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.

9 responses

  1. What a moving and interesting perspective. Open adoption has the potential to enrich and heal so many parties. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint.

  2. Wow. You post brought me to tears thinking about all that your older sister, you and your family have lost by not being a part of each others’ lives all of these years. I can’t imagine finding out, at the age and stage of life that you did, I had another sibling I never knew about before. I wonder so much where your older sister is and why she has not tried to find your parents yet. I wonder if she ever will. I get you wanting to try to find, but not wanting to upset her/her world. My thoughts and prayers go out to you, to her, to your family and hope that someday you all may be reunited.

    I loved Lori’s book for so many reasons, but didn’t think much about how it would feel for someone to read it, who hasn’t had the benefit of/the choice to be part of an open adoption constellation, but does have a direct connection to someone who was adopted in the closed era. The pain of that is almost too much for me to consider and it breaks my heart.

    Thank you, as always, for sharing so honestly and candidly your personal experience and perspective. I know I am better for knowing you and all that you are willing to put out here. As an aside, I am not sure how often I tell and/or have told you in the past, but you are a really wonderful writer. I was reading your answer to the first question you chose to tackle and kept thinking about how well you choose your words to get across what you are saying.

    I am so glad you are doing this book tour and share your immense pride for Lori and her awesome work of heart that is this book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.

  3. Wow Esperanza, I had no idea. What a beautiful and insightful post this is. Your voice is one that we rarely get to hear – the voice of a sibling who “lost” another in the age of closed adoptions.

    Its unfair to judge our parents for selecting essentially one of the only options available to them. But it IS easy to wish that open adoption were among those choices and yes, that Lori’s book were in existence during that time. What a difference both could make! I’m with you on the wishing.

    When I sought out my birth parents, my birth father had to tell my teenage twin brothers they actually had a half-sister. I can’t imagine their reactions. I bet they were similar to yours – just trying to process, take it all in. I can say that getting to know them has been pretty cool. I’ve felt nothing but openness from them. And that is cool.

    Esperanza, if you knew your sister knew she was adopted, would you feel differently about seeking her out? Are there other factors that, if changed, you would say, oh yes, I am going to see if this person would like to know me?

  4. I love how you share your perspective as someone affected by a closed adoption. so profound to consider how your lives would have been different.

    and I love this: “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.”

    thanks for participating!

  5. This is so beautifully said: “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.”

    My heart aches for the loss of your sister. People who say you can’t miss what you don’t have are wrong. I can only imagine how that moment against the cheap college cabinets felt for you. I am curious, but you don’t have to tell, what prompted your parents to finally reveal to you. It must have been so hard on them, too, all that shame and secrecy and loss.

    Thank you so much for joining this tour, Esperanza. If you have a chance I’d love it if you could excerpt a part of this post and put a review on Amazon.

    And thanks for sharing your adoption connection here.

  6. Hi! Here from the book tour.

    On your first response – I totally agree that having different mentors can be a beneficial thing. My mother was my mother growing up, no matter what. But I sometimes needed advice outside of my mom’s perspective, outside of what she could provide for me. I would turn to aunts, friends, teachers – all good role models. For my daughter, who is adopted, I don’t see how having her birth mother as a role model in her life will be a bad thing … her birth mom is so kind, sweet, sensitive, thoughtful … and most of all, loves J. How can exposing my daughter to this kind of person be a bad thing?

    On your second response – Whoa. That is a lot to process. That is a lot for your mom and dad (and their families) to keep inside. I know what it’s like finding out the missing pieces of your parents’ puzzle as an adult, and it’s tough. Maybe enlightening in a way? Your response of “hurting your parents” is interesting – I’ve often read/heard this same sentiment coming from children who were placed for adoption under the closed system – fear of hurting their parents.

    Great perspectives – thanks for sharing!

  7. You bring up really good points about how even though you are not a direct member of the triad you are still affected by your parents decision to place their first born daughter. I think that Lori’s references to the “constellation” is spot on. You are part of the adoption constellation in your family. I hope your sister reaches out someday.

  8. This was such an amazing post to read, from a different perspective than we usually get on this issue… adoption touches so many lives, and not just the ones in the so-called “triad.” I do hope your sister comes looking for your family someday.

    Both my aunt & my sister’s best friend had babies that were adopted, back in the “dark ages” when open adoption was rare. Both went on to have other children (by different fathers). I have no idea whether these children know they have another sibling out there somewhere. It’s certainly not my place to tell them, but I feel guilty having that knowledge that they might not have.

  9. Pingback: Sixoversary | Author Q&A

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