Category Archives: Guest Post

Laura Dennis: what adoption reunion can teach us about openness

One of the best things to come from the Adoption Blogger Interview Project is that each year I run across new-to-me bloggers who help me see adoption from a new perspective, who make me ponder yet another facet of it.

Laura Dennis, authorI was happy, then, to “meet” Laura Dennis last month, despite the fact that she lives in Serbia. Laura is a mom to two small children, a trained dancer, an adoptee-in-reunion, and an author. She grew up in Maryland, went to graduate school in Southern California and expatriated to Belgrade, where she wrote her memoir, Adopted Reality.

I read it — in just three sittings. I gave it a bunch of stars. I’ll have a future Q&A post with Laura about her book, so pick it up yourself if you want to follow along at that time.

For today, though, Laura and I are swapping blog posts. She offers here a post about the lessons of reunion that can be applied to open adoption relationships.

For Openness as well as Reunions, Be Flexible But Tenacious

Reconnecting with my first mother was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Knowing her filled a hole in my sense-of-self that I hadn’t quite realized was there.

I have so much to say about my reunion, I could write a book about it. Oh wait, that’s right, I already did. Adopted Reality, A Memoir, is about my adoption and reunion, and brief bout with insanity. However, it doesn’t address the topic of maintaining a long-term first family relationship.

The Adoptee-First Family Reunion
As the Baby Scoop Era enters the Open Adoption Era, those participating in each can benefit from learning from the others’ experiences.

Each first family reunion is unique. It’s a family relationship like any other that needs work, time and nurturing to grow and develop.

I met my first mom when I was 23, and during the first few months, she and I constantly felt we were playing catch up. Truly we were … we had 23 years-worth of separate lives to rediscover!

loving hands

I missed the shared experiences of my first family — vacations, holidays, inside jokes. Not only that, but I’d had my own, in my adopted family.

Merging these families is something akin to what happens when a couple gets married. Who do you visit for Christmas? Who do you spend vacations with? The questions extend beyond logistics. … What happens when the shiny reunion glow begins to wear off? How is a “real” relationship built after the honeymoon period?

Creating a Lasting Relationship
I’m not exactly sure when this began to happen, but over time, my first mom became just another family member. I stopped trying to play catch up.

Just like my adoptive family, my first mom and my biological extended family are now just … my family.

When that happens, we should all be happy. It means those who felt such a deep loss over so many years are letting go of their hurt.

Figuring out what that connection is won’t be all fluffy kittens and prancing through the park. It may involve disagreements and misunderstandings. But that’s okay. In a family, we don’t reject one another. We may be hurt, but we get over it, we forgive, we let go.

Because that’s what family does.

Why should anyone care about adoptee reunions?
Here’s the thing about closed adoptions. First mothers and adult adoptees are coming out and saying, Maybe that wasn’t the best way to do things.

Maybe cutting off all contact between the birth mom and the baby isn’t for the best. Maybe the adoptive parents are open-minded enough to see the birth mom not as a source of emotional competition, but someone who also loves the baby.

Open adoptions are so new; we don’t have a “crop” of adult open-adoptees who can talk about their experiences … yet. One of the problems, though, is that many open adoptions are closing after a few years. Fewer letters and phone calls, eventually no more face-to-face meetings.

Worse, there is generally nothing in place that legally or contractually binds the families to remain in contact for the sake of the child. There are adoptive parents who mislead the agency, stating they wanted an open adoption … just to get the baby, intending to cut-off communication once the ink dries. There are also first moms drifting off with their contact, finding it too hard to watch someone else raise their child.

What can these open adoptions learn from closed adoptees in reunion? My advice would be:

  • Try to keep in mind: kids grow up. I, too, have this problem. My (biological) kids won’t always be two and four. No doubt, they will hold me accountable for the mothering I do now. Adopted children become adopted adults. Adoptedness doesn’t just “go away.”
  • Take your child’s interests and desires into account as he or she grows.
  • Be flexible. We’re all human, imperfect, with good days and bad days.
  • But be tenacious. Don’t give up. Please don’t let an open adoption become a closed one.

When the relationship settles into that normal, day-to-day phase? When the original mom to your child is “just” another family member, and vice versa? That’s a good thing.

Just keep at it.


East Coast US native Laura Dennis lives with her husband and two crazy kids in Belgrade Serbia, where she blogs about expat (adopted) mommy life. Her memoir, Adopted Reality, is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook.

Photo credit: tungphoto via

2012 Adoption Blogger Interview Project

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012In conjunction with National Adoption Awareness Month, today is Interview Project day for more than 50 pairs of adoption bloggers. I therefore introduce to you to my partner-in-project, Becky from Scared to be Happy, Happy to be Scared.

Becky and her co-blogger (and husband) Rick have been writing to their future child, Little One, for nearly a year. They explain the name they chose for their blog: it’s because adoption is a pretty scary experience, and as we’re finding out it is not for the faint of heart. But we’re so excited to be starting our journey and we’re hoping for a happy ending.

Becky makes her own soap (I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that) and Rick is a computer whiz but not-so-much a laundry whiz. Their adoption site is and they also have a Facebook Page.

