Book Tour: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption

May 9, 2013

I am delighted to be participating in the book tour for my dear friend Lori Holden’s book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.

Her book is unique in addressing the needs of both adoptive and birth parents. Her insights are useful for those who are considering or navigating the adoption process, as well as those who have already adopted/placed a child. She also has a chapter targeting the unique needs of those who are building their families through donor gametes or embryos.

As a reader of Lori’s blog for 5 years, as well as a face-to-face friend for almost as long, many of her personal stories were familiar to me. I also have no personal stake in any aspect of adoption. Even so, I found the book fascinating. Lori uses many compelling illustrations from her own life as well as those of others (such as Luna) to show successful, and not-as-successful, ways that others have engaged in open adoption. Although I have heard many of her suggestions from years of reading blogs by adoptive parents, there were several insights that I have never heard before.

A few weeks ago I saw an old friend (that is, she has been my friend for many years, though she is also much older than I am). One of her daughters has been struggling for infertility for many years. I inquired about her daughter, and my friend told me that her daughter was now pursuing adoption. I excitedly asked, “Domestic or international?” The reason I asked is that if the answer had been domestic adoption, I wanted to recommend Lori’s book to her, knowing that it would truly make her journey easier as well as benefit the emotional development of her future child.

And now, a few answers to questions from other book tour participants.

Lori refers to the relationship between adoptive parents and birthparents as similar to an in-law relationship.  Does thinking about the relationship as an in-law relationship influence how you approach open adoption?

I found this insight really helpful. With my own in-laws and extended family, there are some with whom I want as much contact as possible, some with whom I enjoy occasional contact, some with whom I tolerate occasional contact, and some that I wish would go away. For the latter two, I still engage them not because I want to but because they are part of my children’s family.

You could replace in-laws with birthparents or adoptive parents in the above paragraph and probably have it apply to almost every family’s open adoption situation.

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?

I think that women are usually the gatekeepers of family relationships in general, but it seems to be even more pronounced in open adoption. I’ve heard a lot describing contact between adoptive mother and birth mother. I’ve heard somewhat about contact between adoptive mother and birth father. I’ve heard only a little about contact between adoptive father and birth mother. I’ve never once heard about direct contact between adoptive father and birth father, except when they both happened to participate in a group interaction with mothers and others. It’s not weird to me if my husband contacts either a mother or father of a preschool classmate to set up a playdate for my twins, but it does feel weird to me to think of an adoptive father in a heterosexual relationship taking the initiative for reaching out to his child’s birth family. I don’t know if that’s me being rigid and closed-minded or if it truly would be weird.

Personal anecdotes and quotes play an important role in this book, humanizing the data and giving it the force of lived experience. It was interesting to note the voices that were not as present: fathers, adult adoptees from open adoptions, open adoption participants with decades of experience rather than years. What impact, if any, do you think those absent voices have on the book?

Because closed adoption was the norm until less than two decades ago, it seem that there just aren’t yet very many adult adoptees from open adoptions nor people with decades of experience. If Lori revises her book in a decade, it would be great to add these perspectives.

Fathers, though, are plentiful. It seems that men in general don’t spend as much time as women talking about the nuances of family relationships. Judging by the representation of men in the ALI blogosphere, for every man who wants to talk at length about these issues, there are hundreds of women. I don’t know how many men Lori might have tried to interview for her book, but I would guess that there were men who declined: not having much to say, not wanting to get into it, or “you should ask my wife.” In my experience with many, many, many people who have used alternative family-building methods, a few men have had strong opinions against methods such as IVF, donor gametes, or surrogates, cutting off those options as possibilities. I have known a couple of men who expressed preferences such as wanting to adopt internationally from a country where the child would have an ethnic match with one parent. The vast majority of men I have encountered have expressed few strong opinions and deferred to their wives on pretty much everything. During our 7 years of infertility, my husband usually expressed no opinions, not because he didn’t want to express his feelings but because he truly had no opinion. I imagine that there are other men out there who do have opinions and reflections on open adoption, and even a couple who are willing to express them publicly, but I bet it is tough to find them. Maybe that will be Lori’s next book. 🙂

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


8 Responses to “Book Tour: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption”

  1. Anne Bauer Says:

    Yes, it would be interesting to have Lori update her book in another decade to include adult adoptees from open adoptions talk about their perspectives. We hear so much today from the closed adoption adult adoptees (like myself!).

  2. luna Says:

    I agree that many fathers don’t seem to be a huge part of the conversation, unfortunately.

    we may be an exception, where my husband has an independent relationship including direct contact with our daughter’s birth mama. but I maintain all other relationships in our open adoption. perhaps if we develop some further relationship with our daughter’s birth father he would take a more active role to maintain that one.

    also agree I’m unaware of many adult adoptee bloggers in open adoptions. I know some IRL, some in reunion, but not many who grew up with the level of openness we see today.

    thanks for participating!

  3. Kathy Says:

    It never occurred to me that Lori could do a revised/updated version of this awesome book in ten years or so. It would/will be fascinating to see what the conventional wisdom on adoption, especially open adoption is in 2023!

    I enjoyed reading your take on this book, especially since you have known Lori for so long and like me, don’t have a direct/personal stake in adoption (though I do have a niece and nephew who were adopted that I adore).

    I agree about the in-laws analogy. That really spoke to and makes sense to me. Thanks for participating in the this book tour, it has been a really interesting discussion I think, especially because of the wide variety of points-of-view and connections to the adoption constellation.

  4. Alicia Says:

    Hi from the book tour!

    I too answered the question about gatekeeping – and my response was similar to yours in that it seems to be women in general who are gatekeepers of all family relationships, not just adopted ones. My husband (adoptive father) is definitely in contact with our daughter’s birth mom, usually via text sending videos and photos, but it’s definitely me who arranges all the visits and special events, buys the gifts, prints off photos, etc. But when I thought about it, I realized that even before our daughter, it was me who filled this role. I think you’re right – that women are family gatekeepers!

    I also like your response to the in-law question – short and sweet and very true! Some in-laws are awesome whereas others are in our life for “well, they’re family” reasons only. Thinking about our daughter’s birth family from this perspective as we move through the ebbs and tides of our relationships with them will be helpful – always remembering to keep our little girl at the core of our decisions and understanding that the dynamics will change, and that’s ok!

  5. And didn’t this book have the best editing and proofreading EVER??

    I’m with you about this: “it does feel weird to think of an adoptive father taking the initiative for reaching out to his child’s birth family,” but I can’t articulate why.

    And that’s such a good question about those voices that were missing. Your response is spot on.

    So great to have you on the tour, BabySmiling.

  6. geochick Says:

    I think that the whole family communication-thing often is through the moms. That’s just in general thinking of how my family operates, S’s family operates, S’s sister…my friends. It’s natural that the adoptive mom-birthmom relationship would form as the direct relationship.

  7. strongblonde Says:

    thanks for this review 🙂 i always find the topic of adoption fascinating. for a variety of reasons, really, but i had to really think about it when a therapist said to me, “why don’t you start the adoption process now??” when i got my cancer diagnosis. i had to sort out a LOT of feelings then but i saw evolution throughout IF as well.

    you doing okay, btw? 20 days since this post!! 🙂

  8. […] am deeply grateful to Mel, Kathy,  April, Luna, Jessica, Geo-Chick, BabySmiling, m, Esperanza, Leah Jane, Anne,  Andy, Liz, and Alicia for devoting precious time to reading my […]

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