Book Tour: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption

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It may seem odd that someone who has not directly taken part in adoption is reviewing a book about Open Adoption. But I considered using donor eggs, and moreover, I know many people parenting after adoption. I know birth mothers. I know children who are adopted and I also know adults who were adopted. If you think about it, chances are you do too. This book really illuminates a world that is often kept under wraps and poorly understood.

I was blown away by “The Open-Hearted Way to Open Parenting.” I’m going to go ahead and just cut and paste my Amazon review here. It’s OK if I plagiarize myself, right?

This is a rare and special book that makes a strong case for openness in adoptive parenting. Lori’s approach is both pragmatic and philosophical. She gives many reasons, both practical and based on research from what society has learned from the closed adoption era, why taking an open approach to adoption just makes good sense. “Adoption creates a split in a person between his biology and biography,” Lori begins. “Openness in adoption is an effective way to heal that split.” Lori provides a roadmap to foster openness, both for adoptive parents and first parents. She provides guidance on choosing an ethical adoption facilitator/agency (key to all involved) to providing easy to follow techniques to maximize honest and clear communications between all parties to personal and helpful first-person stories from adoptees, first parents and adoptive parents. I particularly enjoyed Crystal’s insights (she’s the birth mother of one of Lori’s children and the co-author) which were honest, witty and full of common sense, and provided a good counterpoint to Lori’s narration. It’s unusual for a book to provide two sets of perspective of the same events, but this fits well with Lori’s approach, which is full of empathy and mostly asks everyone to wonder how we would feel in someone else’s shoes, whether the child (of main importance to everyone involved) or an adoptive mother or first mother. “What you can expect when you open your heart and mind to a reasonable relationship with your child’s other parents is a better chance at long-term happiness and wholeness for you and for your child,” says Lori. Mainly, I was really impressed by how this approach is designed to provide the best love and care possible to the adopted child. Highly recommended for those thinking about adoption (either as first parents or adoptive parents), those parenting after adoption and those who have friends and family who are parenting after adoption.

On to the questions!

1. The term “Real Mother” or “Real Parents” comes up quite frequently in an adoptee’s life. Lori suggests in her book that we see each set of parents (birth and adoptive) as “Real”. Do you agree? How would you personally handle this terminology? And are there other ways to effectively deal with this term if used by your child or directed at your child by another?

I totally agree, and here’s why. Children can be very literal. They understand words without nuance or shades of grey. To be told that one set of parents, either birth or adoptive, isn’t “real” would be confusing and possibly deeply troubling for a child. Children tend to think in opposites: if something isn’t real, what is it? The opposite of real is fake. Imagine how troubling it would be to wonder whether someone critical in your life is not genuine, even fraudulent. I really liked Lori’s approach to how she handled this in the book. When her daughter asked if Lori was her “real” mother, Lori tried to lighten the moment, by asking Tessa whether “Fake Mom” had changed her diapers and sang her lullabies and made her do her homework. Soon, Tessa was laughing at the absurdity of Lori being “Fake.” By inserting humor, but also by treating the question as a literal one, Lori was able to clear up any confusion or anxiety her daughter had about who is “real” and who is not. Likewise, Lori made sure to clarify that her daughter’s birth mother is “real” too: that BOTH she and Crystal are “real.”

2. Holden encourages adopted parents to embrace an and/both mindset instead of either/or thinking, through a careful process of fostering connections of an adopted child to both first parents and adopted parents. Why do you think this approach helps a child “grow up whole?”

Lori says: “Adoption creates a split in a person between his biology and his biography. Openness in adoption is an effective way to heal that split.” For a long time, the approach taken was the closed adoption model, which elevated the adoptive parents, and demoted the biological parents. But DNA and genes are a powerful thing. I personally feel I was shaped by nature AND nurture. My genes gave me my blond hair and blue eyes, my aptitude for reading and writing, my love of fashion and glamour. My parents provided key life lessons: that working hard is the best way to achieve your goals, that kindness is something to always strive for. Their love and support gave me the safety net that taught me to fly. Both the nature and the nurture are truly key to who I am.

From the book: “We help our children form and integrate their identities when we enable them to connect, directly or indirectly, with their clan of birth – parents, extended family, or group of heritage – so they are able to incorporate their very beingness into their sense of identity.” This makes a lot of sense to me.

