Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist for Autobiography/Memoirs (2009)

Editor’s Choice award and Rising Star Designation and is now part of Barnes & Noble’s Special Collections, “Catch A Rising Star”, a page dedicated to finding Up-And-Coming Authors.


"...Her story is unforgettable." -Kathleen Daley for the Star-Ledger


"Bauer’s yearning to understand her past the journey of her search and the resulting complexities make for captivating storytelling..... Bauer is able to make a personal narrative feel like a universal truth." ForeWord Review

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Open-Hearted Way To Open Adoption Book Tour


Even though open adoption was practically non-existent at the time of my birth (circa 1960's), this is the book I wish my parents had had when they adopted me and my two brothers.  Lori not only writes about the why's and how's of entering into an Open Adoption arrangement, but she also seamlessly gives wise sage advice throughout each and every page of this book.  Advice such as keeping the child's well-being as a focal point, viewing adoption as problem-solving for all within the triad, and explaining that which we resist persists. 

These may be simple statements, but when this advice is applied to how you deal with your child's adoption status, whether open or closed, a very big impact for the well-being of not only the child but for the entire family is made.

This book also has plenty of real adoption experiences often presented as a vignette. These views into the lives of Lori's children, their birth-parents and other families touched by adoption allows us to see and feel Lori's advice in action. The reader is gently reminded of the benefits of letting go of fear and accepting the people who are important to the one's whom we love, including our children. We know we should be honest and truthful and we also know we should treat others in the same way we wish to be treated (aka: the golden rule). Sometimes we just need to be reminded about these things and Lori's book, The Open-Hearted Way To Open Adoption, does just that.

When it comes to our children, how could we not love the people who brought them into this world?  How could we not also want to maintain contact with them in order to ensure our child is complete?  Lori tells us that it is okay and even necessary to provide this type of contact with the birth families for our children's healthy emotional development.

I took away so many things from this book.  One of my favorites is the school Genealogy Project advice.  Not only did I encounter this problem growing up, (being told by my teacher to pretend that I had the same nationalities as my adoptive parents) but when it came time for my children to do their own Genealogy project at school, they wanted to include all four sides to their family tree even though their teacher said the chart wouldn't allow them to do so.  Lori gives many different options on how one might navigate through these type of issues that arise when there is extended family.

Another favorite of mine is Lori's story about her son and how he answered his peer's question about why he didn't look like his Mom.  He stated, "That's cause she adopted me."   I always used to say "Because I'm adopted" to these types of questions and Lori is so right:  it's a subtle difference but I never liked the way it defined me as being different just because someone else gave birth to me. Yes, adoption should be a verb and should describe what happened instead of who a person is.

There are endless scenarios one may encounter with open adoption and over and over again the advice and examples given guide the reader to "create the right mind-set and heart-set" in which answers can be found.  This book gives you the necessary tools that will guide you to come to your own answers.

Not an easy task...

"Calm...Center...Open...Breathe...Listen...Assess..."

Yes, Lori wonderful advice!  Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, your open adoption how-to guide and your beautiful adoption experiences with us.

Now on to the discussion questions.


"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?"


As an adopted individual who grew up with the 'either/or' mentality, I feel I can give light to this question as it pertained to my emotional development throughout my formative years and beyond.  I was not permitted to know any information about my original parents.  I did not know their nationalities, their hair or eye color, their names, or even the reasons why they decided to relinquishment custody.  My birth parents were phantoms to me and the lack of knowledge compelled me to wonder quite frequently and to long to know anything about them.  The lack of information represented a piece of me that was missing. I was not complete because I did not know my own history. I was only allowed to know my adoptive family (either/or mentality). If I asked about my origins I was made to feel guilty for wanting to know anything about them, it was seen as an insult to my parents, by them and by others.  How could I possibly want to know anything about them when they gave me away? 
Ever wonder why history is a main subject throughout school?  Knowing where you came from and the circumstances of your birth is history, personal history and it is the same as knowing the details of your own particular culture and their history which helps form your identity. Everyone is interested in their own history and most people love to hear how they inherited their blue eyes from Grandma or their red hair from their father.  I could never boast about these attributes and felt left out whenever the family got together for holidays or a new cousin was born where the topic always came up of who looks like whom in the family.
Unless you've been there, like I have (and other adopted individuals), you have no idea how alienated this makes you feel and how it separates you once again that you are different from your own family. 
Lori's notion of 'and/both' simply means that it is okay and beneficial to the child to acknowledge that there are two sets of parents.  The set she/he lives with are her/his Mom and Dad and the other set are the ones who were the original parents but were unable to parent at the time.  Both are important in there own special way.  The original parents are not going to "parent" the child, but they are going to be in contact in order to provide a connection for all parties involved.  Everyone wins when you include and don't exclude or as Lori says having a 'and/both' mentality which focuses on abundance. 

