The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption
I can’t really express in words how proud I am of my bloggy friend Lori for creating her incredible book, The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption. The adoption community is richer for this resource and I know it will change people’s lives for the better. When I heard Mel over at Stirrup Queens was going to host a book club for this amazing book I knew I had to participate.
As the daughter of parents that put their first child up for adoption, I spent most of the book wondering how fundamentally different my life would have been if my parents had had this book–and the option of open adoption–when they were placing their daughter over 40 years ago. How much richer would my life have been if my sister was a part of our lives from the moment I was born? It’s almost unfathomable.
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?”
I am not a child or family psychologist so I can only answer this question with instinct and conjecture. It seems that the more people who love a child, and are an active part of that child’s life, the better off that child is. Positive participation in a child’s life is ALWAYS a good thing; mentors of any kind can help a child grow into their best possible self. When both a child’s birth and adoptive parents are a part of their life, they are better able to understand themselves, as they can look to both sets of parents to understand where they come from. Having not only access to, but a loving relationship with, both sets of parents allows adopted children to understand their origins in both the nature and nurture sense. Being loved by both the people who brought them into the world and the people who are guiding them through the world makes them feel complete, there is no part of them that is missing, and for that reason they feel whole.
Lori often stresses the importance of exploring difficult emotions. Describe a time when you have been forced to explore difficult emotions related to adoption and the outcome of this exploration.
I am not a direct member of any adoption triad but I am on the periphery of one. I learned of my older sister during my Sophomore year of college. My mother told me over the phone and all I remember is crouching on the floor of the kitchen of my tiny college apartment, back flush against the cheap cabinets, trying to incorporate this new information into my understanding of myself and my life. I had another sister, someone ten years older than me who shared my DNA, someone I would probably never meet. My parents had lived with this secret my entire life, never hinting at the loss they have suffered, never mentioning the member of our family who we would probably never know. Learning that they had not only placed a daughter for adoption but that they had never told me about it was a lot to take in. I felt deep empathy for my parents but I also felt betrayed. I never judged them for their decision but I often wished they’d trusted me with the information sooner.
Now, as an adult with my own family, I feel similarly trapped between two seemingly contradicting desires. On the one hand I want to search for my sister, on the other hand I don’t feel it’s my place. I worry I’ll hurt my parents (mostly my father) by looking for her and I also worry I could potentially hurt my sister by showing up in her life. For all I know she doesn’t even know she was adopted. If she does know, she may not want to meet us. My parents have taken steps to be found but it seems my sister has not taken similar steps to find us. If she did, how would she feel to know that her parents not only stayed together, but got married, had two more children and eventually celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary.
My own experience with closed adoption is one filled with gaping, painful holes. I very much wish my parents had placed during a time when open adoptions were not only possible, but successful. I so wish my sister had been a part of my parent’s life, a part of my own life, from as far back as I remember instead of materializing as a missing link in my own family history. Imaging what my life might have been like if I’d always known my sister, instead of learning of her abstract existence in my so late in life.
I truly hope that The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption helps bring families together so that great rifts like the ones we live with can be avoided. Open adoptions not only help adopted children to remain whole, but also maintain wholeness in birth families as well.