Most of the books I've read on adoption have been adoptee memoirs, or vaguely textbook-y with a dash of lecturing. While they've been good, and I've learned quite a lot from different perspectives, this is the first book I've read about open adoption specifically that speaks plainly, warmly and from a perspective of being in the middle of it. The insight from Lori and Crystal as well as everyone interviewed for the book is priceless. Every story has layers and fits and starts, and Lori does a good job of stressing that there is no "correct" path, but that open adoptions have a life of their own, an ebb and flow depending on the circumstances and personalities of all parties in the adoption constellation. I have many favorite quotes and tidbits that help me frame open adoption in my head, but I think that this one captures it all. Adoption creates a split between a person's biology and biography. Openness in adoption is an effective way to heal that split and help the child become whole. I believe that this is true in every aspect of adoption, not just open adoptions. One of the ideas stressed to us in our training through the adoption agency is that us parents should be open with our children about their entire adoption story. Whether you find yourself in a closed adoption, a fully open adoption or somewhere in-between, I firmly believe that being open and willing to discuss adoption issues has to go a long way in helping adoptees gain a sense of self.
And now for the discussion questions:
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 agree that each set of parents should be seen as "Real". It's kind of like organic labeling. Just because an apple is labeled organic, does that mean the apple not labeled organic is inorganic? A trite example, but the spirit is the same. First families and adoptive families are people. Who can say that one of them is not real? If the adoptee and parents agree that all of the parents are real, then that gives the adoptee a way to answer an invasive question. The invasive question of "where are your real parents" can be answered "they are all real". Personally, I haven't come across this terminology being used, but if I do, I would struggle to not snap at the offender. I would like to think that I would calmly ask them what they mean to ask, giving them a chance to re-think their wording. More likely, I'd just glare and snap some sarcastic comment back at them. It's a work in progress, but I'm hoping, I don't have to deal with it as people seem to be more aware of positive adoption language. I'm sure Baby X will though, as kids are so literal that it's much more likely to come up in his world.
Pages 40-42, Lori talks about the tricky issue of birth mother expenses, who pays what, when and why. She doesn't offer any hard and fast answers because there aren't any, but ends with this: "sit with the facts you gather and let your heart have its say...if your future child one day asks you about your decision, will your conscience be clear?"
This was an interesting section of the book to read as I've struggled with the idea of paying so much money for services tied to adoption. The agency we work with has a flat fee that goes into a crisis fund for expectant parent expenses. We won't know if our contribution has been used. I think that this is the best way to handle the expenses issue. The expenses are never paid by prospective adoptive parents, and even though there's still murkiness in the idea of paying someone's expenses when they make an adoption plan, I think that it helps in dampening any feeling of indebtedness toward the prospective adoptive parents. Personally, I can't see myself sitting down and agreeing to pay someone's expenses because I wouldn't want the expectant parents to feel coerced by me. I also wouldn't want to pay expenses because I don't want to be taken advantage of either. In our state, only medical and legal expenses are allowed, which makes it one of the more strict laws when compared to other states. At least on paper...
Please return to the main post to read more opinions on Lori Holden's The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.