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Open Adoption Examiner Book Tour: LifeGivers

Today kicks off the second Open Adoption Examiner Book Tour. Six months ago we explored the adoptee perspective with The Primal Wound; now we examine the first parent view with James L. Gritter’s 2000 book, Life Givers.

I’ll start by quoting myself from several years ago:

When we first brought Tessa home, my grandma was quite disturbed in meeting Crystal, Tessa’s firstmom.

Now, I love my Grandma, and she was an amazing woman. Almost 90 years old, she had seen space shuttles and the Internet replace horse & buggies and telegrams.

But she was stuck in an absolutely incorrect view of birth mothers. She was both grateful to Crystal for making me a mom, and contemptuous of her for “giving up her child.” Indeed, most mothers — by birth or adoption — have trouble imagining the unimaginable. Grandma couldn’t get over, “what kind of woman does this?”

Jim Gritter and my own old post reminded me that a judgmental view of first mothers did exist when the book was published (and, sadly, still does). How could I forget?

  1. I forgot because I’ve been living in open adoptions for more than 9 years and do not see either of my children’s first moms the way they are seen by some members of society. Myopia has crept in.
  2. I forgot because I have spent many years reading and getting to know several first parent bloggers. I see these strong and vocal women as the antithesis of the voiceless and the powerless mentioned in the book.
  3. I forgot because I now realize that birth parents walk among us. They work in our workplaces and play in our play places, they live near us, they are not essentially different from us. In fact, I suspect that most of us could say about birthparenthood: there but for the grace of g*d go I.

Here are my three chosen questions, asked by others touring with me.

In the chapter on Regret (p. 140), Gritter says that many adoptees like to hear about their birthparents’ feelings of regret. What are your thoughts about birthmothers who have no regret? Do you believe they exist? And what effect does that lack of regret have on the placed child?

This effect of a lack of regret is something I am bracing myself to deal with some day. Neither of my children’s birth mothers seem to have much regret about their placement decisions. Tessa’s birth mom, Crystal, has said so expressly and repeatedly. My antennae have been up with Reed’s birth mom, Michele, but have detected no regret.

So yes, I do believe regret-free first parents exist.

How will this strike  Tessa and Reed as they grow and continue to process their adoptedness? I don’t know. I do believe it will affect them and possibly make them sad, maybe angry.

And I have faith in their resilience to work it through.

On the flip side, both my children have birth fathers who carry regret. Both wish they could go back in time and make some different choices (I am not talking about the adoption decision, but in circumstances that surrounded the adoption decision. I will not say more, and you’ll have to trust me that saying they have some regret is not the same as saying they were were forced into the adoption decisions).

Gritter gives 8 ways that LifeGivers can fit in (pp 158-159). Choose one way and tell about it in your situation.

One of the ways that a LifeGiver can fit in is to provide affirmation. Crystal has attended various graduation ceremonies, all 9 birthday parties, some athletic events, music concerts, dance recitals. Joe has, as well. Reed’s birth parents do not live in state, but I have hopes that there will be some affirming opportunities in the coming years.

Regarding the exclusive roles of parents (birthparents as life givers, adoptive parents as caregivers), Gritter says (p. 153), “Open adoption recognizes the deep sadness associated with not being able to provide a vital dimension of parenting.” How did you work through this sadness in your own triad?

I answered a similar question about how I embraced open adoption.

Regarding the sadness of not conceiving, carrying and bearing my children: I just decided that wishing things were different than they were was pointless and would only make me unhappy. So why do it? That was the logical element.

And there was the fact that I was consumed with devotion and enchantment for these babies who were placed in my arms. Such intense feelings burned away the vestiges of infertility sadness.   That was the loving element.

Finally, having an infant, and later an infant with a toddler, was exhausting! Who has time to lament??

To continue to the next stop of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.

17 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing (and starting the tour!) The regret question is an interesting one and one I hadn’t thought of. Being an adoptee I can see how it would bother me to think/know that my parents had no regret in placing me for adoption.

  2. I am really touched by the image of the “birth moms” and “birth dads” all around us. I think about my cousin’s daughters’ “birth parents” and wonder how they are feeling and doing. I also send a prayer of love and thankfulness for the gift they have given us.

    Hopefully in just a few generations’ time, (maybe less??), this stigma will go away that is so prevalent in your Grandma’s attitude.

