Thinking about adoption? Does the thought of open adoption strike fear in your heart? Fret not. I’m so honored to welcome Lori Holden for today’s interview to talk about not just open adoption, but open-hearted adoption.
Lori Holden blogs from Denver at LavenderLuz.com and can also be found @LavLuz on Twitter. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, written with her daughter’s birth mom, is available through Amazon or your favorite online bookseller. If you know anyone who is parenting via adoption (open, closed, foster, international) or donor conception (sperm, egg, embryo), or is a birth parent, check this book out as a thoughtful Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift.
Welcome, Lori! Tell us a little bit about your story: what brought you to the adoption family-building path?
Lori: We came to AdoptionLand through the inhospitable region of Infertilistan. Though the journey presented us with Fireswamps, Rodents of Unusual Size, and other harrowing experiences, it was worth it to get to our destination: living in the Parent ‘Hood. Our daughter is now 13 and our son 11 and we are deep into parenting and adoptive parenting — and trying to figure out whether each issue is one or the other!
What was your decision-making process like? How was your husband involved in the decision-making process toward adoption?
Lori: My husband and I were on the same page throughout our journey to parenthood, but I recall that I seemed to feel things more acutely than he did. Because I was thoroughly devastated by our failed IVF, my husband had to be the strong one. Because I felt the urge to parent more fiercely than he did, I became the driver of our “let’s adopt” bus. We occasionally had disagreements about our rate of speed, but never about our destination or direction.
I love the way you talk about your adoption as “open-hearted.” Can you talk more about this approach to adoption?
Lori: This new-fangled thing called “open adoption” usually makes people think of contact between adoptive parents and birth parents. That’s what I thought, and I also assumed openness was done for the benefit of the birth mother — to help assuage her grief after placement.
But openness is so much more than just contact. So rather than plotting ourselves on a flat spectrum between no contact and a lot of contact with birth parents, let’s add another dimension — open-heartedness — and instead plot our intentions on a grid. A grid considers both contact and openness, for they are different measures with different factors and we have varying degrees of control over those factors, especially over time.
When we mindfully decide where on this grid we want to parent, the person who benefits most is the child at the center. Openness is more about the spirit with which we parent and how we expand our definition of “family” than it is about the amount or type of contact. We open our hearts to those who made us mothers, to the child who has the monumental task of integrating all parts of his identity, and to our own selves as we acknowledge and release our fears and insecurities.
What are your words of wisdom for those still on their family-building journeys? What advice would you have for anyone considering adoption as a family-building option?
Lori: There is a lot of advice in The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, the book I wrote with my daughter’s birth mom that was published last year. It’s the girlfriend’s guide I wished had been available at the beginning of my own adoption journey. I’ll excerpt two tips here:
- Stay present and in your physical body. When we grieve previous wounds, we are in the past in our emotional body. When we worry or are fearful, we are in the future in our mental body. So find something to do that keeps you in your body and present once in awhile, like physical or creative activities or just plain stillness.
+ Move. Walk, run, hike, dance, mountain bike, swim, rock climb, do martial arts or yoga or another sport. Movement prevents stagnation.
+ Create. Write, compose, paint, draw, choreograph, mix a song, rap, blow glass, make pottery, plant and tend a garden. Allow your emotions to flow and not get stuck.
+ Find stillness. Meditate, do tai chi, or simply find focus in whatever you are doing — walking, cycling, washing dishes. Practice finding this place of presence, of uni-tasking and being where you are, calming the chatter of your mind.
- Connect with others. Find a tribe of people who have walked or are walking a similar path. Stirrup Queens has a ginormous blogroll sorted by neighborhood (such as ART, Adoption, living child-free). Creating A Family is also a rich resource, both its site and its Facebook community. And, of course, The Infertility Voice is chock full of advice, insights and connections.
Another type of connection is to volunteer during any kind of wait. Being of service to others gets you out of your own troubles and into a place of gratitude and openness. Being open and grateful paves the way for more to be grateful for. I volunteered with a local hospice while waiting for my son. Doing so took me out of myself, shifted my perspective, and enabled me to be more grateful and present.
What’s next for you? Where can interested folks go to learn more about you and your journey?
Lori: Besides speaking at adoption agencies and support groups around the country, you can find me on The Huffington Post, at Mile High Mamas (a Denver Post site), and I have an essay in the newly released anthology, Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age. What’s next? The teen years — wish me luck!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Lori! Tune in tomorrow when we take a whole new approach to family-building and discuss an option that many people often overlook… the mind/body connection with Joanne Verkuilen from Circle+Bloom.
#NIAW Interview Series:
“Resolve to Know More About…”
(All links will be live at the conclusion of the interview series.)
- » The IVF Option
Keiko Zoll, The Infertility Voice
- » The Surrogacy Option
Whitney Anderson, Infertility Advocate & Kymberli Barney, The Smartness
- » The Open-Hearted Adoption Option
Lori Holden, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption
- » The Mind/Body Connection
Joanne Verkuilen, Circle+Bloom
- » Empowered Treatment Options
Rhonda Levy, Empowered IVF
- » The Resolving Without Parenting Option
Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, Silent Sorority