When Mama Can't Kiss it Better

A journey of love, loss and acceptance

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Pub Date Oct 23 2014 | Archive Date Dec 14 2014


WHEN MAMA CAN’T KISS IT BETTER is the raw account of a true story that shocked the nation in 2010. Gertz was America's most hated mother when news of a decision to place her adopted child in another family broke in the media. Called out by many as an unfit mother and an evil woman who threw away her child, she was catapulted into the national and international media.

Her daughter, Emily suffered from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, reactive attachment disorder, bipolar disorder, and other disorders. She had never bonded with Lori, her father or her siblings and had begun a spiral of self-destruction that often involved running into traffic and other dangerous behaviors.

While Gertz recalls feeling isolated, accounts like hers are not rare. Stories like When Mama Can’t Kiss it Better are not told terribly often because of the stigma and finger pointing. She writes, “The mother is always blamed first when a child suffers from extreme behavioral disabilities.”

There are millions of parents who are struggling to raise children with behavioral disabilities, who feel misunderstood, unheard, and judged, and who want to be reassured that there are others like them. With one in four Americans struggling with mental illness (NIMH) every year everyone in this country either lives with mental illness or knows someone who does. The greatest tragedy is that 60% of the adults and 50% of the children suffering from mental disorders will receive absolutely NO services or support for their mental illness.

Note from the Author: I spent the better part of six years writing this book, which began as the only way I could cope with what was happening in our lives. I just couldn’t believe the lack of resources there were when I reached out for them so vociferously and started documenting what was happening inside our family if not only to maintain my sanity. I am passionate about telling my story to help increase understanding of the enormous challenges parents of special needs children face in a culture that believes that motherly love and perseverance can cure all ills. For those on similar paths, the story of my journey to a sense of peace within the context of facing unrealized dreams, human limitations, broken hearts, and the unfair circumstances of life may help them find that same place of peace in the tough decisions within their own lives. I pray this book will bring attention to the need to better support parents and kids with mental illness and other invisible disabilities and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to call attention to such pressing societal issues.

WHEN MAMA CAN’T KISS IT BETTER is the raw account of a true story that shocked the nation in 2010. Gertz was America's most hated mother when news of a decision to place her adopted child in...

A Note From the Publisher

Keywords: Parenting, Disabilities, FASD, Mothering, Mental Illness, RAD, Bipolar, Memoir, Special Needs, Fetal Alcohol, Syndrome

Keywords: Parenting, Disabilities, FASD, Mothering, Mental Illness, RAD, Bipolar, Memoir, Special Needs, Fetal Alcohol, Syndrome

Advance Praise

The final few chapters from WHEN MAMA CAN’T KISS IT BETTER had my heart pounding. I was unable to put the book down. On one hand, I was compelled to read it quickly to find out how it unfolded. Alternatively, I found myself slowing down to digest the great spiritual insights Lori Gertz learned through her journey. I shed many tears over her heart aching descriptions, like looking at the empty seat at the dinner table. Gertz’s honesty and her willingness to expose her vulnerability is a gift as this story is a significant contribution of support to society. It will touch more lives and families than we will ever know or our culture will ever want to admit. - By Christian Sorensen


Blaming mothers has to be the oldest trick in psychology's book. It is heartbreaking that this loving, dedicated mother (family) is vilified for loving her daughter so much she put her child's need for different before her need to parent and love her. This family's dedication and devotion to a child who, through no fault of her own, could never love or even bond with them is inspiring. This mother's quest to find the best placement to help treat the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and reactive attachment disorder will leave readers frustrated and stunned at the barriers and lack of resources to help save this child from the damage she sustained from drugs and alcohol abuse by her birth mother before she was even born. And, possibly even more heart wrenching, that there were no safety nets for this family, no intensive mental health services and supports to preserve this family while keeping their beautiful daughter and other children safe. A must read for everyone, but should be required reading for those involved in adoption and children's services everywhere. Very brave, Mrs. Gertz. Grateful you are again willing to be scandalized in the quest to help those that have not found their voice, but share your incredible pain. - By Kristi Rice


If you're wanting a light summer read to flip through on the beach, Lori Gertz book isn't the book you're looking for. A few pages in you find yourself between heart wrenching feelings and a total inability to put the book down (or tablet, in my case) out of the magnetic draw this book and everything Lori and her family went through, you simply have to find out how things end. Lori is nothing short of an advocate, one who is brave enough to not only share her story on a level many wouldn't feel open enough to do, but to publish it. If you have never read much before about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the effects it can have on the child, this book will be an eye opener.