  3. I wonder if the amount of regret for Crystal and Michelle has anything to do with the fact that they are aware of how their child is doing. I would imagine that the not knowing would be the cause of most anxiety. If you are sure that your child is loved and secure, might the regret be much diminished?

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  5. who has time to lament indeed!

    I was leery of answering the question about regret. even though K has said repeatedly she does not regret her decision, we are only one year into our open adoption and I suppose anything could change. she also tends to focus on what she has gained rather than what she has lost. gritter had some interesting things to say about this.

    I think the wonderful thing about lifegivers affirming the child through life is that everyone gets to witness and share the outcome. for crystal to see how well tessa is thriving, and for tessa to know how much crystal loves and cares for her is just invaluable. that’s not to say the lack of regret won’t have an impact, I imagine it may. but tessa will feel how she will feel. at least she has crystal to ask why not.

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  7. I really liked your point about birth moms and birth dads being all around us. As I look at my own family and my extended family, there are many adoption stories (for various reasons and these stories cover all parts of the triad) that could be told.

    I thought this quote was particularly profound and supports the notion that our thoughts and beliefs create our world:

    “I just decided that wishing things were different than they were was pointless and would only make me unhappy. So why do it?”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the book tour! Sounds like a great, thought-provoking book.

  8. regret is such a hard topic to discuss. Do I have regrets? yes but I can’t even wrap my head around them completely so I don’t talk about it especially with Kidlets parents. I can see how he may want to know about my regrets at somepoint and I can only hope I know what to say when that point comes.

    Thanks for hosting the book tour!

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  10. I liked your comment about birthparents being all around us. When we were going through the adoption process with our daughter, I was amazed to find out how many people we knew (and in many cases knew well) were touched by adoption in some way. Even though we didn’t know it prior to our adoption, we knew birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees.

  11. You know, a couple friends struggled with the choice of adoption when they became pregnant in high school, and I remember it as being an agonizing decision. One ultimately chose to make an adoption plan, and one chose adoptive parents, left her son at the hospital- and picked him up a day later. In the end, they both made the best decision for themselves at the time, and it was not easy to make. The stigma in our social set in the mid-90s was not enormous. I compare that to my mother’s memories of girls being forced to relinquish their child, and stigmatized for pregnancy in the first place. I hope times continue to change in a positive direction.

  12. L, you always AMAZE me with not only WHAT you share, but HOW you share it.
    GRACE comes to mind more times than I care to count when I think of you.

    that said, not knowing what it’s like to adopt or be adopted I can say to you that you are an incredible parent and humna being. I love the way that Tessa’s BM can be a part of celebrations and Tessa’s life , how you’ve embraced it all for her have her have a full life with everyone who loves her in it.
    There is that “Grace” again.

    Plus you don’t pull punches , you just know that deep down, Tessa and Reed were gifts (like ALL Children are…whether adopted or conceived from you) and that in the final analysis, they are yours…they are not a situation or a problem or a experiment (which is what I find myself having to remind people like my MIL when she doesn’t want certain people to know HOW the boys were conceived (IVF) they are just your children….and always will be.


  13. This is a GREAT book. I read it a few years ago, and was surprised to see it here (though I shouldn’t have been). I once posted on a mother’s site who had adopted several children to reconsider her judgment of birth parents; she chided me and told me that anyone who “gives up” their children does so selfishly and refuses the gift of growth. UGH.

    If we could all honor the love of all parents–birth/first and adoptive parents–we’d be so much better off.

    Gritter’s book is lovely and honors mothers who make difficult and loving choices for their children.

  14. I’m stumbling upon this about 3 years too late, but I couldn’t resist a comment. From a birth/first parent perspective, you can bet your sweet patootie that both first/birth mothers of your children DO experience regret. It’s probably similar to the birth fathers – not regretting the actual adoption decision but simply the circumstances they were in to make the choice in the first place. I would also venture a guess that perhaps Crystal is afraid to express any regret to you at all because she doesn’t want you to assume that she regrets the decision of YOU to be her daughter’s parents. Either that, or it’s possible she’s in denial about the grief.

    1. That would probably be a safe bet for my patootie.

      But I’m not so sure about your second guess. The only way to know is to ask Crystal. I’ll point her here and see if she will chime in.

      Your last sentence could be a blog post in itself. If someone doesn’t have grief (in any situation that others have grief about — not just placing), does that mean that person just doesn’t know they have grief?

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