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.