Lori's descriptions in When Mama Cant Kiss It Better are nothing short of amazingly descriptive, her words jump from the page and in to your heart, inspiring not only true amazement at her raw talent for writing, but anger at the way her family was treated and the things they endured trying to find help and get answers.

This book gives you the look behind what the media was showing you. Instead of an unloving and unfit mother, we are given a rare and touching look into Lori's family and their experience trying to live, love, and find answers to help their children. Not as the media portrayed her, but as the loving mother she truly is, struggling to both protect, and bond. Lori's feelings of isolation extends beyond how she was portrayed & in to how many doors she had slammed in her face, how many misdiagnosis, through all the finger pointing Lori had her one escape for sanity, her one life raft in a sea of turmoil and pain, candidly spilling her heart, her fears, & her experiences on the paper. She spent six years writing When Mama Can't Kiss It Better and every page reflects the years of not only experiences, but pain of living with and loving a self destructive child while tossed among accusations and left massively in debt with little to no help.

Lori's book sheds light on our mental healthcare system and reminds us that a mothers love is truly endless, even if Mama Cant Kiss It Better - By Emmerson McGinnis


Lori Gertz provides the reader with an adrenaline packed emotional roller coaster from the prologue to the end. One has to admire her tenacity in trying to fix a family nightmare with unconditional love. She tells her story with brutal honesty and truly shares her pain with the reader as she goes on this incredible journey with her adopted daughter. As she describes the numerous events in detail the reader can sense her strength, perseverance and shear despair. Our hearts go out to Lori and her whole family as they endure the diifficult relationship with their adopted daughter.This book is a must read for anyone considering adoption and is not meant to scare them but to educate them as to some of the pit falls and challenges of adoption. It was impossible to put this book down and not give my children a special hug and remind them how much they mean to my wife and I every day that we are blessed to be with them. - By Richard Drutman


When Mama Can’t Kiss it Better powerfully transcends past media misinterpretations of the Gertz family’s case as a “failed adoption” tale. Taking charge of her story, Lori Gertz balances moving storytelling with enlightened analysis to reveal a far bigger picture. She presents chilling proof that our medical, educational, and legal systems are quick to place blame for a child’s invisible disabilities (and thus responsibility for “fixing them”), squarely on the mother. Indeed, at least half of the 38 doctors who evaluate Emily conclude the problem stemmed from Lori’s interactions with her (e.g., lack of discipline or too much of it) or in Lori herself (e.g., over-worrying, depression, drugs, unsuitability as an adoptive parent). One doctor goes so far as to suggest Lori suffers from Munchausen by Proxy. Not much has changed--in the 1950s we blamed overbearing mothers for causing schizophrenia and in the 1970s we blamed cold mothers (“refrigerator mothers”) for autism. Even after the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and mental illness diagnoses are obtained, Lori must (and does) move mountains to secure adequate services and accommodations for her daughter. However, as the story unfolds it becomes increasingly clear that our current systems set up children with invisible disabilities and their families for failure. Ultimately, this book is poignant evidence that children with neurological disorders or mental illnesses need more and better support and resources--regardless of the time, money, and kisses provided by their mothers.

Rebecca Fuoco, MPH

Writer & Invisible Illness Advocate

The final few chapters from WHEN MAMA CAN’T KISS IT BETTER had my heart pounding. I was unable to put the book down. On one hand, I was compelled to read it quickly to find out how it unfolded...