Here is my interview with Becky (and hers with me).

When did you start blogging and why?

I started blogging on January 13th, 2012, the day we found out about our match with the first expectant Mom. Until that time, we had seriously considered adoption but never acted on it (mainly out of fear of failure, I think), until this match fell out of the sky an into our laps. We knew right away that this was the path we were meant to be on, that adoption was our destination. I had so many emotions and feelings flying around in my head, I had to put them all down and release them in order to think straight again. The only way I knew how to do that was to write to this baby, this person who was so concrete, made of flesh and bone, and yet was so unreal to us. From then on, I wanted it to be a real life account of this journey, the good and the bad. I want LO (Little One, as we’ve been calling our future baby) to have this history with us, partly because we cannot have the history of gestation and birth, but also so they realize just how much they were wanted and loved by not just us but everyone in their lives- long before they were born.

What is your favorite post and why?

I think my favorite post is the one right after we found out the first expectant Mom had decided to parent. The emotions were so raw and real, and it showed such a strength in us that we didn’t even know existed. I literally put the phone down from receiving those fateful words, “she’s parenting the baby,” and I immediately put my fingertips on the keys and started writing. It was that type of writing where you’re just letting go, and until you go back and reread it you don’t even remember what you said in the moment. It’s one of those rare posts that is a small window into our souls at that exact point in time with no filter. I also like it because one day LO will be able to look back at that post and realize that we never, ever gave up, even through the hellish parts. That we never stopped believing in them and ourselves, that we put faith and trust in our family and choices. It also proved to ourselves that that exact moment that this really was how we wanted to build our family, and that particular situation had to exist to be the fire under us to get the ball rolling in the direction it needed to go. When I’m having a rough week, I will still go back and reread that post and find strength again.

I also like this post, where I work out some assumptions and thoughts about openness in adoption.

What does openness mean to you? What do you envision as being your ideal adoption situation, regarding openness?

To us, openness is, well, open ended. I’ve realized through talks with other families in open adoptions that it’s difficult to define openness because it can often be fluid, waxing and waning because of life getting in the way. However, in our ideal adoption situation we would want complete openness. Ideally we’d like to have a close friend relationship with the people who brought our child into this world. Without them, we wouldn’t get the opportunity to live out our dreams and parent. I know in the waiting game I am constantly worried about where our future child is- if they are safe, if they are on earth yet, where they are- and they aren’t even concrete yet. I cannot imagine the pain of a first mother wondering the what’s where’s and why’s after carrying that soul within her body for nine months. I don’t think it’s fair at all, especially to the child, to sever that relationship because of our insecurities. In an ideal world we would have our future child’s first parents at birthday parties, graduations and weddings. We’d talk to them like equals and friends. Our children would have the opportunity to know their full history with both them and us, and be comfortable in knowing them because they see how comfortable we are knowing them. I know that not every open adoption turns out that way, but I also know that a lot do and I hope we’re in the latter group.

Besides adoption and family-building, what are you all about? What are your interests, hobbies, passions?

I’m a huge nerd, and a DIY-er to a fault. I’m addicted to trying new crafts and I love art. I’ve gotten pretty good at soap and jewelry making over the past year (it’s a good way to help keep busy during this waiting game) and I’ll try just about any craft at least once. Usually I fail miserably, but that is part of the fun. Rick and I are also big into nature. We love to go hiking and camping with our family and our two dogs, our lab Sammy Davis Junior Junior and our cockapoo Ella Fitzgeraldine. I also love to cook, but only if someone else is doing the dishes!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Two things. One, I’ve found through our journey that the adoption community as a whole is sorely lacking in resources and support to those who are doing an independent (or private) adoption. We chose this route for many reasons, including being able to manage cost and marketing (again with the DIY-er attitude) and the ability to form a close relationship with the expectant parents without a third party. A lot of people think that this means no support for the expectant Mom, and that is a big misconception. We’re huge supporters of emotional counseling and separate legal counseling for the expectant parents. With independent adoptions, I don’t think a lot of people choose this route simply because they didn’t know it was an option. I encourage all people looking into adoption to consider private/independent adoption when looking at resources and agencies. That is not at all to say that agencies are evil or should be avoided, but they are a different experience — one that we might have one day — but it’s important to know there are many options available. Just like in anything in life, research, research, research, then find what fits best with your life.

Secondly, we are still looking for our future child. A lot of independent adoptions take place within the adoption community. For example, you may have already adopted and feel your family is complete, but a friend comes to you with word about a situation. Maybe it’s not the right situation for you, but it could be for us. Please pass that information along. Our information can be found at, our blog:, or our facebook page: . The power of a loud mouth is astounding (I should know, I have one!) so if you get the opportunity to tell someone about our journey and the fact that we’re still looking, we’d greatly appreciate it.

Third (oops, I snuck another one in there!) I’d like to thank you for being an awesome interview partner! I’ve been a big fan for a long time, so I’m  so excited I got the opportunity to interview you as well!


Likewise, Becky. Thanks for partnering with me on the Adoption Interview Project for 2012.

To read interviews from other pairs of adoption bloggers, visit The Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012.