How does everyone win? 
The child benefits from this perspective ('and/both') because he/she doesn't have to wonder or worry about who the original parents were and why they decided not to parent.  It's okay for them to know the details about their own birth history and therefore, their self-esteem remains intact.  Everyone knows what creative imaginations children have and the many scenarios they will conjure up about why they were given up for adoption when they don't know any of their own information!  With information and contact, the child gets to see exactly where they got their red hair from, etc...and thus their identity is aided in forming properly.
The original parents benefit because they get to see how happy their child is in their new family.  I know my birth-mother became depressed every year around the time of my birth because she was so worried about my well-being, she had no idea if I was dead or alive. 
And the adoptive parents benefit because their child will grow up knowing and feeling a connection to their original family and will never have issues relating to their identity.  It will give the parents comfort also that their child will have much more time and energy to focus their thoughts on other matters such as school work, sports, hanging out with friends and good old fashioned family time.  I think back to the hours spent wasted wondering and worrying about my origins.  I know I wouldn't want my own child to feel incomplete and to wonder with no answers to questions that everyone should be provided with.  Parents want their children to be happy, whole and loved and if providing them with periodic contact to their origins prevents self-esteem and other emotional issues, then I am sure all Adoptive Parents will want to be on board to provide this for their children.


 
In most of the cases that Lori describes, including her own relationship with Crystal, most of the contact occurs between the birth mother and the adoptive mother. To what extent do you see the mothers as the gatekeepers of contact for their respective families?


Women, in general, are the gatekeepers of contact within their own respective family, whether that family is formed from adoption or not.  I think this is a cultural phenomenon that exists throughout the world.  Women have typically taken on the nurturing type role.  They decide on the majority of the issues related to the health and well-being of the family including diet, clothing, healing and emotional support.  It's no wonder then that when it comes time to arrange open adoptions that it will primarily be the women who will take charge and coordinate the logistics of how to maintain a healthy relationship for the child between the birth and adoptive families.


It has been my pleasure to read Lori's book and to participate in this tour.
Please return to the main post to read more opinions on Lori Holden's The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption

6 comments:

  1. The Family Tree is one I've been struggling with as I try to fill out baby D's baby memory books. Do I include my birth family too? And yes, what to do when the branches don't "work?" Where the heck would we put our egg donor and heck, is there a space for the woman who held him in her belly for nine months?

    I so agree with what you say here: "this is the book I wish my parents had had when they adopted me and my two brothers." I think my mom would have embraced open adoption if it were an option, pretty sure my dad would not, and as the years progressed, I think my mom started to fear a reunion with my birth mom. The unknown becomes a scary thing, especially if you aren't secure about your own place. I think Lori's book really would have helped her navigate these waters. And I'm seriously wondering if I should share it with her now (but I fear she might see is as a "see, here's what you did wrong... and that's not the intent.

    I hear what you're saying about women as the familial gatekeepers. Its a role I mostly cherish, but sometimes resent. Like when I was the one poring through paperwork and profiles and giving my husband an executive summary when he got home. At the same time, it is a powerful and can be an empowering role if we choose to see it that way. I need to remember to see it that way.

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  2. So glad you are participating in this book tour! Having recently read and participated in Lori's book tour for your book, The Sound of Hope, I often thought about you, your family and your experience while reading The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption. As I shared on someone's else book tour post, I am fascinated by the wide range of connections each blogger in this book tour has to the adoption constellation and thus what they took-a-way from reading the book.