To conclude: BUY THIS BOOK! :)

Please return to the main post to read more opinions on Lori Holden’s The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Book Tour: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption

  1. I too loved the way Lori used humor to issues such as “fake” mom and I agree with you that this book is for more than just those involved in an open adoption. Everyone knows at least one other person from the adoption triad. Reading this book will provide sensitive terms and questions that will help outsiders relate better to those who are touched by adoption.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your review and answers to the question you chose to consider for this book tour! I love how you said this,

    “This book really illuminates a world that is often kept under wraps and poorly understood.”

    So true.

    Also, I appreciate how you point out that pretty much everyone knows both adults and children who are adopted, as well as adoptive parents, if not first/birth parents (thought we may not know if we do), and thus can learn a lot from reading Lori’s awesome book!

    Not unlike your wonderful Faces of ALI, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption shines light on a community that needs people to try harder to understand and support them.

    I also whole-heartedly agree with your conclusion! :)

  3. Liz

    Great review! I loved this: “this fits well with Lori’s approach, which is full of empathy and mostly asks everyone to wonder how we would feel in someone else’s shoes”…Well said. I was struck by that, too.

    Lori’s book is the first I’ve read that speaks to EVERYONE in an adoption…children, first parents, adoptive parents. That immediately put me at ease as I read her book. Usually when I read books geared towards adoptive parents I find myself feeling this lack because it is so one-sided, and being married to an adoptee and a birth mom, the other sides of the story are nearly always in my mind.

  4. I loved your review and I agree that Lori’s humor with the “fake” mom was a brilliant way to handle the situation.

  5. Hi from the book tour!

    One of the highlights of the book for me too was reading about how Lori handled the “real” question… the absurdity of “fake mom” was able to turn any anxiety that Tessa would have felt around and make it into a funny explanation of a very tough issue.

  6. I agree that we are all the result of both nature AND nurture. it’s not only what we’re born with but what we learn as we grow that shapes us to become the people we are. with closed adoption I think a significant part of the story is missing.

    and you’re right with how literal children are! good point.
    thanks for participating!

  7. I stole the headline from your Amazon review and put it on the book’s page (openheartedopenadoption.com). So I suppose it’s all right if you use the rest of your review here ;-)

    Thank you for being part of this tour. I’m truly honored by your participation and your words.

  8. m

    Great review, and of course you can plagiarize yourself on your own blog! Thanks for the reminder about kids seeing things in black and white and taking things quite literally. I on,y hope that I can approach our son’s questions and inquiries with the humor and grave that Lori has.

  9. Of that 95%, it’s estimated that 40% of those adoptions have contact through the use of a mediator (such as a caseworker or an adoption agency). In these adoptions, the biological parents, adopted child, and adoptive parents do not speak directly to one another, but give information to the mediator, who in turn relays the information to the other party. This process provides a buffer zone for those who are uncomfortable with direct contact, but the contact is typically much slower than those with direct contact. It’s estimated that 55% of open adoptions have direct contact, meaning that through means of phone calls, letters, social media, etc., there is an exchange of information without the use of a middleman.

  10. I plagiarized my book tour post for my review on Amazon. ;)

    I too, really liked how Lori handled the real vs fake question.

  11. What happens if my baby is born with a medical problem or disease? There are loving families that are trained and prepared for caring for medically fragile children. We strongly believe that children are best loved in families and not institutions. So be sure your adoption professional has a plan in the event of an emergency. We keep a list of parents that would be able to adopt a child with medical problems. As difficult as it is, not all families are prepared to accept or handle a child with severe disabilities. No one should feel bad, but realistically look at the situation and make a decision based on their abilities to raise this child. Most birth parents and adoptive parents agree, that the child’s needs are the most important. I am afraid to tell the adoptive parents I smoked marijuana in the first months of my pregnancy, before I knew I was pregnant. Should I tell them? I don’t want them to judge me or reject my baby. Honesty is always the best course, as hard as it may seem now. It would be best that they know before the baby is born, giving them the needed time to research any effects this might have on the child later on such as learning disabilities, etc. There are a number of families that are open to some exposure to drugs. Let your adoption professional know and often they can tell the family and help them through this. Is it selfish to consider adoption? No, adoption can be one of the most loving decisions you make for your child. It takes a great deal of love and maturity to know that raising a child can be difficult and that love is not enough to provide what a child needs to thrive. Even with the help of families and friends, the task can be difficult.

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