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The Not In Here Story children's book

A mom and dad are trying to be parents.

The Seeks find something is missing in their lives, and they think becoming parents will be easy.

It’s not.

They travel to the rainforests, to the mountains, to the desert and to far off places to find their baby, and even though Dad asks “Did you check your tummy?” at each place, Mom says, “No. Not in here.”

The parents get more and more frustrated. Finally, Dad stops asking the question and Mom stops answering. But when they return home, a blast of inspiration makes them realize they’ve been looking in the wrong tummy all along.

The Seeks find their baby growing in someone else’s tummy.

This is the premise of the new children’s book “The Not in Here Story,” written by Oklahoman Tracey Zeeck, owner of Bumbershoot Public Relations in Oklahoma City. Not only is it a quirky, fun and colorful book about the origins of adoption, but it’s also a deeply personal one for Zeeck as well.

“The Not in Here Story is the way we told our son about his adoption,” Zeeck said. “We first started telling that story to him before he could even talk or understand words. I told it so much that I wrote it down. He wanted pictures, so we drew pictures. That’s how it started and where it came from.”

Illustrated by David Bizzaro, the book was released during National Adoption Month through the new children’s book press, Penny Candy Books, co-founded by Oklahoma City poet and Short Order Poems co-founder Chad Reynolds and Savannah-based poet Alexis Orgera.

Tracey Zeeck, author of The Not In Here Story

What started as a way to explain to her son how he became part of their family turned into published book when Zeeck shared her written tale with a friend.

“Some people I knew had adopted, and their son was three years old and they hadn’t explained to him his origin yet,” Zeeck said. “I shared the manuscript, and they said, ‘Thank you, this is the first thing we’ve ever read that we feel tells the story the way we want it told. This one tells the story up until the point the baby shows up.’ I started thinking about publishing it.”

Zeeck’s own journey to parenthood started when she and her husband thought about adopting before they tried to have a baby on their own. They knew many babies and children needed homes, but “we let the world talk to us” and instead spent a year trying to get pregnant.

“It was annoying,” she said. “It put enormous pressure on ourselves and our relationship. We spent a year trying, and it was so stupid. We said, ‘What are we even doing?’ So, we decided to adopt instead.”

Even that route was difficult, however. Originally, the couple wanted to adopt siblings out of state or foster care. Referrals fell through, calls were not returned, and again, the Zeecks became frustrated. They turned to Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities is a licensed child-placing agency serving the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Children up for adoption are infants who are placed in the custody of Catholic Charities by birth parents.

Quote from The Not In Here Story“The young mother picked us out of a book, and when we met, we all knew it was right,” she said. “We keep in touch with her. We want to have her in our orbit and in Charlie’s life. She was 17, and she wanted to find parents for her baby because she loved her baby.”

Zeeck’s son is now nine, but the process to write the book to the point of publishing took four years.  Ironically, the journey to publish “The Not in Here Story” ran parallel to the story itself. Zeeck didn’t want to self-publish, so she found an agent through a contact. After trips to New York City and navigating the world of publishing, she gave up on the agent and came home disheartened and back to square one.

“Publishing! There is nothing fun about it, nothing fun at all. I came home and I said, ‘What am I going to do? What will this book be, if anything?’” she said. “A few weeks later, I was at a coffee shop here and I saw Chad Reynolds. He told me he was about to start a children’s book publishing company with a friend from Savannah. We talked a lot about it, and I told him about me trying to publish my book. It was funny. It didn’t click at first, but then we both kind of looked at each other and were like, ‘hey!’ So, like in the book, what I was looking for was here at home.”

Throughout the journey, the story changed as all stories do. The illustrations, done by native Oklahoman David Bizzaro, were originally going to be humans. Today, the “Seek” family are charming little monsters instead.

The book is not only available at Barnes and Noble and Full Circle Bookstore, but was also Amazon’s bestselling new release in baby books and children’s adoption books.

Zeeck family selfie“Hopefully, this book is useful to people when the conversation about adoption happens,” Zeeck said. “We like when people ask questions about our adoption and about Charlie. The book was a cool experience. It’s cool to do the readings. The adults cry and the kids are engaged. I think it’s nice for our son to see how we searched for him, and for kids to see how far parents will go to find their baby.”

And, Zeeck hints, another book may be looming in the future.

What NOT to say to adopted parents or children…

by Tracey Zeeck

He “is” adopted. “No, he ‘was’ adopted, it’s not who he ‘is,’” Zeeck said. “It’s not his identity, only how he came to our family.”

Real mom. “We say ‘birth mom.’ When people ask who his ‘real’ mom is, I tell them I am,” Zeeck said.

“We honor and respect the birth parents. Their love for him made our family.”

“Don’t say he was ‘given up’ for adoption. He was placed in a family because the birth parents wanted him to have a good life, not because they ‘gave up’ on him.”

“Never say, ‘I could never give up my child.’ The answer I give is, ‘No one asked you to.’  You never know what circumstances lead people to make a decision.

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