    When awesome books like this are published my heart goes out to all those who wish something like it existed back when it could have helped them and their families during their journeys. It is so wonderful that going forward this book is available as a resource for all those who will benefit from what Lori shares, but I get that reading it is bittersweet for those, such a you and your family, who didn't have resources like this available during your childhood/adolescence being raised during the closed adoption area.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on all of this, especially the tangible things you learned, including how to approach family tree projects and Lori's advice to "create the right mind-set and heart-set."

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  3. Hi Anne! Like you, I loved the story about Reed saying "because she adopted me." It made me so glad, I kind of did a "yes!" out loud when I read it. :) So much of the pain that adoptees experience seems to stem from the way that, in the absence of openness and acceptance from their parents (on all sides), adoption is internalized as being all about them (in a negative way) rather than about the adults. (I think that internalization is a totally natural thing that kids do, it reminds me of discussions that I've read about kids and divorce.) I really hear you about the feeling of alienation and separation.

    Your statement that "The original parents benefit because they get to see how happy their child is in their new family" really struck me. What if their child isn't happy? I know that my wife's birth son is struggling right now, and it can be hard for us to see sometimes. Although the adoption is open and we have some contact, did/do we have enough? Is there anything we could do to help? Other first parents have talked about how adoption gives a child a different life, not a better life. That is a good reminder.

    We've been wrestling with the Family Tree, too. We really want to create something that is flexible enough to encompass all the complexities of our family. My wife remembers seeing a family tree created by a family member (not her parents) when she was a kid. There was an asterisk next to her and her brother's names because they are adopted. It makes me hurt and angry whenever I remember that story.

    Finally, I totally agree with you that "This book gives you the necessary tools that will guide you to come to your own answers." YES! I appreciate Lori's book so much for the way she models and encourages an attitude in adoption rather than a set of rules. Letting go of fear and rules is a lifelong struggle of mine, so I know I will turn to her book again and again.

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  4. thanks for sharing your perspective, especially on Q1.

    this is so powerful and consistent with what I've heard from other adult adoptees: "My birth parents were phantoms to me and the lack of knowledge compelled me to wonder quite frequently and to long to know anything about them. The lack of information represented a piece of me that was missing. I was not complete because I did not know my own history."

    as a mama through adoption (domestic open) and birth, I am hyperaware of when people make comments about one child's characteristics. I love that we can point to members of our daughter's birth family to see where she got her green eyes or golden locks or other unique abilities. we try to integrate them into our normal lives as much as possible so she doesn't feel that missing piece, even if she may feel loss. and we point to other friends who have birth mamas too, so she knows she is not alone.

    I love how you describe how everyone wins, how it benefits everyone. thanks for participating!

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  5. I was so pleased to see that you'd signed up for this tour, as I was particularly eager to see how it comes across to those who were adopted. Reading memoirs like yours has reinforced for me that the and/both heartset is the way to go.

    I'm glad you found the Genealogy Project advice helpful. That pearl of wisdom came from Andy, who is also on this tour (http://todaysthedaytheygivebabiesaway.blogspot.com/2013/05/open-hearted-adoption-book-tour.html)

    Thank you so much, Anne for taking the time to also place a review on Amazon. Much appreciated!

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  6. Hi from the book tour!

    Wow. This is a very powerful post - you hit on so many really great topics that I don't even know where to start!

    Positive adoption language - Lori's discussion of the adjective vs. verb of the words around adoption were so enlightening. I am a new mom via open adoption and am thankful to have read this only 2 months into my mothering career ... never would I want my daughter to feel isolated b/c of my poor choice of words and this book helped point me in the right direction!

    Family tree - great ideas hey? I loved this part too. I can't imagine how lonely and misunderstood you would have felt as a child to be asked to "pretend" you shared the same geneology as your adoptive parents.

    I really liked your discussion of vivid childhood imaginations and the stories that would be conjured up to explain gaping holes. This is not a healthy way to grow up, is it? This book served as a good reminder of this - that age appropriate full disclosure is really the best way to go for our children.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences!

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