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ISBN 9781622877171
PRICE $15.95 (USD)

Average rating from 27 members

Featured Reviews

Given To Me For An Honest Review

When Mama Can't Kiss It Better, A journey of love, loss and acceptance by Lori Getz isn't a must read at all. IT'S A HAVE TO READ! This book is one that everyone who have children or work with children should read. It is about fetal alcohol Syndrome and what happens to a family when they adopt a child that has it. Once you sit down you will be stuck on your seat as you turn the pages and turn the pages and turn the pages again. You won't stop until you finish and you'll probably read it again ... I did. Lori Gertz was willing to share her honest story about her life. This book will have cause for thought. You will shed some tears as you read it. You might even think of a child as you read. it. I gave this book 5 stars but it definitely deserves at least 10+. I love this book and I highly recommend it to everyone. You will not regret at all reading it. I thank Lori for this book and I look forward to more from her.

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A good read!

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Very thought provoking,a real eye opener

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Heartbreaking, poignant, courageous, informative, and deeply profoundly human.
This book deals with dark difficult important subjects. Fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, shortcomings of conventional treatments, adoption services, daily horrific challenges and how to find a helping hand, and excruciating choices.

Couples, Parents, interested parents, anyone who has ever gone through the adoption process, (or considering it), educators, medical doctors, (psychiatric, neurological, brain specialist, etc.), should read this!!!!!!

For readers of the "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls, who felt like I did...."THAT WOMAN HAD A STORY TO TELL THE WORLD.....and TOLD IT WELL!!!! --- I feel 100% the same about Lori Gertz's new book, "WHEN MAMA CAN'T KISS IT BETTER": A journey of Unconditional Love, Loss, and Acceptance.
THIS is s STORY that HAD TO BE TOLD!!!! THANK YOU, LORI, for transforming our minds, hearts, and souls. Sending love to Lori, Craig, her children, and all families who have felt lost-in-the system -alone without enough help.

We will be lighting the Sabbath Candles tonight in honor of Lori's book. Her revolutionary generosity, opening for healing and love.

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This was a tough read but I knew that when I requested to read it. As a reader, and a mom, you're completely taken aback by this story. It was a truly emotional read.

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received this via netgalley. a good informative read based around a adopted Child with fetal alcohol syndrome which the adoptive parents were not aware of when adoption took place. I felt the book was wrote with honesty and through the pages you could feel the mother's despair at trying to find someone who could help her little girl and put the family back together again. I would love a follow up to hear how the child and family are doing in the future. a must read.

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This mother's journey is heartbreaking and inspiring. The battle that she wages in order to garner treatment for her child is a relentless one, and the path is full of roadblocks, misinformation, and misunderstanding. As someone who is actively in the process of foster-to-adoption, I found this book to be inciteful and thought-provoking. Throughout the book there were many times that I questioned whether I would have the fortitude that she showed in continuing to fight to help her child when I think many would've given up. This was a well-written book, and I especially recommend it to folks with an interest in attachment disorder.

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A very, very hard book to read without being moved to tears. With very little help in this very difficult situation I really felt sort of helpless reading the book . I dont want to spoil this for others . Read it

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Some books really amp up my anxiety level. And I mean that as a compliment: connection with the reader and good story-telling.

Lori Gertz's memoir, When Mama Can't Kiss It Better, had my anxiety level maxing out many times throughout the pages. Imagine you are a nice couple who want to expand your family. You have a small boy, but then miscarriage after devastating miscarriage. You decide to adopt. And you are deceived.

When the Gertz's find a late-term mother who wants to give up her child to them, it sounds too good to be true. And you know what they say...

They fall in love with the little girl who is born with so many problems and issues: a laundry list including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, organic brain-damage, bipolar... The next several years see the Gertz's trying to get Emily all the help she needs and that they can afford. It's devastating to watch their world crumbling as their family is torn apart by the near-impossible needs of a child who cannot bond with them.

So what happens when you reach a breaking point? What happens when you're exhausted and suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Something shocking, but truly brave.

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