Already Home

In his debut memoir, Already Home, adopted son, Howard Frederick Ibach, invites readers on an inspiring journey that ultimately debunks the widespread notion that adoption is an automatic ticket to suffering and abandonment.

As the son of a physician father and a scientist mother, Howard rarely questions his status as adoptee in a family that includes both an adoptive sister and his parents’ biological children. That’s because growing up in early 1960s-Wisconsin, he was afforded a life of love, security, and boyhood adventures.

But in 2015 at the age of fifty-eight, his story takes an unexpected turn. Amid the turmoil of a faltering relationship, he stumbles upon research that concludes most, if not all, adoptees will experience trauma.

Two years later, Ibach decides to trace his biological lineage. Armed with his adoption records, he learns the identity of his birth mother and unravels the captivating and dramatic narrative of his biological family.

Howard’s discovery reveals not just the joy of his newfound connections, but also reaffirms the love he has for the family who adopted him.

Already Home is an inspiring memoir that disputes presumptive ideas about adoption and reveals what it really means to have a family…or two.

Praise for Already Home


(Reviewed: October 2023)

Pushing back against the commonly-accepted belief that adopted kids grow into emotionally scarred adults because of the “primal wound” of early separation, Howard Frederick Ibach offers an honest, in-depth, and propulsive memoir as gripping as a novel.

A successful advertising copywriter, 57-year-old Ibach was living in Los Angeles in 2015, seeing a therapist to salvage a tumultuous romantic relationship, when he was introduced to The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, a book by psychotherapist and adoption specialist Nancy Newton Verrier. Ibach disputed Verrier’s argument that adopted children were damaged, specifically objecting to the psychotherapist’s “six venomous words…you were the victim of trauma.” The first of four children (the two eldest adopted), Ibach remembered “a childhood I had thought was happy— idyllic, in fact” in Bayside, Wisconsin, and had never wanted to seek out his birth mother.

Yet driven by curiosity, in 2017 he accessed his adoption records and discovered his birth mother was Irene Small of Mullins, South Carolina, who came to Wisconsin to give birth after a series of disastrous, life-changing events. After that news came many head-spinning revelations about his biological parents, siblings and their family secrets.

Short chapters pull readers along. Ibach is clever about recreating the past in scene and dialogue, including an inventive opening that begins with the man whose drunk driving killed his birth mother’s husband, which made her a vulnerable young widow who succumbed to the attentions of her husband’s friend and became pregnant.

Ibach’s candor at his circumstances—a bisexual, urban Californian reconnecting with Southern blood relatives very different in lifestyle, religion, and political beliefs—exposes the swirl of emotions at facing one’s unexpected family history. Ibach’s style leans toward the literary; he unflinchingly peels back layers of introspection and self-doubt as he undertakes his twisting, emotional journey.

This crisply paced narrative mixes cliffhangers with carefully-crafted reflective passages and comes to a conclusive, satisfying end. Already Home is a must-read for anyone who has experienced adoption first-hand.


(Reviewed: December 2023) by Tammy Ruggles

 5*- A Dramatic and Poignant Adoption Story 

 “Already Home: Confronting the Trauma of Adoption” by Howard Frederick Ibach, brings reading audiences the powerful journey of his adoption in this riveting memoir. There is a preconceived idea that adoption is defined by tragedy and is fraught with traumatic experiences, but this life story ends up revealing just the opposite, at least in the author’s account. 

Ibach brings his personal story to life as the adopted son of a father who was a doctor and a mother who was a scientist in Wisconsin in the early 1960s. He never really questioned his circumstances as an adopted child in a family comprised of an adoptive sister, and biological children belonging to his parents. He describes growing up as being adventurous, with a foundation of love, safety, and security. 

Flash forward to when life threw him a curveball at the age of 58. It was the year 2015, and he found himself in a wobbly relationship that was causing him pain, but during this chaotic period, he discovered research that determined that the majority of adoptees will experience trauma on some level. The author began to track his heritage two years later, beginning with his adoption records. The quest to find out who his birth mother was took him on an intense and amazing journey. This was a brave, bold step for the author to take, but he was rewarded with brand new connections and reminders of how much he loves his adoptive family. 

I love how the author takes what we think we know about adoption and turns it upside down. This isn’t an adoption horror story. As a former social worker, I know of sad primal wound adoption stories, but I also know of triumphant well-adjusted stories like Ibach’s, that illuminate the human spirit and show us what happiness and contentment look like. 

Readers will appreciate the author’s honesty, which I think sets this life story apart from others. His origin story is one you have to read, it is so poignant and moving, that I’d rather not spoil it here. The pacing and dialogue will grab you from the start. Just go read how he came to be in this world. I think this memoir will go a long way in easing fears about adoption. Each experience is different. There are highs and lows. This memoir, “Already Home: Confronting the Trauma of Adoption” by Howard Frederick Ibach, reads like a Netflix drama but has the authenticity and gravitas of a well-made documentary. 


