glazed with the first sight of life, and I know I have to let him go. I have to give him a better life.”
“Well, now, that’s one thing I know adoption isn’t– you’re not giving away your child. You’ll always have him with you, whether in your heart or in your arms.” “Once they leave the womb, it’s all about learning to let them go…Way I look at it, adoption isn’t just a way you’re trusting the Lord with him earlier than most…Sooner or later, every mother has to do the same.”

It truly is a heart-opening story and provides glimpses of hope, even when situations aren’t ideal. It shows how God can heal and redeem. It shows how God is with even those who have done terrible things, in poverty, in sickness, and in grief. I do love that this book has questions at the back so this could be used in a group setting to read and spark discussion. It certainly is thought-provoking as we study these fictional lives! I’m certain even if you aren’t a birth mother, you will find strength and wisdom from this story.

You can find Before I Saw You where all major books are sold, including Amazon.

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