Open Adoption Expert Lori Holden Talks to me of all people: Part 3

Thanks for checking back with us today. I've been sitting here with open adoption expert Lori Holden for the past three days. I'm getting a little hungry and the upper outer quadrants of both sides of my butt fell asleep 18 hours ago but other than that... (Parts 1 & 2 of the interview are here respectively: & ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5LSF: Hi Lori... Thanks again for being here. I admit, two days ago I didn't really like that shirt but now it's growing on me. (It's probably growing on you too by now... literally.) I'm sure I'll adore it by Friday... So we left off talking about the birth mother. To be honest, when I first read that your daughter’s birth mother was not only consistently in her life but a major contributor to your book, my first thought was: “Yeah like some day maybe I’ll write a book about infidelity. Hey, maybe I can call my husband's girlfriend. Maybe if she’s not too busy, she’d like to write a few chapters about her side of the story.” (I’m just making the “girlfriend” thing up. I mean I’m pretty sure I am. Does anyone happen to know anything I should know about?)

But it really seems like your daughter's birth mother, Crystal, and you and your husband, Roger, have created an incredibly comfortable environment for your daughter. Is it all about a meeting of the minds between the birth mother and the adoptive parent(s) at the time of adoption? Have you had any moments along the way where you’ve said to her: “I think you’re over-stepping your role here” or in my own vernacular: “Yo back up Bitch. You’re like all up in my turf”?

Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender LuzLH: Too funny! But no. And your analogy helps me make this point. In the closed adoption era, we came from an Either/Or mindset. Either SHE’s the real mother, or she is (check out the recent Kohl’s commercial for more on this). For one to be legitimate, we have to deny or negate the other. Let me tell you, the child feels this, not just the negated grownup. Adoption creates a split in a person between his biology and his biography, and openness helps heal the split. Closedness allows the adoptee to embrace only half his identity (either that of biology or that of biography) and forces him to deny the other half.

Why would we split the baby? -- especially when we can do better?

The alternative is to embrace instead a Both/And heartset. “Your birth parents are obviously very important to you and to our family story. Therefore, treating them with love and respect is a way of treating YOU with love and respect. And it keeps you from splitting. It helps keep you whole.”

Besides, as adoptees have pointed out to me, we fully expect parents to love more than one child. Why can’t we also see that a child can love more than one set of parents? Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.

Now in the case of your husband’s infidelity (hypothetical, of course)...

LSF: Do you know something? We’ll talk later...Is there any sort of written agreement of what each of you expects from the other over the years? (I watch a lot of Judge Judy. She reminds me of my mother. I almost had a date with her son once. But that’s for another blog post.)

LH: That would have been an interesting date!

I share in my book arguments both for and against codifying an open adoption agreement. Some states require PACAs -- Post Adoption Contact Agreements, which create legally bound commitments. Even in the absence of legal teeth, some adoptive/birth parents like to write things down to clarify expectations. Others prefer not to codify the relationship. Some feel this enables them to live more in the “spirit of the law” than by the letter of the law.

LSF: What happens if there is a change of heart along the way? What if the birth mother, for example, gets into a new relationship and starts a family with that person and decides to “move on” and not include the child?... Oh, look at the time! Gotta go... I think I did that more gracefully today, don't you? I must be finally getting the hang of this "interviewing" thing.

Join us tomorrow for Part 4 of my interview with Lori Holden. In the meantime, check out her blog:

And her book: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up WholeLori Holden's bookcover - open adoption