An earnest and thoughtful adoption memoir.

(Reviewed December 2023)

Ibach questions how much his adoption shaped his inner life in this debut memoir.

On a November afternoon in 1955, a drunk truck driver killed a motorist in an accident on a rural road outside Nichols, South Carolina. The dead motorist’s wife found solace in the arms of another man, and when their child was born—a little over a year after the accident—he was given up for adoption. Raised by a physician father and a scientist mother in a suburb of Milwaukee, Ibach never felt particularly out of place in his adoptive family, which included a mix of adopted children and the biological children of his parents. “I never felt abandoned, I never felt rejected, I never felt that I had to prove my worthiness to be in and among the Ibach clan,” writes the author. “These emotions never surfaced, and I am content and secure enough to say I am also convinced these emotions are not percolating beneath the surface.” It was not until the author was 58 years old and having relationship trouble with a girlfriend that he first encountered, via couples therapy, the idea that his adoption might have left deep scars on his psyche. The suggestion led Ibach to look back on his childhood for evidence of emotional distress—the occasions when, as a kid, he’d acted out, refusing to eat his mother’s cooking or riding off on his bike to be alone. The relationship with his girlfriend ended, and the author was left questioning his sense of identity. Not long after this period of uncertainty began, the state of Wisconsin opened up its adoption records, allowing adopted children to track down their birth parents for the first time. Ibach soon learned his birth mother’s name, and that she had died many years before. More emotionally confused than ever, he dove into the search for whatever information he could find about his birth parents, revealing the dramatic backstory that he never knew he had. But would he come away from the process feeling any differently about the family who had raised him?

Ibach writes with candor and curiosity, making readers feel as though they’re witnessing the author’s self-exploration in real time. “What is the correct terminology?” he wonders. “Bloodline? Ancestry? Parentage? I’m not sure. My late dad Harold and my late mother Martha were my parents. They raised me. Mom died almost ten years before I submitted my application to Wisconsin for my adoption report…” The author is sure that he isn’t missing anything fundamental—phrases from adoption therapy culture like “Primal Wound” and “Ghost Kingdom” strike him as overly dramatic—and yet his search for answers proves that there’s something to be gained from seeking to understand one’s origins. Adopted readers who,like Ibach, don’t see themselves as victims and yet still carry a sense of uncertainty inside them will benefit fromaccompanying him on this å, regardless of its revelations.

An earnest and thoughtful adoption memoir.

Touching story of adoption, love, and challenging orthodoxies.

“Abandoned, shabandoned.” Ibach’s inspiring debut recounts his adult search for his biological family while also contesting the conviction that adoptees naturally feel a sense of abandonment and even trauma simply by having been adopted. That conviction, especially as laid out in a book by a psychologist that Ibach read, has felt like a “punch in my gut,” to Ibach, who enjoyed a happy, healthy childhood that prepared him for life. Especially galling: his feeling that “if I argued with [that psychiatrist] about this interpretation, I was in denial of my suffering.” Ibach writes that he “was never haunted by not knowing” the identity of his birth parents, but in Already Home he recounts how, in 2017, in his fifties, he received a message from his sister informing him of the Wisconsin legislation that now allowed adoptees to learn about their deceased birth parents—and then he went to find them.

Ibach’s memoir is broadly divided into two themes; stories from his childhood and his journey to discover his birth family, plus his life and relationship with them. Ibach paints a moving picture of life as a “happy, pampered, privileged child” with his adoptive parents and three siblings in Milwaukee, roughhousing, exploring the ravines of Lake Michigan, and meeting Santa Claus during the holiday season. This deeply personal tale offers a window into 20th century America as Ibach reflects on the societal treatment of unwanted pregnancies before the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, the perception of adoption and adoptees, and the experience of bisexuality in a culture that marginalized anyone not conforming to heteronormativity.

When Ibach meets his birth family in South Carolina he is welcomed into the clan with love, but this experience also reaffirms his love for his own family—the ones who “chose” him. His story touchingly challenges orthodoxies while celebrating love as it’s lived. Readers looking to cry happy tears will find solace in this emotionally charged memoir.

Noel Zamot, author of The Archer’s Thread and The Feather’s Push

Already Home by Howard Ibach delves into the quest for belonging in a world eager to label and define us. Comfortable with his adopted family, Ibach’s life is disrupted by a cascade of well-meaning, yet damaging advice. As he dives into the essence of belonging, he encounters a movement where genuine family ties are dismissed by a society obsessed with sensationalizing sorrow. Amidst the noise, he discovers a transformative perspective—a voice that challenges both him and readers to reevaluate the core of their identities, and the truth about their families. For those tired of alarmist narratives, and those seeking comfort in their personal histories, Already Home proposes a welcome epiphany: perhaps home was never truly lost. A must-read for those on the path to self-discovery—and anyone who yearns for family.