I once read that a marriage is maintained by combining equal measures of dewy-eyed romanticism with clear-eyed realism. Well, the adoption of a child is much the same. You have to believe in the child's unique value. At the same time, you've got to acknowledge the challenges that come with the territory.

Parents at Last contributes greatly to the romanticism involved in adoption and other ways of achieving parenthood: surrogate, in-vitro, and other technological innovations. The variety of stories (each written by the parents) are accompanied by delightful photographs by Helen Kolikow Garber.

Robert and Evelyne McNamara of California decided to adopt a Chinese infant after the death of their youngest child from a brain tumor. Paul Montz of Arizona also adopted two children from China as a single gay dad. Susan Hollander, who founded the Alliance for Donor Insemination Families in 1995, achieved parenthood in this fashion. Congresswoman Connie Morella of Maryland became an adoptive parent after the tragic death of her sister, adopting all six of her beloved sister's sons and daughters. Then come the awe-inspiring parents like Peg Marengo and Alison Smith of Worcester, Massachusetts, who created a second family after their biological families had grown up by adopting the throwaway kids in our society. They began with Luci, a two-year-old with AIDS. Finally, comes the note of realism from Torin Scott of Scottsdale, Arizona, who counsels parents of special needs adoptions and is one herself: Abuse and neglect before and after birth exact a huge toll. It is important to grieve over who the child might have been, and then let it go. Love unconditionally. Love fiercely. Love enough for both of you, and realize that love alone is not enough. It takes commitment, endurance and acceptance. This book is a lovely paean to the couples and single men and women who persevere in their efforts to become and remain parents.

Rosemary Zibart is a writer in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

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