What I Learned About Openness in Adoption By Writing a Book on Open Adoption

May 11, 2013

in Blogging, Book Club, Books, Open Adoption

Happy blogoversary to me! Six years ago today I popped my blogging cherry with a short post about my intent to join the Barren Bi+ches Book Brigade. We were soon to discuss Peggy Orenstein’s fabulous Waiting for Daisy, and that book tour turned out to be my entrée into the ALI (Adoption/natal Loss/Infertility) community.

popping a cherryI’ve been the participant and the host on numerous occasions, but on this day of note, I get to be the book club’s author answering reader questions. How perfectly aligned is that?

A few days ago, Mel led a virtual book tour for my book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole. Fourteen bloggers signed on to share their take on the book and answer each others’ questions about it. They also posed two questions to me, which you’ll find here.

Did you learn anything new about open adoption through writing this book? Did anything surprise you? If so, what?

I did. And that’s because, as Heather put it, “this is the adoption book the Internet wrote.” I learned a lot by asking others in the adoption constellation about their experience with adoption. I learned from adoptees how it feels to be asked who your “real” parents are, and not to be able to get your own original birth certificate like others can. I learned alternatives to the dreaded family tree assignment in school. I learned from first mothers what has and hasn’t worked in their moving forward through grief. I learned from other adoptive parents cases for and against pre-birth matching, paying pre-birth expenses, and formalized adoption agreements.

Though it was unfunny at the time, I can now say that it was funny-peculiar that Crystal and I got a chance to practice what we preach. While writing Chapter 4 about establishing boundaries, a situation arose that Crystal and I had to work through. I was quite frustrated at first, mostly at myself, until I realized the incident was a chance for me to figure out something firsthand so that I could then teach what I knew, not just a theoretical concept. Crystal and I have had mostly smooth sailing over the years, and with our cruise control on I had gotten complacent. The situation required me to go off auto-pilot and figure out what was really bothering me by going deep within: breathe, be mindful, dig, gain clarity. Then zoom back out with clear communication with Crystal and a commitment to our relationship — and to Tessa.

It’s clear, in hindsight, that this uncomfortable episode was actually an amazing gift.

The additions from Crystal are a lovely and really informative piece of the book. I’m curious as to how this collaboration took shape. Did you develop the framework of the book together? Did you have an idea of where you thought Crystal’s voice would be most helpful and just ask her for that specific input? Or Did you work to find or create spaces for things she wanted to add to the conversation?

Crystal and I have talked for years about how we might help others develop the kind of relationship we stumbled into with each other. First we had to take a look at what we did and didn’t do and what has made our efforts a openness successful. For years we have taught classes in the Denver area (hi, Denver Laura!) to share not only that such a relationship doesn’t have to be contentious, but that it can also be enjoyable. More than anything we say in these sessions, people seem to get a lot just out of seeing a template for how an open adoption can look.

The framework of the book is mine. Crystal and I had extensive interviews about her thoughts and emotions at various points of our journey, as well as her own deconstruction of how we got to where we are. For a book that is largely about how adoptive parents and birth parents can be on the same “side,” rather than the traditional concept of competition between the two sides, it seemed important for us to work together on this book.

As for which came first, her words or a space for her words, I believe it was mostly the former. We had a few jam sessions in which we put as much on the table as we had in us. I took notes and the book began to take shape. Sometimes the book fit around her words and sometimes her words fit into the book.

I suppose in that sense, the way the book took its form is much the same way Crystal and I have taken our form.

I am deeply grateful to Mel, KathyApril, Luna, Jessica, Geo-Chick, BabySmiling, m, Esperanza, Leah Jane, AnneAndy, Liz, and Alicia for devoting precious time to reading my book, sharing their thoughts, and participating in discussions with each other about it. This has been an amazing experience for me and I thank you.

