Searching for Jane, Finding Myself
by Jan Fishler

Tin Cat Media, 2010. ISBN 978-0-982-67230-3.
Reviewed by Linda Hoye
Posted on 07/15/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir

"In July, 1949, when the lawyers handed me to my parents, the medical community believed that a newborn baby was essentially a blank slate, with no prior memory or feelings." So begins Jan Fishler's Searching for Jane, Finding Myself. Fishler was three days old when she joined her adoptive family and, as research now tells us, was not a blank slate without prior memories or feelings.

Like many adoptees of that era, Fisher was familiar with the ubiquitous Chosen Baby story and when she was seven she was told her birth mother had died giving birth to her. For many years afterward she carried the burden of not only feeling personally responsible for the death, but also believing she was destined for hell for the part she played in the death of her birth mother.

Fishler writes with sensitivity and brutal honesty about her struggles with the fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of being alone, and the sense of self-loathing common to many adoptees. She admits a "...protective shield kept me from fully experiencing life" and writes that she "...had experienced enough abandonment to know better than to trust anyone except myself. I knew I never wanted to be vulnerable or out of control..." She does not sugar-coat her story as she writes about struggles with the relationship between her adoptive mother and herself and her journey through a plethora of relationships in a quest to fill the mother-shaped void in her heart.

When Fishler happened to attend a Post Adoption Center for Education and Research (PACER) meeting and told the group "I always knew I was adopted—for years my bedtime story was The Chosen Baby" and "When I was about seven or eight, I was finally told the truth—that my real mother died during childbirth." She learned at the PACER meeting that both The Chosen Baby story and the tale about her birth mother dying during childbirth were stories told to many adoptees at that time. She was also informed that it would cost many thousands of dollars if she were to search for her birth mother.

"For me, finding my birth mother had absolutely nothing to do with my adoptive mother. It wasn't an either/or situation. I wasn't looking to replace one mother with another; I wanted only to fill the void, to repair my broken heart," says Fishler.

Eventually, regardless of the financial cost, she resolved to search for her birth mother and was stunned to learn her records were not sealed as she had believed, and it was possible for her to obtain a copy of her original birth certificate—the one with the names of her birth parents on it.

What follows is an incredible roller-coaster ride of reunion. This is not the typical reunion story we often read about or see portrayed by the media; Fishler's reunion story is uniquely her own and is peppered with surprises that will keep you absorbed from beginning to end. She offers hope for those who may find themselves part of a reunion that takes an unexpected turn which, in reality, is any reunion.

In the preface to her book Fishler says "I didn't consciously set out to write a book about healing," but that is exactly what she did. I recommend this book to anyone seeking to learn more about the invisible emotional scars adoptees often carry and the healing that is possible when truth is revealed.

Read an excerpt from this book.

For twenty years, Jan was a corporate scriptwriter and video producer, as well as a marketing and public relations consultant. Currently, she lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada with her husband, a wild and crazy golden retriever, and one very fat cat. Visit her website.

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