Image courtesy of ping phuket / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy May 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

Happy, happy 6th Blogoversary!!! What a wonderful way to celebrate answering questions about your newly published following the book tour this week! As you know, I loved your book and learned so much that I can put into practice as a parent in general and as the aunt to two children who were adopted. Also, I feel I can better support my sister and brother-in-law in their open adoption relationships with their daughter, son and their children’s first parents.

Thank you for answering those questions! Not sure if Mel let you know who asked them, but the first one was mine. :) I am so glad someone else asked the second one, as I hadn’t thought to ask, but really enjoyed reading your answer and getting more insight into your process!

Congrats again on this huge accomplishment and bloggy milestone! You have had quite an amazing week from your book tour to being part of the LTYM Denver cast and now celebrating 6 years of blogging! Way to go!!! I am so happy for and proud of you! Happy Mother’s Day! xoxo

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loribeth May 11, 2013 at 10:00 am

I am disappointed that I didn’t get my sh*t together & get a copy of the book in time to join the tour. :p But I will be reading in the near future. ;) You & Crystal have done many people a great service with this book; I have a few friends who have first-hand experience with open adoption, and while I think thing have worked out pretty well for most of them, I’m sure they wish a book like this had been around years ago. Happy blogoversary! :)

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Kristi Rieger Campbell May 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

Lori,
Happy blog birthday! I’m so impressed – 6 years. Wow. What an amazing thing and how completely awesome is it that on your sixth blogthday day that you’re answering questions about your new book? I’d say pretty freaking awesome. Congratulations, friend. I’m so excited for you!
Also, even though I am not planning on adopting, I’m going over to Amazon to buy your book right now. As an adoptee who was adopted before open adoptions were an option, I find it fascinating that parents today have relationships with their children’s birth mothers.

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Kristi Rieger Campbell May 11, 2013 at 10:41 am

actually I’ll have to buy it later tonight but I won’t forget!

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a May 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Happy Blogoversary! Seems fitting that you’re talking about your own book on this particular day. I’m glad to hear that your book was as much of a learning experience for you as it will prove to be for anyone who reads it – that helps to make up for some of the anxiety you surely had in bringing this particular baby into the world.

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Amy May 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Congratulations and much great success on your book! For so many children I hope others learn from your example.

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Alicia May 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Awwww, thanks for the shout out Lori! I seriously loved the book so much and know that I have gained so much that will benefit all the players in our open adoption. Most of all, you gave me comfort to “just be” and to trust myself.

You and Crystal must have some pretty amazing conversations! What wonderfully open women you two are!

Congrats on the book! I wish you much success!

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luna May 12, 2013 at 1:36 am

happy sixoversary! quite a milestone, quite a week!

of course I love this: “breathe, be mindful, dig, gain clarity” and this: “the way the book took its form is much the same way Crystal and I have taken our form.”

loved the book tour too! and you. xo

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m. May 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

Happy blogoversary, friend. Perfectly aligned, indeed! Thanks so much for sharing a little bit of your creative process here. I confess, the book has encouraged me to dig a little deeper and be a it more mindful with my own relationships. Parents aren’t the only ones who can (and should) practice openness.

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Seriously?! May 14, 2013 at 10:20 am

Happy happy happy blogoversary!!! Who knew 6 years ago that you would be writing a book and be an incredible sounding board for thousands, hundreds of thousands…ok..i’m going to put MILLIONS out there too! ;)

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments over the years. I am so honoured, and privileged, to have received your guidance and friendship throughout my journey!!!

Here’s to many more!!! Cling!!! (That was my virtual glass) ;)

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Addison May 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Wow, Lori! Thanks for being here. I’ve learned a lot from you – about blogging and about adoption. Thank you. Congratulations, too!

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Linda Schellentrager May 19, 2013 at 7:44 am

Lori – I’m an adoptive mom in a 21-yr open adoption. You’ve hit the nail on the head with your new book! Saw an article in the Huff Post and can’t wait to read it. Email me – much more to say.

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